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Aspen trees are commonest in northern Scotland where they occur in small fragmented and isolated stands often consisting of only a few trees. These stands tend to be of one clone. Although there are male and female trees very rarely is seed successfully produced.

In winter the straight grey trunks of aspen look similar to ash trees at a distance. In leaf the trees appear to have a high rounded foliage pattern. They come into leaf in late May and have almost round disc shaped leaves which are light green in spring. If there is a light wind the leaves appear to tremble and spin on their long stalks. Looking closely, the leaves have small indentations with a slight point opposite the stem. Autumn brings the stunning spectacle of aspen colours. In early autumn they can have red leaves, with green veins and after frosts these can turn to lemon yellow.

Found throughout Scotland and in the Highlands, it is limited to mainly the north-east and central areas. It is a profuse sucker-producing tree and favours well-drained but moist mineral soils.

Everyone thinks of the Caledonian Forest in terms of the Scots pine, however aspen were a major element in the ancient boreal forests of Scotland and they are now considered to be an ancient-woodland indicator species. Aspen stands provide a high biodiversity supporting specific fungi, lichens, bryophytes and insects with homes. No less than 25 species of moth are considered aspen feeders, including the dark bordered beauty.

Scots pine

Scots pine

Pinus sylvestris

Scotland’s only native pine tree has orange coloured bark and blue-green foliage. Where trees have space to grow the boughs and branches spread to form flattened areas of dense foliage. It is thought that in some glens the more bent and multi-branche...