Identification of the Most Common Hardwoods

A Guide for North American Hardwood Tree Identification

flowering magnolia tree at the arlington cemetery
Flowering magnolia tree at Arlington Cemetery. (ForestWander/Wikimedia Commons/CC ASA 3.0)

Identify Your Common North American Hardwoods

Hardwoods or broadleafs are trees classed as angiosperms or plants with ovules enclosed for protection in an ovary. When appropriately watered on good fertile sites or fed in the landscape with a special tree fertilizer (Buy From Amazon) mix, these ovules will rapidly develop into seeds. The seeds then drop from trees as acorns, nuts, samaras, drupes and pods.

Broadleaf trees can be evergreen or they can persist in dropping their leaves over the entire winter. Most are deciduous and lose all their leaves over a short annual fall drop. These leaves can be either simple (single blades) or they can be​ compound with leaflets attached to a leaf stem. Although variable in shape, all hardwood leaves have a distinct network of fine veins.

Here is a quick leaf identification key of the common hardwoods in North America at my Identify Trees With Leaves site. If you are confused with some of the terms used here, please use my definitions of terms used for tree identification.

Several Common Terms for this Major Tree Category

  • HARDWOOD - Trees with broad, flat leaves as opposed to coniferous or needled trees. Wood hardness varies among the hardwood species, and some are actually softer than some softwoods.
  • DECIDUOUS - perennial plants which are normally leafless for some time during the year.
  • BROADLEAF - A tree with leaves that are broad, flat and thin and generally shed annually.

The Most Common Hardwoods

Unlike the conifers or softwood firs, spruce and pines, hardwood trees have evolved into a broad array of common species. The most common species in North America are oaks, maple, hickory, birch, beech and cherry.

Forests, where a majority of their trees drop leaves at the end of the typical growing season, are called deciduous forests. These forests are found worldwide and are located in either temperate or tropical ecosystems.

Identify single tree species known variously as hardwoods, deciduous, or broadleaf:

The Most Common North American Hardwood List

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Nix, Steve. "Identification of the Most Common Hardwoods." ThoughtCo, Apr. 1, 2017, thoughtco.com/identification-of-the-most-common-hardwoods-1341843. Nix, Steve. (2017, April 1). Identification of the Most Common Hardwoods. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/identification-of-the-most-common-hardwoods-1341843 Nix, Steve. "Identification of the Most Common Hardwoods." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/identification-of-the-most-common-hardwoods-1341843 (accessed October 23, 2017).