The wind and rain of autumn reduces deciduous trees to shadows of their former selves, their naked skeletons have a beauty all of their own. Free of leaves, their characteristic silhouettes are revealed once more, making winter the perfect time to get to know our native species.
One of the best places to tree-watch is your local park. Packed tightly in a woodland or plantation, trees can be hard to tell apart and they have to fight for space so vary a great deal in shape, whereas in a parkland setting they flourish and acquire their ‘textbook’ appearance.
Those that have been pollarded or coppiced may be tricky to identify, but in their prime, well-grown specimens soon become familiar.
As with birds, every species of tree has its own distinctive ‘jizz’ – a set of unique characters that you might not find easy to describe, but that with experience become second nature.
Key features to look for are the height of the tree, the pattern of its branches and the habitat in which it’s growing. The angle that the branches make with the main trunk is often helpful, and so is the thickness and form of the terminal twigs. Small-leaved limes, for example, have a filigree of fine twigs, while horse chestnuts are thick and knobbly, ending in treacly buds.