Europe has one of the largest varieties of tree species in the world. From the royal oak in Central Europe to the popular Pinus Sylvestris up in Scandinavia.
But what do we know about European trees? It can be tricky to find the information that you need, and many of us spend days searching for the answers but never getting the ones that we need.
Well, no more! We take a look at European trees and their natural habitat.
Rowan (Sorbus Aucuparia)
The rowan is a small tree or shrub of the genus Sorbus, native to temperate regions of Europe and Asia.
These European tree species have been naturalized in North America, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. The name “rowan” derives from Old English Rowe, meaning “tree”.
In Scotland, it was known as the “mountain ash”, but this term is now rarely used. Rowans are widely cultivated for their fruit, which can be made into jams and jellies.
They also have medicinal uses; the leaves are said to be an effective treatment for coughs and colds. In some areas, they are grown as ornamental trees.
Larch (Larix Decidua)
Larches are coniferous evergreen trees belonging to the family Pinaceae, subfamily Laricoideae. They grow naturally in cool climates throughout much of Eurasia and North America, including eastern Canada and the United States.
There are two main types: larches, with needle-like foliage, and spruces, with cone-bearing branches. Spruce needles are typically longer than larch.
The common names “larch” and “spruce” derive from the Latin word larix, meaning “pine tree”.
Pine (Pinus Spp.)
Pines are gymnosperms in the pine family Pinaceae, subfamilia Pinuloideae.
They are found across the Northern Hemisphere, especially in northern temperate zones. Pines are often associated with other conifers such as Douglas fir, Sitka spruce, and hemlock.
Some pines are deciduous, shedding their leaves during winter, while others are evergreens that retain their needles year-round.
The most familiar type of pine is the Norway Pine (often called simply “Norway”), which grows in high latitudes in both hemispheres.
It is closely related to Scots pine, which grows in colder parts of the British Isles.
Poplars are members of the poplar family Salicaceae, subfamily Populinae. They are medium-sized deciduous trees or large shrubs growing up to 30 m tall.
Poplars are widespread in temperate forests of the Northern Hemisphere. Poplars are a great alternative tree species planted near streets because of their fast growth rate.
The willow tree is one of the largest flowering plants in the world. There are many different kinds of willows, all in the plant family Salicaceae. The name comes from the Latin salix, meaning “willow”.
Willows are commonly seen along rivers and streams, where they form thickets. Their long shoots make them useful for basketry.
Willows are very hardy and adaptable. They tolerate drought, poor soil, and pollution. They are easily propagated by cuttings and layering.
Willow bark contains salicylic acid, which is similar to aspirin. In the past, willow bark tea was once used as a painkiller, and willow bark is still used in traditional Chinese medicine today.
Alder (or silver birch) is a member of the family Betulaceae, genus Alnus. It is native to Europe, Asia, and North America.
Alder is a deciduous broadleaf tree growing to 20–30 m tall. Its flowers are small and inconspicuous, appearing greenish-yellow before opening white.
It is generally considered to be more resistant to pests and diseases than other trees. This has led to its use in landscaping and forestry.
Elders (also known as American elder, box elder, or sweet gums) are members of the family Ulmaceae, subfamily Ulmoidea. They are deciduous trees or shrubs growing to 10–20 m tall.
Elders are widely distributed in temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere.
They have been cultivated since ancient times and were introduced into North America in the early 19th century.
The English name derives from Old Norse elðr, meaning “tree”, and the German name from Elster, meaning “elm”.
European Beech (Fagus Sylvatica)
Beech (or European blackwood) is a deciduous tree belonging to the Fagaceae family. It is native to Eurasia and North Africa.
Beech is an important timber tree, valued for its straight grain and resistance to insects. It can grow up to 70 meters tall.
Beech is also a popular ornamental tree, growing well in open woodland and hedgerows.
Birch (or birches) are members of the Betulaceae family. They are deciduous conifers that are found throughout the Northern Hemisphere.
Birch is a common tree in northern temperate zones. It is often grown as an ornamental tree due to its attractive foliage and fall color.
However, the birch tree is highly susceptible to insect damage.
European Horse Chestnut (Aesculus Hippocastanum)
Horse chestnuts are members of the family Cannabaceae, subfamily Aesculinoideae. They are deciduous trees growing up to 25 m tall.
They are native to Europe but have been naturalized in parts of North America and Australia.
They are a valuable source of food and timber.
European Hornbeam (Carpinus Betulus)
Hornbeams are members of the family Betulaceaee, subfamily Corylaceae. They are deciduous trees growing to 30 m tall.
They occur naturally across much of Europe, with some populations extending northwards into Siberia.
Hornbeam is used commercially for its wood, which is light and easy to work with.
Hazels are members of the family Corylaceae, subfamily Coryloideae. They are evergreen trees or shrubs growing up to 15 m tall.
They grow best in moist soils and full sun.
Hazel is a common garden plant, valued for its autumn color. The hazel tree is best known for its fruit, the hazelnut.
Ashes are members of the family Oleaceae, subfamily Oleeae. They are deciduous trees or shrubs growing between 5-15 m tall.
Ash is a popular tree growing in European forests. It likes fertile soil and full sun.
Hawthorns are members of the Rosaceae family, subfamily Rosoideae. They are medium-sized trees or large shrubs growing up to 20 m tall.
Hawthorn is a very popular ornamental tree, valued for its colorful spring flowers. It is easily identifiable by its thorns around the branches.
The flowers of hawthorn are traditional herbal medicine.
Holly (Ilex Aquifolium)
Hollies are members of the Hamamelidae family, subfamily Ilexeae. Holly trees can grow up to 50 m tall, although most commonly they are cut back to resemble a small shrub.
Holly is a popular ornamental tree in gardens, valued for its green leaves and red berries. It has been cultivated since Roman times and was once widely planted in England.
We know holly the best today where its leaves and berries are used for Christmas wreaths.
Oaks are members of the Fagales order, family Quercetaceae. They can reach heights of 40 m and shed their leaves every year when it gets cooler.
There are over 200 species of oak worldwide, with many more varieties. Oak is one of the world’s most important hardwood timbers.
Oak trees prefer well-drained soils and full sun but will tolerate poor conditions.
Aspen (Populus Tremuloides)
Aspens are members of the Salicaceae family, subfamily Populoideae. Aspens can grow up to 10 m tall, and produce new shoots from the root crown each year.
Aspens are found throughout the Northern Hemisphere, including North America, Asia, and Europe.
It is an important commercial tree in western Canada, providing lumber and pulpwood.
Junipers are members of the Cupressaceae family, subfamily Cupressoideae. Junipers are coniferous trees that grow up to 25 m tall.
Juniper is a common garden tree, prized for its attractive foliage resembling that of the yew. Its needles have traditionally been used as tea herbs.
In Europe, the blue fruit of the juniper tree is traditionally also used to make gin.
Spruces are members of the Pinaceae family, subfamily Pinoideae. Spruces are coniferous trees growing up to 30 m tall.
In northern climates, spruce is often grown as an evergreen. Spruce is a valuable timber tree, especially in Scandinavia, Russia, and Siberia.
Cedar (Cedrus Atlantica)
Cedars are members of the Pinacea family, subfamily Cedroideae. Cedar trees can grow up to 60 m tall and live for hundreds of years.
Cedars are native to the Mediterranean region and are still widely planted there. In the United States, cedars were introduced into California and Oregon during the early 19th century.
Cedarwood is highly resistant to insects and rot. It is used for building houses and ships.
Elms are members of the Ulmaceae family, subfamily Ulmoideae. Elms can grow up to 15 m tall and shed their leaves annually.
Elm trees are found throughout the temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere. Elm bark contains tannins, which were used to tan leather in the past.
Walnuts are members of the Juglandaceae family, subfamily Juglandoideae. Walnuts can grow up to 20 m tall and bear edible nuts.
The walnut is native to eastern North America and is now cultivated around the world.
The nut itself is eaten fresh or roasted, while the shell can be used for craft projects.
Yew (Taxus Baccata)
Yews are members of the Taxaceae family, subfamily Yewtoideae. Yews can grow up to 50 m tall and they are evergreen.
Yew was once considered sacred by pagans and Christians alike, because of its association with death. The wood of the yew tree has long been valued for making coffins.
Yew trees are found throughout the Northern Hemispheres, particularly in temperate areas such as Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and North America
Cypresses are members of the Cupresaceae family, subfamily Cyperoideae. Cypresses can grow up to 40 m tall.
Cypress is native to the Mediterranean region. Cypress wood is very durable and resistant to decay.
Cypress oil was historically used as a medicinal remedy, but it is no longer used today.
Trees are a vital part of our environment. They provide us with food, shelter, and some are even medicinal.
The diversity of trees in Europe and across the world is immense, and we need to look after these trees to ensure a good future climate.
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