The brilliance and benefits of trees and hedges

The brilliance and benefits of trees and hedges

©Anna Williams

Anna Williams, Education and Community Officer, writes about the beauty of trees and hedges and encourages us to plant and grow our own in order to support the wildlife and natural world we love.

Do you think the winter months are dreary without the colourful green foliage on trees and shrubs or do you positively enjoy seeing the different shapes of our ‘naked’ trees? Suddenly the subtler shape of a tree becomes more visible and you can see the way the branches grow and bend. Some trees grow in a very symmetrical recognisable way such as our oak trees. Look at an individual oak tree grown in the open and there is a familiarity about the way the branches form a strong, yet delicate network of branchlets. Ash trees look rather more messy but majestic all the same with the tips on mature trees turning up towards the sun. Each one of our amazing and important native trees has its own way of forming buds and then shoots and branches. Some buds form opposite each other in a branch such as in maples, sycamore and ash and others form alternatively along the branch. Have a look next time you are out and use all these clues to solve the mystery of who is who. Are the buds pointed and shiny like the beech or are they more rounded with a delicate red flower appearing very soon at the centre as in the hazel?

For a virtual, seasonal walk around one of our nature reserves, Eithinog in Bangor, book your place via our website at:

Eithinog - Trees in Winter 

Crab Apples

©NWWT_Anna Williams 

Birch in autumn

© Paul Hobson

Trees are very important for wildlife and the environment as ‘pollutant absorbers’ and if you haven’t got enough in the area where you live, February is a good time to plant. For a smaller garden, try trees such as rowan, crab apple, hazel, birch, hawthorn, willow (if wet), cherry, and fruit trees. If you have space grow your own oak woodland – raised from your own local acorns maybe? These need of course to be planted in the autumn but maybe friends, family or the Trust have unwanted saplings. Ask around and now is a good time to replant saplings that have germinated in the ‘wrong place’.

North Wales Wildlife Trust is slowly starting new tree nurseries with local provenance trees and you will hear more about them in the future.

Crab Apple Tree

©Anna Williams

Hedges are another hugely important habitat for wildlife and sadly some 160,000km hedges have been lost due to intensive farming since the Second World War. There are a few environmental schemes such as Glastir which encourages planting of native hedges and we shall do what we can to plant more hedges, even if small or short.

If you want to start a wildlife garden from scratch, start with planting a hedge. A mixed native hedge is both attractive and beneficial for pretty much all types of wildlife. It provides both shelter and food; it’s an important food source for many butterfly and moth caterpillars, birds, mammals of different kinds, not forgetting our endangered and endearing hedgehogs. Bats need linear features to navigate and feed by and hedges provide these features in our landscape. Reptiles and amphibians also need shelter to move from breeding areas to feeding areas and hedges (and long grass) again are safe highways.


©NWWT_Anna Williams 

You can find out more about working with trees and hedges on our dedicated webpage.

Plant trees and hedges

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