Britain’s Native Trees

The exact number of tree species that are native to Britain is a matter for debate. The Woodland Trust lists 49 but there is debate over at least one tree on their list as to whether it is truly native. There are also tree species, including some rare endemic species (species that are found nowhere else) that are missing from the Woodland Trust’s list. Being common doesn’t make a tree native. The sycamore, for example, was probably introduced into the country in either Roman or at the end of the medieval period and is now one of the most widely distributed trees in the whole country.

There is no single definitive list of British native trees and no single authority that could rule one way or another to declare what would, and would not, be on that list. And being a British native tree does not mean that it is widespread. Whilst some of these native trees are found the length and breadth of the country, others are very rare and geographically limited to small areas.

Given that there is no single list of native British trees, we have included not only those that are considered by the Woodland Trust to be native, but also some others where the trees cannot be found elsewhere.

Oak Trees – Two native species – the English Oak and the Sessile Oak.

‘great oaks from little acorns grow’ – 14th century proverb

Ash Trees – a single native species the European Ash, or Common Ash.

“Of all the trees that grow so fair, Old England to adorn, Greater are none beneath the Sun, Than Oak, and Ash, and Thorn” – Rudyard Kipling

Elm Trees – two native species – the English Elm and the Wych Elm.

A sheet of white extends to the lone dark vertical of the elm tree in the centre … It is too perfect, to inviolate … The snow is graced with waves written by the wind, the elm raises crooked arms in sleeves of white” – Haruki Murakami

Elder – A single many species with many common names including Elder, European Elder, Elderberry, European Elderberry, Black Elder and European Black Elderberry.

“this plant of God heals anything it touches” – Hippocrates

Maple – A single native species, the Field Maple.

“Maples are such sociable trees. They’re always rustling and whispering to you” – Lucy Maud Montgomery

Pear – a single very rare species – the Plymouth Pear.

“Oh to be a pear tree – any tree in bloom! With kissing bees singing of the beginning of the world!” ― Zora Neale Hurston

Apple – A single species – the Crab Apple.

“Every thought is a seed. If you plant crab apple, don’t count on harvesting golden delicious” – Bill Meyer

Cherry – two species of this fruit tree – Wild Cherry and Bird Cherry.

“Under a cherry tree, all burdens of life fly away!” – Mehmet Murat Ildan