Richardson's
Botanical
Identifications

Common Trees and Shrubs Identifiable from their Roots

How many of the rich variety of woody plants found in our countryside and gardens have roots which can be identified with the aid of a microscope (as briefly described in Root Identification)? Of the 142 plants on this list of the most commonly occurring types of trees and shrubs in Britain, almost all the trees and about half the shrubs can be distinguished unambiguously (to the level of genus though not to species (eg. to Beech, but not to ‘Copper Beech’, or to Ash but not to ‘Weeping Ash’).

The remainder are assigned to groups, usually of no more than 4 members (see separate groups list) containing closely related types. This limitation is rarely a hindrance, as for many such groups it is very unlikely that more than one member will occur within range of a localized excavation. Nevertheless, take care to consider the possibility of alternative origins within its group for any root identified as those marked , and especially those marked  which are in groups containing some trees (we always list all members of a group in our reports). And remember that grafting between closely related plants within such groups, as well as between individuals of a species and between species in a single type (genus), is frequent. 

 

Plant List

In the list, where there is a common name in english, the latin name (genus) appears in parenthesis. Where there is no widely used common name, only the latin name used by nurserymen is given. By the way, latin names (often termed 'scientific names') are recommended, as they are unambiguous.  Plants are colour-coded as a rough guide into:

 

Trees Conifers Shrubs Climbers                                                            go to groups list

Abelia in Caprifoliaceae shrub group of 7 †
Alder (Alnus)
Apple (Malus) in Pomoideae group of 8 •
Ash (Fraxinus)
Azalea in heath group of 5 †
Barberry (Berberis) in Berberis shrub group of 2
Bay (Laurus)
Beech (Fagus)
Birch (Betula)
Blackberry (Rubus) in rose shrub group of 4
Blackthorn (Prunus) in group of 6 •
Boston Ivy (Ampelopsis) in vine climber grp of 3
Box (Buxus)
Broom (Cytisus) in Leguminosae group of 8 •
Buckeye (Aesculus) see Horse Chestnut
Buckthorn (Rhamnus) in buckthorn shrub gp of 2
Buddleja
Camellia
Caucasian Elm (Zelkova)
Ceanothus
Cedar (Cedrus)
Celastrus
Cherry (Prunus) in group of 6 •
Cherry Laurel (Prunus) in group of 6 •
Choysia
Clematis
Coast Redwood (Sequoia) in redwood grp of 2
Cotoneaster in Pomoideae group of 9 •
Currant (Ribes) in currant shrub group of 2
Cypress (Cupressus) in Cupressaceae grp of 5 •
Daisy Bush (Olearia) in daisy shrub group of 2
Deutzia
Diervilla in Caprifoliaceae shrub group of 7 †
Dogwood (Cornus)
Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga)
Elder (Sambucus)
Elm (Ulmus)
Escallonia
False Acacia (Robinia) in Leguminosae grp of 8•
Fig (Ficus)
Fir (Abies)
Firethorn (Pyracantha) in Pomoideae group of 9 •
Forsythia in jasmine group of 4 †
Fremontodendron in mallow shrub group of 3
Fuchsia
Gooseberry (Ribes) in currant shrub group of 2
Garrya

 

Golden Rain Tree (Koelreuteria)
Gorse (Ulex) in Leguminosae group of 8 • 
Gum (Eucalyptus)
Hawthorn (Crataegus) in Pomoideae group of 9 •
Hazel (Corylus)
Heather (Erica) in heath shrub group of 5 †
Hebe
Hemlock (Tsuga)
Hibiscus (Hibiscus) in mallow shrub group of 3
Hickory (Carya)
Holly (Ilex)
Honeysuckle (Lonicera) in Caprifoliaceae shrub group of 7 †
Hornbeam (Carpinus)
Horse Chestnut (Aesculus) incl. Buckeyes
Hydrangea
Hypericum
Indian Bean (Catalpa)
Ivy (Hedera)
Jasmine (Jasminum) in jasmine group of 4 †
Juniper (Juniperus) in Cupressaceae group of 5 •
Kerria in rose shrub group of 4
Kolkwitzia in heath shrub group of  5 †
Laburnum in Leguminosae group of 8 •
Larch (Larix) in Larch group of 2
Laurestinus (Viburnum) in Caprifoliaceae group of 7 †
Lavatera in mallow shrub group of 3
Lavender (Lavandula)
Lawson Cypress (Chamaecyparis) in Cupressaceae group of 5•
Leyland Cypress (x Cupressocyparis) in Cupressaceae gp of 5•
Lilac (Syringa) in jasmine group of 4 †
Lime (Tilia)
Magnolia
Mahonia in Berberis shrub group of 2
Maidenhair (Ginkgo)
Maple (Acer) see Sycamore
Mimosa in Leguminosae group of 8 •
Mock Orange (Philadelphus)
Monkey Puzzle (Araucaria)
Mountain Ash / Rowan  (Sorbus) in Pomoideae group of 9 •
Mulberry (Morus)
Nettle Tree (Celtis)
Oak (Quercus)
Oleaster (Eleagnus)
Osmanthus in Phillyrea shrub group of 2
Passion Flower (Passiflora)
Peach (Prunus) in group of 6 •
Pear (Pyrus) in Pomoideae group of 9 •
Phillyrea in Phillyrea shrub group of 2

 

Pieris in heath shrub group of 5 †
Pine (Pinus
Pittosporum
Plane (Platanus)
Plum (Prunus) in group of 6 •
Poplar (Populus) in Salicaceae tree group of 2 •
Portugal Laurel (Prunus) in group of 6 •
Potentilla in rose shrub group of 4
Privet (Ligustrum) in jasmine group of 4 †
Quince (Cydonia) in Pomoideae group of 9 •
Rhododendron in heath shrub group of 5 †
Rose (Rosa) in rose shrub group of 4
Rosemary (Rosmarinus)
Rowan (Sorbus) in Pomoideae group of 9 •
Russian Vine (Polygonum)
Sea Buckthorn (Hippophae) in buckthorn shrub group of 2
Senecio in daisy shrub group of 2
Smoke Tree (Cotinus)
Snowberry (Symphoricarpos) in Caprifoliaceae shrub group of 7†
Southern Beech (Nothofagus)
Spindle (Euonymus)
Spiraea
Spotted Laurel (Aucuba)
Spruce (Picea) in Larch group of 2
Storax (Styrax)
Strawberry Tree (Arbutus)
Sumach (Rhus)
Sweet Chestnut (Castanea)
Sweet Gum (Liquidambar)
Sycamore (Acer) incl. Maples
Tamarisk (Tamarix)
Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus)
Tulip Tree (Liriodendron)
Viburnum in Caprifoliaceae shrub group of 7 †
Vine (Vitis) in vine climber group of 3
Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus) in vine climber group of 3
Walnut (Juglans) in walnut tree group of 2
Wayfaring Tree (Viburnum) in Caprifoliaceae shrub group of 7 †
Weigela in Caprifoliaceae shrub grp of 7 †
Wellingtonia (Sequoiadendron) in redwood group of 2
Western Red Cedar (Thuja) in Cupressaceae group of 5 •
Whitebeam/Service Tree (Sorbus) in Pomoideae grp of 9 •
Willow (Salix) in Salicaceae tree group of 2 •
Wing-nut (Pterocarya) in walnut tree group of 2
Wisteria in Leguminosae group of 8 •
Witch Hazel (Hamamelis)
Yew (Taxus)

It should be appreciated that thin roots (say, less than 3mm diameter) sometimes lack certain characteristics, such that the boundary between a pair of similar types becomes blurred, and they can no longer be distinguished with confidence.  Such sources of doubt among pairs of trees are: Alder with Hazel; Beech with Cherry; Holly with Laurestinus; Hornbeam with Acer and Horse Chestnut; Oak with Sweet Chestnut; and between certain conifers.

This list must not be reproduced in any form without the permission of Richardson's Botanical Identifications

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Plant Groups

The GROUPS of closely related plants within which the roots cannot be distinguished with confidence

Colour-coded as a rough guide into Trees Conifers Shrubs Climbers


Group Name
Members
Berberis group: Berberis, Mahonia
Caprifoliaceae group: Abelia, Diervilla, Honeysuckle, Snowberry, Viburnum (incl. Laurestinus), Weigela
Cupressaceae group: Cypresses (Leyland, Lawson's etc.), Juniper, Thuja (Western Red Cedar etc.)
Heaths group: Azalea, Heather, Kolkwitzia, Pieris, Rhododendron
Jasmine group: Lilac, Forsythia, Jasmine, Privet
Larch group: Larch, Spruce
Leguminosae group: Acacia, False Acacia (Robinia), Laburnum, Wisteria, Gorse, Broom, Genista, Mimosa
Mallows group: Fremontodendron, Hibiscus, Lavatera
Phillyrea group: Phillyrea, Osmanthus
Pomoideae group: Apple, Pear, Hawthorn, Sorbus (Rowan, Whitebeam), Amelanchier, Cotoneaster, Pyracantha, Quince
Prunus group: Cherry, Plum, Damson, Blackthorn (Sloe), Cherry-laurel, Portugal-laurel
Redwoods group: Sequoia, Wellingtonia
Rose group: Rose, Brambles (incl. Raspberry), Kerria, Potentilla
Salicaceae group: Willow, Poplar
Vines group: Boston Ivy, Vine, Virginia Creeper                                                                                                          
Walnut group: Hickory, Wing-nut, Walnut
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