Nov 24

The UK’s largest annual tree celebration, National Tree Week 2012 runs from today until 2nd December and serves to highlight the importance of trees to human wellbeing and the environment.

Run by The Tree Council, National Tree Week involves hundreds of tree-planting events around the UK and is a great opportunity for communities to do something positive for their local area.

Every tree matters

Although planting a single tree may seem like a small step, The Tree Council believes that every tree matters. As well as helping to combat pollution, flooding and climate change, trees provide great habitats for wildlife and have also been shown to have positive effects on human health.

To celebrate National Tree Week here at ARKive, we thought we would share a few of our favourite UK tree species, and find out what makes them special…

The mighty oak

Photo of pedunculate oak tree in leaf

The commonest tree in broadleaved woodlands of southern and central UK, the English or pedunculate oak has a special place in the country’s heart, being a much-loved symbol of strength and duration. A fully grown oak can produce around 50,000 acorns in a good year, and can live for hundreds of years. The widest oak tree in the UK would need about nine adults, stretching fingertip to fingertip, to reach around its trunk!

Ash under threat

Photo of ash leaf opening

The ash is one of the tallest native UK trees, and is one of the last trees to produce leaves in spring. Despite being the third commonest tree species in the UK, the ash is currently threatened by a serious disease known as ‘ash dieback’. There are fears this disease could wipe out as much as 90% of the UK’s 80 million ash trees.

Beech is best

Photo of a beech wood in autumn

The beech is a magnificent large tree with surprisingly little folklore surrounding it. Its timber has a variety of uses, and its nuts were used in the past as an important source of food for pigs and cattle. Beech woodlands often have a dense canopy that shades out other plants, and the leaves of the beech tree take some time to rot, meaning the woodland floor is often carpeted in a deep layer of leaf litter.

Quintessential conkers

Photo of fallen horse chestnuts in autumn

Despite not being native to the UK, the horse chestnut is a quintessential sight in the nation’s village greens and city parks. This species is best known for its seeds, known as ‘conkers’, which are famous as part of a popular children’s game. The horse chestnut is thought to get its name from the horseshoe-shaped leaf scars that are left on the twigs after the leaves have fallen.

Magical elder

Photo of elder flowers

The elder was once regarded as one of the most magically powerful of all plants. Although its heartwood is very hard, its branches are weak and filled with pith. The elder’s name is thought to come from the Anglo-Saxon ‘aeld’, meaning ‘fire’, as the pith could be used as tinder or the hollow stems could be used as bellows. Elder berries are poisonous eaten raw, but can be made into jellies, jams and wines, while elder flowers are used to make elderflower cordial and champagne.

Hardy pine

Photo of Scots pine forest with silver birch, autumn colours

One of only three native conifers in the UK, the Scots pine is an evergreen tree that is also found across northern Europe and Asia. This hardy species originally formed extensive forests across most of the UK, but a warming climate some 5,000 years ago favoured deciduous trees and pushed the range of the Scots pine northwards. The Scots pine has strong timber that is used in constriction and joinery, while its resin is used to make turpentine.

Find out more about the UK’s trees at the Woodland Trust Tree Guide.

View more photos of trees from around the world on ARKive.

Do you have a favourite tree? Have you taken part in any tree-planting events? Wherever you live, we would love to hear about the trees near you!

Liz Shaw, ARKive Text Author