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Tree Identification

How can we differentiate between types of trees?

There are few key things to look at in order to tell trees apart. Some of these are dependant on the season.

Size and shape: trees come in all shapes and sizes, from small and squat to tall and thin.

 Leaf Pictures

Leaves: Size, shape and colour and important when it comes to identification.

Flowers, fruit or cones: these can also be useful but may only be found at certain times of the year.

Trunks: tree trunk or bark can become familiar to you with practice; they differ in colour, pattern and texture.

Winter twigs and buds: identifying deciduous trees in the winter can be tricky but twigs and buds are usually quite distinctive. Their size, shape, colour and layout along the twig are all good indicators

It helpful to work out whether a tree is broad-leaved or coniferous, as this can allow you to identify the species:

  •    Most broad-leaved trees are deciduous and shed their leaves in winter.
  •    The leaves of conifers are either needle-like or small and scale-like. They are normally present all year round.

As always, there are exceptions to the rule; for example, holly is an evergreen broadleaf and larch is a deciduous conifer.

You can use the same characteristics as those listed above to identify conifers, but instead of examining leaves, you compare the number and structure of the needles, their colour and their scent.

Trees of the same species can look quite different. This can be due to the immediate environment that surrounds it. For example, an oak that has grown on its own in an open field may look different to one that has grown between other trees in a wood.

Leaf Pictures

Leaves can vary even on the same tree, according to how much light is available to them. This means a tree typically produces ‘sun leaves’ and ‘shade leaves’. Sun leaves tend to be near the top of the tree and have the most exposure to light. They are smaller and, because they have less chlorophyll, they are paler in colour and able to tolerate bright light without wilting. Shade leaves are situated in parts of the tree that receive less light, such as the lower branches. Shade leaves are larger and contain more chlorophyll, making them darker in colour. This helps them to absorb what little light is available to them.