A-B-Tree / A-B-Craobh

Celebrating the connection between trees and writing

Project Report            Poetry anthology: Into the Forest          Poetry collection: A-B-Tree

Did you know every letter of the Gaelic alphabet has an associated tree or shrub?

Click on the tree in the list below (or use the drop down menu off A-B-Tree on the left) to find out more about each tree.

Birch (B) Rowan (L) Alder (F) Willow (S) Ash (N) Hawthorn (H) Oak (D) Holly (T) Hazel (C) Bramble (M) Ivy (G) Blackthorn (P) Elder (R) Pine (A) Gorse (O) Heather (U) Aspen (E) Yew (I)

The A-B-Tree project is a celebration of the ancient cultural connection between nature and words embodied in the Gaelic Tree Alphabet. The first part of the project took people into the woods to learn about the trees. The second part was about sharing all the fascinating knowledge and the poetry gathered in part one. The third phase is encouraging new creative responses to the alphabet species and exploring how writing creatively about trees may be good for learning and attitudes. Follow @cybercrofter on Twitter (hashtag #ABTree) to keep in touch with the project.

Phase 1

Phase 1 involved 18 creative events, one for each letter, using trees as inspiration for new writing. The events blended folklore and ecology, encouraging people to be playful with words during a walk in the woods.

These fun, creative events were held in woodland venues around Scotland in autumn 2011, as part of the International Year of Forests. Some were run with schools, environmental and community groups, writing groups and mental health projects and most were open to the public. They were suitable for people aged 4 upwards.

The first phase of the project was completed in autumn 2011. Thanks to everyone who came along to the events. If you would like a similar event in a wood or garden near you, please contact me.

Phase 2

The second phase of the project - sharing the information that has been gathered, got underway in December 2011 with a forest of tweets! Starting on 1 December, at dusk each day, I tweeted (@cybercrofter) about a tree, taking each one, in alphabetical order, and sharing some of the fascinating folklore, ecology and practical facts about the trees. Follow @cybercrofter to find out more!

This website developed at the same time - with each tree getting its own dedicated page, with photos by Bill Ritchie, an archive of all the tweeted material, some poems and more. 

A report of the project is available here

I also produced a limited edition pamphlet of tree poems, which won second prize in the Overton poetry sequence competition. You can get it here.

As poet in residence at the Edinburgh Botanics during the summer of 2013, I introduced hundreds of people to the Gaelic tree alphabet, celebrating one species per day during July. I blogged about it on the Walking with Poets site.

An exciting outcome of the project was the publication of a big and beautiful anthology of tree poetry, Into the Forest, by Saraband in November 2013. 


Phase 3

In 2018 I started a new stage of the project with the University of the Highlands and Islands, looking at how to use the A-B-Tree knowledge base and poetry bag to stimulate interdisciplinary learning between literature and forestry. This has included working via a tree painted in blackboard paint on the canteen wall at the Scottish School of Forestry, on which we have been sharing knowledge and thoughts about the trees, one tree each week, working our way through the alphabet over the academic year 2018-19. The project is also getting people to write creatively about the alphabet species, and looking at how this might help with learning and change attitudes towards trees. In summer 2019 I am poet in residence at Inverewe Gardens, where I'll be working with a group of artists, and my focus will once again be on the Gaelic tree alphabet. I'm also doing a fresh 'forest of tweets' with the hashtag #ABTree and organising more tree-writing events, thanks to support from Scottish Forestry (was the Forestry Commission).

Full events listing

All events were public unless marked with *

2013 events

Throughout July 2013, there was a tree per day celebrated at the Edinburgh Botanical Gardens, where I was poet in residence as part of the Walking with Poets project. For more details see here.

2012 events

  • Hazel, Torridon Out There Festival, 29 July
  • Falkland Big Tent Festival, 22 July
  • Birch, Maggie's Centre, Garnavel Hospital, Glasgow, 23 June
  • Oak, Migdale Woods, 19 May
  • Hazel, Abriachan Forest/Moniack Mhor, 18 February

2011 events

For more information get in touch!

Email: hag@worldforests.org

Phone: 01571 844020

This project was made possible thanks to funding from the Scottish Forestry Commission and Hi-Arts.


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