Common Beech from the Kew Collection
Bonsai Tree Species Guide British Isle Native & Naturalised Species

For many of us in the UK, our first experience is an Indoorr bonsai, perhaps a gift, or one we acquired from our local supermarket. or Ikea. Growing indoor species is by it very nature not an easy task, and requires some effort in managing the bonsai environment.

In contrast the easiest way of growing bonsai is to grow them from local species. They have already aclimatised to our environment and climate, and have developed way of dealing with local pests and disease, so are very robust. This guide offers a lis of species that are native or naturalised in the UK.


1 Acer campestre

Field Maple, Hedge Maple

The Acer campestre is a native of the British Isle and is a medium sized hardy deciduous tree suitable for smaller gardens. Their palmate shaped leafs, with attractive lemon yellow spring colour and golden yellow autumn colour, striking stem and bark colours and shallow fibrous root systems make this species a attractive and robust bonsai with all year features. It is very popular as a Bonsai in Europe.


2 Acer platanoides

Norway Maple

The Norway maple is a common tree throughout much of Europe from Norway down to the Mediterranean and to Western Asia. It an important forestry wood in Europe with its Hard Light coloured wood finding use in furniture to musical instruments. As Bonsai it make an attractive Medium to Large Bonsai, despite it larger leaf size.


3 Acer pseudoplatanus

Sycamore Tree

A Central European mountain species it is one of europes tallest maples often growing over 30 metres tall.


4 Aesculus hippocastanum

Conker Tree, Horse Chestnut

Introduced to the British Isles in the 17th Century, it is a deciduous Tree, growing to 45m and is priced for its flowers and conkers. It is a hardy but frost tender tree, which flowers in May. It has both Male and Female Flowers on the same tree and can be grown in moist well drained soils in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It tolerates high winds and atmospheric pollution and hence is often planted along city roads. Because of its large leaves and stalks it is best suited to large sized Bonsai.


5 Alnus glutinosa

Common Alder, Black Alder

The Common Alder is native throughout the British Isles and much of Continental Europe. It can be found on on wetter soils and often to high elevations and even on infertile terrains. The Alders have catkins with male and female ones on the same tree. The male catkin is loaded with about 120 individual flowers and 480 pollen-producing stamens, which after shedding their clouds of yellow pollen wither and fall.


6 Betula pendula

Silver Birch

The lovely silver birch is often planted as a garden or park tree it is a slender and graceful deciduous tree with silvery white bark and double-toothed serrated margins almost triangular leaves. A native to northern areas that is grown for its beautiful white bark. The tree will grow to 50 feet or more and about 25 feet wide. It has excellent cold tolerance and will grow comfortably in our colder parts too.


7 Betula pubescens

Downy Birch, Brown Birch

The Downy Birch is often planted as a garden or park tree it is a slender deciduous tree with brown white bark and trunk that can grow upto 1 meter wide in mature trees. Leaves are double-toothed serrated margins almost triangular leaves. A native to Norther Parts including Northern Europe and aslo Ireland and Britain. The tree will grow to between 15m and 20m tall. It has excellent cold tolerance and will grow comfortably in our colder parts too. Not as commonly grown as it cousin the Silver Birch, though the two are often confused for each other.


8 Chamaecyparis lawsoniana

Lawson Cypress, Port Orford cedar

Largely conical in shape the Lawson Cypress lend them self naturally to creating elegant Formal Upright Bonsai. Its deep green leaves and reddish brown bark form a striking contrast adding to its elegance and character.


9 Crataegus laevigata

Midland Hawthorn, Woodland Hawthorn

The Midland Hawthorn is a native of Europe, and in the UK is commonly found in the Midlands, where it is a small tree that grows to about 20 feet. It has little fall colour, and the fruits are not showy. Its outstanding feature is its flowers, which can be white, pink or red, with varieties that single or double flowers. It is fast becoming a popular Bonsai Species.


10 Crataegus monogyna

Hawthorn, May Whitethorn, Single Seed Hawthorn

A deciduous small tree to twenty feet, with clusters of white flowers in mid-spring, small red berries in autumn, lasting to late winter. The small leaves are divided into three to seven lobes. The branches have stout spines, and the trunk has pale gray, flacky to gnarled bark. Is a popular Bonsai species and easily available.


11 Cupressus macrocarpa

Monterey Cypress

The unique wind-swept flat top appearance are what most people recognise about the Monterey Cypress. Native to the US they can grow to 65 feet tall, and even 80 feet tall in sheltered locations. Know as perennial trees many of them in the US are as old as 2000 years. They make stately medium to large Formal Bonsai. The photo shows a famous Monterey, of the Golden State Bonsai Federation Collection North collection to which it was donated by Katsumi Kinoshita.


12 Fagus sylvatica

Green Beech, Common Beech, Beech

The Green Beech, is Native to most of Central Europe and grows to a Magnificent 40m. Has many commercial uses including Wood whichis usd for furniture and other indoor uses; its Leaves, Nuts and Oil which are used in culinary and medicinal preparation. It makes a lovely Medium to Large Bonsai and is Popluar in Forest Groups.


13 Fagus sylvatica Purpurea

Copper Beech Tree, European Purple beech

This purple leaf form of the species has new spring leaves that are a variable deep purplish red to copper color, changing to a purple green in summer. Being partially true from seed, much variation in intensity of color is possible. The name copper beech is applied to specimens with a lighter color.


14 Fraxinus excelsior

Ash, European Ash, Common Ash

Common Ash is a broad, spreading, deciduous tree, capable of reaching 100 feet, native to most of Southern Europe including Britain. Large Ash leaves and its heavy coarse branches make Ash suitable for only larger sized bonsai.


15 Juniperus communis

Common Juniper

Common juniper has the largest geographic range of any woody plant in the world. It is distributed throughout Temprate Northern Hemisphere , USA, Greenland, Iceland, throughout Europe and in northern Asia and Japan.and is even found in parts of Northern Africa. It grows as Coniferous shrub or columnar tree. It grows as a low mat-forming shrub 2'-5' tall and 7'-13' across and in Europe it is quite common in its treelike form when it can reach height of about 25 .


16 Larix decidua

European Larch

Tall decidous conifer tree upto 150 feet. Bark in younger trees is greyish but dark brown in older trees. Strongly smells of turpentine. Range mainly in Central europe in the Highlands a Pioneering Species the Larch is Fast growing and shade inloterant.


17 Larix kaempferi

Japanese Larch, Karamatsu

The beautiful Larch is a deciduous conifers which is very popular among bonsai growers around the world. Its small colorful purple cones, lime green spring foliage, bronze autumn foliage, redish brown makes a Japanese Larch an all season attraction and is a highly popular species for Bonsai in Japan and Europe.


18 Picea abies

Norway Spruce

This very hardy plant makes an excellent Bonsai with its conical shape and upright nature lending itself well to Formal Upright medium and large Bonsai. It is extremely hardy and tolerant to Zones 2/3.


19 Pinus sylvestris

Scotts Pine

Everygreen conical to flat topped Pine, Native to the Europe, from Norway to Spain, and to parts of Asia, cold hardy to zone 2, growing to 20 meters. Ideal for Bonsai of medium to arge size, and extremely popular in Forest and Literati Styles as lower branches can die back quite readily.


20 Potentilla fruticosa

Shrubby Cinquefoil, Potentilla, Tundra Rose

Potentilla fruticosa is a popular ornamental plant and found in most of the Temperate Northern Hemisphere from Europe to China. It comes in a variety of colours and grows as shrub to about 1 meter tall.It fine branch structure and masses of flowers, scraggly bark make it an ideal bonsai species with interesting year around enjoyment.


21 Prunus avium

Wild Cherry

Small deciduous tree native tree with rounded habit and beautiful red fruit. Long lived tree it is highly prised for its timbers and is often used as an ornamental hedgerow. It is a long lived tree and lives up 200 years. It is distributed throughout the British Isles except Northern Scotland and spreads throughout Europe all the way to the Ural mountains; spreading down to North Eastern Africa and West Asia.


22 Pseudotsuga menziesii

Douglas Fir tree

The Douglas Fir is a Native of North America, growing along the length of the Rocky Mountain. In the UK it is grown as a timber tree in regions that are non-calcarious and moist. The trees can grow up to 60 meters tall with 120 cm trunks with the timber being brown red in colour. It was discovered by Archibald Menzies in 1792 but was only introduced to the UK in 1827 by David Douglas.


23 Quercus robur

English Oak, Common Oak

A majestic tree with wide spreading crown on a sturdy trunk with a dark grey fissured trunk that adds to the trees majesty. It can grow to 80 ft and has a very long life spans, making them a favourite in English Gardens and Parks and indeed in may Temperate Gardens around the world.


24 Ribes rubrum

Red Currants

Ribes rubrum, is a member of the gooseberry family is native to parts of Britain and Western Europe, from Belgium through France, Portugal to Northern Spain, from Norway to Sweden, Germany, Netherlands, Poland and Northern Italy. A deciduous shrub it grows between 1 and 1.5 m and about as wide. It is grown commonly around Europe for its berries and is a popular plant in allotments, a plant can produce 3-4 kgs of fruits. As bonsai they are grown for their fruit display.


25 Ribes sanguineum

Flowering Currant

Ribes rubrum, is a member of the gooseberry family is native to parts of Britain and Western Europe, from Belgium through France, Portugal to Northern Spain, from Norway to Sweden, Germany, Netherlands, Poland and Northern Italy. A deciduous shrub it grows between 2 and 3 m and about as wide. It is grown commonly around European gardens for it profuse flowers. It berrier are not particulary edible. As bonsai they are grown for their flpwer display.


26 Taxus baccata

English Yew

Yew trees are native to Britain and particularly common in England and Wales, where they have been panted in many churchyards. These evergreen trees grow very slowly and live for many hundreds of years. Some old yew trees are believed to be over 2000 years old. Longbows were made from yew, and this durable wood has been used in turning wooden bowls and as a veneer by furniture makers.


27 Ulmus glabra

Wych Elm, Scots Elm

Like the oak, the elm is one of Britain's national symbols. A large deciduous tree that is prevalent along most of central and Souther Europe and Asia Minor. Once by far the most common tree in the British Isle, its susceptibility to Dutch Elm disease has now made it a very uncommon large tree. The resultant decline has been extreme and the Wych Elm is now uncommon over much of its former range. It make a lovely medium to large Bonsai.


28 Ulmus procera

English Elm

The English Elm a decidious tree native from England to central and south Europe, grows to a big tree of about 35 meters. It has a big dense domed crown with dark green alternate leafs, which follow a flush of clusters of small reddish flowers. It make a lovely dense bonsai with the leafs reducing quite significantly.