Into The Woods: Tree Names in Russian — Part II Posted by on Jun 22, 2017 in language

Last time, we started listing some trees you may come across in Russia. Let us expand that list with five more trees.

Ель — Spruce

fir tree

Image from Pixabay

We have seen ель (spruce) before as ёлка (“Christmas” tree put up for New Year’s in Russia). This can also be used as a catch-all name for any needled tree if you’re not sure of the species.

  • На Но́вый Год мы поста́вили иску́сственную ёлку (We put up an artificial tree for New Year’s).

Кипарис — Cypress

Кипарис evokes images of the Mediterranean, although it can be found on the southern regions of Russia, too. A slender person may be compared to кипарис.

  • Хозя́йка была́ стро́йная, высо́кая и лёгкая ― тень кипари́са. (The landlady was slender, task, and light like the shadow of a cypress.) [Сергей Довлатов. Иная жизнь (1984)]

Вяз — Elm

The word вяз is related to вязать (to tie together; to knit). Thanks to the 80s horror film Nightmare on Elm Street, my first association is with this word is “Кошмар на улице вязов” (the Russian name of the movie).

  • Похо́же, э́тим фи́льмом а́втор «Кошма́ра на у́лице Вя́зов» попыта́лся войти́ в круг кино́шного истеблишмента. (It looks like the maker of Nightmare on Elm Street tried to break into filmmaking establishment with this movie.) [Ужас в порошках и таблетках. Видеосеанс с Валерием Кичиным (2001) // «Известия», 2001.10.19]

Липа — Linden


Image from Pixabay

Липа (linden) is a tree whose blossoms may be used in an herbal tea. Those blossoms are called липовый цвет. Interestingly, any fake documents, statements, or records are also colloquially called липа.

  • Исто́рия с завеща́нием оказа́лась ли́пой ― никако́го се́йфа ни в како́м ба́нке не нашли́. (The story of the will turned out to be fake — no safe in a bank was ever found.) [И. Э. Кио. Иллюзии без иллюзий (1995-1999)]

Ясень — Ash

You may remember this tree from a song we featured on this blog. The word ясень seems to be related to ясный, clear.

  • Ма́ло кто представля́ет себе́, как, к приме́ру, вы́глядят цветки́ клёна и́ли я́сеня. (Few people know what maple or ash flowers look like.) [Ирина Бондорина. «Остров Крым» (2002) // «Сад своими руками», 2002.11.15]

What else would you add?

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About the Author: Maria

Maria is a Russian-born translator from Western New York. She is excited to share her fascination with all things Russian on this blog. Maria's professional updates are available in English on her website and Twitter and in Russian on Telegram.


  1. samonen:

    сосна (pine)
    рябина (rowan)
    черёмуха (Prunus padus, bird cherry)

    The latter is dear to my heart because its flowering meant school’s out and a whole summer is ahead when I was a kid.

    • Maria:

      @samonen Great additions! I didn’t even know the English word for the bird cherry — thank you for sharing this. As I said before, the names of living things and connecting these names to physical objects has been challenging for me across languages.

      • samonen:

        @Maria Well, that’s the way it is, Maria. It is like knowing somebody’s name: either you know it—and remember it—or then you don’t. I have the same problem, having no or little problem reading Russian news media articles or at least popular scientific texts. But could I be of any help in a Russian kitchen? I probably could but it would be ALL just learning for me. On the other hand, I have some pretty “useless” vocabulary imprinted in my mind from the literature I’ve read in Russian, such as кинжал and аул.