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Native trees guide

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The Ultimate Guide to Native Trees, and Why You Should be Planting Them

Planting trees in our gardens and open spaces is proven to have many advantages. These range from helping the environment to increasing our well-being and mental health. But does it matter whether the trees we plant are native or non-native? Let’s take a look at what native trees are, the benefits of planting them, and the types of native trees that best suit different gardens and open spaces.

What are Native Trees?

Native trees are trees that are natural to a particular local environment since the glaciers melted after the last Ice Age. Non-native trees, by comparison, have been introduced more recently to a local landscape by humans.

Why Should We Plant Native Trees?

There are plenty of benefits to planting more trees in general. Native trees, however, provide a number of distinct advantages.

Native trees:

Protect our ecological system

Because native trees are natural to an environment, it means they are important to the surrounding ecological systems. Birds, butterflies, insects and other animals have all evolved over time with these plants and so their future is linked with the native tree.

If there are fewer native trees, it makes sense that there will be fewer animals and insects which are dependent upon those trees. The English oak is a good example of a native tree which supports numerous ecosystems, including over 500 species of caterpillar alone! The oak tree provides homes for hundreds of insects, which in turn provide food for birds, bats and mammals such as deer, squirrels and badgers.

Require less fertilisers and maintenance

Native trees and plants require less fertilisers and pesticides. If a tree or plant is natural to a particular environment, it doesn’t need as much help to grow.

Huge amounts of fertilisers and pesticides are used each year. These run off grass and lawns into rivers and lakes, harming our aquatic life and the environment in the process. They can be harmful to us too.

Help the climate change cause

Trees that thrive can have an incredible impact on our environment, and can be vitally important for climate change. Trees absorb carbon dioxide and provide us with the oxygen that we need to live.

With more man-made pollution now abundant in the atmosphere, trees are more important to the environment than ever. Trees are also highly effective at naturally reducing noise pollution.

Conserve water

Native trees are the most adapted to the local environment. For this reason they need far less water which in turn saves time and money, and preserves our water supplies too.

Are, quite simply, better for us all!

As native trees need less maintenance, fewer chemicals and nowhere near as much water to grow, they are more likely to thrive in a local environment. This has a positive impact on our lives.

Which native trees to choose for your particular space?

Not all native trees are suitable for all spaces. The English oak or common aspen for example, can reach heights of over 20 metres and would therefore be too large for most gardens. They do however work well in parks and open spaces.

For smaller sized gardens the following native trees could prove ideal:

Hazel

This grows well in chalky soil and enjoys the sun or shade. This deciduous tree produces beautiful catkins in spring and nuts in the autumn which attract wildlife. Hazel trees can grow up to 10 metres but can be easily managed with pruning.

Hazel tree
Hazel

Holly

Holly is a small native tree suitable for any garden. Its unique spiky, shiny leaves and red berries provide food and shelter for many birds during winter.

Hawthorn

Hawthorn is a haven for wildlife, supporting many birds and more than 300 species of insects which are attracted by the scented blossom in the spring and red berries in summer. Hawthorn grows well in most soils, but prefers full sun. It will need pruning, otherwise left to its own devices, it can grow up to 15 metres high.

Hawthorn blossom
Hawthorn

Elder

Elder is a small tree that grows to six metres in height. Its leaves turn a beautiful shade of yellow in autumn. Elder grows well in most soil types except sand. The scented flowers in early summer followed by small black berries provide a feast for insects, birds and small mammals.

For the larger garden, these native trees are a good choice:

Field maple

A deciduous tree with leaves that turn yellow or red in the autumn, elder can grow to heights in excess of 12 metres. It is a very hardy tree which grows well in full sun or partial shade and prefers most soil types as long as it is well-drained.

Maple tree pruning
Field maple

Silver birch

Silver birch is a slender, elegant native tree with white bark. It makes a striking focal point in any garden. Its leaves turn the most amazing shade of gold in autumn, and the spring catkins are a joy to behold. Silver birch can grow as high as 25 metres, so will need to be kept in check with regular pruning. This species grows well in most soils, although the preference is for sandy or acidic types. Small birds such as greenfinches are attracted by the array of insects hosted by this tree.

Wild cherry

This species can grow as tall as 25 metres. The pretty spring blossom is stunning, as are the crimson leaves in autumn. Wild cherry prefers full sun and soil that isn’t waterlogged. A sheltered spot is the best choice to avoid losing a cloud of blossom during high winds. Insects are attracted to the nectar and pollen in the blossom, and birds will devour the cherries when they are ripe.

Rowan

Also known as mountain ash, rowan is a popular native tree which can grow as high as 15 metres. It’s a hardy tree suiting most soils, so it’s often used in streets and parks. The fern-like leaves turn a dark red in autumn, with glorious orange berries providing a feast for an array of birds. In spring the tree blossoms with lovely white flowers which attract bees and other insects.

Rowan tree for small gardens
Rowan

All the expertise you need for your UK native trees

Whether you’re looking for advice relating to a particular tree, or you need a tree pruned or managed, TH Trees Ltd is at your service.

With over 15 years’ experience, we offer a wealth of knowledge and expertise across all species of trees of all sizes. Our professional experts are ready to help, so please do get in touch.

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