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Can you identify these seven British trees?

It's National Tree Week! How many tree species can you identify? If you, like so many of us, wish you could name the trees that you see around you, help is at hand….

At Forest Holidays we have a particular interest in trees; the clue is in our name. Each of our forest locations has a distinct tree "footprint", from the tall and orderly beech trees at Blackwood Forest to a tangle of mixed and ancient woodland at Forest of Dean. We have been chatting to our Forest Rangers to help us come up with a guide to identifying some of the most common trees in the UK.

It was almost impossible to select just seven trees so, if you like our guide, please let us know and we can build upon it to include many more trees.

1. Oak

The oak is top of everyone's list of Great British trees. It is the king of trees and often regarded as a national symbol. Oak trees are among the oldest of our native trees and our guests at Sherwood Forest are always keen to visit the Major Oak which is thought to be up to 1000 years old. Find out more about oak trees here.

How to identify oak trees

TREE: The oak tree is perhaps the one that most people can identify. A fully grown oak is 20m-40m tall and has spreading domed canopy. The bark is grey, rough and wrinkled.

LEAF: The oak leaf is approximately 4-8cm long and it has irregular curvy edges. In spring, it is a yellowy-green colour, changing to dark green. The autumn oak leaves are gold and brown.

FLOWERS: Perhaps the least known aspect of the oak tree is its spring flowers, or catkins, a feature it shares with many trees that don’t have blossom.

FRUIT: The good old acorn is the fruit of the oak tree. It's a green, long oval nut sitting in a dinky cup. While we don’t generally eat them, they provide a rich source of food for our wildlife.

2. Beech

If the oak is the king of our Great British trees, the beech tree is the queen. Stately trees that create a thick canopy over the forest, beech trees are shallow rooted and thrive on chalky or sandy soils such as that at Blackwood Forest.

How to identify beech trees

TREE: The beech is a tall and statuesque tree, capable of reaching heights of up to 50m with a 3m trunk diameter.

LEAF: Leaves do not always drop in autumn and can often remain on the tree until spring. For this reason they are often used in hedges to provide year-round cover.

FLOWER: Male and female flowers grow on the same tree, in spring. The male catkins hang tassel-like from stalks and the female flowers grow in pairs, surrounded by a cup.

FRUIT: Beech nuts form in twos in spiky capsules. These are edible for a number of species including pigs, turkeys and deer, though not horses.

3. Horse chestnut

After oak, perhaps the most familiar of our trees, the horse chestnut is of course, the conker tree. A non-native tree, it was introduced into the UK from the Balkans in the 1600's. The horse chestnut can live for 300 years or more.  We have horse chestnut trees at both Blackwood Forest and Thorpe Forest.

How to identify horse chestnut trees

TREE: Horse chestnut trees grow to a height of around 40m and spread out in an elongated dome shape. The bark is smooth and a rose-tinted grey colour when young. This becomes darker grey and develops scaly plates as the tree matures. In late-winter the twigs have oval, red sticky buds.

LEAF: The leaves are large and have 5-7 leaves radiating from the central stem. Each leaf has a serrated edge and draws to a point at the top.

FLOWER: The flowers, which appear in May, are very distinctive. Creamy white, they appear as upward conical shapes, about 35cm from base to tip.

FRUIT: Loved by schoolchildren across the generations, the shiny brown conkers are encased in a spiky green case, which usually splits as they fall to the ground. 

4. Larch

Although a conifer, larch is not evergreen. It is, in fact, the only deciduous conifer in Europe. It can live for 250 years and is primarily used for timber in fencing and garden furniture. A medieval custom is the wearing or burning of larch to protect you from evil spirits. Keldy is dominated by European Larch and it is one of the predominant trees at Cropton.

How to identify larch trees

TREE: Larch trees can reach up to 30m in height when mature. On younger trees you will notice a cone shaped canopy at the top; this broadens out with age. The bark is pinky-brown or pale brown and older trees will have fissures in the bark.

LEAF: The needles are light green and soft and they grow in small tufts from knobs on the twigs. In the autumn they change colour and become golden yellow before falling.

FLOWER: In spring, creamy yellow male flowers grow on the underside of shoots, while female flowers grow at the tips of the shoots and are sometimes called "larch roses" because of their pink colour.

FRUIT: Although not evergreen, the larch is a conifer. Its cones are woody with the "leaves" pointing toward the centre.

5. Silver birch

We love it so much we named one of our cabins after it! A native UK tree, the silver birch is medium sized and hardy. It is a pioneer species, being one of the first trees to appear on bare or burnt land. Silver birch is one of the main trees you can see at Keldy.

How to identify silver birch trees

TREE: The silver birch gets its name from its silvery-white bark which is highly distinctive and peels away like paper.

LEAF: The single leaves are light green, small and triangular-shaped. They have a toothed edge and they turn yellow in autumn.

FLOWER: Silver birch trees produce male and female catkins in the spring. The male catkins are yellow and hang in groups, while the female catkins are much shorter, green and erect.

FRUIT: The female catkins are pollinated and become thicker and redder in colour.

6. Sycamore

Sycamores, although non-native, have been in the UK for many centuries. They are often found in parks and gardens where they were planted as ornamental trees. Most of our forest locations have sycamores too. They can live for 400 years and sycamore wood is used for making musical instruments.

How to identify sycamore trees

TREE: Sycamores can grow to 35m and have a wide, spreading canopy, not unlike oaks. Sycamore bark is smooth and pinky-grey when young and dark grey with curling square scales as it matures. 

LEAF: Large leaves that spread out from a single stem, with 5 distinct lobes. The edges are serrated and in autumn the green leaves turn yellow-brown.

FLOWER: the flowers are called "racemes" and look like soft, fat greeny-yellow catkins.

FRUIT: Helicopters! Who hasn't played with these fascinating natural wonders as a child? Adapted for wind-born pollination, they have a fruit in the centre and two wings. Impress your friends by telling them that they are called samaras.

7. Scots pine

The Scots pine is the only truly native pine tree in the UK. It is a distinctive feature of the forests of Scotland and is the only native pine tree grown commercially. Scots pine forests are instantly recognisable from a distance but closer individual trees can vary in shape. Definitely visit Ardgartan Argyll or Strathyre to get the full Scots pine experience!

How to identify Scots pine trees

TREE: The Scots pine is a tall, evergreen tree with a conical trunk spreading into a dome shaped crown. Short branches grow outwards from the tree trunk. It can grow up to 36 metres tall and 1.5 metres around the trunk. The bark of a young tree is grey-green, turning to reddish brown on a mature tree, with deep fissures.

LEAF: Long bluey-green evergreen needles that grow in pairs.

FLOWER: Male and female flowers grow on the same tree. The male flowers are yellow and grow at the base of shoots. Female flowers are purplish and grow at the tips of shoots.

FRUIT: Once pollinated, the female flowers develop into cones. They take a year to mature so you will see cones of different ages on one tree. Mature cones are brown with a raised, bump at the centre of each scale.

National Tree Week

National Tree Week, 26 November to 4 December, is organised by the Tree Council and is now in its 5th decade. It is a celebration of the UK's trees and a chance to take part in the planting of around a million trees.

Trees are the lungs of our country and provide homes and habitats for animals, birds and insects so it is crucial that we look after them and continue to plant new trees. Our chosen charity at Forest Holidays is The National Forest which is planting trees and transforming 200 square miles in the centre of England.

When you book your next Forest Holiday, make sure you book onto a Forest Explorer activity to find out more about our wonderful Great British trees and forests.

Which trees will you see on your Forest Holiday?

We'll hand over to our Forest Rangers to describe which trees you will be able to see at each of our locations:




Deerpark forest dates back to the Domesday book. It is a mixed forest of broad leaves and conifers with over 25 identified species. The planted trees include an extensive stand of Oregon pines (Douglas firs ) which reach over 130 feet, with an "under-story" of holly, ash and hazel. Deerpark also has claim to the tallest tree in Cornwall - a giant redwood or sequoia which was planted over 150 years ago and stands 160 foot tall. Also of note are about 30 Monterey pines planted as blast protection by a small quarry.

Blackwood Forest

Blackwood Forest consists largely of beech trees and is planted in rows for commercial Forestry enterprises. The forest floor is a carpet of shade-loving bluebells in the spring and a carpet of golden leaves in the autumn.  Along the edges of the forest and other internal boundaries you can see other tree species, such as oak, yew, silver birch, ash, sycamore, hazel, hornbeam, white beam, hawthorn, willow and dogwood.

Forest of Dean

Mixed woodland with ancient woodland areas. Douglas firs and pedunculate oak provide the canopy while the under-story is mostly hazel, holly and silver birch. Notable are the Napoleonic oaks, planted under the command of Admiral Nelson in 1814.

Thorpe Forest

Thorpe Forest is situated in a very special geographical region called the Brecks. It has its own micro-climate, sandy, light soils and one of the highest levels of biodiversity and rare species in the country. These unusual growing conditions have created an area where pine trees thrive. The most prevalent tree in Thetford Forest is the Corsican pine (62%), followed by the Scots pine (19%), mixed broad-leaved species (14%), Douglas fir (2%) and other conifer species (3%).

Sherwood Forest

Sherwood Forest is the least diverse of our woodland locations and is very much a pine forest. It is dominated by tall Scots pine, Corsican pine and Norway spruce trees. The forest is also home to 900 veteran oak trees, including of course the world famous Major Oak.


Cropton is predominantly surrounded by conifer plantation, so most trees are Scots pine, spruce and larch. Along the main drive, decorative trees were planted about 60 years ago. These include beech, red oak, leylandii and white beam. Over the years other trees have grown wild, the main two being birch and rowan, though willow, holly and oak are also fairly common.


Keldy is dominated by European larch plantation; it can grow to 30 metres tall and live for 250 years. The other main tree around Keldy is the silver birch, which has its characteristic white bark which can easily be peeled away. This is useful tinder for bush skills.

Ardgartan Argyll

Our Ardgartan Argyll cabins have an open aspect overlooking Loch Long. This means you can see the pine-clad mountains all around you in a view that seems to represent all of Scotland. The immediate forest is of Sitka and Norway spruce, providing habitats for red squirrel, roe deer, buzzards and owls.


The cabins are set in deciduous trees of aspen, ash, oak, silver birch, hazel, hawthorn, rowan and alder, with a backdrop of evergreen Sitka spruce and Scots pine. These trees provide homes for rare species such as red squirrels and pine martens.