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What is Native?

Native plants are defined as those originating from or being indigenous to a certain place or region.  In this country, the definition is based on plants that naturally colonised the area that is now known as the British Isles after the last ice age and before they were cut off from the rest of Europe by the rising sea levels as the ice started to melt.

Following the retreating ice, the land was initially colonised by species such as juniper, silver birch and Scots pine, with the last arrivals being species that prefer warmer conditions such as beech and hornbeam.  The natural migration of trees, shrubs and other plants stopped with the formation of the English Channel, leaving the relatively few species (compared to mainland Europe) that are recognised today as the native flora of the British Isles.

It therefore follows that native plants are best adapted to the local climate of the region they naturally colonised and where they made small adaptive changes.  The same plant species found in southern and northern England will each show small differences in their phenology, such as the time of leaf-fall in trees.

Non-native species are described as ‘introduced’ or ‘alien’ species which do not originate from Britain, and have been introduced as a result of human activity.


List of British Native Trees and Shrubs

(NB: some of these species are locally or regionally native within Britain, for example Scots pine is native to Scotland only.  This list is not exhaustive and may not contain some rarer locally occurring species).

The information in this table is based on the Online Atlas of the British & Irish Flora, compiled by the Biological Records Centre. There are doubts about the native origin of a small number of the species listed.

Latin Name English Name  Tree   Shrub
Acer campestre field maple 

ü

 
Alnus glutinosa alder  ü  
Arbutus unedo strawberry tree  ü  
Betula nana dwarf birch    ü
Betula pendula silver birch  ü  
Betula pubescens downy birch  ü  
Buxus sempervirens box  ü
Calluna vulgaris heather    ü
Carpinus betulus hornbeam ü  
Cornus sanguinea dogwood    ü
Corylus avellana hazel   ü
Crataegus laevigata midland hawthorn  ü
Crataegus monogyna hawthorn 

ü 

 
Cytisus scoparius broom   ü
Daphne laureola spurge-laurel   

ü 

Daphne mezereum mezereon   ü
Empetrum nigrum crowberry   ü
Erica cinerea bell heather   

ü 

Euonymus europaeus spindle   

ü 

Fagus sylvatica beech  ü  
Frangula alnus alder buckthorn    ü
Fraxinus excelsior ash  ü  
Hippophae rhamnoides sea-buckthorn   

ü 

Hypericum androsaemum tutsan    ü
Ilex aquifolium holly  ü  
Juniperus communis common juniper    ü
Ligustrum vulgare wild privet   ü
Malus sylvestris crab apple  ü  
Myrica gale bog-myrtle    ü
Pinus sylvestris Scots pine  ü  
Populus nigra black poplar ü  
Populus tremula aspen ü  
Potentilla fruticosa shrubby cinquefoil    ü
Prunus avium wild cherry 

ü 

 
Prunus padus bird cherry  ü  
Prunus spinosa blackthorn   ü
Quercus petraea sessile oak  ü  
Quercus robur pedunculate oak ü  
Rhamnus cathartica buckthorn   ü
Ribes spicatum downy currant   ü
Ribes uva-crispa  gooseberry   ü
Rosa arvensis field-rose    ü
Rosa canina dog-rose   ü
Rosa pimpinellifolia burnet rose   ü
Rubus caesius dewberry   ü
Rubus fruticosus bramble    ü
Rubus idaeus raspberry    ü
Salix alba white willow  ü  
Salix aurita eared willow ü
Salix caprea goat willow ü  
Salix cinerea grey willow ü  
Salix fragilis crack willow  ü  
Salix lapponum downy willow  ü
Salix myrsinifolia dark-leaved willow  ü
Salix pentandra bay willow 

ü 

 
Salix phylicifolia tea-leaved willow ü
Salix purpurea purple willow

ü 

 
Salix repens creeping willow ü  
Salix triandra almond willow ü  
Salix viminalis osier   ü
Sambucus nigra elder 

ü 

 
Solanum dulcamara bittersweet    ü
Sorbus aria common whitebeam ü  
Sorbus aucuparia rowan ü  
Sorbus domestica service tree  ü  
Sorbus torminalis wild service tree ü  
Taxus baccata yew ü  
Tilia cordata small-leaved lime ü  
Tilia platyphyllos large-leaved lime ü  
Ulex europaeus gorse   ü
Ulex gallii western gorse    ü
Ulex minor dwarf gorse   ü
Ulmus glabra wych elm  ü  
Ulmus procera English elm  ü  
Vaccinium myrtillus bilberry   ü
Vaccinium uliginosum bog bilberry   ü
Vaccinium vitis-idaea cowberry   ü
Viburnum lantana wayfaring tree 

ü 

 
Viburnum opulus guelder-rose    ü
Viscum album mistletoe   ü

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