What’s that blossom? A guide to trees that blossom (UK).🌳

You can use this article as an identification guide or just a quick read it’s really up to you, here are some of the trees that blossom.

All info comes from woodland trust website.

This article only features trees in the UK that blossom as this is my country of origin, although worldwide there are trees that can blossom all year round and the species will differ in countries like America.

Wild cherry- (Prunus avium).

Wild cherry is thought to be the most ornamental of our native broadleaf woodland trees.

The wild cherry is native to Europe, Anatola, Maghreb, and western Asia, from the British Isles.

Interesting fact: although the seeds are distributed by mammals and birds, cherry trees can also propagate themselves by root suckers.

What does cherry look like?

Mature trees can grow to 30m and live for up to 60 years.

Look out for their shiny bark which is a deep reddish-brown with prominent cream-coloured horizontal lines.

The second part of the cherry tree’s botanical name – β€˜avium’ actually refers to birds, who eat the cherries and disperse the seed.

Their leaves are oval, green and toothed with pointed tips, measuring 6–15cm with two red glands on the stalk at the leaf base. They fade to orange and deep crimson in autumn and most importantly the flowers on wild cherry trees are hermaphrodite, meaning the male and female reproductive parts are found in the same flower, in April.

The flowers are white and cup-shaped with five petals, and measure 8-15mm across. They hang in clusters of 2-6.

Where to find a wild cherry tree ?

It is native throughout the UK and Europe, except the far north. It grows best in full sunlight and fertile soil and is often found on the edge of woodlands on alkaline soil, wild cherry can form a sizeable tree.

The spring flowers provide an early source of nectar and pollen for bees, while the cherries are eaten by birds including the blackbird and song thrush, as well as mammals such as the badger, wood mouse, yellow necked mouse and dormouse.

The foliage is the main food plant for caterpillars of many species of moth, including the cherry fruit and cherry bark moths, the orchard ermine, brimstone and short cloaked moth.

Hawthorn- (Crataegus monogyna).

The common hawthorn is native to Europe, northwest Africa and western Asia. It has been introduced in many other parts of the world. It can be an invasive weed.

Interesting fact: also known as the May-tree, due to its flowering period, it is the only British plant named after the month in which it blooms.

What does a common hawthorn look like?

Common hawthorns can grow in the form of mature trees that can reach a height of 15m and small trees with a single stem.

The bark is brown-grey, knotted and fissured, and twigs are slender and brown and covered in thorns.

It often hybridises with the UK’s other native hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna), Midland Hawthorn (Crataegus laevigata). Both species are similar and can be hard to tell apart.
Midland hawthorn (Crataegus laevigata)- the flowers of common hawthorn have a single stigma, whereas Midland hawthorn has two. The common hawthorn fruits have a single seed, whereas the fruits of Midland hawthorn have two seeds. The leaves of common hawthorn are not as deeply cut.

Leaves: around 6cm in length and comprised of toothed lobes, which cut at least halfway to the middle or ‘mid-rib’. They turn yellow before falling in autumn.

Flowers: hawthorns are hermaphrodite, meaning both male and female reproductive parts are contained within each flower. Flowers are highly scented, white or occasionally pink with five petals, and grow in flat-topped clusters.

Fruits: once pollinated by insects, they develop into deep red fruits known as ‘haws’.

Look out for: the deeply lobed leaves, spiny twigs and haws (berries).

Where to find hawthorn

This species is commonly found growing in hedgerows, woodland and scrub and among agricultural land. It grows in most soils, but flowers and fruits best in full sun or part sun.

Value to wildlife

Common hawthorn can support more than 300 different insects. It is the foodplant for caterpillars of many moths, including the hawthorn, orchard ermine, pear leaf blister, rhomboid tortrix, light emerald, lackey, vapourer, fruitlet mining tortrix, small eggar and lappet moths. Its flowers are eaten by dormice and provide nectar and pollen for bees and other pollinating insects like wasps. The haws are rich in antioxidants and are eaten by many migrating birds such as redwings, fieldfares and thrushes, as well as small mammals. The dense thorny foliage makes fantastic nesting shelter for many species of bird.

How we use hawthorn

Common hawthorn timber is a creamy brown colour, finely grained and very hard, it can be used in turnery and engraving, and was used to make veneers and cabinets, as well as boxes, tool handles and boat parts and it also makes good firewood and charcoal, and has a reputation for burning at high temperatures.

The young leaves, flower buds and young flowers are all edible to humans -they can be added to green salads and grated root salads, the developing flower buds are particularly good.

The haws can be eaten raw but may cause mild stomach upset. They are most commonly used to make jellies, wines and ketchups.

It has long been used as a hedging plant and is a popular choice in wildlife gardens.

Black thorn (Prunus spinosa)

Blackthorn, also known as ‘sloe’, is a small deciduous tree native to the UK and most of Europe.

Interesting fact: blackthorn wood has been used to make walking or riding sticks, and was the traditional wood for Irish shillelaghs.

What does blackthorn look like?

Habit: spiny and densely branched, mature trees can grow to a height of around 6-7m, and live for up to 100 years. The dark brown bark is smooth, and twigs form straight side shoots, which develop into thorns.

Leaves: slightly wrinkled, oval, toothed, pointed at the tip and tapered at the base.

Flowers: blackthorn is a hermaphrodite, meaning both male and female reproductive parts are found in one flower. White flowers appear on short stalks before the leaves in March and April, either singularly or in pairs.

Fruits: once pollinated by insects, the flowers develop into blue-black fruits measuring 1cm across.

Look out for: it is a spiny shrubby tree with black-purple twigs and small, narrow leaves.

Could be confused with: hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna), without leaves. The flowers of blackthorn appear before the leaves and the spines have buds along their length, on the hawthorn flowers emerge from the same point as the buds.

Where to find blackthorn

Blackthorn is native to Europe and western Asia. It can also be found in New Zealand and eastern North America. It grows best in moist, well drained soil and thrives in full sunlight.

It grows naturally in scrub, copses and woodlands, but is Greycommonly used as a hedging plant.

Value to wildlife

Early flowering, blackthorn provides a valuable source of nectar and pollen for bees in spring. Its foliage is a food plant for the caterpillars of many moths, including the lackey, magpie, common emerald, small eggar, swallow-tailed and yellow-tailed. It is also used by the black and brown hairstreak butterflies.

Birds nest among the dense, thorny thickets, eat caterpillars and other insects from the leaves, and feast on the berries in autumn.

Hazel (Corylus avellana)

Interesting fact: hazel is so bendy in spring that it can be tied in a knot without breaking. Bees find it difficult to collect hazel pollen and can only gather it in small loads. This is because the wind pollinated hazel has pollen that is not sticky and actually repels one grain against another.

What does hazel look like?

Overview: hazel is often coppiced, but when left to grow, trees can reach a height of 12m, where it can live for up to 80 years (if coppiced, hazel can live for several hundred years). It has a smooth, grey-brown, bark, which peels with age, and bendy, hairy stems. Leaf buds are oval, blunt and hairy.

Leaves: round to oval, doubly toothed, hairy and pointed at the tip. Leaves turn yellow before falling in autumn.

Flowers: hazel is monoecious, meaning that both male and female flowers are found on the same tree, although hazel flowers must be pollinated by pollen from other hazel trees. The yellow male catkins appear before the leaves and hang in clusters, from mid-February. Female flowers are tiny and bud-like with red styles.

Fruits: once pollinated by wind, the female flowers develop into oval fruits, which hang in groups of one to four. They mature into a nut with a woody shell surrounded by a cup of leafy bracts (modified leaves).

Look out for: leaves are soft to the touch as a result of the downy hairs on the underside. Hazel is often coppiced.

Could be confused with: elm (Ulmus minor var. vulgaris) leaves are similar however elm leaves are roughly hairy unlike soft hazel leaves. Elm leaves have an asymmetric leaf base.

Identified in winter by: each nut is held in a short leafy husk which encloses about three quarters of the nut. Small green catkins can be present in autumn.

Where to find hazel

It grows across much of Europe, parts of north Africa and western Asia. In the UK it’s often found in the understorey of lowland oak, ash or birch woodland, and is also found in scrub and hedgerows.

Value to wildlife

Hazel leaves provide food for the caterpillars of many moths, including the large emerald, small white wave, barred umber and nut-tree tussock. In managed woodland where hazel is coppiced, the open wildflower-rich habitat supports many species of butterfly, particularly fritillaries. Coppiced hazel also provides shelter for ground-nesting birds such as the nightingale, nightjar, yellowhammer and willow warbler.

Hazel has long been associated with the dormouse (also known as the hazel dormouse). Not only are hazel nuts used by dormice to fatten up for hibernation, but in spring the leaves are a good source of caterpillars, which dormice also eat.

Hazel nuts are also eaten by woodpeckers, nuthatches, tits, wood pigeons, jays and a number of small mammals. Hazel flowers provide early pollen as a food for bees.

The trunks are often covered in mosses, liverworts and lichens, and the fiery milkcap fungi grows in the soil beneath.

Holly (Ilex aquifolium).

Holly is an evergreen shrub with distinct spiked, glossy leaves.

Interesting fact: the mistle thrush is known for vigorously guarding the berries of holly in winter, to prevent other birds from eating them.

What does holly look like?

Overview: mature trees can grow up to 15m and live for 300 years. The bark is smooth and thin with numerous small, brown ‘warts’, and the stems are dark brown.

Leaves: dark green, glossy and oval. Younger plants have spiky leaves, but the leaves of older trees are much more likely to be smooth. Leaves in the upper parts of the tree are also likely to be smooth.

Flowers: holly is dioecious, meaning that male and female flowers occur on different trees. Flowers are white with four petals.

Fruits: once pollinated by insects, female flowers develop into scarlet berries, which can remain on the tree throughout winter.

Look out for: it is easily identified by its bright red berries and shiny, leathery leaves that usually have spiny prickles on the edges.

Could be confused with: unlikely to be confused with anything although many cultivated and variegated varieties exist.

Identified in winter by: holly is evergreen so its leaves remain green year round.

Where to find holly

It is native in the UK and across Europe, north Africa and western Asia. It is commonly found in woodland, scrub and hedgerows, especially in oak and beech woodland. Popular as an ornamental shrub, holly is widely planted in parks and gardens, and there are many cultivated forms featuring alternative foliage and berry colours.

Value to wildlife

Holly provides dense cover and good nesting opportunities for birds, while its deep, dry leaf litter may be used by hedgehogs and small mammals for hibernation.

The flowers provide nectar and pollen for bees and other pollinating insects. The leaves are eaten by caterpillars of the holly blue butterfly, along with those of various moths including the yellow barred brindle, double-striped pug and the holly tortrix. The smooth leaves found at the tops of holly trees are a winter source of food for deer.

The berries are a vital source of food for birds in winter, and are also eaten by small mammals such as wood mice and dormice.

Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia).

Interesting fact: rowan is also known as the mountain ash, due to the fact that it grows well at high altitudes and its leaves are similar to those of ash, Fraxinus excelsior, however, the two species are not related.

What does rowan look like?

Overview: mature trees can grow to 15m and can live for up to 200 years. The bark is smooth and silvery grey, and leaf buds are purple and hairy.

Leaves: pinnate (like a feather), comprising 5-8 pairs of leaflets, plus one ‘terminal’ leaflet at the end. Each leaflet is long, oval and toothed.

Flowers: rowan is hermaphrodite, meaning each flower contains both male and female reproductive parts. Flowers are borne in dense clusters, each one bearing five creamy white petals.

Fruits: after successful pollination by insects, they develop into scarlet fruits. The seeds are dispersed by birds.

Look out for: it has 5-8 pairs of serrated leaflets which are distinctive.

Could be confused with: ash (Fraxinus excelsior) or elder (Sambucus nigra), however, the leaflets are serrated and more or less pointed at the end in rowan than both of these.

Identified in winter by: the young twigs start hairy and become smooth later. Buds are hairy all over. Terminal buds (on the ends of shoots) are up to 8mm in length and lateral buds (in leaf axils) have 2-5 scales.

Where to find rowan

Native to cooler regions of the northern hemisphere and most common in the UK in the north and west, it often grows in high altitude locations.

It is commonly found in the wild, particularly in the highlands of Scotland, but it is also widely planted as a street or garden tree.

Value to wildlife

The leaves are eaten by caterpillars of a number of moths, including the larger Welsh wave and autumn green carpet. Caterpillars of the apple fruit moth feed on the berries.

Flowers provide pollen and nectar for bees and other pollinating insects, while the berries are a rich source of autumn food for birds, especially the blackbird, mistle thrush, redstart, redwing, song thrush, fieldfare and waxwing.

Alder (Alnus glutinosa).

Alder is native to Britain and is also found throughout Europe as far as Siberia.

Interesting fact: alder is particularly noted for its important symbiotic relationship with a nitrogen-fixing bacterium called Frankia alni. This bacterium is found in the root nodules. The bacterium absorbs nitrogen from the air and makes it available to the tree. Alder, in turn, provides the bacterium with sugars, which it produces through photosynthesis.
As a result of this mutually beneficial relationship, alder improves the fertility of the soil where it grows, and as a pioneer species, it helps provide additional nitrogen for the successional species which follow.

What does alder look like?

Overview: conical in shape, mature trees can reach a height of around 20m and live to around 60 years. The bark is dark and fissured and is often covered in lichen. Twigs have a light brown spotted stem which turns red towards the top. Young twigs are sticky to touch.

Leaves: the purple or grey leaf buds form on long stems and the 3–9cm long dark green leaves are racquet-shaped and leathery, with serrated edges. The leaf tip is never pointed and is often indented.

Flowers: are on catkins which appear between February and April. Alder is monoecious, which means that both male and female flowers are found on the same tree. Male catkins are yellow and pendulous, measuring 2–6cm. Female catkins are green and oval-shaped, and are grouped in numbers of three to eight on each stalk.

Fruits: once pollinated by wind, the female catkins gradually become woody and appear as tiny, cone-like fruits in winter. They open up to release seeds, which are dispersed by wind and water.

Look out for: small brown cones, which are the female catkins, stay on the tree all year round.

Could be confused with: hazel(Corylus avellana). The rounded leaf shapes are similar however hazel leaves are softly hairy compared to the shiny ones of alder.

Identified in winter by: female catkins and purple twigs have orange markings (lenticels).

Where to find alder

Alder is native to almost the whole of continental Europe (except for both the extreme north and south) as well as the United Kingdom and Ireland. Its natural habitat is moist ground near rivers, ponds and lakes and it thrives in damp, cool areas such as marshes, wet woodland and streams where its roots help to prevent soil erosion.

It can also grow in drier locations and sometimes occurs in mixed woodland and on forest edges. It grows well from seed and will quickly colonise bare ground. Because of its association with the nitrogen-fixing bacterium Frankia alni, it can grow in nutrient-poor soils where few other trees thrive.

There are 20 to 30 species in the genus Alnus. They are distributed throughout the North Temperate zone and in North, Central and South America. A. glutinosa is the only species in the genus native to the UK.

Value to wildlife

Alder is the food plant for the caterpillars of several moths, including the alder kitten, pebble hook-tip, the autumnal and the blue bordered carpet moth. Catkins provide an early source of nectar and pollen for bees, and the seeds are eaten by the siskin, redpoll and goldfinch.

The wet conditions found in alder woodland are ideal for a number of mosses, lichens and fungi, along with the small pearl-bordered fritillary and chequered skipper butterflies, and some species of crane fly. Alder roots make the perfect nest sites for otters

Ash (Fraxinus excelsior).

Common ash is found across Europe, from the Arctic Circle to Turkey. It is the third most common tree in Britain. It is currently being affected by Chalara dieback of ash, a disease caused by the Hymenoscyphus fraxineus fungus (previously Chalara fraxinea).

What does ash look like?

Overview: when fully grown, ash trees can reach a height of 35m. Tall and graceful, they often grow together, forming a domed canopy. The bark is pale brown to grey, which fissures as the tree ages. Easily identified in winter by smooth twigs that have distinctively black, velvety leaf buds arranged opposite each other.

Leaves: pinnately compound, typically comprising 3-6 opposite pairs of light green, oval leaflets with long tips, up to 40cm long. There is an additional singular ‘terminal’ leaflet at the end. The leaves can move in the direction of sunlight, and sometimes the whole crown of the tree may lean in the direction of the sun. Another characteristic of ash leaves is that they fall when they are still green.

Flowers: ash is dioecious, meaning that male and female flowers typically grow on different trees, although a single tree can also have male and female flowers on different branches. Both male and female flowers are purple and appear before the leaves in spring, growing in spiked clusters at the tips of twigs.

Fruits: once the female flowers have been pollinated by wind, they develop into conspicuous winged fruits, or ‘keys’, in late summer and autumn. They fall from the tree in winter and early spring, and are dispersed by birds and mammals.

Look out for: the black buds and clusters of seeds are key features.

Could be confused with: rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) and elder (Sambucus nigra). Elder has fewer leaflets and those of the rowan are serrated.

Identified in winter by: ash has distinctive black buds and flattened twigs.

English oak (Quercus robur).

English oak is arguably the best known and loved of British native trees. It is the most common tree species in the UK, especially in southern and central British deciduous woods.

Interesting Fact: acorns are not produced until the tree is at least 40 years old. Peak acorn fecundity usually occurs around 80 – 120 years.

What does oak look like?

Overview: English oak is a large deciduous tree up to 20-40m tall. In England, the English oak has assumed the status of a national emblem. As common oaks mature they form a broad and spreading crown with sturdy branches beneath. Their open canopy enables light to penetrate through to the woodland floor, allowing bluebells and primroses to grow below. Their smooth and silvery brown bark becomes rugged and deeply fissured with age. Oak tree growth is particularly rapid in youth but gradually slows at around 120 years. Oaks even shorten with age in order to extend their lifespan.

Leaves: around 10cm long with 4-5 deep lobes with smooth edges. Leaf-burst occurs mid-May and the leaves have almost no stem and grow in bunches.

Flowers: are long yellow hanging catkins which distribute pollen into the air.

Fruits: its fruit, commonly known as acorns, are 2–2.5cm long, borne on lengthy stalks and held tightly by cupules (the cup-shaped base of the acorn). As it ripens, the green acorn takes on a more autumnal, browner colour, loosens from the cupule and falls to the canopy below.

Most acorns will never get the chance to germinate, they are rich food source, eaten by many wild creatures including jays, mice and squirrels. Acorns need to germinate and root quickly to prevent drying out or becoming victims of the harvest. Following successful germination, a new sapling will appear the following spring.

Look out for: it has distinctive lobed leaves with short leaf stalks (petioles). Leaf lobes are rounded.

Could be confused with: sessile (Quercus petraea). English oak has acorns on stalks (or peduncles) whereas sessile oak does not.

Identified in winter by: rounded buds are in clusters. Each bud has more than three scales.

Grey Willow (Salix cinerea subsp. oleifolia).

Grey willow is very similar to goat willow, with which it often hybridises. It is also known as common sallow.

Interesting fact: grey willow and other broader-leafed species of willow (including goat willow) are sometimes referred to as ‘sallows’. Goat willow is known as β€˜great sallow’ and grey willow as β€˜common sallow’. Both species are also sometimes called ‘pussy willow’ after the silky grey female flowers, which resemble a cat’s paws.

What does grey willow look like?

Overview:. mature trees grow to 10m. The bark is grey-brown and develops diamond-shaped fissures with age. Twigs are hairy at first but become smooth, and can appear red-yellow in sunlight.

Leaves: unlike most willows, the leaves are oval rather than long and thin. However, unlike goat willow, the leaves are at least twice as long as they are wide. They have a fine silver felt underneath (hence its name) with rusty hairs beneath the veins.

Flowers: grey willow is dioecious, meaning male and female flowers grow on separate trees, in early spring. Male catkins are grey, stout and oval, which become yellow when ripe with pollen. Female catkins are longer and green.

Fruits: once pollinated by wind, female catkins develop into woolly seeds. Most willows can also propagate themselves by lowering their branches to the ground, which then develop roots.

Look out for: the young leaves are hairy but become hairless above and only sparsely hairy underneath, quickly as they age.

Could be confused with: there are several native willow species in the UK and many hybridise with one another, making them hard to identify. Grey willow often hybridises with the goat willow (salix caprea), to which it is closely related.

Identified in winter by: red hairless narrow buds are pressed close to the twig.

Where to find grey willow

Like goat willow, it grows in woodland and hedgerows, as well as damp areas such as near canals, rivers and streams. It is native to Europe and western Asia.

Value to wildlife

Grey willow foliage is eaten by caterpillars of a number of moths, including the sallow kitten, sallow clearwing, dusky clearwing and lunar hornet clearwing. It is also a food plant for the purple emperor butterfly.

Catkins provide an important early source of pollen and nectar for bees and other insects, and birds use grey willow to forage for caterpillars and other insects.

All information is from the woodland trust- check out their website for more infomation on trees and especially blossoming trees.

I hope you enjoyed this blog post.

Until next time.

Faye x


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