“56(ish) Trees”

Dec 24 2021

Uprooting the secrets and stories beneath the 56(ish) Native Trees of the British Isles. The whole third series of the Trees a Crowd podcast.

David Oakes

David Oakes


Our Trees


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About this episode:

In an altered format, for a temporarily altered age, this series (series three/tree/🌳🌳🌳) aimed to uproot the secrets and stories hidden beneath our 56(ish) native trees.

Every Tuesday throughout the COVID pandemic of 2021, leading up to the Winter Solstice, David released an episode exploring one of our native British tree species.

On this page you will find direct access to each of the series’ episodes, along with accompanying footnotes and artwork at the base of the page. You’ll also find an introductory trailer above that explains the “56(ish) Tree project” in a little more detail – but it’s safe to say the project evolved over the course of the year to incorporate more music, poetry and needless whimsy!

The initial three episodes unearthed the tales behind our three native Conifers, and then David headed off into the larger forest of our Broad-leaved Trees – always in roughly current taxanomic order, no less!

So, without further ado, our three Conifers:

The Taxaceae:

Tree 1 – Yew (Taxus baccata)

The Cupressaceae:

Tree 2 – Juniper (Juniperus communis)

The Pinaceae:

Tree 3 – Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris)

You’ll notice that I have grouped our trees within their families. For the extra keen listeners amongst you, this may help you notice some family similarlities between trees you otherwise thought were not alike in the slightest.

The Buxuceae:

Tree 4 – Box (Buxus sempervirens)

The Celastraceae:

Tree 5 – Spindle (Euonymus europaeus)

The Salicaceae:

Trees 6 to 14(ish) – The Willows (Salix spp.)

Tree 15 – Black Poplar (Populus nigra)

Tree 16 – Aspen (Populus tremula)

Trees 17 & 18 – White Poplar* (Populus alba) & Grey Poplar* (Populus × canescens)

The Rosaceae:

Tree 19 – Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa)

Trees 20 & 21 – Wild Cherry (Prunus avium) & Bird Cherry (Prunus padus)

Tree 22(ish) – Wild Pear* (Pyrus pyraster)

Tree 23 – Crab Apple (Malus sylvestris)

Trees 24 & 25 – Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) & Midland Thorn (Crataegus laevigata)

Tree 26 – Whitebeam (Sorbus aria aria)

Tree 27 – Wild Service (Sorbus torminalis)

Tree 28 – Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia)

The Rhamnaceae:

Trees 29 & 30 – Common Buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica) & Alder Buckthorn (Frangula alnus)

The Elaeagnaceae:

Tree 31 – Sea Buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides)

The Ulmaceae:

Trees 32 & 33 – English Elm* (Ulmus procera / Ulmus minor ‘Atinia’) & Field Elm* (Ulmus minor)

Tree 34 – Wych Elm (Ulmus glabra)

The Fagaceae:

Tree 35 – Beech (Fagus sylvatica)

Trees 36 & 37 – Pedunculate Oak (Quercus robur) & Sessile Oak (Quercus petraea)

Tree 38 – Sweet Chestnut* (Castanea sativa)

The Betulaceae:

Tree 39 – Alder (Alnus glutinosa)

Trees 40 & 41 – Silver Birch (Betula pendula) & Downy Birch (Betula pubescens)

Tree 42 – Hazel (Corylus avellana)

Tree 43 – Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus)

The Sapindaceae:

Tree 44 – Field Maple (Acer campestre)

Tree 45 – Sycamore* (Acer pseudoplatanus)

The Malvaceae:

Trees 46 to 48 – Small-leaved Lime (Tilia cordata), Large-leaved Lime (Tilia platyphyllos) & Common/European Lime (Tilia x europaea)*

The Cornaceae:

Tree 49 – Dogwood (Cornus sanguinea)

The Ericaceae:

Tree 50 – Strawberry Tree (Arbutus unedo)

The Oleaceae:

Tree 51 – Ash (Fraxinus excelsior)

Tree 52 – Wild Privet (Ligustrum vulgare)

The Viburnaceae:

Tree 53 – Elder (Sambucus nigra)

Trees 54 & 55 – The Wayfaring Tree (Viburnum lantana) & Guelder Rose (Viburnum opulus)

The Aquifoliaceae:

Tree 56 – Holly (Ilex aquifolium)

And finally – as a bonus episode for Christmastime – I adapted an article I wrote for “The Spectator” into a final episode for the season. Here I explore ‘our Christmas Tree’ – aka, a non-native member of the Pinaceae, the Norwegian Spruce:

Non-native Pinaceae:

Tree X – Norwegian Spruce* (Picea abies)

* denotes an archeophyte / non-native / hybrid, basically, an (ish) tree

David's thoughts:

I was hoping that this third season would build upon the success of the last two and continue to seek out the unique human voices who find inspiration and purpose from within our natural realm. But, despite having safely stolen a few moments to record a few chance encounters, numerous pandemical lockdowns have left me lacking as many interviews as I might like… but – watch this space – I may well occasionally drop a traditional TAC interview into the forest we’re about to enter.

With that in mind, this year marks a substantial departure of format, but – presuming you don’t tire of my voice – it should hopefully prove informative, inspiring and, on occasion, a little infantile (sorry – not sorry). In researching this series I’ve scoured botany, history, music, medicince, art, folklore, environmental science, personal anecdote and more… hopefully there’ll be a little something for everyone each episode.

All that said, as a thematically-linked series of arboreal mind-waffles, it does rather make this section of the website a little superflous. As such, this section will serve to provide links to illustrate and illuminate the topics touched on in this woody series.

But first, a few thanks.

This series isn’t designed to help you directly identify each species – a podcast isn’t really the best format for an identification guide (not enough pictures) – so I haven’t tried. BUT, you will see that each episode is accompanied by some incredible artwork. Each episode will be flanked by an image of one of the most iconic attributes of the species in question. Above, you’ll see yew arils, juniper berries and scots pine cones; and if I’ve got this right, a lovely carousel of all the episodes’ artwork will appear below. These are drawn by my fantastic and talented cousin, Nell. I am indebted to her, and you can find more of her artwork here: https://www.nells.art/

Secondly – where would this podcast be without Edale’s Mountain Hare-ess herself, the Trees a Crowd balladeer, Bella Hardy. A massive thank you yet again for being the official minstrel of Trees a Crowd. Much more from her can be found here: https://www.bellahardy.com/

Thirdly – you’ll hear lots of little voxpops along this trail through the 56(ish) tree forest, they’ll be previous guests of the show, future guests of the show and indeed friends of mine. I would be nothing without them. So, in advance, thank you all.

Finally – and most importantly – a whole herbacious border of thanks go to my Great Aunt (a botanist extraordinaire!) without whom I would have made far too many mistakes in both these podcasts, and indeed in life! Thank you Bubs.

Now, without further ado…


The Ancient Yew Group – https://www.ancient-yew.org/

JUNIPER (Special thanks to William Tweed):
In Our Time: “The Gin Craze” – https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b084zk6z
The Glendalough Distillery – https://www.glendaloughdistillery.com/
Plantlife – https://www.plantlife.org.uk/

SCOTS PINE (Special thanks to Jennie Martin and James Wallace):
Jennie Martin IDing Scots Pines: https://www.instagram.com/tv/CJhLAN8gphF/
Colorado’s Gray Wolves – https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/article/colorado-approves-gray-wolf-reintroduction

BOX (Special thanks to Alistair Petrie, Dr Terry Gough and Sarah Mudd):
Clarinets for Conservation – http://www.darajamusicinitiative.org/clarinets-for-conservation.html
Box Hill – https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/box-hill

SPINDLE (Special thanks to Mark Oosterveen and Dr Gabriel Hemery):
The Wildlife Trusts views on Neonicitinoids – https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/say-no-neonics

WILLOWS (Special thanks to Rina Mahoney and Alistair Petrie):
Decolonising Kew by Prof. Alexandre Antonelli – https://www.kew.org/read-and-watch/time-to-decolonise-botanical-collections
Adam Shaw’s “Woodland Walks” podcast – https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/blog/categories/podcasts/

The Green Cathedral – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Green_Cathedral
Manchester Poplar – https://www.cityoftrees.org.uk/news/blog-manchester-black-poplars-tall-tale-how-city-got-it%E2%80%99s-very-own-tree

ASPEN (Special thanks to Sophie Pavelle and Sam West):
Simulated Beaver attacks on Aspen – https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-39386676

IUCN Redlist – https://www.iucnredlist.org/
The Red-backed Shrike – https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/red-backed-shrike/

CHERRIES (Special thanks to Martin  Simpson & Michael Gladis)
How sonorous is the Bullfinch? – https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p05k2xc8
How colourful are Pigeon wings? – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AUx_qqb7YdU
How early is too early for Cherry blossom in Japan? – https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-56574142

WILD PEARS (Special thanks to Adam Sopp)
The Battle of Evesham illustration – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Montfort_Evesham.jpg

CRAB APPLE (Special thanks to Adam Sopp)
Granny Smith – https://www.ryde.nsw.gov.au/Events/Granny-Smith-Festival/Who-was-Granny-Smith
Extra special thanks to Richard Worrell, Markus Ruhsam & James Renny for their article “Discovering Britain’s truly Wild Apples” in the Feb ’21 edition of British Wildlife, which reinforced my research a great deal when writing this episode.

THE HAWTHORNS (Special thanks to Tom Bateman)
The Holy Thorn – https://www.glastonburyabbey.com/myths-and-legends.php
“Fairy Bush survives Motorway” – https://www.irishtimes.com/news/fairy-bush-survives-the-motorway-planners-1.190053

WHITEBEAM (Special thanks to Pete Basham)
Cheddar Gorge Whitebeam – https://www.independent.co.uk/climate-change/news/new-tree-species-found-in-gorge-1852553.html
African Forest Elephant – https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/mar/25/africas-forest-elephant-has-been-largely-overlooked-now-we-need-to-fight-for-it-aoe

WILD SERVICE (Special thanks to Xavier Gens and Rob Heaps)
“Le tornoiement de l’Antéchrist” – https://archive.org/details/letornoiementde01tarbgoog/mode/2up
Mabey’s Wild Service – https://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/5397561
Thank you! – https://www.thewhiskyexchange.com/p/40787/reisetbauer-elsbeere-chequer

ROWAN (Special thanks to Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson & Alistair Petrie)

THE BUCKTHORNS (Special thanks to Ian Bartholomew, Darren Moorcroft and James Robinson)
Woodland Trust – https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/
Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust – https://www.wwt.org.uk
Sap Green – https://www.winsornewton.com/na/articles/colours/spotlight-on-sap-green/
Oare Gunpowder Works – http://www.gunpowderworks.co.uk/
Oare Marshes – https://www.kentwildlifetrust.org.uk/nature-reserves/oare-marshes

SEA BUCKTHORN (Special thanks to Dara McAnulty & Gavin Drea)
Murlough National Nature Reserve – https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/murlough-national-nature-reserve
Sandwich Bay – https://www.kentwildlifetrust.org.uk/nature-reserves/sandwich-and-pegwell-bay
Frankia (Wiki) – https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frankia

Constable at the V&A – https://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O16555/study-of-the-trunk-of-oil-painting-constable-john-ra/
Freud at the V&A – http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O90713/after-constables-elm-print-freud-lucian/
Saving the Elms within the Crystal Palace – http://www.crystalpalacefoundation.org.uk/history/history-of-the-crystal-palace-part-1
Elm pipes at SewerHistory.org – http://www.sewerhistory.org/photosgraphics/pipes-wood/

WYCH ELM (Unending thanks to N, A & E)

BEECH (Special thanks to Peter Wohlleben & Götz Otto)
Burnham Beeches – https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/visiting-woods/woods/burnham-beeches/
Blutbuche (Wiki) – https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blutbuche

Wenn der Himmel geräuschvoll sich entlädt
Und dir der Sinn nach Deckung steht
Vermeide alle Bäume
Such dir lieber andre Räume
Bodennah und trocken
Doch pinkel dir nicht in die Socken
Denn Furcht und Nässe leiten
Den Blitzschlag doch zu dir.

THE OAKS (Special thanks to Dr George McGavin, Adam Ewan, Clare Corbett, Alex Lanipekun, Guy Shrubsole & Louis Maskell)
1936 Olympic Oaks (Wiki) – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olympic_oaks

D. H. Lawrence’s “Under the Oak” – https://poems.one/poem/d-h-lawrence-under-the-oak
Gog & Magog – https://www.unitythroughdiversity.org/gog–magog.html

Guy Shrubsole’s Lost Rainforests – https://www.lostrainforestsofbritain.org/

“Heart of Oak” was performed by The Show Shanties
Arrangement by Ashley Jacobs & Harry Style
Vocalists: Louis Maskell, Ashley Stillburn, Alex Weston & Ashley Jacobs
Produced by Jo Parsons for JP Talent & Events

SWEET CHESTNUT (Special thanks to Francois Arnaud)
The Hundred Horse Chestnut (Wiki) – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hundred_Horse_Chestnut
Banquet of Chestnuts (Wiki) – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banquet_of_Chestnuts

ALDER (Special thanks to Natalie Dormer and Hodder & Stoughton)
John Betjeman reads his “Youth and Age on Beaulieu Water” – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GFeK_ZnDoC0
Alder Kitten moth – https://www.ukmoths.org.uk/species/furcula-bicuspis/

THE BIRCHES (Special thanks to Alan Devine)
An interview about the Ogham – https://gaelic.co/ogham/
Children’s doodles on Birch bark – https://www.languagesoftheworld.info/historical-linguistics/birch-bark-letters-part-1.html
Fly agaric (Wiki) – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amanita_muscaria

HAZEL (Special thanks to Phil Cumbus, Pollyanna McIntosh, Katie McGrath & Tommy Andrews)
Adopt a Dormouse – https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/adopt-animal/adopt-dormouse
Sound Spring Podcast – https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/the-soundspring-podcast-guided-musical-journeys/id1538224770

Le Quattro Volte – https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1646975/

Mount Usher Gardens – http://www.mountushergardens.ie
The Sutton Hoo harp (Wiki) – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anglo-Saxon_Lyre
The WW2 “Skyhook” – https://books.google.ie/books?id=gN8DAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA75&dq=Popular+Mechanics+Science+installing+linoleum&source=bl&ots=yzQ02csqDv&sig=Lse7JfsqahGNEIJnDq37RIszV2g&hl=en&sa=X&ei=6r4DUJ-YIIb2rAHXu-SyDA&sqi=2&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q&f=true
David Oakes on “The Horse Chestnut” – https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/conkering-hero-david-oakes-on-planting-trees-2cfvhj8vp

SYCAMORE (Special thanks to Natalie Dormer, Dr Gabriel Hemery and Al Petrire)
Sycamore as a replacement for Ash – https://gabrielhemery.com/best-replacement-tree-species-to-mitigate-the-loss-of-ash-in-britain/
Gerard on “The Great Maple” – https://www.exclassics.com/herbal/herbalv50649.htm#i2078
Benjamin Britten’s “The Sycamore Tree” – https://open.spotify.com/track/1L0xsaJ6d6JM4CX1ZPjZoW

THE LIMES (Special thanks to Brigit Strawbridge Howard, Louise Jordan and Al Petrie)
Atlantic Period (Wiki) – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atlantic_(period)
Linear Pottery Culture (Wiki) – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linear_Pottery_culture
Grinling Gibbons (Wiki) – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grinling_Gibbons
Unter den Linden (Wiki) – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unter_den_Linden

Reviving Rats with Dogwood – https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S036192300800422X

STRAWBERRY TREE (Special thanks to Al Petrie)
Kilruddery House & Garden – https://killruddery.com/
Fires in Killarney – https://www.rte.ie/news/regional/2021/0426/1212068-killarney-fire/

ASH (Special thanks to Gary Hickeson)
Codex Regius – http://www.germanicmythology.com/works/CODEXREGIUS.html
The Living Ash Project https://www.livingashproject.org.uk
Gilbert White’s Selbourne – https://www.gilbertwhiteshouse.org.uk/
Lady Celia Congreve’s “Firewood Poem” – http://www.skyline-sooty.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/The-Firewood-Poem-Congreve.pdf

WILD PRIVET (Special thanks to Al Petrie)
Repurposed Ironwork during WW2 – https://www.theironbloke.com/about-1

ELDER (Special thanks to Deirdre Mullins, Adam Ewan & Pete Basham)
Maud Grieve’s “Modern Herbal” – https://botanical.com/
Nicholas Culpeper (wiki) – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicholas_Culpeper
“Problematic Plant Names” – https://www.house-plant-hobbyist.com/blog/2021/1/19/problematic-common-names

THE VIBURNUMS (Special thanks to Al Petrie)
The Wayfarer (Gerard) – https://www.exclassics.com/herbal/herbalv50652.htm

HOLLY (Special thanks to Richard Hollis, Holly Newell, Bella Hardy and the Leisure Society)
The Mistle Thrush – https://www.songbird-survival.org.uk/mistle-thrush
“The Hollies” nature reserve – https://www.shropshirewildlifetrust.org.uk/nature-reserves/hollies
Brough ‘Holly Day’ – https://traditionalcustomsandceremonies.wordpress.com/2017/01/31/custom-demised-holly-day-brough-cumbria/
3 extinct creatures I didn’t need to mention: Hypselosaurus, Pyroraptor & Propalaeotherium

“As the Winter Unwinds” (Wise Music)
Written by Nick Hemming
Performed by the Leisure Society (aka Nick Hemming, Christian Hardy, Mike Siddell, Sebastian Hankins, Jon Cox, Helen Whitaker & Rae Johnson)

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