Identifying common UK street trees

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Street trees are one of the most accessible forms of wildlife, occurring in rich variety in towns and cities everywhere. The key presented here allows quick but reliable identification of common urban street trees in the UK and the accompanying pages provide further information about this group of plants.

Here, the term street tree refers to single specimens typically planted along streets, roads and avenues in cities, towns and villages. Trees grown as hedges, screens or in large-scale plantings are omitted, as are trees growing in parks and gardens.

Maidenhair trees in the centre of Tokyo
Plane trees in the centre of London

A key to all the street trees occurring in the UK would be a long and complex one. The key given here covers some of the most common species and genera. It concentrates on characters of the leaves, since these are the easiest parts of the tree to obtain. Although useful, flowers are fruits often occur on the higher branches and are out of reach. If using parts that have fallen from the tree make sure they come from that tree and not from a different individual nearby.

Instructions for using the key

This is a dichotomous key: at every step you will have to decide between two options (e.g. flowers yellow-flowers not yellow). It can be used in two ways.

  • Beginners are advised to become familiar with the Single steps key (click on the button).
  • More experienced users may prefer to use the Multiple steps key.

Single steps key

To use the single query interface, click on the Single steps key button. The key is presented one step at a time. Every step presents two options.

  • To select an option, click on the corresponding button.
  • Continue through the steps until the name of a tree appears in red (the key is replaced by a summary of the steps you took to reach this identification). This is the species you have identified. It should have all of the characteristics listed in the summary.
  • Click on the name of the tree to go to a page giving further details of that species of tree.
  • To make another identification, click on "Start new identification".

At any step, if you are unsure which option is best, you can check the box "Mark as uncertain". If the identification you eventually reach seems wrong, click (revise) at this step in the summary list to go back to that point in the key and try the other option.

You can also revise or confirm any of your choices at any of the steps by clicking on (revise) or (confirm).

Multiple steps key

This allows you to view the entire key, with all the steps shown at the same time.

  • Use the key in the same way as for the Single steps key by choosing one option at each step. The number at the end of the option leads to the next appropriate step and, eventually, to a species name.
  • Click on the name of the tree to go to a page giving further details of that species of tree.

Both versions of the key provide additional information to help you make your choices.

  • Images on the right illustrate the characters described in the options. Click on the image to view it at a larger scale.
  • "(more...)" indicates extra information (images, diagrams or text) to help you understand the characters you are looking for. Click on (more...) to view this information; after you have read it, click on (show less...) to hide the information again.

Finally, a glossary is provided at the end of the key.

For more information on trees in general, and street trees in particular, see the following topics:

For a key to lichens found growing on trees, see A key to common lichens on trees in England

See also the general introduction "Identify trees and shrubs".

Start the Key to common UK street trees

The key allows quick but reliable identification of common urban street trees in the UK. Please make comments on the discussion page of this key (see tab above page) or send suggestions to Bob Press.