Let’s face it – it’s not the most inspiring time of the year for getting out and about on nature walks. If you make the effort, though, you might be pleasantly rewarded. Behind the pub, the Quinta Lovell Arboretum is slowly coming to life. The snowdrops are looking fantastic, and will replay any visitor by themselves. The daffodils are well underway, and the bluebell leaves are starting to make an emergence, ready for flowering later in the year.
All around the 28-acre site, trees are just thinking about coming into bud. It’s easy to identify trees when they’re fully in leaf – or, even easier, fruiting with acorns or berries. With a little practice, though, you can identify trees all year round from their distinctive shapes and other markers. Here’s a guide to what to look for.
OK, this one’s a little bit cheat-y – but take the easiest route first is what we say! Often, you can look around on the ground and see fallen leaves that have come from your tree, and occasionally there’s still the odd dead leaf clinging to the branches. You might also see something else distinctive, such as acorns, which will enable you to identify your tree as an oak.
This one needs a little practice and it’s still just a little early in the year, but it’s easier than you might think! Tree buds vary a lot, and can be smooth, sticky (such as horse chestnut) or even scaly or hairy. The way they’re arranged on the branch is important, too – some buds may alternate along the twig, and others are arranged in pairs, one each side. The buds on this oak tree have a knobbly, knarled appearance.
When you get really good at this, you’ll be able to identify trees from their shape alone. Oak trees tend to have big, bushy shapes, like the lollipop trees children draw. Poplars are very tall and skinny. Silver birches, in addition to their papery white bark, tend to have a slender profile with a long trunk with the branches near the top.
When you’ve finished wandering round the arboretum with your spotter’s guide, come along and join us for lunch or a hot drink – muddy boots and dogs are welcome.