Trees for Wetter Sites

Alder Buckthorn (Rhamnus frangula)

A hardy European native, the deciduous Alder Buckthorn is actually thornless. Often used in hedging due to its dense foliage, left as a small tree it can grow between 3 - 7m (10 - 23ft) with a 2 - 4m (6 - 13ft) spread. With a preference for wet soils, it thrives in open woodland, marshland and hedgerows with plenty of natural light with some partial shade.

The Alder Buckthorn’s small, green-white flowers appear around May/June and are a particular favourite for bees and butterflies. Once pollinated, the green fruits turn a bright red through the summer. Its glossy, dark green leaves turn a bright yellow before falling in the autumn, just as the fruits fully ripen to a near black colour, giving an excellent food source for birds.

Alder (Alnus Glutinosa)

A British native, the Common Alder is a fast-growing hardy tree that can reach to between 20 - 30m (60 - 100ft). Thriving in most soil types, it flourishes in heavy soil, preferring moist and damp locations, making it an ideal choice around rivers, lakes or low lying and exposed wetland.

With young trees up to 5yrs growing around 1m per year, the Alder needs good light and won’t tolerate shady locations. With its seeds providing a good source of food for wildlife, the Alder can produce male & female catkins during spring, turning to small cones in autumn, while keeping its dark green leaves well into winter.

Ash (Fraxinus excelsior)

Widespread throughout Europe, the Common Ash is well established in the milder climates across the British Isles. Typically growing to heights of 18m (60ft) or beyond, it does well in well-drained, moist soils, particularly those which contains chalk or limestone, and requires full sunlight.

Recognisable for its black buds in winter, Ash flowers appear dark, almost purple in colour in early spring. However, it’s usual for the leaves to open later in the spring, while falling earlier in the Autumn, often while still green. Due to their potential full size, Ash trees require open space and suit woodland or large gardens.

Aspen (Populus tremula)

A fast growing, medium sized tree, the Aspen will reach between 15 - 20m (50 - 65ft) when fully grown. It can also spread extensively through suckers, appearing anywhere up to 12m (40ft) away. Tolerant to most soil types, it’s preference is for heavy, wet soil and can cope with short periods in waterlogged earth. Preferring full sunlight, the Aspen doesn’t cope well with shade.

From grey catkins appearing in early Spring, the Aspen’s distinctive rounded leaves appear, creating a familiar rustle at the slightest breeze. Turning yellow in the autumn, the leaves often remain on branches for an extended period. Perfect for larger gardens or parkland, the Aspen is ideal for creating a natural windbreak.

Bird Cherry (Prunus padus)

Being hardy and versatile, the British native Bird Cherry tree fares well in many different locations and is easy to spot in woods as well as hedgerows and even riverbanks. Growing well in moist, fertile soil and positioned in full or partial sun, it can reach up to 15m (50ft), making it ideal for larger gardens or parks.

With its spectacular white, almond-scented blossom, the Bird Cherry tree is a showstopper for a short period in the spring. Going on to produce small, black fruits in the summer, particularly enjoyed by birds, before its leaves turn a distinctive yellow-bronze, falling in the autumn.

Black Poplar (Populus nigra)

This large, deciduous tree is native to the UK, particularly in the south, but is on the endangered list due to its declining numbers. When found, it’s commonly around exposed damp low-lying areas and riverbanks where it thrives in moist soil, where it can rapidly grow up to 30m (100ft) in height.

Both male and female trees flower with red (male) and yellow-green (female) catkins that pollinate by the wind. Female catkins then blossom with distinctive white fluffy seeds that fall in late summer. Its glossy, dark green leaves are a characteristic heart shape, and have a soft aromatic scent. However, its powerful roots may cause problems to building foundations and drainage systems, so suited to open areas with lots of space.

Downy Birch (Betula pubescens)

A medium size tree capable of growing up to 20m (65ft), the Downy Birch is a UK native that feels at home in damp locations such as woodlands, near rivers or areas with higher rainfall. Though it copes well with heavy soils and handles exposed locations well, it is light demanding and requires full sun or partial shade to thrive.

It flowers in April/May with both long (male) and short (female) catkins, followed by diamond shaped leaves that turn yellow in the autumn. The Downy Birch also provides a good source of food and shelter to many birds, insects and wildlife. It’s not unusual to see woodpeckers making their home in its trunk also.

Goat Willow (Salix caprea)

A UK native, the Goat Willow, also known as Pussy Willow, is a large, hardy shrub that typically grows to around 6m (10ft), although can grow higher in the right conditions. It’s tolerant of most soil types including heavy clay, and prefers planting where the environment is damp and moist, such as woodlands, and open land near rivers.

After flowering early to provide a good source of pollen and nectar for bees when other trees and shrubs can’t, the catkins of both male (short and grey) and female (long and green) appear in early spring. The capsule-like fruits contains tiny seeds which are dispersed by the wind.

Grey Willow (Salix cinerea)

The UK native Grey Willow is commonly found in low-lying, wetland areas such as woodlands, marshes, as well as near rivers. Reaching heights of around 10m (30ft), it’s certainly well suited to fairly moist and well-drained positions and grows well in most soil types.

The Grey Willow is a rich source of nectar for bees and other pollinators, as well as being good for other wildlife. In spring, male catkins are silver before appearing to turn bright yellow as they become laden with pollen. The female catkins appear green, before maturing in summer. Its seeds are wrapped in white cotton-like fluff which are dispersed in the wind.

Sessile Oak (Quercus petraea)

Being closely related to the English Oak, the UK native Sessile Oak is easily mistaken, though no less handsome. Preferring upland conditions of fertile, moist soil, it’s capable of growing up to 40m (130ft) in good light, with fast early growth. An excellent specimen for large, open spaces and woodlands, as well as hedgerows.

After flowering with catkins in April - May, its acorn fruits appear, ripening in the autumn, with its leaves turning an orangey-brown before falling. The distinctions between the English Oak include having much darker leaves through spring and summer, as well as its acorns appearing on the twigs, rather than on stalks.

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