Celebrate the ‘Twelve Trees of Christmas’ with Friends of the Earth
With tree planting commitments featuring heavily in recent election manifestos, Friends of the Earth is celebrating some of the native tree species that should form a central part of future planting plans – fighting climate breakdown and supporting British wildlife.
For example, broadleaf, deciduous trees and mixed woodlands will support many more wild species than conifer forests and plantations comprising just a few species. Because conifer species tend to grow faster than broadleaf species, they will absorb more carbon at a faster rate than most slow growing deciduous trees.
Having the right trees and forests in the right places (and these being well managed and maintained over their whole lifetimes) and knowing what types of woodland are needed for what task, is key.
Emi Murphy, trees campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said:
“When Christmas comes around a lot of attention turns to traditional festive trees such as spruce and fir. But this year we’re celebrating our native tree species that work year-round fighting the climate crisis, providing homes and food to wildlife, and giving protection from extreme weather such as floods and heatwaves.”
- Common oak - The ‘mighty oak’ lives for hundreds of years, storing the most carbon and supporting more wild species - birds, insects, plants and fungi - than any other British tree.
- Black poplar - This rare tree loves to grow near rivers and can reach heights of over 100 feet.
- Alder - A fast-growing tree, especially near rivers, and its wood was used to make the best gunpowder.
- Yew - An ancient tree able to grow for thousands of years, often found in churchyards and once used to make longbows.
- Willow - The wood of the willow is famously used to make cricket bats and its bendy cuttings can be driven into damp ground to make living dens, wigwams and tunnels.
- Juniper - Known for dark blue berries which are used to flavour gin, this native conifer with thin silvery-green needle-like leaves has been in decline and needs special conservation action to thrive.
- Whitebeam - Found on south-facing chalk and limestone hills and also in urban areas where it copes with heat and pollution.
- Maple - Popular for woodwork, including making harps, thanks to its very fine-grained wood. Syrup can be extracted in the spring.
- Aspen - Some people say Aspen’s golden leaves quiver and rustle in the autumn as an apology for being the wood used for the cross on which Jesus Christ was crucified.
- Birch - A common fast-growing tree with silvery-white bark and a sap used by some people to make an early springtime drink - birch sap wine.
- Wild service - If you find this rare, slow growing tree you may find that you are standing in an area of very ancient woodland that has not been affected by built development and timber production.
- Holly - Known for bright berries on female trees, spiky, shiny leaves deter creatures nibbling low branches, but look up to see leaves without spikes which animals can’t reach. As the Christmas Carol goes, “Of all the trees in the wood, the Holly wears the crown”.