Winter Tree Identification

Identify Dormant Trees Using Buds and Twigs

Identifying a dormant tree is not nearly as complicated as it might seem at first glance. Winter tree identification will demand some dedication to apply the necessary practice to improve the skill of identifying trees without leaves.

But if you follow my instructions and use your powers of observation you will find a pleasurable and beneficial way to enhance your skills as a naturalist - even in the dead of winter. Learning to identify a tree without leaves can immediately make your growing season trees easier to name.

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Persistent Oak Leaf and Buds. Steve Nix

Botanical markers and tree characteristics should be used when identifying a dormant tree. Tree leaves are great but keen observation skills are critical for tree identification in winter. Get to know a tree and its parts, or "markers", and how these parts look in every season - especially in winter.

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Parts of a Tree Twig. USFS

Using a tree twig key is an excellent way to identify a tree when no leaves are available. But using a tree twig key means learning a twig's botanical parts. A twig key can help you identify a tree to the specific species by asking two question where you can affirm one and eliminate the other. This is called a dichotomous key. Here is instruction on using a twig key and links to several of the best online twig keys.

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Ash Twig and Fruit. Steve Nix
I have compiled this gallery to augment your study of trees in winter to better identify tree species. Use this gallery and follow my instructions in Using Botanical Markers. Using your powers of observation, you will find a pleasurable and beneficial way to enhance your skills as a naturalist - even in the dead of winter.

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Trees With Opposite Twig, Bud and Leaf Structure

Opposite Tree Twig. Illustration Courtesy of Janet Moore
Here are the important botanical markers to look for in the most common opposite ranked tree species in North America. These trees include ash, maple, dogwood and buckeye.

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Trees With Alternate Twig, Bud and Leaf Structure

Alternate Tree Twig. Illustration Courtesy of Janet Moore

Here are the important botanical markers to look for in the most common alternate ranked tree species in North America. These trees include hickory, black walnut, oak, yellow poplar, birch, beech, elm, cherry, sweetgum and sycamore.

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Sweetgum Balls and Leaves in Winter. Steve Nix
Identifying a dormant tree is not as complicated as it might seem at first glance. Dormant tree identification will demand a few extra "tricks" to improve the skill of identifying trees without leaves. Here is a guide to help.