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Home > Resources > North Carolina Trees > Identification Page 1

Identification of Trees  

Trees have many characteristics that can be used to identify particular species:  overall size and shape; the color,  size and shape of leaves; the texture, color and shape of twigs and buds; and the color and texture of bark, fruit and flowers.  Growing range is also useful in identifying tree species.  Most people use several of these characteristics to identify a specific tree.

During late spring, summer and early fall, the size and shape of leaves are the characteristics most often used to identify a tree.  Being able to recognize the different leaf shapes of the various species will help you identify the trees you see.  Leaves either are deciduous -- shed annually, like the leaves of maples, elms and ashes -- or evergreen, remaining on the tree for one or more years, like the needles of pines and spruces.  Most of the cone-bearing trees -- pines, spruces, firs and hemlocks -- and some broadleaf trees, such as the American holly and live oak, are evergreen.

When a tree has shed its leaves, identification can be more difficult.  You must then rely on the shape and texture of the bark, twigs and buds, and on any fruit or flower parts remaining on the tree to make an identification.  Knowing these characteristics will help you identify trees during the late fall, winter and early spring months.  learning to recognize our trees and how they are influenced by their environment can be a delightful outdoor pastime during all season.

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