Orkney's Native Trees
Planting new woodlands in Orkney is a challenge, but, by choosing the right trees for the right site, excellent results can be achieved.
What are the Native Trees of Orkney and why are they important?
The term ‘native’ is usually used to describe the species that developed after the last Ice Age (some 10,000 years ago) without the interference of human beings. For Orkney, these species are generally agreed to be Downy Birch, Hazel, Rowan, Aspen, Willows, Roses, Honeysuckle and Juniper.
The use of our native species in new tree planting projects has been strongly encouraged over the past few years. Orkney’s native trees have adapted over thousands of years to the local conditions and are therefore excellent species to plant as they well-suited to the local climate : our strong salt-laden winds, the extremes of day-length and short, cool growing seasons. However, it is inadvisable to plant trees which come from other parts of the UK or Europe, even if they are the same species as Orkney natives. For example, a downy birch from central Europe may look the same, but has not evolved and adapted to our very particular conditions and is therefore unlikely to grow so well.
Native tree populations also contain a large amount of genetic variation and this diversity enables each wood to survive everything from extreme climate events to pest and disease attacks. Our native tree species, therefore, fit well with our particular local environmental conditions, the needs of a variety of flora and fauna associated with them and the landscape character of the islands.
In addition to our own native species, there are other British natives which thrive well in Orkney and also some ‘aliens’ which have adapted well to our climate and conditions.
For more information on choosing the best species for different situations, please see the information sheet 'Species Selection for Woodland Projects' and also the booklet 'A Woodland Design Guide : Selecting and Establishing Trees for Woodland Projects in Orkney.'