Winter tree identification requires knowledge and careful study. While it’s easy to distinguish between an evergreen and deciduous tree in the winter, it is much more difficult to differentiate between specific varieties and species, especially when a deciduous tree has lost its leaves. In the winter, a Certified Arborist uses other clues, besides leaves, to determine the tree variety. Use these tips (and a good field guide book) to do your own detective work:
– Tree twigs provide information on how the leaves are arranged when leaves are present. The markings on the twigs will also show bundle and leaf scars and may indicate where the buds grow. Click here for a twig key identification guide provided by Virginia Tech University.
– Tree branches have either an opposite or alternate branching pattern. A tree with opposite branching has twigs and buds that grow off a main branch in pairs, for example, maple trees. A tree with alternate branching has twigs and buds grow off a main branch one at a time. Birch trees are an example of alternate branching.
– Tree buds are also an indicator of tree variety. Tree buds vary by shape, size, color and texture on tree species. Buds form at either the ends of twigs or along the sides. The number of buds and their arrangement on the twigs are also indicators of tree variety. Also look for scales on the buds, which is another characteristic that will narrow down your tree variety choices.
– Look to the tree bark for varietal clues. Many tree varieties have a distinct bark smell that is found on either the inner or outer bark. Some Birch tree varieties have a minty bark smell unique to certain species. Tree bark varies by color, thickness, texture and pattern. Use these differences as tree variety indicators.
Use these pointers for basic winter tree identification. Still stumped? Often, it requires a trained eye to properly identify tree species and varieties. Call KTS for information on our Certified Arborist services.