Trees Native to Scotland


Scottish Native Trees

Welcome to my website which attempts to list all the tree species commonly regarded as native to Scotland. I am not a botanist, just an amateur enthusiast, and therefore my information may not be perfectly accurate. I welcome comments and corrections. This website is also a hobby site and is under construction. My full contact details are on my professional website. If you would like to collaborate with me in this website project I would be delighted to hear from you. I dont have the time to work on it very often and if you were to help me with the work, then I would be very happy to acknowledge your contribution in some way so that you benefit from it too.


What is a native tree? It is commonly defined as a tree species which colonised Scotland in the period after the last ice age without human intervention. There is considerable disagreement regarding some of the species on this list as these may have been introduced by early humans. However I would argue that because early humans did not have modern technology and lived close to nature, their introduction of new species could be regarded as "natural" in a broader sense of that word. I believe that (non-invasive) non-indigenous species do have a place, although in any new plantations, I think that native trees should generally be favoured over non-native species.


Some of the debatable species include crab apple, guelder rose, white willow and sea buckthorn. The last-named is not on the list as it is not generally regarded as native, having been introduced in Victorian times. However there is some possibility that it might have been there before in smaller quantities. The other three on the list are normally regarded as native but not with complete certainty.


Most of the websites devoted to Scottish native trees are orientated towards native woodland projects - about which I am enthusiastic and I have posted plenty of links. I thought I would take a slightly different angle, and orient this website to gardening. It is my view that we should endeavour to plant native species in our gardens as much as possible. I have therefore added a comments for gardeners sections which deals with the aesthetic considerations. In this respect I have begun to add notes regarding when in the year they will begin to display foliage (or in some cases flowers or seed cases which occur before leaves). The visual impact notes are also significant in use of these trees in, for example, town planning and public parks.



You can jump directly to a particular species in the list by clicking on the links below. Then follow the links in the table below for individual species profiles. At present these simply consist of links to (and inline frames of) external websites.


alder | apple (crab) | ash | aspen | birch (downy and silver) | blackthorn | cherry (bird and wild) | elder | elm (wych) | guelder rose | hawthorn | hazel | holly | juniper | oak (pedunculate and sessile) | pine (Scots) | rowan | willow (various sallows, osiers and others) | whitebeam (rock and Arran) | yew


Common Name
Click on Tree Names
for More Details
AKA Botanical Name Family Distinguishing Characteristics Distribution Comments for Gardeners
Common Alder Black Alder Alnus glutinosa Betulaceae - Birch & Alder Family   Found throughout Scotland typically growing alongside streams and rivers, or on wet ground, up to 500 metres. Rare in the Outer Hebrides and the far northwest due to deforestation. Our native alder is not commonly grown as a garden tree, but has elegant leaves (young trees often have leaves with a purplish tinge too) and is well suited to boggy areas of the garden. Foliage begins to appear a few weeks after the guelder rose, wild cherry and some rowans.
Crab Apple Wild Crab Malus sylvestris Rosaceae - Rose Family Leaves similar to those of goat willow, but arranged in bunches instead of alternately on the twigs. Not found in the far north of Scotland unless planted. The leaves begin to appear quite early on in the spring, although significantly later than the elder. Beautiful white blossoms appear later in the spring, similar to the wild cherry.
Common Ash European Ash Fraxinus excelsior Oleaceae - Olive Family Leaves similar to those of rowan, which is probably why the rowan is sometimes called mountain ash.   One of the latest trees to produce foliage in the year. However, ash woods support spring flowers such as bluebells because of this, and because the small spaced out leaves allow a lot of sunlight to reach the ground.
Mountain Ash (see Rowan) Rowan Sorbus aucuparia Rosaceae - Rose Family      
Aspen European Aspen Populus tremula Salicaceae - Willow & Poplar Family   Scotland's only native poplar. Not a common tree; tends to grow in small groups via suckers. A delightful tree with its delicate fluttering leaves.
Birch - Frequently hybridised as betula x aurata. There is also a dwarf variety which grows as a ground spreading shrub.
Downy Birch   Betula pubescens Betulaceae - Birch & Alder Family
  1. Young twigs have slightly rough hairy coating
  2. Leaves tend to be more rounded than silver birch
  3. Leaves have a single toothed margin
  4. Branches on older trees remain erect rather than drooping
  Not regarded as elegant as its relative, the silver birch, with which it tends to hybridise. However it is nonetheless an attractive tree.
Silver Birch   Betula pendula Betulaceae - Birch & Alder Family
  1. Young twigs have warty spots
  2. Leaves tend to be diamond-shaped
  3. Leaves have a double toothed margin
  4. Branches droop on older trees
  Renowned for its fine silver or bronze bark and purple winter stem colour. Although catkins appear early in the year, they do not create a visual impact. The leaves begin to appear around the middle of spring, a few weeks after the wild cherry.
Blackthorn Sloe Prunus spinosa Rosaceae - Rose Family     Produces beautiful spring blossoms before foliage appears. Part of the cherry family. However, blackthorn spines are often poisonous so this tree should not be planted where children are likely to go.
Cherry - the wild cherry's Latin name is odd because one would think prunus avium is bird cherry from the Latin! However, there is no confusing these two species in the wild.
Bird Cherry   Prunus padus Rosaceae - Rose Family
  1. has a more shrub-like pattern of growth than Wild Cherry
  2. smooth grey-brown bark
  3. flowers occur in elongated crowded heads
Wild Cherry Gean, Mazzard Prunus avium Rosaceae - Rose Family
  1. grows taller than Bird Cherry and has a single main trunk
  2. bark reddish-brown, shiny with horizontal bands
  3. flowers in clusters growing close to the main branches
  Another of the earlier trees to show foliage - slightly later than the crab apple and the guelder rose. Beautiful blossoms later in the spring, like the crab apple.
Common Elder Black Elder Sambucus nigra Caprifoliaceae - Honeysuckle Family     Leaves begin to sprout quite early in the year - not long after the hawthorn.
Marsh Elder (see Guelder Rose) Guelder Rose Viburnum opulus Caprifoliaceae - Honeysuckle Family      
Wych Elm Scotch Elm Ulmus Glabra Ulmaceae - Elm family     Although this tree does not produce foliage until later in the spring, the seed cases appear early - arond the same time as wild cherry leaves - and look like small leaves at a distance. A very grand stately tree when mature.
Guelder Rose - debatable whether this is a native species.
Guelder Rose Marsh Elder Viburnum opulus Caprifoliaceae - Honeysuckle Family     The leaves begin to appear quite early on in the spring, slightly after the crab apple, although significantly later than its relative the common elder. However, there is a long period between when the leaves first begin to show and when they are fully developed.
Common Hawthorn   Crataegus monygna Rosaceae - Rose Family     The first deciduous tree to produce foliage - often well before spring. Beautiful blossoms follow later in spring.
Hazel Cobnut Corylus avellana Corylaceae - Hornbeam & hazel family     One of the latest trees to produce foliage in the year.
Holly   Ilex acquifolium Aquifoliaceae - Holly Family      
Juniper - in south and east of Scotland sometimes grows to small tree. In north and west the ground spreading variety is found.
Juniper   Juniperus communis Cupressaceae - Cypress Family      
Oak - the two native species frequently hybridise
Pedunculate Oak Common Oak, English Oak Quercus robur Fagaceae - Beech Family
  1. Acorns hang on stalks
  2. Leaves grow directly off the twigs
Found more often in dryer eastern areas on lower ground  
Sessile Oak Durmast Oak Quercus petraea Fagaceae - Beech Family
  1. Acorns grow directly off the twigs
  2. Leaves hang on stalks
Found more often in wetter north western areas on higher ground  
Scots Pine   Pinus Sylvestris Pinaceae - Pine Family      
Rowan Mountain Ash Sorbus aucuparia Rosaceae - Rose Family     I have noticed that some rowans produce leaves quite early - around the same time as the guelder rose and wild cherry - but others very late. I am not sure why this is. Produces beautiful red berries in the late summer / early autumn.
Willow - Many varieties often hybridise easily so difficult to distinguish. See for example this page on distinguishing willows. I have tried to order them by family groups.
Sallows - not sure if tea-leaved and dark-leaved willow fall into this category.
Goat Willow Great Sallow, Pussy Willow
Salix caprea Salicaceae - Willow & Poplar Family Distinguished from grey willow by the following:
  1. thick stiff twigs hairy at first but becoming smoother and yellowish brown with age
  2. leaves tend to roll slightly outwards
  3. Upper surface of leaves dull green and slightly hairy; lower surface grey and woolly
  4. leaves have short twisted point at the tip
  5. leaves more rounded than goat willow
  Earliest willow to flower - the catkins of the goat willow are the classic "pussies". This makes for an attractive early spring display, although it is nonetheless several weeks later than the hawthorn or elder in terms of making a visual impact in the garden. The catkins make an appearance about the same time as the crab apple starts to display small leaves. The young stems have an attractive reddish brown colour.
Grey Willow Grey Sallow, Pussy Willow Salix cinerea ssp oleifolia, formerly known as salix atrocinerea
Salicaceae - Willow & Poplar Family Distinguished from goat willow by the following:
  1. thick downy grey twigs
  2. leaves often have inrolled margins
  3. leaves develop rusty hairs on veins
  4. leaves tend to be broader at the tip
  5. leaves less rounded than goat willow
Woolly Willow
   Salix Lanata
  Often classified as a shrub but grows to size of a small tree and sometimes hybridises with Grey Willow.    
Eared Willow    Salix Aurita
  Often classified as a shrub but grows to size of a small tree and sometimes hybridises with Grey Willow and Tea-Leaved Willow.    
Dark Leaved Willow Pussy Willow, Black Willow Salix myrsinifolia formerly known as salix nigricans Salicaceae - Willow & Poplar Family Similar to tea-leaved willow but:
  1. Shoots downy at first becoming smoother and dull brown with age
  2. Leaves dark green above but glaucous below
  3. Toothed margin
  4. Large stipules
Tea Leaved Willow Salix phylicifolia Salicaceae - Willow & Poplar Family Similar to dark-leaved willow but:
  1. Twigs are usually reddish-brown
  2. Leaves shiny green above (but glaucous below like dark-leaved willow)
  3. Leaves are rigid and coriaceous
  4. lacks the large stipules of dark-leaved willow
Often hybridises with Eared Willow.
Osiers - because this is the family used for basketry, etc., there has been much artificial hybridisation and planting making it hard to determine native distribution.
Common Osier Willow   Salix viminalis Salicaceae - Willow & Poplar Family      
Purple Osier Willow Salix purpurea Salicaceae - Willow & Poplar Family      
Almond Leaved Willow French Willow Salix triandra Salicaceae - Willow & Poplar Family   Only native to southern Scotland  
Other Willows
Bay Leaved Willow Laurel Leaved Willow Salix pentandra Salicaceae - Willow & Poplar Family      
Crack Willow Withy Salix fragilis Salicaceae - Willow & Poplar Family Often hybridises with White Willow forming Salix x Rubens.    
White Willow   Salix alba Salicaceae - Willow & Poplar Family Often hybridises with Crack Willow forming Salix x Rubens.    
Whitebeam - there are also two species unique to specific locations on the Isle of Arran - Cut-leaved Whitebeam or Arran Service Tree (Sorbus Pseudofennica), and Arran Whitebeam (Sorbus Arrenensis). Arran Whitebeam is thought to be a cross between rowan and rock whitebeam, and Arran Service Tree (or cut leaved whitebeam) a cross between Arran Whitebeam and rowan.
Rock Whitebeam Cliff Whitebeam Sorbus rupicola Rosaceae - Rose Family   A very small number growing in isolation or in small groups in a small number of sites distributed widely throughout Scotland. Extremely rare.  
Yew   Taxus baccata Taxaceae - Yew Family      



Some Native Shrubs Which Can Sometimes Grow Very Large or and / or Have Woody Stems.

I am not sure what some of these species are (cannot remember where I got the list from) so would appreciate some help in correcting this list.



Common Name AKA Botanical Name Family Distinguishing Characteristics Distribution Comments
Bog Myrtle   Myrica Gale        
Sweet Briar            
Dwarf Birch            
Gorse Whin          
Dog Rose            
Hairy Dog Rose            
soft downy rose            
Sherard’s downy rose            



Willow Shrub Varieties
Scrub or Montane Willow  


Large Shrub


Woolly Willow
   Salix Lanata
Eared Willow
   Salix Aurita
Medium Shrub


Creeping Willow


Downy Willow


Mountain Willow


Small Shrub


Dwarf Willow
Net Leaved Willow            
Whortle Leaved Willow





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