1) Mountain Ash
Sorbus aucuparia, rönn, Pihlaja
Deciduous, often multiple trunks, height. 4-10 m
Mountain ash can grow both treelike and shrub-like. Being more shrub-like may be caused by a shady habitat, the roughness of the soil, or from the leaves being violently eaten by deer. More than 90 species of different mountain ash are known worldwide. They grow almost anywhere, but in forests they are often overshadowed by other trees and then remain as a small shrub.
Mountain ash is used as an ornamental tree in yards, where it can grow into a tree with a tall trunk when not shaded by other trees. The tree is not very highly valued by the forestry industry.
Mountain ash blooms in June-July with white blossoms.
Mountain ash is an insect-pollinated plant that attracts pollinators with its strongly fragrant flowers. Various butterflies, flies, bees, and beetles pollinate mountain ash.
The most known feature of the tree is perhaps its clusters of red berries, which attract many different birds to its branches when the seeds ripen in autumn. Large flocks of moving waxwings, as well as pine grosbeaks, robins, bullfinches, and thrashes, enjoy the berries and act as seed carriers. This ensures a very broad distribution of mountain ash.
2) Alpine Rose
Rhododendron, alpros, Alppiruusu
Deciduous shrub, height. 0-30 m
Despite the name, alpine roses are not a part of the rose genus but belong to the heather family. There are up to 1000 different species of alpine roses that are known of. An estimated 25,000 different varieties have been bred for ornamental use.
In the 1970s, the University of Helsinki and the Arboretum Mustila developed alpine rose varieties suitable for Finland. Several different enduring alpine rose strains have been obtained as a result of these developments. The largest alpine rose park can be found in the Laajasuonpuisto park in South Haaga, which is also known as the rhododendron park. More than 3000 alpine roses have been planted there for research purposes.
Alpine roses include evergreens, blue-violet flowers, alpine roses, as well as park azaleas that shed leaves for the winter.
Breeding has produced a whole spectrum of alpine rose flowers in different colours, from white to green, from purple to orange. Yellow, however, is an especially desired colour of alpine rose and is now also found as a winter-hardy variety, especially in azaleas.
3) Norway Maple
Acer platanoides, Skogslönn, Vaahtera
Deciduous, height. 10-20 m
Norway maple, which is classified as a temperate deciduous tree, spread to Finland about 6000 years ago. At that time, maple occurred naturally further north of the current border, thanks to a warmer and wetter climate, and there were also abundant maple forests in Finland. Due to clearing land, the big forests have disappeared, and only individual trees and small patches of forest remain. Today, the northern limit of the natural range for Norway maple extends to the line of Pori-Tampere-Puumala.
The Norway maple’s easily recognizable leaves come out in May-June, at the same time as the spring flowering. Maple is pollinated by both wind and insects, and seeds can spread up to 5 km away. Propagation is aided by the wings of the maple seeds, which, when dropped, spiral downwards. The base of the wing around the seed is sticky on the inside, and you can easily use it to stick up your nose by “taping” half of the wing to your nose.
The colours of the maple’s autumn foliage are beautiful even in the southern parts of Finland. Maple has been bred into even more colourful varieties, for example, the colour of the leaves of different royal red maples can vary in different shades of red throughout the growing season.
The wood from maple is quite hard and easy to polish. That is why maple is a popular building material for musical instruments and furniture.
Populus tremula, asp, Haapa
Deciduous, height. 15-30 m
Aspen, a member of the willow and poplar genus, is a fast-growing deciduous tree with fun tortuous round leaves, which can be smelled even with a small breeze.
Due to its rapid growth, aspens rarely live beyond the age of 100.
The wood is soft and that is why woodpeckers in particular like to chisel out cavities into aspens for their nests. These same nesting cavities are also used, in the same way birds do, by other animals such as squirrels, flying squirrels, martens, and bats for nesting and resting. Due to the soft wood, aspen is susceptible to rot, which means that it also has a variety of bracket fungi and other wood-decay fungi.
Aspen blooms before the leaves come out in April-June. Aspen is wind pollinated.
Aspen is often used in construction because of its light and soft wood. Due to its low thermal conductivity, aspen is a good choice for sauna benches.
Larix, lärk, Lehtikuusi
Coniferous, height. 15-50 m
Combination: The larch is a coniferous tree that sheds its leaves for the winter. The tree belongs to the conifer family, and is therefore not closely related to spruce, despite its name in Finnish, which suggests such. Larches do not grow so much in the wild in Finland, however, the Siberian larch can be found around the Russian border.
Larch heartwood is rot-resistant and therefore suitable for outdoor use. Larch is used for various yard furniture, patios, and bridges. Larch is also used as duckboard because it doesn’t rot and is resistant to moisture, but also because duckboard made of larch is not slippery even in rainy weather.
6) Bird Cherry
Prunus padus, vanlig hägg, Tuomi
Shrub or multi-trunk deciduous, height. 2-15 m
Bird cherry is known for its fragrant blossom clusters, which bloom when the leaves come out in May-June.
The bird cherry, which grows into a shrub or a tree with multiple trunks, can sometimes grow with a clear main trunk in a good habitat, making it more like a tree than a shrub.
The bark and wood of the tree emit a strong odour caused by a toxic glycoside that decomposes into bitter almond oil and hydrocyanic acid. Although the wood tastes bitter and is poisonous, the bird cherry still has its own pests. The bird cherry ermine covers entire groups of bird cherries inside a white silk and the larvae eat the leaves of the tree clean inside the gauze. Although these ghost trees look doomed, the tree usually survives the ordeal.
The blossoming bird cherry attracts various insects to its flowers with its strong scent. The bird cherry is necessary for the nutrition of Papilionoidea larvae such as the ruby tiger, the black hairstreak, and the black-veined white. The fruit of bird cherry is a small, shiny black drupe.
Picea abies, gran, Metsäkuusi
Coniferous, height. 30-45 m
Spruce is the tallest natural tree species in Finland, growing up to more than 60 metres. Spruce has spread from the east about 5,000 years ago. At this time, spruce adapted well alongside the prevalent species of birch and pine, in part due to its ability to survive in humid and shady habitats. Spruce is the only tree species that grows throughout the entire country, except in the northernmost parts of Lapland.
Several different forms of spruce can be found in Finland, some of which are creeping, upright, weeping or rounded, columnar or pyramid shape spruce. The structures of the bark, trunk, cones, and needles may also vary.
The spruce’s female flowers begin by growing upright on the branch, purplish red in colour, and then turn yellow during the summer as the seeds develop below the branch into cones. The colour changes from green to brown by autumn. The yearly spring growth on spruce trees, i.e., the spruce tips, are rich in vitamins and have been used to make spruce-tip syrup. The spruce tips are used in various drinks, salads, and as a spice, as well as in natural medicine.
8) European Ash
Fraxinus excelsior, (vanlig) ask, Saarni
Deciduous, height. 15-25 m
European ash, which belongs to the olive family, can be found on the island of Lohjansaari in the northern reaches of the areas in which it can grow, in the so-called oak zone. Ash requires a rich limestone and deep-soiled substrate for its habitat. A sunny location guarantees good growing conditions for ash.
European ash is, however, classified as a near-threatened species with an enemy that has already destroyed entire ash forests in Finland’s neighbouring countries, hymenoscyphus fraxineus, a fungus that causes destruction, especially in young ash.
The strong, tough, and wear-resistant wood material has made it possible to use ash for spear shafts, bows, horse harnesses, and beams for sledged and wagons. Ash is also a popular material for parquet flooring. Ash is also used as a material for electric and acoustic guitars.
The beautiful narrow and pinnate leaves on an ash can be 3-10 cm long. In the spring, the leaves growing in the bud are bundled and look hairy against the sun. The tree flowers in May before the leaves come out. The fruit is a narrow achene that can be spread far from the parent tree by seed wings.
9) Silver Birch
Betula pendula, vårtbjörk, Silver Birch
Deciduous, height. 25 m
The trunk of a young silver birch is white and darkens and cracks as the tree ages, especially at the base. The hanging shape of the branches of silver birches gives it the name hanging birch. The flowering season for birch is in summer, often in May, at the same time as the leaves come out. The seeds ripen in late summer, there are many of them in birch trees, which ensures the spread of birch over a wide area. This made it possible for birch to spread widely after the Ice Age. Silver birch can also resprout from an old stump, however, it is not as likely to sprout as downy birch. Many edible mushrooms thrive in the vicinity of birch trees, e.g., chanterelles, woolly milkcaps, russulas, and orange birch boletes.
In the summer, silver birch can be distinguished from downy birch by the leaves and trunk. Shiny, double-pointed, diamond-shaped leaves and a trunk with a thick peeling barky base are the hallmarks of silver birch. The downy birch leaves are rounder in shape. Although the leaves of the downy birch feel softer, silver birch is better for making bath brooms. Its leaves remain attached to the branch and do not stick to wet skin.
10) Common Apple
Malus domestica, äppelträd, Tarhaomenapuu
Fruit tree, height. 3-8 m
The common apple is an apple tree belonging to the rose family. The common apple is the main species of apple tree (Malus). Apple trees have also been bred into different varieties for ornamental use, such as the Siberian crab apple, Malus ballerina, Siebold crab apple, and the purple-flowering crab apple. These varieties are not intended to produce edible fruit but to serve as ornamentation.
The main function of the common apple tree is to produce fruit and there are more than 10,000 on this area of the Alitalo farm. There are hundreds of different varieties of orchard apple trees in the world, and more are constantly being developed for different purposes.
The history of the apple in Finland is thought to have begun in the 12th century. The first written mention of the establishment of an apple orchard in Finland dates back to 1539, when Erik Fleming founded one on the Kuitia estate in Parainen.
Apple varieties are classified into summer, autumn, and winter according to the time of ripening. There are significant differences in preservation, with summer apples lasting only 1-2 weeks, while winter apples only improve in storage.
Apple trees are pruned regularly to improve the yield. The tree produces a lot of branches where only leaves grow. Such branches take away nutrients from the tree and at the same time cover the sunlight needed by the apples.
11) Common Lime
Tilia ×europaea (xvulgaris), parklind, Puistolehmus
Deciduous, height. 15-30 m
The common lime is a cross between the small-leaved lime and the large-leaved lime. The common lime came to Finland in the 1980s and it is very common to plant along roads and alleys. The common lime has a high tolerance for dust and air pollution, which is why it is popular in cities.
The common lime blooms in July, when its intoxicating scent attracts bees and other flying insects to suck its nectar and spread pollen.
The common lime is very similar to its wild relative, the small-leaved lime, but there are also differences. The trunk of the common lime is bumpy, and it is from the bumps specifically, that it sprouts abundantly. It spreads with sprouts, but although the tree spreads its seeds abundantly in its environment in late summer, the seeds unfortunately are poor at germinating.
12) Scots Pine
Pinus sylvestris, (vanlig) tall, Metsämänty
Coniferous, height. 15-30 m
An evergreen tree that can live up to 600 years, usually between 200 and 300 years. As Finland’s most abundant tree species, pine is a coniferous tree familiar to everyone. Pine grows throughout Finland. It can withstand harsh conditions, drought, cold and nutrient scarcity, but the tree needs light. As a resilient tree in many different topsoils, pines make up half of all trees growing in Finland. The small distinct shape of the pinecones and length of the needles, make it easily distinguishable from spruce. The bark of very old pines is thick and deeply grooved and is referred to as shield bark.
Pine needles stay on the tree for about 3-5 years. The oldest needles fall from the tree in the autumn. It takes two summers for the cones and seeds to develop. As it blooms, in early June, its yellow pollen can colour nearby bodies of water.
In Finnish, the word for pine is mänty, but it can also be called honka or petäjä.
13) White Poplar
Populus alba, silverpoppel, Hopeapoppeli
Deciduous, height. 10-25 m
On a windy day, white poplar is already recognizable by its general silver colour. The bark of the tree is smooth and pale greyish-green when young, and as it ages, a bark with diamond-like patterns develops on the trunk. The silvery impression of the tree comes from the greyish-silver hair on the underside of the leaves. The top surfaces of the leaves are dark green like other poplars. Poplars are difficult to distinguish because of their strong tendency to interbreed with other tree species. There are an estimated 35 different poplars in Finland, none of which are wild.
Poplars grow rapidly and make root sprouts. Poplar is widely used as an ornamental tree in cities.
14) Common Lilac
Syringa vulgaris, (vanlig) syren, Pihasyreeni
Deciduous shrub, height. 6-7 m
The common lilac, which belongs to the olive family, is a traditional ornamental tree used in the yards of many houses as a hedge or as individual shrubs. The common lilac, which arrived in Finland from Turkey and the Balkans as early as the 18th century, has won many hearts. Lilacs grow densely and produce many root sprouts, making it ideal as a hedge and protective barrier. The leaves last well into autumn with a yellow foliage and only begin to fall late into the season.
The common lilac has been bred into many ornamental varieties. The colour variations of the flowers range from pure white to dark purple. The bred common lilacs are called syringa vulgaris. The breeding of the common lilac had already started in the 1850s, there are more than 600 different lilac varieties in the world, only some of which thrive in Finland.
Flowering in June, the purple and fragrant flower clusters, up to 20 cm long, are the absolute highlight of summer. The flower clusters only last 24 hours in a vase, so the flowers are best enjoyed by leaving them on the shrub.
15) Damson Plum
Prunus domestica subsp. insititia, krikon, Kriikuna
Fruit tree or shrub, height. 2-4 m
The damson plum, a subspecies of plum, is a small fruit tree or shrub with beautiful white flowers blooming each spring. The fruit of the damson plum is smaller than that of the plum and its rounder stone is, unlike the plum, attached to the flesh of the fruit. The damson plum is left in peace by birds during the harvest season, but raccoon dogs and badgers like to eat the fallen fruit.
Damson plum has been cultivated in Finland since the 18th century. The damson plum’s place of origin is thought to be Damascus, Syria, from where it travelled with the Romans to England and then to America by the English.
Damson plum has been used to make juices and jams. It is more difficult to eat damson plum straight than plum because the seed inside is completely attached to the flesh. The fruit is sour before the frost and final ripening, but even the first frosts sweeten the fruit. It is especially popular to make liqueur from the damson plum.
16) European Plum
Prunus domestica, plommon, Luumu
Fruit tree, height. 6-12 m
The European plum tree is thought to have originated as a cross between a cherry plum and a blackthorn. The Chinese have already been cultivating plums for 4000 years, a variety referred to as the Japanese or Chinese plum. The plum we find most familiar came to Europe with the Crusaders returning from the Middle East. In Finland, plums were cultivated as early as the 17th century.
The plum blooms at the same time as the cherry and the damson plum, each being white. There are already dozens of plum varieties being cultivated in Finland. The colours of the fruits of the plum tree range from dark purple to delicate light lilacs and yellows. The word “väsky” is used in Finnish to mean a dried plum or prune. This comes from the Swedish word “sviskon” for the same meaning.
Plums are used fresh for jams, juices, marmalades, pastries, and are particularly well suited as a side to meat dishes. Prunes are used for snacking, and, for example, prune kissel that is made from dried plums.
17) Common Pear
Pyrus communis, päronträd, Päärynäpuu
Fruit tree, height. 6-12 m
The common pear, like the apple tree, also belongs to the rose family. Its country of origin and ancestral species are unclear. Most likely, the pear tree originated in the regions of Central Asia. The common pear grows wild even in southern Sweden, and further south it grows in its wild variation in several countries.
The common pear requires a warm habitat with sandy and deep soil. In the past, Finland’s cold winters were taxing on pears that are more delicate than apples. But the warm regions of southern Finland have made it possible to grow many different pear varieties.
The pear tree flower is white and blooms slightly earlier than the apple. The common pear is also pruned, almost like an apple tree.
Pear fruits are very different depending on the variety and the time of ripening. Some ripen in August-September and may last only a week, while others ripen later and keep in storage for a long time.
Prunus cerasus, surkörsbär, Hapankirsikka
Fruit tree, height. 2-8 m
The cherry belongs to the rose and Prunus family, which also includes plums, apricots, almonds, and peaches. The cherry differs from these quite a lot. Its fruit is actually a drupe. Inside the fruit is a stone with only a seed inside. Sour and sweet cherries are commonly grown for their fruit. Sour cherries are divided into two types, Amarelle and Morello. Of these, the Amarelle has a bright colour, and its juice is clear or light red. They are surprisingly sweet despite being called sour cherries. Morello, on the other hand, has a fruit and juice that are dark red with a bitter taste. Most of the cherry trees growing in Finland are Amarelle.
Sour cherries have been cultivated in Finland for about 500 years. Because of the cool climate, sour cherries are more common than sweet cherries. Global warming will extend the natural range of the sweet cherry further north.
Ornamental cherry trees are an expanding cherry breeding group, where it is not the taste or usability of the fruit that is important, but the ornamental qualities of the tree and the colour of the flowers and autumn leaves.
The Japanese Hanami, or “flower viewing” is a traditional festival taking place during the blossoming of the cherry trees. This festival has arrived in Finland as well, with picnics being organized in parks with cherry trees when they are in bloom.
19) European Oak
Quercus robur, ek, Tammi
Deciduous, height. 10-20 m
Oak is a species indigenous to this area. There are several large and wide-branched oaks on the island of Lohjansaari. Growing in a deciduous forest, oaks have a straight upright trunk with sparse branches. Such oaks with straight trunks were once used for building ships. Oak was protected from the 16th century until 1886. Oak bark was also an herbal ingredient, which was used in folk medicine. Oaks can live to be old, and it is possible to find some in the Nordic countries that are up to 1000 years old. Today, oak is used for furniture and as an ornamental tree, as well as, of course, for parquet flooring. There are many root fungi in the oak root system, the best-known being truffle, and attempts have been made to plant it in the roots of the young oaks. Up to 500 species of insects are dependent on oak in one way or another.
The acorns from oaks are rich in nutrients, and they are gathered for food by squirrels, jays, rodents, mice, and nutcrackers that thrive in the area. The same animals also spread oaks by hiding food supplies in the ground and often forgetting to retrieve the acorns. Acorns are bitter in taste and therefore poorly suited for human consumption. They have, however, sometimes been used as a substitute for coffee. Commercial gathering of acorns is not part of the everyman’s right.
A) Common Alder
Alnus glutinosa, klibbal, Tervaleppä
Deciduous, height. 8-20 m
The common alder thrives in the vicinity of lakes, rivers, streams, and seas. It can withstand temporary flooding and even shade, but not drought.
The common alder also belongs to the deciduous trees that bloom before the leaves come out. In the south, this happens as early as the end of March. The common alder is the only deciduous tree, along with the grey alder, that sheds its leaves when they are green. The tree is able to fix nitrogen with its root nodules, so it does not require nitrogen reserves from the leaves for the winter.
The Finnish name for the common alder, tervaleppä, meaning ‘tar alder’, is thought to have derived from the tar-like stickiness of its buds and leaves.
At one time, the wood from the common alder was used to make wooden shoes, among other things. The common alder lasts a long time without rotting and therefore it has been used for various structures exposed to water. Today, it is, like aspen a popular surface material in saunas.
B) European White Elm
Ulmus laevis, vresalm, Kynäjalava
Deciduous, height. 12-20 m
In old Finnish folk language, the European white elm was called “kynneppää” and it has long been a protected temperate deciduous tree. On the shores of this island are dozens if not hundreds of these trees.
The European white elm was growing in Finland already 6000 years ago, even much further north than today. As the climate began to cool after the warm period following the Ice Age, the boundary of the white elm’s natural habitat shifted further south. White elms prefer damp habitats and grow on shores of lakes and ponds and on shorelines caused by lowering water levels.
White elms are often used as a tree for allées or in parks. The white elm can survive when planted as far north as Oulu.
White elms differ from the other protected elm, the Scots elm, in terms of leaves, growth characteristics, buds, flowers, and fruit. The leaves are irregular on both elms, the leaves on the white elm are smooth and shiny on the top surface but are covered with soft hair on the underside. The leaves on the Scots elm, on the other hand, are slightly less irregular and are rough on the top surface. The white elm blooms before the leaves come out and as the fruits ripen and fall in late June, they travel along waterways to new habitats.
This white elm is surrounded by a grove that became protected in spring 2021, named Kynnepää, which is the old Finnish word for white elm.
C) Grey Alder
Alnus incana, gråal, Harmaaleppä
Single or multi-trunk tree or shrub, height 3-15 m
The grey alder gets its name from the grey bark on its trunk and branches. After felling or damage to the bark, the grey alder wood turns reddish brown. The reddish colour is behind the Finnish name of the tree harmaaleppä, as leppä is an old Finnish word meaning blood.
The fast-growing but short-lived grey alder spreads over large areas with the help of both root sprouts and light seeds released in early spring. Several wood-decay fungi contribute to the decay of grey alder, which explains its short lifespan, often only 50 years. Grey alder is ready for harvest at about 30 years old. Grey alder is used for timber, but grey alder is also well-known among meat and fish smokers as smoking sawdust. In Finland, grey alder is considered the best wood for smoking.
Grey alder, like the common alder, are unique deciduous trees because they are the only deciduous trees growing in Finland that lose their leaves while they are still green. Alder root nodules contain special bacteria capable of fixing nitrogen from the air. For this reason, the alder does not need to store nitrogen from the leaves for winter. Fallen leaves are therefore a good source of nitrogen for the earth surrounding the alder.
Corylus avellana, hassel, Pähkinäpensas
Multi-trunk shrub, height. 2-5 m
Thriving in lime-rich soil, the hazel is a very abundant grove plant on Lohjansaari island, the worst enemy of which is the spruce. The hazel spread to Finland right after the end of the Ice Age.
The hazel forms into very dense shrubs, which can have up to 200-300 trunks. The trunks in the middle of the shrub are the oldest, and the plant spreads outwards in a circle around the first trunks. In this way, it expands annularly thanks to new trunks growing from the root sprouts when the old trunks in the middle die. Such wide hazel shrub growth rings are called runna in Finnish. The root sprouts live to be old and can be up to 1000 years old if the shrub is allowed to grow freely.
The wind-pollinated hazel can sometimes begin to bloom in warm springs as early as February, but usually in March-April. The fruit or nut of the hazel has been used as food since the Stone Age. It is very rich in nutrients and contains 60% fat as well as protein. The hazelnuts found in shops are not the products of this variety, but the nuts of the related filbert species. Equally good, but smaller are these common hazel nuts. In Finland, permission from the landowner is required to collect nuts.
E) Scots Elm
Ulmus glabra, skogsalm, Vuorijalava
Deciduous, height. 15-25 m
Scots elm is a handsome temperate deciduous tree that is found wild only in southern Finland. When cultivated, the Scots elm can survive as far north as Oulu.
Like the European white elm, the Scots elm was found further north than its range today during the warmer period after the Ice Age.
The wood of the Scots elm is durable and can withstand moisture very well after having been dried out. The Scots elm has even been used for water pumps and pipes. In the 1930s, an underground water supply network, built with Scots elm pipes in the 17th century, was excavated in London and was preserved in very good condition.
The Scots elm differs from the other protected elm, the European white elm, in terms of leaves, growth characteristics, buds, flowers, and fruit. The leaves are irregular on both elms, the leaves of the Scots elm are rough on the top surface, while white elm leaves are smooth. The Scots elm blooms before the leaves come out. The fruit is a small achene. The seeds ripen in June-July and then fall to the ground. Germination of new sprouts often takes place during the same summer. The Scots elm also spreads with stump sprouts, but it doesn’t produce root sprouts.
The Scots elm, as well as the white elm, are protected all over Finland.
F) Goat Willow
Salix caprea, sälg, Raita
Deciduous tree or shrub, height. 6-20 m
The goat willow, which grows as a single-trunk tree or a shrub, belongs to the willow family. The goat willow grows naturally up to the northernmost parts of Lapland. It thrives in fresh and nutrient-rich heath forests as well as on the edges of bodies of water and fields. It is therefore not very demanding about the soil of its habitat.
The goat willow is a rich food source for many insects. Hundreds of large butterfly species, bees, bumblebees, wasps, and many others use the goat willow for food. The leaves and stems of the goat willow are eaten by elk, deer, hares, etc. in the forest. In the Latin name for goat willow is the word caprea, which also means goat. The name originates from an illustration of the plant by the German botanist Hieronymus Bock, in which a goat willow is being eaten by a goat.
Like other willows, the goat willow often blooms before the leaves come out. The yellow fluffier inflorescences are male, i.e., stamen inflorescences and the greener smaller ones are female i.e., gynoecium inflorescences.