Do you know your ash from your elder? Your oak from your willow? If you do, you’re in the minority. A recent poll from YouGov revealed that our knowledge of common trees appears to be decreasing, with 14 per cent of over-55s able to identify an ash leaf (our third most common tree) compared to just eight per cent of 18 to 34 year olds.
As for oak trees – Britain’s climax ecosystem species – only 45 per cent of 18 to 34-year-olds know what to look for, compared to 69 per cent of over-55s. However, it’s not all bad news, as eight to 15-year-olds outdid millennials, with 55 per cent able to identify the tree’s tell-tale acorns and rounded leaves.
‘It’s heartening to see eight to 15-year-olds bucking the trend,’ says Nick Atkinson, conservation advisor at the Woodland Trust, ‘although overall we can still see a decline in knowledge through the generations. Looking ahead it’s the parents of tomorrow – today’s 18 to 34-year-olds – that appear to have the weakest knowledge.’
“Trees have so many uses in fighting the pressing problems of our time, from climate change to physical and mental health”
During the summer, the conservation charity launched the app Tree ID to help reverse these trends. Through a series of questions about characteristics such as buds, leaves and fruit, the app makes it easier for users to identify British trees. During the barer winters when there is less greenery to go on, it instead asks about bark and twigs.
Once identified, the app offers facts and a history of the discovered tree, its uses in medicine or machinery for example, and even what musical instruments it can make. An integrated map allows you to pinpoint locations of species so you know where to find them again. It’s free, easy to use and specifically designed to appeal to a younger audience.
‘Trees have so many uses in fighting the pressing problems of our time, from climate change to physical and mental health,’ says Atkinson. ‘Yet our common knowledge of them is in decline. Knowing their names is a great place to start.’
Do you need the app? You can test your knowledge with the Woodland Trust quiz.
The app is available for iOS 9 and above, with a pending release for Android devices. Click here to download it from the app store.