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British Native Winter Trees Quiz

Most of us know our oak from our ash. But what about your Guelder-rose from your Wayfaring Tree? And what about if they don't have any leaves on???! This quiz aims to sort out the twigmasters from those who can't see the wood for the trees! If you'd like to get to know your winter trees better why not buy a copy of Winter trees: a photographic guide. All the profits go to The Species Recovery Trust, which is looking after some of the UK's rarest species. Or come on one of our training courses! If you like this quiz, why not try our Grasses and Sedges ones? All photos by Leif Bersweden and Dominic Price.

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  1. 1. We'll start with entire trees, sometimes not as easy as it seems! What's this one?

    Correct
    Incorrect
    Alder
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Ash
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Silver Birch
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Downy Birch
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    Silver Birch (Betula pendula)

    Probably Silver Birch due to its drooping branches - but can be very hard to tell apart (and they hybridise)

  2. 2. How about this one?

    Correct
    Incorrect
    Oak
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Ash
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Beech
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Alder
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    Oak (Quercus robur)

    Classic dome shape, with short and many branched twigs

  3. 3. More of a shrub than a tree...

    Correct
    Incorrect
    Buckthorn
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Blackthorn
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Hawthorn
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Currant
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna)

    Lacks the very long thorns of Blackthorn, has paler bark which tends to flake (Blackthorn is much blacker and bark peels). Also you can see the berries on this one..

  4. 4. This one's a bit harder...

    Correct
    Incorrect
    Willow
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Wild Service-tree
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Poplar
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Aspen
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    Black Poplar (Populus nigra)

    We'll let you have Poplar as it's hard to get these to species level (although Black Poplar is noticeable darker than other members of the genus)

  5. 5. A shrub...

    Correct
    Incorrect
    Alder
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Elder
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Guelder-rose
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Buckthorn
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    Elder (Sambucus nigra)

    Elder often fails to lose all it's leaves. It always looks a bit rubbish in winter, but compensates in the summer!

  6. 6. Another hard one - the berries might help

    Correct
    Incorrect
    Ash
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Rowan
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Sycamore
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Whitebeam
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    Whitebeam (Sorbus aria agg.)

    A hard one - the best way spot them is when you see lots of large white leaves on the ground. But if you see a pale many branched tree with pale bark and remnants of large berries, then Whitebeam is a good guess

  7. 7. This is also hard - but the fact it's growing out of Gorse and Bracken might help

    Correct
    Incorrect
    Ash
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Rowan
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Elder
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Spindle
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia)

    Similar to the whitebeam (same genus) this has another pale and solid looking trunk. It is generally confined to heathland and upland areas, growing with other acid loving plants as it is here in the New Forest.

  8. 8. Another tricky one!

    Correct
    Incorrect
    Lime
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Sycamore
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Ash
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Willow
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    Lime (Tilia sp.)

    If you were up close you could probably use the red buds to help you. In this photo the smooth bark, long twigs and broad shape might help, but probably not...

  9. 9. Easy-peasy...

    Correct
    Incorrect
    Spindle
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Hawthorn
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Guelder-rose
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Dogwood
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    Dogwood (Cornus sanguinea)

    The quintessential red coloured shrub, particularly so when it has been cut back and is showing new growth as it is here on the ramparts at Old Sarum

  10. 10. Very little to go on here...

    Correct
    Incorrect
    Ash
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Sycamore
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Beech
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Oak
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    Sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus)

    Difficult! You can sort of see the smooth trunk which helps. The twigs are a bit too thick to be Beech. Ultimately there's just something about the way it holds itself which you learn to spot! More elongated and upright than Oak, smooth bark and thicker twigs than Beech.

  11. 11. Right, now for some twigs, which in many ways is easier than looking at a whole tree. Nice easy one to get you warmed up...

    Correct
    Incorrect
    Sweet Chestnut
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Horse Chestnut
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Field Maple
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Ash
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    Horse Chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum)

    Sticky buds, and horseshoe shaped leaf scars. If you got this wrong you should feel pretty bad...

  12. 12. Not quite as easy!

    Correct
    Incorrect
    Privet
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Ash
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Buckthorn
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Field Maple
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    Buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica)

    Not a commonly seen tree. It has the look of a thorn bush but no true spines. The twigs have talon-like black buds (as opposed to the more dumpy ones of Privet), which curiously are sometimes opposite and sometimes alternate

  13. 13. This shouldn't give you any problems

    Correct
    Incorrect
    Ash
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Blackthorn
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Privet
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Sycamore
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    Ash (Fraxinus excelsior)

    Pale twigs with big fat black, more or less opposite, buds. A classic!

  14. 14. Phwooar...

    Correct
    Incorrect
    Downy Birch
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Spindle
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Silver Birch
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Beech
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    Silver Birch (Betula pendula)

    Very thin twig, and the silver warts would typically confirm it as Silver rather than Downy. That said, you tend to find white warts on both Silver and Downy, so they're a bit of a nightmare....

  15. 15. A bit harder....

    Correct
    Incorrect
    Lime
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Sweet Chestnut
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Poplar
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Oak
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    Sweet Chestnut (Castanea sativum)

    Bit tricky, but the buds are reddish and most significantly sit on their own little shelves. It also has pretty distinctive ridges running longitudinally up the twig, once you know to spot them.

  16. 16.

    Correct
    Incorrect
    Hazel
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Lime
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Elder
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Beech
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    Hazel (Corylus avellana)

    Nice dumpy alternate buds and sparse hairiness on the twig, a bit like a teenager making a bold but ultimately misjudged attempt to grown a beard

  17. 17. A wet one...

    Correct
    Incorrect
    Goat Willow
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Crack Willow
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Grey Poplar
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Aspen
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    Goat Willow (Salix caprea)

    In general the Willows and Poplars have buds that lie close to the twig, and Goat and Grey Willow tend to have plumper buds than the others. The red colouration you cna see on the lower half of the buds here is a good indicator for Goat, along with the lack of ridges on the stem when you peel the bark away. But they are hard, even in the summer!

  18. 18. This one is harder. It just looks like a twig...

    Correct
    Incorrect
    Hazel
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Field Maple
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Cherry
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Elm
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    Elm (Ulmus sp.)

    If you're using our guide book then you should have got this. Again, once you know it it's quite easy as it's the only one with these really quite small alternate black buds.

  19. 19. If I did have a favourite twig this would be it! Actually I do have a favourite twig, and this is it...

    Correct
    Incorrect
    Ash
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Spindle
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Lime
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Field Maple
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    Spindle (Euonymus europaeus)

    Opposite buds, very green twig, nothing else it could be. A very very lovely twig, the pride of place of any twigarium

  20. 20. Ouchy ouchy!

    Correct
    Incorrect
    Hawthorn
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Buckthorn
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Blackthorn
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Thorntons chocolates
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa)

    Was MC Hammer talking about Blackthorn when he once said 'You can't touch this'. We'll never know, although it's not a naturalised shrub in California where he grew up, so probably not. If he was singing about it he might have been referring to plant thorn synovitis, which can come from pricking yourself on Blackthorn due to the spines habit of leaving a tiny fragment of material deep in your flesh. In terms of identifying it' dark twigs, and long spines with buds on them are the key diagnostics (Hawthorn tends to have buds at the base of spines, and paler bark)

  21. 21. You've seen the trees, you've admired the twigs. But can you handle the buds? Welcome to Twigmaster Level III...

    Correct
    Incorrect
    Birch
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Horse Chestnut
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Elder
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Alder
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    Alder (Alnus glutinosa)

    Little reddy to purple boxing gloves are what you're looking for. It's a pretty easy tree to idenitfy in its entirety, so people often don't spend time looking at the buds, which is a shame and they're pretty cool.

  22. 22. Pointy pointy..

    Correct
    Incorrect
    Beech
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Hornbeam
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Poplar
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Birch
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    Beech (Fagus sylvatica)

    Very lovely pointed brown buds, with a dusting of white towards the top of the scales. You find these in industrial quantities on the floor in springtime

  23. 23. Probably one most of you have never seen...

    Correct
    Incorrect
    Guelder-rose
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Wayfaring Tree
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Alder Buckthorn
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Buckthorn
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    Alder Buckthorn (Frangula alnus)

    A funny little shrub which grows in fens and on the edge of mires, it's one of the foodplants of Brimstone butterflies. You need to get up really close to the twig to see it does have quite a distinct structure with its velvety flaplike buds and twigs with knoblike projections. And it's phrases like that which made me want to become a botanist.

  24. 24.

    Correct
    Incorrect
    Elm
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Field Maple
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Dogwood
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Sycamore
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    Field Maple (Acer campestre)

    While Spindle and Dogwood pretty much have the green/red market cornered, Field Maple does shades of orange like no other. The buds also have a beautiful palette of their own, merging from dark brown to orange then tipped with very visible white hairs. Nice!

  25. 25. Double phwooar...

    Correct
    Incorrect
    Wayfaring Tree
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Elder
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Guelder-rose
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Horse Chestnut
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    Guelder-rose (Viburnum opulus)

    This is not a shrub one gets to see often - it tends to like damper soils and just isn't that common. If there was an award for big bulbous buds this shrub would clean up, they really are something else!

  26. 26. Almost finished!

    Correct
    Incorrect
    Oak
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Poplar
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Whitebeam
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Sycamore
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    Oak (Quercus sp.)

    Cluster of terminal buds, each one with a whole load of scales on. In theory you can count the scales to tell you which Oak you have, although we remain unconvinced by this!

  27. 27. Hello Mr Rabbit...

    Correct
    Incorrect
    Elder
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Alder
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Wayfaring Tree
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Poplar
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    Wayfaring Tree (Viburnum lantana)

    Nothing looks remotely like this when you know it. Big flappy leaves instead of buds, and a mealy coating (that powdery stuff designed to annoy insects enough that they decide to pick on an easier target)

  28. 28. Bit harder....

    Correct
    Incorrect
    Whitebeam
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Silver Birch
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Poplar
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Rowan
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia)

    Whitebeam and Rowan (both in the Sorbus genus) have these buds with woolly bits; Whitebeam are green and Rowan brown. The woolliness can be quite variable on Rowan, but this might be due to different varieties and garden escapees being in the equation. Again, once you know it it's quite easy!

  29. 29.

    Correct
    Incorrect
    Alder
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Elder
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Willow
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Hawthorn
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    Elder (Sambucus nigra)

    Warty twigs with buds which look more like embryonic leaves rather than true buds. If you scratch the bark you get the unmistakeable smell of cat's piss. Well, I do, but not everyone is agreed on that. It certainly smells moderately unpleasant though.

  30. 30. WE'RE THERE!

    Correct
    Incorrect
    Birch
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Willow
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Lime
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Hazel
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    Willow (Salix sp.)

    Not sure if this is entirely a winter bud, but it's a nice one to end on. Slight shame the phrase 'Pussy Willow' has slightly dropped out of polite usage...

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