Trees, Glorious Trees
Britain's trees and their traditional uses

We're blessed in Britain with some wonderful countryside that is full of magnificent trees - planted by man and scattered by nature. Industrial progress, plastics and cheap metal has meant that many of the traditional timber uses have fallen by the wayside.

There are over a thousand different types of tree Britain, but only around fourty are 'native'. The others have found their way here over time, or been brought back by our forebears who scavenged distant corners of the world for new species to adorn their gardens.

The majority of the commonly found trees below are 'natives' [with exceptions like Sweet Chestnut, for example] and are listed with their traditional uses - some past, some present. Alternative names are indicated where known.

Alder Buckthorn
[Breaking Buckthorn,
Black Dogwood]
Butcher's skewers, manufacture of gunpowder. Green dye from fruits, others from bark.
Alder, CommonClogs and broom handles, charcoal for gunpowder. Red dye from bark. Tanning agent. Fencing.
Ash, CommonOars/paddles, tool shafts and handles, walking sticks, aeroplanes, cart and carriage wheels, veneer. Arrow shafts.
Beech, Common Turned furniture. Mallets. Yokes. Nuts for swine, and also source of lamp oil.
BirchCharcoal. Pitch. Sap used in wine-making.
Black PoplarMatchsticks.
BlackthornWalking sticks, rake teeth. Sloes eaten and used in sloe gin.
BoxCarving, chessmen, draughts pieces, mathematical instruments, for woodcuts and printing blocks.
BuckthornDyes from black berries.
Crack WillowArtists charcoal.
DamsonCabinet making. [We also have a review of a Damson recipe booklet published by the Westmorland Damson Association over on the Books page. Jump there now.]
Dogwood
[Cornel, Dagwood,
Wax Tree]
Skewers, pegs, arrow-shafts, bobbins. Lamp-oil from berries.
Elder
[Bore-tree, Bottery]
Wooden spoons and toys. Bark & flowers in herbalism. Dyes.
English OakNumerous: from furniture to building to ships to casks. Tannin from bark. Acorns for pig fodder. Yokes. Five-bar gates.
Goat WillowClothes pegs and teeth for rakes.
Hazel, CommonHurdles, basketry, crate hoops, walking sticks, building material [wattle & daub].
HollyWoodcut blocks, and inlay. 'Swingle' of flail.
HornbeamMallet heads, chopping blocks, yokes, wheel spokes, cogwheels and 'threaded' items, charcoal.
Horse ChestnutToys, trays.
LaburnumCabinet making.
Lime, CommonMusical instruments and carving, spoons. Matting and ropes from inner bark.
Rowan
[Mountain Ash]
Tool handles and carving.
Scots PineTimber, furniture, fencing, boxes, masts, charcoal, railway sleepers, turpentine and tar.
Sessile OakCharcoal.
Silver BirchBesom brooms [twigs], tool handles, brush making.
Spindle
[Skewerwood,
Pegwood]
Artists charcoal, spindles for spinning.
Sweet Chestnut
[Spanish Chestnut]
Timber, beer cask hoops, coppiced [for hop poles and fencing stakes]. Tannin from bark.
SycamoreFurniture, musical instruments, veneers, household utensils.
WalnutFurniture manufacturing.
Wayfaring TreeTobacco pipe mouthpieces. Ink from berries.
White WillowCricket bats, basketry. Trugs. Red dye from roots.
WhitebeamHard wood enabled it to be used in early machinery as cogs.
Wild CherryTobacco pipes, furniture, veneers.
Wild Service TreeCharcoal. Berries in herbalism.
Wych ElmBoat making and water pipes, chair seats, wooden wheel hubs.
Yew, CommonBow making.

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