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Scotland's Native Trees and Shrubs - a designer's guide to their selection, procurement and use in road landscape


Scotland's Native Trees and Shrubs

Scotland's native trees and shrubs commonly used in road landscape (Shrubs)




Alder buckthorn
( Frangula alnus)

  • The alder buckthorn is a small deciduous bush so called because it occurs naturally with alder. It thrives on wet, peaty but not waterlogged soil. It will not grow on limy soil. It produces clusters of yellow/white flowers in early summer followed by fruit lasting well into the autumn. The berries (drups) are firstly green, then red, then black in September when ripe.
  • Alder buckthorn is a useful tree to add value to alder woodland especially on peaty ground and is native to Scotland although quite rare.
  • It is not readily available on the open market and may have to be grown specially as required.

( Sambucus nigra)

  • A tall, straggling, shrub common in the countryside often planted near houses, possibly because of its medicinal and culinary properties.
  • The flowers are individually small, creamy white and conspicuous en-masse with a powerful scent.
  • The fruit is rich in nutrients and is eagerly eaten by birds.
  • The leaves fall early in the autumn.
  • Elder is not a good shrub to plant in stock proof or 'tight' hedges. Its tall open habit tends to overpower adjacent shrubs and creates open areas in the hedge.
  • Elder should only normally be needed in small percentages in planting mixes, as it will colonise naturally if the species is growing nearby.

( Viburnum opulus)

  • A medium sized deciduous shrub of the elder family.
  • The inflorescence appears in June/ July and is disc-shaped with the outer florets larger than the inner ones. The fruits develop into dark red berries.
  • Guelder-rose is a woodland shrub that also grows in damp ground and hedgerows.
  • Guelder-rose makes a good understorey species for mixed woodlands.
  • The flowers and berries attract insects and birds and so enrich the biodiversity value of mixed woodland and hedgerows.
  • Useful shrub to plant where a proposed hedge-line dips into a damp spot.

Common Hawthorn
( Crataegus monogyna)

  • The hawthorn or 'hedge thorn' is a hardy and adaptable small tree that grows well in both exposed and urban areas and in a wide range of soil conditions throughout the country.
  • A small tree with rounded crown and dense entanglement of branches much beloved by birds for building nests.
  • In autumn the leaf colouring shows a great variation and range - yellow, red, bronze and purple.
  • The flowers are generally white softened by the fresh green colouring of the new leaves. In spring their scent is rich and sweet.
  • Hawthorn produces a prolific and reliable crop of 'haws' annually.
  • Only the oak and willow support more insects species (200) than the hawthorn.
  • Hawthorn is the staple shrub for native hedge planting.
  • It is a cheap and reliable shrub and occasionally has been over-planted by roadsides. Mass planting can be rather dull and untidy for 6 months of the year when the leaves have fallen for it traps litter and debris which is difficult to remove.

( Corylus avellana)

  • A medium sized shade tolerant shrub often developing into a many-stemmed small tree, preferring heavy, rich soil, although it does grow on shallow soils over limestone. It is impressive in February when covered in yellow 'lambs tails' producing sweet edible nuts. Hazel does not produce good crops of nuts in Scotland. Humans and squirrels vie for the nuts that are produced.
  • Common in the north west of Scotland, western Perth and Kinross and throughout the lowlands. Same family as the hornbeam.
  • Hazel is an ideal understorey shrub associated with most mixed woodlands. Old shrubs form multi-stemmed clumps which form valuable micro-habitat for small creatures. This natural process and value to wildlife can be simulated by planting them in clumps or by coppicing.
  • Because the supply of Scottish nuts is scarce there is an added risk that nuts from elsewhere will be offered as Hazel. Extra vigilance is therefore required to ascertain the origin or provenance of the plants supplied because 'Hazel' is often grown from varieties of the native species (Cob and Filbert) cultivated in the south east of England.

Wild privet
( Ligustrum vulgare)

  • Semi-evergreen shade tolerant shrub up to 3m in height with a shallow adventitious root system. Privet produces sickly scented creamy white flowers in profusion, especially in open sunny situations followed by small shiny black berries. Can be propagated easily from seed or hard wood cuttings. Same family as ash.
  • Common on calcareous soils - in hedgerows, as an understorey shrub in beech woodlands and associated with hawthorn and blackthorn
  • A useful and underused native evergreen shrub. It suckers, readily producing a dense thicket and can consequently be a valuable component of sustainable woodland on calcareous and dry soils.
  • Good shrub to attract birds and insects.
  • It makes a good hedge but needs to be cut frequently.
  • Care is required to be sure that the cultivated variety L.ovifolium is not supplied for the native species, for it is the epitome of suburbia and has no place in the open countryside.

Wild rose
Rosa canina
( Dog rose)
Rosa pimpinellifolia
( Burnet rose)
Rosa rubiginosa
( Sweet briar)

  • Scotland has several species of native wild roses. Rosa canina, R.pimpinellifolia and R.rubiginosa being the most commonly used for landscape purposes. All dislike wet ground and exposure. The flowers in May and June are scented and attract insects. The fruit is in the form of hips and enjoyed by birds (especially greenfinches) and small mammals. The stems have characteristic strong prickles. The burnet rose, as the name suggests, has smaller flowers than the others and the stems bristle with tiny straight prickles. They produce suckers. The hips are black or maroon as opposed to the red hips of R.canina. The sweet briar is the strongest of the three and the most fragrant - flower and foliage alike.
  • Wild roses are to be found throughout lowland Scotland in hedgerows, scrub and woodland. The burnet rose also grows on cliffs, heaths, and on coastal dunes. The sweet briar grows best on limy soils.
  • Wild roses have a place in most semi-natural woodland. They are good for biodiversity and amenity. The flowers and in the case of the sweet briar, the foliage also, are fragrant and both the flowers and hips attractive.
  • The Burnet rose is a valuable shrub for planting on sand and in coastal areas. It also makes a contribution to the sustainability of mixed woodland in that it produces suckers which spread easily.
  • Wild roses should be included in hedges with care. The long arching shoots of the dog rose can stray from the compact form of a hedge and become a nuisance, snagging sheep on the field side for example. The sweet briar grows vigorously and may require trimming more often than is anticipated

( Euonymus europaeus)

  • The spindle tree occurs more often as a bush. The bark is smooth and grey. The leaves are simple and pale green. They turn into vivid autumnal tints of red, yellow and even mauve. The leaves, bark, flowers and fruit are all poisonous. The flowers are borne in May and are insignificant. The tree is at its most attractive in October and November when the pink four-lobed fruit is ripe and the leaves have turned colour. The spindle harbours the black aphid.
  • The tree is confined to woodlands and hedges in the south of Scotland. They prefer the limy soils but can grow reasonably well in most other soil
  • The spindle is not commonly included in road landscape. It can add amenity and biodiversity to hedges and mixed woodland and is particularly useful for autumn effect.
  • It is poisonous so do not plant it where children or livestock can gain access. It is also wise not to plant it close to residential property in case the black aphids it attracts cause a nuisance to gardeners.

( Juniperus communis)

  • The juniper is a conifer and one of the first woody species to colonise Scotland after the Ice Age ended approximately 8000 years ago. It is a small to medium sized prickly shrub with pungent, silver-backed evergreen foliage. The male and female flowers are insignificant and borne on separate plants. Green berries form in autumn. They remain green for one year before turning deep blue covered by a 'bloom' the following autumn.
  • Designers working in the southern uplands or central highlands should contact their Local Biodiversity Action Group to determine if juniper is detailed on their Habitat and Species Action Plan. Juniper is a necessary part of the habitat for black grouse for which there is also a Species Action Plan. Where juniper is to be planted the genetic origin and provenance of the plants is vitally important to preserve locally adapted sub-species.