Sweet Chestnut-Castanea Sativa Tree Identification

Sweet Chestnuts branch

Sweet Chestnut/Castanea Sativa

Sweet Chestnut is a deciduous tree that grows up to 35 m tall, with a trunk up to about 2 m in diameter Sweet Chestnut is a deciduous broad leaf tree, common in UK.

Overview: mature Sweet Chestnut trees grow to 35 m and can live for up to 700 years. The bark is grey-purple and smooth, which develops vertical fissures with age. The twigs are purple-brown and buds are plum,red-brown and oval in shape.

Sweet Chestnuts branch

Sweet Chestnuts branch

Common Name: Sweet Chestnut

Scientific Name: Castanea Sativa

Family: Fagaceae

Download our worksheet and look at the examples we give to help learn about tree, identifying trees and uses in bushcraft.


Sweet Chestnut leaves are oblong and toothed with a pointed tip, and feature around 20 pairs of prominent parallel veins.


Sweet Chestnut Leaf

Sweet Chestnut Leaf

The flowers of the Sweet Chestnut are long, yellow Catkins of mostly male flowers, with female flowers at the base. Sweet Chestnut is monoecius, this means both male and female flowers are found on the same tree.


Insects pollinate the Sweet Chestnut tree?, female flowers develop into shiny red-brown fruits wrapped in a green, spiky case. The trees begin to bear fruit when they are about 25 years old.

Look Out For:

Teeth around the edges of Sweet Chestnut leaves are widely spaced. The seeds develop inside the prickly green seed cases.

Identified in Winter by:

Bark on the Sweet Chestnut has fissures which spiral around the tree.

Where to find Sweet Chestnut.

The Sweet Chestnut is thought to have been introduced to the UK Isles by the Romans but today it can be found commonly throughout the UK in woods and copses, especially in parts of Southern England, where it it still managed to form large areas of coppice.

Value to Wildlife.

The flowers provide an important source of nectar and pollen to bees and other insects, and Red Squirrel eat the nuts?. A large number of micro-moths feed on the leaves and nuts.

Mythology and Symbolism.

There is very little mythology surrounding the Sweet Chestnut in the UK, probably because it was introduced. However, the ancient Greeks dedicated the Sweet Chestnut to Zeus and its botanical name Castanea comes from Castonis, a Town in Thessaly in Greece where the tree was grown for its nuts.

How bushcraft Uses Sweet Chestnut.

  • Sweet chestnut timber is similar to oak but is more lightweight and easier to work. It has a straight grain when young but this spirals in older trees. It can be used in carpentry, joinery and furniture.
  • In south east England sweet chestnut is coppiced to produce poles.
  • The chestnuts can be roasted and used in a variety of recipes, including stuffing. Inner bark cordage makes superb fishing lines and nets.
  • Nuts are edible, can be roasted. Some people say remove shells prior to roasting. However it is sometimes better to leave the shells on and just cut a small ‘X’ in them. This helps keep them cleaner and they peel so much easier. They also cook more evenly so the outside has less chance of being charred


Sweet Chestnut has been found to be susceptible to fungal diseases. Chestnut blight has recently arrived in the UK, which causes bark cankers and can lead to die back and death.


Small Leaved Tilia Cordata Tree Identification

Tilia cordata (small-leaf)

Lime, Small-Leaved Tilia Cordata

There are far fewer Little Leaf Lime trees than there used to be.  Lime trees used to be known as Linden. This old English name hints at the common etymology of the word “line”. The likelihood of this is that the inner bark, also known as bast, has always been an important source of fibres for cordage and rope making.

Tilia cordata (small-leaf)

Tilia cordata (small-leaf)

These lovely trees can be found across mainland Britain, from the south of England all the way through to Scotland. Different members of the Lime family have leaves that vary in size, however they all have a similar shape. The leaves are similar to Hazel leaves, but they feel more flimsy and smoother. Often you will see many sprouts coming from the base of mature lime trees. These are often so thick that you can’t see the trunk.  Where the trunk is visible, the bark remains smooth until the trees are quite large.

Download our worksheet and look at the examples we give to help learn about tree, identifying trees and uses in bushcraft.

Common name: Lime, Small Leaf

Scientific name: Tilia Cordata

Family: Malvaceae


Lime Leaves are heart shaped with a pointed tip and the length varies from 3 to 8cm in length. The leaves feel flimsy and smooth to the touch. They are hairless except for brown tufts on the underside of the vein-joints. 


Limes are hermaphrodite, this means both male and female reproductive parts are present within each flower. Flowers are green/yellow with five petals and hang in clusters of 4-10, they are known for their pleasant smell.


Limes are pollinated by insects. The flowers develop into round/oval fruits. These are smooth with pointed tips.

 Wildlife Value

The flowers of the little leaf Linden attract bees and hummingbirds, and the soft wood often provides nesting sites for cavity-dwelling birds.


There is evidence of the little leaf linden being planted and used for social purposes as early as 760 A.D. In the Germanic and Norse countries, the tree was known as a favourite of Freya (the goddess of love) and Frigga (the goddess of marriage love and the earth). Maidens would “dance wildly” around the village linden, and women hoping for fertility would hug the tree or hang offerings in its branches. In Scandinavia, it was a good tree to avoid after dark because it was thought to be a favorite haunt of elves and fairies

Uses Of Little Leaf Lime Trees In Bushcraft.

  • Inner bark for cordage;
  • Friction fire-lighting;
  • Young leaves are edible;
  • Young flowers can be used for making tea, but caution should be taken because using older flowers can produce symptoms of narcotic poisoning.



Common Beech-Fagus Sylvatica Tree Identification

Beech branch with fruits

Beech, Common (Fagus Sylvatica)

Overview: Mature Common Beech trees grow to a height of more than 40m and develop a hug? domed crown. The bark is smooth, thin and grey, often with slight horizontal etchings. The reddish brown, torpedo-shaped leaf buds form on short stalks, and have a distinctive criss cross pattern.

Interesting Fact: Common beech can live for several hundreds of years. However with coppiced stands  it can live for more than 1,000 years.

Download our worksheet and look at the examples we give to help learn about tree, identifying trees and uses in bushcraft.

Scientific name: Fagus sylvatica
Family: Fagaceae

Identifying Common Beech


Leaves, Common Beech

Leaves, Common Beech

Young Common Beech leaves are lime green with silky hairs, which become dark green and loose their hairs as they mature. They are 4–9cm long, stalked, oval and pointed at the tip, with a wavy edge.


Common Beech is monoecious, meaning both male and female flowers grow on the same tree, in April and May. The tassel male catkins hang from long stalks at the end of twigs, while female flowers grow in pairs surrounded by a cup.

Beech branch with fruits

Beech branch with fruits


The Common Beech nut, becomes woody once pollinated, and encloses or two beech nuts (known as beech mast). Beech is wind pollinated.

Look Out For:

When identifying Common Beech the edges of the leaves are hairy. Triangular beech nuts form in prickly four lobed seed cases.

It can easily be confused with: Hornbeam (Corpinus Betulus). Beech leaves have wavy edges with small hairs as opposed to the serrated margin of hornbeam.

Identified In Winter By:

Common Beech, leaf buds distinctively, sharply pointed and not pressed against the twigs.


Where to find Common Beech:

Beech Tree

Beech Tree

Its natural habitat extends over a large part of Europe, UK precisely. Common Beech requires a humid atmosphere and well-drained soil. It can be sensitive to winter frost.

It usually grows on drier, free draining soils, such as chalk, limestone and light loams. Beech woodland is shady and is characterised by a dense carpet of fallen leaves and mast husks, which prevent most woodland plants from growing. Only specialistshade tolerant  plantscan survive beneath a Beech canopy.

Value to Wildlife:

Due to Common Beech having a dense canopy,rarer plant species are associated with Beech woodland, such as box, coral root bitter cress, and varieties of orchidsincluding red helleborine. Beech woodland makes an important habitat for many butterflies, particularly in open glades and woodland rides.

Common Beech folliage is eaten by caterpillars of a number of moths, including the barred hook tip, clay triple lines and olive crescent. The seeds are eaten by mice, voles squirrels and birds.

Native truffle fungi grow in Beech woods. These fungi are ectomycorrhizal, which means they help the host tree obtain nutrients in exchange for some of the sugar the tree produces through photosynthesis. Remember take expert advice before picking or eating any wild fungi.

Because Common Beechh trees live for so long they provide habitat for many dead wood specialists such as hole nesting birds and wood-boring insects. The bark is often home to a variety of fungi, mosses and lichen.

Mythology and Symbolism:

Common Beech is associated with femininity and is often considered the queen of British trees, where oak is the king.

In Celtic mythology, Fagus was the god of Beech trees. It was thought to have medicinal properties Beech leaves were used to relieve swellings, and boiling the leaves would make a poultice. Forked Beech twigs are also traditionally used for divining.

Uses Of Common Beech In Bushcraft:

  • Nut known as Masts, they are eaten raw or cooked
  • Fresh young leaves are eaten.
  • Leaves are used as insulation in shelters
  • The wood burns well and is used to smoke food
  • Roots are used as withies
  • Dry beech leaves are a good tinder
  • Masts are used to make coffee.
  • Older trees can be tapped for sap


Beech Trees are sometimes susceptible to root rot from a variety of fungal pathogens, including Phytophthora. Some trees can suffer from beech bark disease, caused by a combination of a sap sucking scale insect, Cryptococcus fagisuga and Canker fungus, Nectria Coccinea. Severe infections can kill affected trees. It is also very vulnerable to bark stripping by grey squirrels.

When sleeping in woodland you should always check for “Widow Makers” dead wood in trees that could fall on you campsite or bed. Beech is susceptible to wood falling from the canopy.


Beech Trees Identification, Beech Tree Identification Winter, Beech Tree Identification By Leaf, Beech Tree Bud Identification, Beech Tree Identification In Winter, Beech Tree Identification Pictures

Alder Buckthorn – Frangula Alnus Tree Identification

Frangula alnus, Alder Buckthorn and fruits

Alder Buckthorn (Frangula Alnus)

Overview: Mature Alder Buckthorn trees can grow to a height of 6m. The outer bark is dark brown but the inner bark is bright yellow when exposed. Unlike Purging Buckthorn, the branches and stems are smooth and thornless. The twigs are smooth and straight, purple-brown in colour and have fine white streaks. It is closely related to Purging Buckthorn (Rhamnus Cathartica).

Frangula alnus, Alder Buckthorn and fruits

Frangula alnus, Alder Buckthorn and fruits

Interesting Fact: the name Alder Buckthorn is thought to be derived from its similar appearance to Alser and the fact that the two trees are often found growing together. Botanically the two speciaies are unrelated, Alder Buckthorn is in the Rhamnaceae family and Alder is in the Betulaceae (birth family). Alder Buckthorn is unrelated to Alder. It’s a colourful tree native to the UK, most of Europe, Northern Africa and Wester Africa. 

Download our worksheet and look at the examples we give to help learn about tree, identifying trees and uses in bushcraft.

Common name: Alder Buckthorn

Scientific name: Frangula Alnus

Family: Rhamnaceae

Identifying Alder Buckthorn


Alder Buckthorn leaves are narrower than those of Purging Buckthorn. They are matt green in colour, oval, 3-7cm long and slightly hairy. They have a rounded tip but are tapered towards the stalk.


Alder Buckthorn is unlike Purging Buckthorn, it is hermaphrodite, meaning that male and female reproductive parts contained with the same flower. The shaped flowers, small, 3–5 mm diameter, with five greenish-white triangular petals. They flower in May to June in clusters in the leaf axils.


Alder Buckthorn is pollinated by insects, the flowers develop into a small berry, which ripens from green to red in late summer, eventually to a dark purple or black in early autumn.

Look out for:

Alder Buckthorn leaves are placed alternatively along the twig  and have 6-10 pairs lateral veins that do not curve towards the tip. It can be confused with: Dogweed  (Cornus Sanguinea) which is not spiny or Purging Buckthorn (Rhamnus Cathartica) which has opposite as opposed to alternate leaves.

Identified in Winter By:

Alder Buckthorn buds do not have scales and are hairy. Pulling back the bark surface back reveals yellow underneath.

Where to find Alder Buckthorn

Alder Buckthorn are native most of UK and spreads as far as Western China. It grows best in wet soils and open woods, thriving in scrubs, hedgerows, wet heathland, river banks and bogs. Although it prefers acidic soils it can grow on neutral soils as well. It is widespread but rare.

Value to wildlife

Like Purging Buckthorn, Alder Buckthorn is the food plant of the brimstone butterfly, whose caterpillars eat the leaves. Its flowers provide a source of pollen and nectar for bees and other insects, and its berries are eaten by birds.

Mythology and Symbolism

Like Purging Buckthorn, it was once used as a purgative, which was thought to help rid the body of illness and disease.

Uses Of Alder Buckthorn In Bushcraft.

  • A yellow dye i? obtained from the leaves and bark. It is used in UK and turns black when mixed with salts of iron. A green dye is obtained from the unripe fruit, and a blue or grey dye is obtained from the ripe berries.
  • Bark can be used as a laxative.
  • Firewood, it has a very even burn rate.
  • Hearth or drill for friction fire lighting.
  • Can withstand rot underwater almost undefinitely, however will decay quickly when not saturated, fence posts for example.
  • Makes high quality charcoal.
  • A peeled and chewed twig makes a passable toothbrush.
  • Can be used to make wooden nails.

English Oak-Quercus Robur Tree Identification

acorn english Oak Quercus Robur

English Oak (Quercus robur)

English Oak Quercus Robur

English Oak Quercus Robur

Overview: English oak is a large deciduous tree up to 20-40m tall. In UK, the English oak has assumed the status of a national emblem. As common oaks mature they form a broad and spreading crown with sturdy branches beneath. Their open canopy enables light to penetrate through to the woodland floor, allowing bluebells and primroses to grow below. Their smooth and silver brown bark becomes rugged and deeply fissured with age. Oak trees growth is particularly rapid in youth but grdually slows at around 120 years. Oaks even shorten with age in order to extend their life span. 

Interesting Fact: acorns are not produced until the tree is at least 40 years old. Peak acorn fecundity usually occurs around 80 – 120 years.

Download our worksheet and look at the examples we give to help learn about tree, identifying trees and uses in bushcraft.

Common name: English oak 

Scientific Name: Quercus Robur

Family: Fagacea


Identifying English Oak.

English Oak could be confused with: Sessile Oak (Quercus Petraea). English oak has acorns on stalks (or penduncles) whereas Sessile Oak does not.


English Oak leaves are around 10cm long with 4-5 deep lobes with smooth edges. Leaf-burst occurs mid-May and the leaves have almost no stem and grow in bunches.

Look out for: it has distinctive lobed leaves with short leaf stalks (petioles). Leaf lobes are rounded.


English Oak flowers are long yellow hanging catkins which distribute pollen into the air.


English Oak’s fruit, commonly known as acorns, are 2–2.5?m long, borne on lengthy stalks and held tightly by cupules (the cup-shaped base of the acorn). As it ripens, the green acorn takes on a more autumnal, browner colour, loosens? from the cupule and falls to the canopy below.

Most acorns will never get the chance to germinate, they are a rich food source, eaten by many wild creatures including jays, mice and squirrels. Acorns need to germinate and root quickly to prevent drying out or becoming victims of the harvest. Following successful germination, a new sapling will appear the following spring

Uses Of English Oak In Bushcraft

English Oak has a variety of uses in Bushcraft. Bushcraft has made use of oak trees for many years. It has housed us, helped feed us, clothed us, kept us warm, helped us travel the seas and decorated our homes.

  • Scrapping inner bark for tinder.
  • Due to being a hard wood makes excellent tools eg, digging sticks, mallets etc
  • Acorns contain high levels of Tannin so can be used for preparing antiseptic solution
  • Tannin can be used to slow or stop bleeding.
  • Bark can be used to treat diarrhoea in a decoction
  • Due to English Oak Being such a dense wood it Burns hot and the embers are excellent for cooking.
  • Leave good for debris Shelter as the leave take longer to rot than many other trees.
  • Acorns can be used to make coffee.


These days you are most likely to come across Oak in the form of beautiful furniture. The grain looks stunning and oak furniture will last for many years which is why it is so popular, although not as common as the cheaper pine furniture options. Because of the inherent sturdiness of the wood, large pieces of furniture can be made such as desks, beds and tables.

English Oak is arguably the best known and loved of UK native trees. It is the most common tree native in the UK, especially in southern and central British deciduous woods.




Where is Bushcraft for Kids heading?-Latest News

Where is Bushcraft for Kids Heading?

Where is bushcraft for Kids heading? Is a question that has been given a lot of thought over the last 6 months. There are a variety of options but the best way forward is to register as a charity and provide a full range of services.

Where is Bushcraft for kids heading?

Where is Bushcraft for kids heading?

It has been a while coming to the decision about what would be the goal for Bushcraft For Kids. The aim is to create a charity to help Families and Young people.

  • To get outdoors and take part in outdoor activities
  • Learn about nature through bushcraft.

Ultimately Bushcraft for Kids will be providing a range of experiences and classes open to all for free along with a full range of online resources. Our first hurdle is to raise £5000 so we can register as a charity. We will keep you informed.

We are beginning to look at how this will be achieved. There is more exciting news that should be announced soon. Sign up for our newsletter to keep informed about what is happening. This is a very exciting time, too be able to start giving something back in an area that helps children and families.

Hazel Tree-Corylus avellana Tree Identification

Hazel Tree

Hazel (Corylus avellana)

Hazel is a relatively common tree and is often found growing along waysides and hedgerows. In the past it was frequently coppiced in various parts of the UK as it naturally forms an understorey. If it is left un-managed it will reach a height of about 12m and live for up to 80 years. If coppiced Hazel can live for several hundred years.

Hazel generally grows with a shrub type of look

Hazel Tree

Hazel Tree

with multiple stems.  It is so bendy in spring that you can  tie it in a knot without it breaking. Another interesting fact is, Bees find it difficult to collect hazel pollen, they can only gather it in small loads. This is due to Hazel pollinating by wind so the pollen is not sticky. The pollen grains actually repel one against the other.


Download our worksheet and look at the examples we give to help learn about tree, identifying trees and uses in bushcraft.


Hazel Leaf

Hazel Leaf

The leaves are distinctive, being oval/racket-shaped with a defined point and are double toothed. The leaves are hairy on the underside and have a rough texture. In Autumn the leaves turn yellow and fall from the tree. Leaf buds are oval, blunt and hairy.


Male Catkins Hazel Tree

Male Catkins Hazel Tree

Hazel is monoecious. That means a tree will have both male and female flowers. However Hazel flowers must be pollinated by pollen from other hazel trees. The Hazel tree has catkin flowers. the male catkins are yellow and hang in clusters before the leaves, from mid-February. Female flowers are tiny and bud-like with red styles.







The fruits are hazelnuts, these are well known and easy to identify.


This is smooth, grey-brown, and peels with age. As mentioned previously the new stems and bark is bendy. New stems are hairy. Leaf buds are oval, blunt and hairy.


To identify Hazel in winter. Each nut is held in a short leafy husk, this encloses about three quarters of the nut.  During the Autumn you may also see small green catkins.

Caution This Trees is often confused with Elm.

Uses Of Hazel In Bushcraft.

  • Straight poles for making anything from tent pegs to camp gadgets,
  • An excellent source of withies for strong bindings,
  • thatching spars,
  • Cordage,
  • net stakes,
  • water divining sticks,
  • hurdles and furniture,
  • Hazel was also valued for its nuts, or ‘cobs’,
  • Weaving, fish traps and baskets.

Hazels Place In Nature.

Hazel has an important place in nature. In provides food for the caterpillars of many moths, including the large emerald, small white wave, barred umber and nut-tree tussock.

In managed woodland where hazel is coppiced, it supports many species of butterfly, especially fritillaries. Coppiced hazel provides a habitat for ground-nesting birds such as the nightingale, nightjar, yellowhammer and willow warbler to have shelter.

Hazel is a big part of the diet for the dormouse (a.k.a. hazel dormouse). These enable the dormice to fatten up for hibernation. Then in spring the leaves are eaten by various caterpillars, which are then food for dormice.

Hazel nuts are part of many birds diet, for example, woodpeckers, nuthatches, tits, wood pigeons, jays, plus various small mammals. As mentioned previously Hazel flowers provide early pollen for Bees which is vital food.

Finally the Hazel tree provides an environment for many, mosses, lichen and fungi. The trunk is a place for mosses, liverworts and lichens to grow. The soil surrounding The Hazel tree is home for the fiery milkcap fungi to grow.

Hazel trees are a great tree and provides resources, for people, animals and the environment.


Silver Birch – Betula Pendula Tree Identification

Silver Birch Tree

Silver Birch – Betula Pendula.

Silver Birch Tree

Silver Birch Tree

Silver Birch is the first tree people mention when thinking about bushcraft, firstly because most people recognise the distinctive tree and because it has so many practical uses. It is a striking medium sized tree that is easily recognised all across the U.K. A mature Silver Birch tree can reach 30 meters in height, with a light canopy.

It has a distinctive white/silver bark which shed layers like tissue paper. As the trees mature the bark develops diamond shaped fissures, on the lower section of the trunk. In mature trees you see some thick cork fissures, these look like scars running horizontal across the trunk. Twigs from this tree are smooth and have small dark warts. The buds of Silver Birch are small, 4-5mm (0.2 in), and egg-shaped.  This is a very distinctive tree and hardly needs further description. But here they are for purposes of a complete description.




Download our worksheet and look at the examples we give to help learn about tree, identifying trees and uses in bushcraft.

Family: Betulaceae

Native to U.K.

Visual Identification of Silver Birch.

silver birch_leaf

silver birch_leaf


Theses are light green in colour, they are small with a  triangular shape and a toothed edge During Autumn they fade from green to yellow.




Silver Birch is a monoecious tree. This means that both male and female flowers are found on the same tree, from April to May. The flowers are called Catkins and got this name due to them looking like cats paws. Male catkins are long and yellow/brown in colour, and hang in groups of two to four at the tips of shoots. Some people describe these as looking like “lamb tails” like lambs’ tails. Female catkins are smaller, They are short, bright green in colour and erect.


Pollination takes place via wind. After successful pollination the female catkins thicken and change colour, becoming a dark crimson colour. Masses of tiny seeds are released in autumn, and are also dispersed by wind.

Uses of Silver Birch and Value to Wildlife.

Silver birch like most birch trees have many practical uses and benefit wildlife in numerous ways.

The light canopy provides a perfect environment for many grasses, mosses, wood anemone, bluebells, wood sorrel and violets to grow.

Silver birch provides food and habitat for more than three hundred species of insects. It provides an environment that creates a food chain.

  • The leaves attract aphids,
  • providing food for ladybirds
  • This then progresses along through other species further up the food chain


In addition there is also food for the caterpillars and moths. Examples are:

  • Angle-Shades,
  • Buff Tip,
  • Pebble Hook-Tip,
  • Kentish Glory.


Specific fungi including Fly Agaric, Woolly Milk Cap, Birch Milk Cap, Birch Brittlegill, Birch Knight, Chanterelle, Birch Polypore (razor strop).


The trees are also great homes for birds who eat the seeds and nest in the tree. e.g. Woodpeckers.

It is undeniable that this tree is a great benefit to nature, and the environment, but it also has many practical uses for Bushcraft, Survival and Primitive Living Skills.


  • Excellent tinder. with very little preparation you can get everything you need to start a fire. It burns with a hot flame. You can use this even when it is wet.
  • Tinder Tube
  • Containers
  • Canoes/Boats
  • Hearth and drill for friction fire lighting

You can tap Silver Birch trees quite simply and collect good quantities of sap. This needs to be done just before the buds open and the sap is at a peak.


Grey Willow – Salix cinerea subsp. oleifolia Tree Identification

Grey Willow Leaves

Grey Willow – Salix cinerea subsp. oleifolia


Grey Willow is often confused with goat willow, as they are very similar. They often hybridise through cross pollination.

Grey Willow and other broader-leafed species of willow (including goat willow) are frequently referred to as “Sallows”. Goat willow is known as “Great Sallow” and Grey Willow as “Common Sallow”. Both these species are sometimes called “Pussy Willow” due to the silky grey female flowers, which resemble a cat’s paws, giving them the name “Catkins”.

Download our worksheet and look at the examples we give to help learn about tree, identifying trees and uses in bushcraft.

Family: Salicaceae

Native to U.K.


Visual Identification of Grey Willow.

Grey Willow Shoot

Grey Willow Shoot

Mature trees can grow up to 10 meters, but is also seen growing as a shrub along ditches and waterways. The bark is grey-brown and with age develops diamond-shaped fissures.

New growth/twigs are hairy but become smooth quite quickly become smooth, in sunlight they can appear red-yellow.

Grey Willow can be identified during winter when red hairless narrow buds which are pressed close to the twig are developed.


Grey Willow Leaves

Grey Willow Leaves

The leaves of the Grey Willow differ from most other willows as the leaves are oval rather than long and thin. The discerning feature when comparing Grey Willow with Goat Willow is the leaves of Goat Willow are at least twice as long as they are wide.

New Leaves have a fine silver felt underneath with rusty hairs beneath the veins, as the leaves become older, the furry felt diminishes slightly. There are fine hairs on the upper side of the new leaves but this quickly disappears.



Grey Willow catkin

Grey Willow catkin

Grey Willow is dioecious. This means that male and female flowers grow on separate trees. They are known as Catkins due to their appearance and are seen in early spring. Male catkins are grey, stout and oval. They become yellow when ripe with pollen. Female catkins are longer and green in colour.

Fruits: Grey Willow is pollinated by wind after the female catkins produce woolly seeds

. However, most Willows are capable of self-propagating. Low branches coming into contact with the ground can develop their own root system and become independent trees


As mentioned earlier Grey Willow can be confused with several native willow species in the UK and many frequently hybridise with one another. This can cause confusion, making them hard to identify.


Uses of Grey Willow and Value to Wildlife

Grey willow foliage is food for various caterpillars and a number of moths/butterfly. These include

  • The Sallow Kitten,
  • Sallow Clearwing,
  • Dusky Clearwing,
  • Lunar Hornet Clearwing,
  • Purple Emperor Butterfly.


Catkins provide an important early source of pollen and nectar for bees and other insects

Due to producing food for these caterpillars etc. it means birds use Grey Willow to forage for caterpillars and other insects.

Traditionally willows were used to relieve pain. The painkiller Aspirin Acetyl Salicylic Acid is derived from Salicin, a compound found in the bark of all Salix species.

The Willow family has numerous practical uses. These include,

  • Making Cordage
  • Medicine
  • Weaving, baskets and fish traps,
  • Carving
  • Fire bows and drills
  • Firemaking


Grey willow trees are susceptible to watermark disease.[/fusion_text]

Trees Identification, Leaf Hunt Challenge

Tree Identification, A Bushcraft Essential

To be able to practice bushcraft, there are a few essential skills you need to know to be able to practice the skills you learn. Tree identification is a bushcraft essential. It is only by knowing what resources are out there that we can learn to live with nature. Below you will find a Free Leaf Hunt Sheet. Children like to find leaves and learning what different trees are means they can then take part in other out door activities, whether it is making fire, cooking, making fish traps, traps and snares, tools and utensils for use around a camp. Not only can wood be used to burn as fuel it can be used as cordage, it can be carved, it can be used to make soap or even pain relief.

Next time you go for a walk take the sheet and have a leaf hunt. here are a few different ways to make learning about trees fun for children. I have met young people who believe milk is from the Supermarket and some that didn’t even realise that lamb came from an animal never mind young sheep. I have seen one girl try and reach out and touch a sheep, after seeing one for the first time. I don’t want to think of children not knowing what nature has to offer and the wonders that are on our doorsteps.

  1. On the walk choose one tree that you want to learn about. Then go out and try and find it. Then try and find different uses of the tree. Whether it is the leaves, bark, wood or even roots.
  2. Go out and try and find all the trees together, or a selection of the trees.
  3. Have a competition who can find most of the trees.
  4. With very young children collecting leaves is great fun.



Tree Identification and their bushcraft Uses

Grey Willow.

Silver Birch.


English Oak.

Alder Buckthorn.

Common Beech.


Sweet Chestnut.