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Top 10 most planted trees of 2021: the right tree in the right place

We, at Life Terra, are proud to be more than ‘just another’ tree planting initiative. We firmly believe in an accurate and analysed tree species selection for more effective land restoration and greater ecosystem resilience. 

At Life Terra, we work from an “ecosystem-based approach” meaning that we consider all land conditions and its surrounding area to ensure the correct restoration of the terrain through reforestation. We work hand-in-hand with the landowner, the nursery and local authorities throughout the whole process of planting design and planning to ensure the correct selection of tree species. 

The past one and a half years, we have organized events in 9 European countries, involving more than 1,900 citizens and planting more than 121 different species. Are you curious? Keep on reading to learn the top 10 most planted tree species!

1. Cork oak - Quercus suber

Life Terra’s most planted tree is the Cork oak, a native tree to southwest Europe and northwest Africa. We can find it in much of the Mediterranean region, especially in the western region. It is a tree that can grow up to 25 meters, with evergreen leaves with a dark green color above and paler below. 

The Cork oak doesn’t like cold climates, thus it was mainly used for our plantings in Spain and Portugal. It is a highly valued species for its different uses. From its bark, cork is extracted to make wine stoppers or even shoes and ornamental objects. Moreover, these large trees are chosen as nesting sites by some of the most emblematic birds of the Iberian geography, such as the imperial eagle or the black vulture; and their fruits offer an important source of food for numerous animals, such as pigs or common cranes.

2. Wild cherry - Prunus avium

The Wild cherry naturally occurs almost in all Europe, Western Asia and North Africa. It is a deciduous tree, and it prefers humid forests, in ravines and valleys. The wild cherry becomes easily established in the wild, thus its rapid expansion in different regions.   

You probably have already admired its magnificent white blossoms numerous times. Wild cherry trees’ have long, rounded leaves with a serrated edge and a smooth, grey bark. Wild cherries were already widely cultivated by the ancient Greeks and Romans. Any guess as to why? Of course, due to their cherry fruit! Wild cherries are ripe from late spring until summer and a delicacy for animals and humans alike.

3. European larch - Larix decidua (europaea) 

The European larch is a tree of the mountains. It grows mostly in the alpine environment of central and eastern Europe and is the only deciduous conifer in Europe. In autumn its needles turn from green to yellow, before it loses them and in that way endures the snowy winters. 

The wood of the European larch is very versatile and used to build wooden mountain houses, floors and outdoor furniture. Another product that is produced from European larch wood is the ‘Alphorn’. If you have ever been on vacation in the Alps, you might have seen this 3-4 metre horn with a curved end, placed a little lonesome on top of some mountain. Nowadays, mainly used as an instrument, Alphorns used to serve as a tool for communication with villages in neighboring valleys.

4. Holm oak - Quercus ilex 

The Holm oak is one of the most representative trees of the Iberian peninsula, native to the Mediterranean region. They are capable of growing in all types of soils, with a preference for moist soils and areas with little or no shade. 

It enjoys traditional importance in European culture due to its many utilities. For example, the acorns of Holm oak have such a high nutritional value for pigs that they give the Iberian cold meat that special flavour that makes them so valuable, but also for partridges, rabbits, ducks and wood pigeons. They can also be used to make flour or bread. In Spain, holm oaks are important to protect as they form an ecosystem with other emblematic species, such as the Iberian lynx or the imperial eagle.

5. European beech - Fagus sylvatica

The European beech can be found in most central and western Europe: from the south of Sweden to central Spain and north of Portugal. It is a deciduous tree that can reach up to 40 metres tall. It enjoys cool and humid ambients, and can grow from sea level up to altitudes of 2,000 metres. The fruit of the European beech, called beechnut, is consumed by many bird species and is highly appreciated by the brown bear.

It is one of the most popular horticultural trees and it has been cultivated in Europe over the last 150 years due to its rapid growth and benefits for the ecosystem. Beech forests, which usually grow with Perennial Quercus, have an interesting cycle for animals and landscape: in summer they provide shade to the species living under them, in autumn when the leaves start to fall, it creates an impressive landscape of yellow and red colors, and in winter the leaves that degrade on the ground provide the soil with rich organic material beneficial for microorganisms. An authentic recycling process of nature!

6. Northern red oak - Quercus rubra

The Northern red oak is a native tree to North America and the south of Canada. It is a deciduous tree that can reach around 30 metres tall. It was introduced to Europe in the XVIII century and has naturalised in western and central regions. 

The Northern red oak is often cultivated for ornamental purposes, as even the leaves are green when they unfold, they become reddish or yellow-brown in autumn. Thus we find it in some city parks and gardens. So check for it in your nearest park next time!

7. Pyrenean oak - Quercus pyrenaica

Funnily enough, the Pyrenean oak is rarely found in the Pyrenees. It has this name due to a wrongly labeled sample in 18th century botanical research. This tree is found abundantly on the Iberian peninsula. 

These oaks grow 25-40 metres high and enjoy traditional importance in European culture due to their many utilities. Oaks offer important refuge for many animals and the importance of Pyrenean oaks for biodiversity has been underlined by their protection through European legislation. If you spot one in Spring, when the leaves start to grow, stop for a second and feel them, it’s like touching velvet!

8. Common Hawthorn - Crataegus monogyna

The Common Hawthorn can be found across all Europe and Northern Africa, due to its capability of adapting to different climates and soils. It is found in bushy habits, although it can also reach the size of a low tree. 

Common Hawthorns are a source of food for fauna in winter and shelter for small rodents and birds. In Spring, when the Common hawthorn is in full bloom, it catches eyes with its magnificent white-flowered appearance, often cultivated just for ornamental reasons. These flowers also caught the attention of pollinators being a good source of nectar and pollen in Mediterranean areas.

The tree’s leaves look similar to parsley and become reddish-purple in autumn before falling. And, not only that, but Common hawthorns carry round, red berries which are rich in vitamin C and help regulate blood and nervous tension. Be careful though, these berries are only edible for animals or you will spend some days in the bathroom!

9. European Silver fir - Abies alba

Another tree of the mountains! The European Silver fir can be found in the mountains of central and southern Europe. It prefers deep, cool soils with shady areas, and it suffers in periods of long droughts. This is why the European Silver fir has been significantly reduced in the Iberian Peninsula, due to climate change and extended summers.

It is a large, robust tree that in some exceptional cases can reach 50 meters tall. And also easy to recognise as its crown forms a pyramidal shape.

10. Norway spruce - Picea abies

And, last but not least, the “Christmas tree”! The Norway spruce is used in many countries around the world as the festive tree, turning it into one of the most planted commercial spruces in Europe, especially in northern regions. 

It is native to Europe and can grow up to 55 meters tall. The Norway spruce is an evergreen tree with short needle-like leaves. 

These are Life Terra’s 10 most planted trees during our last planting season. We hope you were able to learn something new and will start looking out for them when wandering through nature the next time!