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Tree Identification Guide

Tree Identification Guide

Identifying a particular type of tree for a layman can often be a tedious job. Here is a short guide which will help make things easier for you to some extent.
Gardenerdy Staff
Last Updated: Feb 17, 2018
There are different ways to identify a tree -- by bark, fruit, and leaves. Identification by bark and fruit can be a little tricky, since it's difficult to pinpoint a tree by its bark, and presence of fruits is not always certain. Thus, for a layman, identifying a tree by studying its leaves proves to be easier.

Trees can be broadly classified as deciduous trees and coniferous trees. The easiest way to identify whether a tree is deciduous or coniferous is on the basis of its leaves. Leaves of a deciduous tree are broad, whereas that of a coniferous tree are extremely narrow and, at times, overlapping. After you have confirmed which tree you are looking at, the following steps will help you identify its common name.
Deciduous Trees
Before we begin the actual identification of deciduous trees, there are some key points to be kept in mind, as these form the basis of your identification guide. When you are observing a tree, first notice its branching style -- whether it is opposite or alternate (as shown in the figure). The next step is to determine whether the leaves are simple or compound (see figure). This is followed by the different types of edges of the leaves.

Once you are ready with these three points, you can proceed to narrow down the type of deciduous tree you are looking at.
✦ Branching - Opposite or Alternate
Branching
✦ Leaves - Simple or Compound
Simple Leaf
Simple Leaf
Compound Leaf
Compound Leaf
• Simple Leaves -- The leaves which have a single leaf blade and are not divided into leaflets are called simple leaves.

• Compound Leaves -- The leaves which have two or more leaflets having a common stalk or branch are called compound leaves.
✦ Leaf Edges - Smooth, Lobed, or Toothed
Smooth leaf
Smooth
Lobed edges leaf
Lobed
Doubly-toothed edges leaf
Doubly-toothed
Singly toothed edges leaf
Singly-toothed
✦ If branches are opposite and leaves are compound
Boxelder leaflets
Boxelder (3-5 leaflets)
Ashes leaflets
Ashes (7-14 leaflets)
✦ If branches are opposite and leaves are simple
Maple Leaf Isolated Orange
Maples
✦ If branches are alternate and leaves are compound
Walnut
Walnut
when leaves are singly compound
Honey Locust
Honey Locust
when doubly & singly compound
✦ If branches are alternate and leaves are simple
Oaks
Oaks
» If the leaves are lobed
Elms
Elms
» If the leaves are unlobed and doubly-toothed with an uneven leaf base.
Birches
Birches
» If the leaves are unlobed and doubly-toothed with an even leaf base.
» If the leaves are unlobed and smooth or singly-toothed
... with an uneven leaf base
Basswood
Basswood
Hackberry
Hackberry
... with an even leaf base
Cherry
Cherry
Poplar
Poplar
Willows
Willows
Aspens
Aspens
Coniferous Trees
Compared to deciduous trees, identification of coniferous trees is simpler. Again, begin with the type of leaf you are looking at -- needle-shaped or cone-shaped, and then proceed to the next step.
✦ Leaves - Scales or needles
Scale shaped leaf
Scale-shaped
Needle shaped leaf
Needle-shaped
✦ If the leaves are scale-shaped
Cedar
Cedar
✦ If the leaves are needle-shaped
Pine
Pine
... with a bunch of 2 to 5 needles
Larch
Larch
... with a bundle of > 12 needles
Fir
Fir (single leaves)
... with flat needles
Spruce
Spruce (single leaves)
... with 4-sided needles
Needless to say, tree identification, especially in a forest area, requires a lot of patience and an eye for detail. This, of course, does not make it any less of an interesting experience for nature lovers!
Decorative Trees
Spraying Trees Against Pests
Young Palm Trees
Orchard of Tangerine Trees
Black bean field with banana trees
Orange Trees Farm
Orchard of Tangerine Trees
Small Coffee Tree
Jade Tree
Single huge oak tree in canola field in sunlight
Coffee beans ripening on tree
Olive Grove
Woman In Urban City Garden
Miniature Ficus Tree
Bonsai Tree
Fresh graft on a green lemon tree