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Winter tree ID



About the author
John Morris Dec 15 By Chris Smith

John Morris is Director of a local charity, the Chiltern Woodlands Project. John studied Biological Sciences at Exeter University. He has been giving advice and assistance on woodland management in the Chilterns for nearly 35 years. He has been organizing volunteer workparties with the Chiltern Society in Hockeridge Wood since November 2014 and took on the role of woodland manager here in June 2017.

He is leading a training course on 22 February  on Winter ID. Details here 

Winter is an important season for woodland work, with felling and replanting taking place, so it is important to be able to recognise trees at this time of year. In winter there are fewer clues to help you identify deciduous trees. They are not in leaf or in fruit (but both fruit and leaves may still be on the ground and these should not be ignored). Most trees are not in flower, but catkins and cones etc may be developing. The bark of trees can be a characteristic clue to identifying species, however the appearance of the bark changes with age.

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English oak in winter: Picture John Morris 

 John Morris, will be leading a training course on 22 Feburary on Winter Identification of Trees. Here he talks about the trees you might encounter and how the course will help hone your skills of ID. Book a place on the course here. 

Our training day will visit Hockeridge and Pancake woods, a 74 hectare block of woodland on the edge of Berkhamsted in the Chilterns on the Bucks / Herts county boundary. The woods have been owned by the Royal Forestry Society since 1986.  The A41 runs close to the edge of the eastern wood. The woods are ancient but have been replanted since the 1950’s with a wide mix of broadleaved and conifers including Norway spruce, larch, Scots pine, western hemlock and Douglas fir. Many of these plantations have recently been thinned to favour the broadleaved trees. Ornamental trees including American red oak, liquidambar, holm oak and tulip tree, have been planted along the network of rides and a “tree trail” with over 50 species has been marked. Some experimental blocks have been planted, with Southern beech Nothofagus species, Giant and Coast redwoods being notable. There has also been some natural regeneration from seed.

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Bark characteristics are important (these are oak)... ...and labels can make life easier! Pictures John Morris


Quite a wide range of mainly native broadleaved trees can be found in RFS Hockeridge and Pancake Woods, these include beech, oak, wild cherry, silver birch, ash, hazel, sweet chestnut and holly, along with the commercial conifer plantations. Much of the woodland has been thinned and respaced over the last four or five years, using harvesters to remove rows of conifer to leave mainly beech and oak to grow on. Firewood has also been harvested, leaving a more open canopy and reduced shade. The result is attractive and varied woodland with a good network of paths and more open rides.

This training day will look mainly at ways to identify some deciduous broadleaved trees in winter from a range of features including their overall appearance, their bark, buds and twigs. We will also consider the identification of some of the conifers . 

Participants on this workshop will learn to identify and understand the differences between some of the more common broadleaved trees found in Hockeridge and Pancake Woods. We will learn how to assess the whole tree and look in closer detail for clues from the budding shape, colour and branching pattern on twigs. In the wood we will look at the colour and texture of tree bark and see how this can change as trees age. During our visit to the woods we will collect some twig specimens to identify from keys back in the hall. With practice and use of keys in books participants should learn how to identify the more common species of tree. This day is aimed at helping new woodland owners and managers to get the skills, practice and confidence they need to recognise the main differences so they can identify some common trees in winter.


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Join our Winter ID for trees course  in Hockeridge Wood!