— Downy Birch
A deciduous broadleaf tree native to the UK and northern Europe and northern Asia.
Downy birch is found on damper soils than silver birch, and can even tolerate waterlogged or peaty conditions. Its range is more northerly and western than silver birch, and it can grow at higher elevations. Mature trees can grow up to 30 meters tall forming a light canopy with elegant dropping branches.
Birch woods (which may include downy or silver birch, or both) have a light, open canopy, providing the perfect conditions for grasses, mosses, wood anemone, bluebells, wood sorrel and violets to grow.
Downy birch provides food and habitat for more than 300 insect species – the leaves attract aphids, providing food for ladybirds and other species further up the food chain, and are also a food plant for the caterpillars of many moths, including the angle-shades, buff tip, pebble hook-tip, and Kentish glory. Birch trees are particularly associated with specific fungi including fly agaric, woolly milk cap, birch milk cap, birch brittlegill, birch knight, chanterelle and the birch polypore (razor strop).
Woodpeckers and other hole-nesting birds often nest in the trunk, while the seeds are eaten by siskins, greenfinches and redpolls.
In early Celtic mythology, the birch symbolised renewal and purification. Bundles of birch twigs were used to drive out the spirits of the old year, and gardeners still use the birch besom, or broom, to 'purify' their gardens. It is also used as a symbol of love and fertility. In Scottish Highland folklore, a barren cow herded with a birch stick would become fertile, and a pregnant cow would bear a healthy calf.
Purification, a guardian of new beginnings and cleansing of the past, bringer of hope, channeler of emotion, protection. The tree carries ancient wisdom and yet appears forever young.
— Scots Pine
An evergreen conifer native to northern Europe, and is one of just three conifers native to the UK.
In 2014, a consultation to choose a national tree for Scotland found that the Scots pine was the clear favourite, with more than 52% of all responses opting for the tree. The decision has been widely seen as important recognition for the country’s trees and woodland which face increasing threats from climate change, pests and diseases.
The Caledonian Forest is a priority habitat under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan and is home to rare species such as the creeping lady’s tresses and lesser twayblade orchids, the Scottish wood ant and Rannoch looper, and the capercaillie, crested tit and Scottish crossbill. Mammals include the red squirrel, pine marten and Scottish wildcat.
There is little folklore associated with the Scots pine, although there is some history of spiritual significance, which can be traced back to Celtic times. It is thought that in England, Scots pines were planted around farmsteads as windbreaks, and clusters of pines growing along old droveways helped travellers find out where they were going in inclement weather.
Celebrations, reaching for the stars and eternal life, wisdom and longevity, fertility and life, peace, love and hope
— Sessile Oak
A deciduous broadleaf tree native to the UK and most of Europe.
The sessile oak is so-named because, unlike the English, or pedunculate oak, its acorns are not carried on stalks (peduncles) but directly on the outer twigs (sessile).
Whether sessile or pedunculate, oak trees support more wildlife than any other native trees. They provide a habitat for more than 280 species of insect, which provides food for birds and other predators. The bark also provides a habitat for mosses, lichens and liverworts, and deadwood cavities for nesting birds and roosting bats. The acorns are eaten by a number of birds and mammals including the jay, badger and red squirrel.
Flower and leaf buds of English oak and sessile oak are the foodplants of the caterpillars of purple hairstreak butterflies.
The soft leaves break down with ease in autumn and form a rich leaf mould beneath the tree, supporting beetles and numerous fungi, such as the oakbug milkcap.
The oak is held in high regard across most cultures in Europe. It was sacred to many gods including Zeus (Greek), Jupiter (Roman) and Dagda (Celtic). Each of these gods ruled over thunder and lightning, and oak trees are prone to lightning strikes as they are often the tallest living feature in the landscape.
Druids frequently performed rituals in oak groves and cherished the mistletoe that grows on oak tree branches. Royalty has had a long association with oak trees too - ancient kings adorned themselves with crowns of oak leaves, King Charles II hid from his pursuers in an oak tree at Boscobel House and Roman Emperors were presented with crowns of oak leaves during victory parades.
In England the oak has, for centuries, been a national symbol of strength and survival. It has played an important part in our culture - couples were wed under ancient oaks in Oliver Cromwell’s time, the festive Yule Log was traditionally cut from oak, it features on the 1987 pound coin and is the inspiration for the emblem of many environmentally focused organisations, including The Woodland Trust.
Protection, health, inner strength, money, healing, potency, luck. Sessile oak has long been thought of as the King of the Woods. It is the tree of endurance, strength and triumph. The mighty grows between 20 and 40 metres tall.
A deciduous tree native in the UK and across Europe.
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.
Common hawthorn can support more than 300 insects and is the foodplant for caterpillars of many moths. Its flowers are eaten by dormice and provide nectar and pollen for bees and other pollinating insects. 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.
In Britain, it was believed that bringing hawthorn blossom into the house would be followed by illness and death, and in Medieval times it was said that hawthorn blossom smelled like the Great Plague. Botanists later learned that the chemical trimethylamine in hawthorn blossom is also one of the first chemicals formed in decaying animal tissue, so it is not surprising that hawthorn flowers are associated with death.
In folklore and magic, Hawthorn opens the Heart – as it is said to do in medicine. Leaves, flowers and fruits all have their place in herbal cures, with infusions being used as a tonic to help with heart problems, angina, irregular or slow heart beat, poor circulation and high blood pressure.