Environment

London's hidden wonder: An ode to the capital's trees

An amazing variety of natural organisms can be found on our doorstep, says lifelong dendrophile (that’s a fan of trees!) Des McKenzie

Chinese tree privet. Photo: Des McKenzie

Chinese tree privet. Photo: Des McKenzie

I first became interested in London’s trees as a birdwatching teenager. I would regularly spend hours scouring local parks or looking at street-trees and endeavoured to learn all the native species I could find, not always successfully.

I initially found tree identification hard going due to the fact there were so many other trees I’d come across which didn’t feature in my little book of native species. London appeared to be something of an arboretum, full of exotic as well as native species. Where to start!

Support The Big Issue and our vendors by signing up for a subscription.

1458 Trees
Purple crab Photo: Des McKenzie Follow Des on Twitter @McKenzie6593 or Instagram @McKenzie65 #TreesOfLondon

I bought every tree book I could lay my hands on and studied hard. These were books that contained trees from all over the world, many of which I’d later find growing in the capital. And so my arboreal education had begun.

Since then I’ve travelled extensively, looking at trees in foreign climes as well as here at home, all the while building up my knowledge of these fascinating entities.

Latterly, I’ve tried to popularise the wealth of tree species found in London with the #TreesOfLondon hashtag on Twitter and with my Trees of London Instagram account where I’ve amassed thousands of photos of the trees of the big smoke. Feel free to take a look!

Article continues below

Current vacancies...

Search jobs

Trees are not only beautiful but essential for our wellbeing, they form the largest living organisms many people will ever see. Considered too crammed with variables to easily identify, some can be tricky but most are straightforward once you know what family you’re looking at.

1458 Trees
Chinese Elm Photo: Des McKenzie Follow Des on Twitter @McKenzie6593 or Instagram @McKenzie65 #TreesOfLondon

London is home to a vast array of species plus their cultivars and hybrids, and there’s enough sylvan interest to keep any tree enthusiast busy for decades.

It’s spring as I write this, many trees are now flowering or coming into leaf and it’s a great time to be out and about. Next time you step outdoors be sure to stop and look, you never know what you’ll discover.

Follow Des on Twitter @McKenzie6593 or Instagram @desmckenzie65 #TreesOfLondon

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
Green transition: Help retrain gas workers or risk 'cliff edge' job losses, government warned
Green transition

Green transition: Help retrain gas workers or risk 'cliff edge' job losses, government warned

How London's history-making beavers are adapting to life in the capital: 'They have a right to exist'
beavers
Environment

How London's history-making beavers are adapting to life in the capital: 'They have a right to exist'

Shell just made £6.2bn in quarterly profit. Here's how that money could be better spent
Environment

Shell just made £6.2bn in quarterly profit. Here's how that money could be better spent

Meet the chemical engineer producing carbon-free fuel to keep our world running
Renewable energy

Meet the chemical engineer producing carbon-free fuel to keep our world running

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know