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Tree species and provenance

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Tree species database

The aim of these webpages is to provide information that will allow forest managers to select the right species on the right site for the right reasons. Summary information is presented for 64 species and can be accessed using the above link. Sources of useful further information are also provided on the general subject of ‘species and provenance’ (see below). Each species profile also lists references and information sources specific to the individual species or genus.

The correct choice of tree species in relation to site characteristics and local climate is an essential prerequisite for sustainable forest management. Recently there has been renewed interest in the silvicultural characteristics of a wider palette of species as forest managers seek to diversify forests to reduce the risks of climate change and pests and diseases.

When reading the information presented for each species it is important to consider the following:

Experience of using the species – since the mid-1970s forestry in Britain has focussed on a limited number of species and hence our knowledge base is restricted.  Each of the species is rated in terms of our experience of using it; this is an attempt to provide some indication of confidence of success if it is planted on the right site (more information is provided below).

Climate change – Information on how different climate change scenarios will affect each species on sites throughout Britain can be examined using the Forest Research Ecological Site Classification Decision Support System (ESC). It’s really important that: (i) the species selected are suitable in the present and predicted future climates and (ii) outputs from ESC are verified by site assessment.

Deployment of species – most species are planted as single species stands but mixed species stands can have benefits in terms of diversifying forests.  Work is currently underway on the concept of ‘Forest Development Types’ which is a new approach to the design and management of mixed species stands.

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Experience and usage of species in British forestry

Each of the species in the database has been classified in terms of the experience of using the species in British forestry. The following terms are used:

Principal tree species – currently widely used for forestry and will continue to be a dominant species unless affected by a new pest or disease or adversely affected by climate change.

Secondary tree species – have been planted on a much smaller scale than the principal species but are reasonably well understood and have demonstrated their suitability for forestry in terms of stem form, growth rate and hardiness under current conditions and so have potential for wider use in future.

Plot-stage species – a group of species that have not been planted on any significant scale but have demonstrated silvicultural characteristics in trial plots and have qualities suitable for forestry objectives to justify further testing and development.

Specimen-stage species – have not been trialled for forest potential in experimental plots, but have demonstrated positive traits of good form, growth rate and hardiness as specimens in tree collections to warrant further testing in plots on a limited scale.

The aim of classifying species in this way is to give some degree of confidence of success with each species, assuming it is placed on a suitable site. This would be high for principal species and then decrease secondary>plot-stage>specimen-stage. Hence when using species in the latter two categories there are greater risks and the scale and nature of their deployment should take this into account.

Emerging Species is a commonly used term to describe the secondary and plot-stage species. These species have been identified to have the potential for more extensive planting and are the focus of attention in Emerging Species Research. The main aim of our research is to provide the evidence base to ‘promote’ species, i.e. from secondary to principal and from plot-stage to secondary.

Future updates to these pages

Our knowledge of individual species is constantly growing. The impacts of new pests and disease and the implications of climate change will inevitably change our advice over time. We plan to update these pages at regular intervals and hope to include additional features.

If you have any feedback or information you feel should be included please use the contact listed at the bottom of the page.

Further sources of information and general guidance

Evans, J. (1984). Silviculture of broadleaved woodland. Forestry Commission Bulletin 62, HMSO, London.

Horgan, T., Keane, M., McCarthy, R., Lally, M., and Thompson, D. (2003). A guide to forest tree species selection and silviculture in Ireland. Coford, Dublin.

Hubert, J. (2006). Choosing provenance in broadleaved trees. Forestry Commission Information Note 82. Forestry Commission, Edinburgh.

Lines, R. (1987). Choice of seed origins for the main forest species in Britain. Forestry Commission Bulletin 66. HMSO, London.

MacDonald, J., Wood, R.F., Edwards, M.V., and Aldhous, J.R. (eds.) (1957). Exotic forest trees in Great Britain. Forestry Commission Bulletin 30. HMSO, London.

Pyatt, D.G., Ray, D., and Fletcher, J. (2001). An ecological site classification for Forestry in Great Britain. Forestry Commission Bulletin 124. Forestry Commission, Edinburgh.

Read, D.J., Freer-Smith, P.H., Morison, J.I.L., Hanley, N., West, C.C. and Snowdon, P. (eds) 2009 Combating climate change – a role for UK forests. An assessment of the potential of the UK’s trees and woodlands to mitigate and adapt to climate change. The Stationery Office, Edinburgh.

Savill, P. S. (2019) The silviculture of trees used in British forestry, 3rd Edition. CAB International, Wallingford.

Wilson, S. McG. (2011). Using alternative conifers for productive forestry in Scotland. Forestry Commission Scotland, Edinburgh.

Forest Research Ecological Site Classification Decision Support System

Silvics of North America: volume 1, Conifers.

Silvics of North America: volume 2, Hardwoods.

Silvifuture is a network established to promote and share knowledge about emerging species across Britain.

Examples of the species profiled and many more can be seen at tree collections and exemplar sites on the Public Forest Estate in Britain


Scotland (Forestry and Land Scotland)

Wales (Natural Resources Wales)

Other botanic gardens and arboreta are also great places to see specimen trees and many are listed by Botanic Gardens Conservation International.


For further information or particular queries please contact

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