Whether leaf shape and bark texture or flowers and trunk width, there are a large number of characteristics that can help you identify exactly any arboreal curiosity you might find when exploring the British countryside.
To help you pin them down to the right one, we’ve put together a list of the best tree identification books. Some make for captivating reads that delve into the history and beauty of trees – an inspired gift for the young naturalist in your life. Others are in the style of educational field guides that will help you – and the kids accompanying you – get more out of any ramble through the woods.
For more book inspiration, take a look at our list of the best bird identification books.
Best tree identification books for 2021
Collins Complete Guide to British Trees
By Paul Sterry
If you’re after a tree identification book that covers a wide range of tree species, this photographic guide covers 360 species found in Britain and Ireland. It describes how to identify them by highlighting features such as leaves, twigs and bark, in addition to descriptions of how they grow and what they are used for. Every species is illustrated with photographs, making this a clear, easy-to-use guide. You can also find out where to spot them thanks to the inclusion of 150 convenient maps so you can impress your fellow walkers with your expert knowledge on your next weekend ramble.
By Oliver Rackham
Woodlands was written by leading ecologist Oliver Rackham, who was renowned for his impressive work and expertise in the world of British woodlands, so you know you’re in safe hands in terms of credibility. Rackham explores the history of woodlands by exploring archaeology, photographs, legal documents and surveys as well as the effects of modern forestry, so it’s a great choice if you’re looking for an insight into how our relationship with trees has developed over time. Well-known for the authoritative and detailed nature of his work, Rackham is sure to inspire you with his fascinating findings.
The Little Book Of Trees: A Visual Guide for all the Family
By Caz Buckingham and Andrea Pinnington
The lovely pictures and aesthetically pleasing layout make this visual guide a delightful choice, particularly for young, budding ecologists. It’s one to consider if you’re looking to involve the whole family due to its child-friendly nature. It also aims to reinforce the kind of science and nature topics discussed in schools, making it educational as well as enjoyable. Some of the 40 common British trees and shrubs covered can be found in gardens and parks, so you shouldn’t have to go far to find the described species, making this an accessible choice. It would be a great gift for children who adore exploring the outdoors.
For more present ideas, have a look at the best gifts for walkers and hikers.
Arboreal: A Collection of Words from the Woods
This book was put together in memory of ecologist Oliver Rackham, which reflects the significance of his work. If you’re keen to explore the importance and wonder of woodlands and why they matter, this collection of work is sure to be a hit. Rather than being a a tree identification field guide to use when you’re exploring, this is a book you can enjoy at leisure in a relaxing environment. From exploring the role of woodlands in both past and present times to considering how trees have inspired folktales, art and poetry, this collection of work is sure to highlight the complexity and diversity of woodlands.
A number of writers, teachers, botanists, artists, architects and foresters have contributed – including nature writer Richard Mabey, novelist William Boyd and poet Jen Hadfield – making this book an enchanting mix of voices.
The Complete Book of Trees of Britain & Europe
By Tony Russell
To really stretch your knowledge, and to explore trees of a less common nature, this thorough guide could be what you’re looking for. With 550 different trees and over 1600 photographs, this guide covers both Britain and Europe. While covering trees of a more unusual kind, it also features trees that are well-known and well-loved.
You can learn about a tree’s growth habits, bark texture, needle length, fruit colouring and bud development so it certainly doesn’t hold back on detail if you’re keen to soak in as much information as possible. It’s a handy encyclopaedia to have in your collection as it can be used for educational purposes as well as general curiosity.
Collins British Tree Guide
By Owen Johnson and David More
Another comprehensive tree identification book, but this time for your pocket. The Collins British Tree Guide aims to help you quickly and accurately identify trees through highlighting the most significant aspects to look for and by displaying annotated illustrations. The book also allows you to learn more about tree families and the specific trees within each family so you can really deepen your understanding. Due to its neat size, it would be a top choice for nature lovers who enjoy camping or doing multi-day hikes as it won’t take up too much room.
A Portrait of the Tree: A celebration of favourite trees from around Britain
by Adrian Houston
This is a wonderful choice for nature photography fans. A Portrait of the Tree is a collection of photographs taken by Adrian Houston, a photographer renowned for his passion for conservation. The pictures demonstrate the beauty of a variety of trees in a range of locations from London to the Scottish Highlands. Alongside the images, you’ll find stories written by well-known individuals including Sir Richard Branson, Goldie Hawn and Raymond Blanc.
So when the weather isn’t tempting you to head outside to see the trees for yourself, admiring glorious trees captured in a stunning manner could be an appealing alternative, making this a lovely addition to your bookshelf.
For more photography inspiration, here is our guide to Britain’s best locations for landscape photography.