Wallace Park Tree Identification & Facts
Common Lime (Tilia x europaea)
A hybrid tree which is widely planted as a specimen tree for its beautiful sweeping branches. The papery leaves are oval with fine teeth along the edge and a long, pointed tip.
Aphids love to feed on lime leaves and as they feast on the sugary sap within, they create honeydew – a sweet, sticky substance – which falls on to anything beneath the tree. If you ever park beneath a lime tree in summer you’ll find it covered in honeydew in just a few hours! Lots of predators are also found in lime trees as they eat the aphids – ladybirds, hoverflies and many insect-eating birds such as Blue Tit, Great Tit and Long-tailed Tit.
Lime trees are prone to infection by fungi which can create large, swollen areas within the bark called cankers as well as dense clusters of branches emerging from the bark like a huge and untidy bird’s nest. These are helpful features to identify lime trees in winter when the leaves have fallen.
Rot holes can often be found within lime trees, which can be important places for bats to roost and birds to nest.
Can you spot any holes within this lime tree? Can you spot the areas which have been infected by fungus?
Beech (Fagus sylvatica)
Although not native to Northern Ireland, Beech creates a rich habitat for fungi and invertebrates and so is often called an ‘honorary native’ tree species. Beech is a broad-leaved tree which produces broad, flat leaves which are deciduous, meaning that in autumn time they die back and fall off the tree, only to re-grow again the following spring.
The oval leaves of Beech appear during late May, creating a deep shade beneath, and turn a beautiful orange in autumn. Although deciduous, they often remain on the tree for much of the winter until a strong gale blows them all off!
In winter look for the long, narrow leaf buds which resemble small torpedoes.
Grey Alder (Alnus incana)
Native to Eastern Europe, Russia and North America, the roots of Grey Alder support bacteria which are able to extract nitrogen from the air and introduce it into the soil. In this way, Alder trees improve the fertility over the soil over a period of many years.
Like birch and cherry trees, Grey Alder is a relatively fast-growing and short-lived tree that can survive for up to 60 years of age.
Look for tiny, woody cones at the end of the branches during autumn and winter. Unlike most other broad-leaved trees, alders produce seeds which are protected within small brown cones. These are an important source of food for finches such as Goldfinch, Siskin and Redpoll which use their tough, pointed beak to extract the seeds.
Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii)
A native of western North America, Douglas-fir can reach up to 100 metres (330ft) in height, although this takes a very long time and trees outside of the natural range do not reach this size.
Look carefully beneath and you may find the woody cones, which have distinctive three-pointed paper-like bracts emerging from each cone scale.
Horse Chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum )
This tree produces familiar reddish-brown ‘conkers’ in late summer. These are formed within a spiky seed case and when the seed (conker) is fully formed, the seed case splits to reveal the conker inside.
Look closely at the bare branches during autumn and winter – the areas where the old leaves were attached are U-shaped, like a horse-shoe; these markings give the tree its name.
Another feature to look for during the autumn and winter are the large, sticky leaf buds at the ends of the branches. In spring these burst open to produce huge, fan-shaped leaves which look quite tropical! Tall spikes of white flowers are also produced during May and June, each spike resembling a miniature Christmas tree.
Native to Turkey, Horse Chestnut was introduced into the UK during the 1500’s and has been widely planted in parks, gardens and streets since that time.
Silver Birch (Betula pendula)
The beautiful silvery-white bark gives this tree its name. With age the bark develops rough, black, diamond-shaped markings.
Stand back a little and look at the shape of the tree – it is tall and pointed with outer branches that droop downwards. Because the leaves are small and widely spaced, the tree doesn’t cast a lot of shade; this is one reason why Silver Birch is a popular tree in parks and gardens.
During April and May, or earlier if spring is mild, look out for the yellow flowers – called catkins – which hang down from the branch tips. These appear before the leaves and rely on the wind to spread their pollen.
Birch trees do not live for very long (compared to most other trees) – living for only 70 years or so.
Silver Birch supports hundreds of species of insects and fungi, including the well-camouflaged Angle Shades Moth and the familiar red and white Fly Agaric toadstool.
Yew (Taxus baccata)
One of only three coniferous tree species native to Ireland; Scots Pine, also present within the Park, and Juniper are also native.
The bark can be very colourful with brown, red, orange and purple tones. The long, narrow leaves grow along the twigs in two neat rows and are evergreen, meaning they remain on the tree throughout the year.
During late summer and autumn produces seeds which are wrapped in a bright red, berry-like covering which encourages birds to eat it. When they fly off to roost they then deposit the seed in their droppings. Beware! The red ‘berries’, and all parts of a Yew, are poisonous to eat. Toxic chemicals within the tree can also be put to great use however, as when properly prepared they have been used to make anti-cancer medicines.
Yew is associated with long life, as some of the oldest trees in the UK are Yew trees – between 2000 and 300 years old!
Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris)
One of three coniferous tree species native to Northern Ireland. Conifers produce seeds which are not enclosed in a protective seed coat. In pines the small, winged seeds form within oval, woody cones.
Most conifers are also evergreen, meaning they do not drop their leaves in winter. Scots Pine leaves are dark green needles which are grouped in clusters of three.
Can you spot any pine cones or needles beneath the tree or on its lower branches?
Holly (Ilex aquifolium)
One of our few native evergreen trees, Holly has familiar prickly leaves growing on its bottom branches which (in a wild setting) would prevent animals such as deer from eating its leaves.
If you look closely you may notice that leaves near the top of the tree have few or no prickles – this lets birds such as thrushes land in the upper branches where they can eat the red berries during autumn and winter.
Pedunculate Oak (Quercus robur)
In a natural setting many oak trees will grow for the first 300 years, mature and produce countless acorns for another 300 years, and then slowly age and die back for a further 300 years; some are lucky enough to live for over 1000 years!
The leaves of oak are oblong with lobed edges; in late summer oak produces its familiar woody seeds which are called acorns.
Did you know that an oak tree can support more species of insect than any other native tree species? The abundance of insect life also attracts predators such as Blue, Great and Coal Tits, Great Spotted Woodpecker, bats and hedgehogs. In autumn woodpeckers, Jays and squirrels will also feast on the acorns. An old oak tree can also provide rotten holes within which bats can roost and birds can nest.
Norway Maple (Acer platanoides) Crimson King
The palm-shaped leaves and helicopter-like seeds identify this as a species of maple. It can look quite similar to Sycamore which is also present within the Park, however each ‘finger’ of the leaves has a long, bristle-like point which Sycamore lacks. The leaves also turn a butter-yellow during autumn, whereas those of Sycamore tend to remain green until they fall. In autumn and winter the leaf buds are also dark red, whereas those of Sycamore are green.
A native of eastern and central Europe, Norway Maple was introduced into the UK during the 1600’s and is now a very common tree in parks, gardens and streets. It is particularly beneficial in urban areas as it is tolerant of air pollution, and its leaves also absorb some toxic chemicals such as car exhaust fumes. It literally filters the air we breathe!
Ash (Fraxinus excelsior)
One of our most common and familiar tree species, Ash gets its name from the swollen, ash-black buds that are easily seen during the autumn and winter. Its clusters of hanging, winged seeds (called Ash ‘keys’) are also easily spotted at this time.
Ash wood is particularly strong and has been used to make handles for spades, axes and hammers, oars and hockey sticks as well as furniture.
A healthy Ash tree can live for around 400 years. Today however, Ash is under severe threat from a disease that was imported with trees from the Far East called Ash Dieback. This disease causes the leaves to turn black and fall early, and also produces lesions within the bark. It eventually kills the tree. It is predicted that up to 80% of our Ash trees - tens of thousands - may die as a result, potentially changing the appearance of our parks and countryside. We will also lose other species which rely on Ash for their survival such as fungi, lichens, beetles, moths and gall-wasps.
Sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus)
The palm-shaped leaves and winged seeds, often called helicopters, identify it as a maple. Sycamore trees can live for up to 400 years!
Sycamore is not native to the UK but to central, eastern and southern Europe; it was most likely introduced by the Romans into England, and then widely planted across the UK. Nowadays Sycamore tends to spread quickly by seed rather than being widely planted.
Look out for black spots on the leaves both on the tree and fallen leaves beneath. Called Tar Spots, they are caused by a species of fungus which only grows on Sycamore leaves.
Sycamore is occasionally planted in windy areas as it forms a very good wind break; its leaves also absorb toxic chemicals such as car exhaust fumes from the air, literally helping to purify the air that we breathe! This makes the Sycamore an ideal street tree.
Wild Cherry (Prunus avium)
The beautiful shiny red-brown bark with horizontal cream-coloured lines is easy to spot throughout the year. Clusters of white flowers appear during April and once pollinated by insects, develop into familiar red cherries in July. The flowers provide an important source of nectar and pollen for insects such as bees, bumblebees, hoverflies and butterflies.
The red colour of the berries is designed to attract birds such as thrushes, which eat the cherries and deposit the seeds some distance away from the parent tree, in their droppings.
Cherry trees are short-lived, lasting for an average of only 60 years.