Anglo-American tree language

American British forestry terms“Burrs? – I didn’t know you folks had bears in your forests!”

Here’s a guide for our American cousins, on 4th July, to help them understand our British English forestry and tree terms.

I’m sure that are many more terms that I’ve missed.  Please let me know and I will add them.

brash – the woody material left in the forest after a logging operation which you would call slash.

breast height – the same term in British English but 1.3m above ground rather than your 4½ feet!

burr – the tree growth that leads to convoluted grain and often beautiful figure, prized by furniture makers.  You would call it a burl.

cross cut – to cut trees into shorter lengths, such as logs or cordwood you would say buck.

forester – a person who manages a forest for a wide variety of reasons including timber production, although you would call them a logger in connection with timber extraction.

garden – not the vegetable patch or the flower bed, this is your yard.

girdling – a method of killing trees by inflicting a series of cuts around the bole, sometimes applying a herbicide you may call frilling.

hectare – 2.47 times one acre (one acre = 0.4047 hectares) although traditionalists in Britain still use the imperial rather than metric unit for land area.

secateurs – a pair of secateurs are used to cut prune trees and shrubs in the garden. You would call them hedge clippers or pruning shears.

snedding – the removal of side shoots and branches from a stem you would refer to as limbing.

tree names – there are dozens of different names on each side of the pond for the same tree species; thank goodness for scientific names.  A good example is the tulip tree in Britain – being the yellow poplar in America (Liriodendron tulipifera).  Another is the lime in Britain – being the linden or basswood in America (Tilia spp.)

timber – simply, lumber.

wolf tree – this surprised me as I imagined it may have been one of those quirky British terms.  Actually it has the same meaning both sides of the pond – a tree that is over-large and dominant in a stand.

American terms that don’t normally appear in British forestry

extension forester – a  professional forester who educates woodland owners on how they can effectively manage their forests, usually from as part of a Cooperative Extension Service.  There are various Woodland Initiatives in Britain that have foresters providing a similar service but unlike the US, they are not usually linked formally to universities or state forestry services.

logging – often used pejoratively to describe commercial forestry activities by ill-informed members of the British media.  As seen above, there are no loggers in British forestry.

springboard –  on very large trees, particularly those with pronounced butresses, loggers cut a springboard notch into which they insert the springboard.  The tree fellers use this as a platform, standing on it to cut higher-up where the trunk is narrower.  There are no trees large enough to require this technique in Britain.

tree farm – a privately-owned forest managed on a multiple use basis with timber production as an important management goal.  Plantation woodlands in private hands don’t have a special term in Britain, and while British terms such as Farm Woodlands describe the fact that the wood is on farm, it does not necessarily mean that commercial forestry is the prime management purpose.

virgin forest – an area of old-growth trees that has never been harvested by humans.  There no true wilderness areas left in Britain, including virgin forest.  The oldest forests in Britain are referred to as Ancient (Semi-Natural) Woodlands.

Gabriel Hemery

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One thought on “Anglo-American tree language

  1. this “anglo-american” tree language list is going to be precious and helpful for me poor american reader , deciphering all the technical terms employed by John Irving in his last novel :”last night in twisted river” a very striking story depicting the dangerous activities of loggers taking place in North America on a logging and sawmill settlement in New Hampshire!…to be recommanded to nature writing lovers…

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