Mastering the Art of Leaf Identification: How to Tell a Tree By Its Leaves


How to Identify tree by leag

A few days back, I was walking through woods and came across a tree with some really interesting looking leaves. 

At first, I had no idea what the tree was. But I was intrigued and decided to do some research. Turns out, it’s pretty easy to identify trees by leaf if you learn about some basic stuff. 

And here, I’ll lay out the thing you need to learn to ID a tree correctly.

The Feature of a Leaf To Observe to ID a Tree

1. Check Leaf shapes and size

Check Leaf shapes and size

Leaf shape can give you a good idea about what kind of tree it is. So, the first step is to look at the overall shape of the leaf. Is the leaf long and narrow, or does it look like an oval? 

Once you’ve determined the general shape of the leaf, take a look at the individual leaf lobes. Are they smooth or jagged? What is the size and shape of the leaf’s base?

After you’ve collected answers to these questions, it would help you to narrow down the tree type. 

Maple tree leaves are large and of rounded shape. At the same time, the leaves of oak trees are long and narrow. And the birch tree leaves are small and oval-shaped. 

2. Examine the leaf’s Texture

Examine the leaf's Texture

For further narrowing down the trees, the texture if the leaf can help. 

In general, You’ll find 2 main types of leaf textures: broadleaf and needleleaf. 

The Broadleaf leaves are wider and come with a more textured surface. In contrast, needleleaf leaves will be thinner and feature a smoother surface. 

However, there are exceptions to this rule, so be sure that you have enough knowledge about the topic.

Also, keep in mind that texture can also vary due to the age of the leaf. Younger leaves are normally smoother and fresher-looking. At the same time, older leaves can be more textured and worn-looking.

3. Inspect the stipules (if they are present)

Inspect the stipules

Most leaf stalks are adorned with small, scale-like appendages called stipules. Despite their variety of size and shapes, you’ll always find them at the bottom of the leaf. You can identify lots of trees by their distinctive stipules. For example, Oak trees have large, spiny stipules, while maple trees have small, heart-shaped stipules.

4. Look at the color of the leaves 

Look at the color of the leaves

If you want to learn how to identify tree by leaf, color can be a good indicator. You’ll notice that deciduous trees like maples and oaks have bright and vibrant leaves. But the evergreen trees like pines and spruces come with leaves that are darker and of muted colors. 

That doesn’t mean all the trees follow the same rules.

Some deciduous trees can have dark leaves, while some evergreens may have light-colored leaves. But in general, the color can give you a good clue about its identity. 

5. Use pictures from a tree book or online tools

Use pictures from a tree book or online tools

Use the pictures online or in a book to find the tree. You can take a picture of the leaf and use google image search to find the tree. Or you can look up the tree in a field guide, or you can use Leafsnap, which is an amazing app for identifying the tree by its leaves. 

Match the colors, shape, and size with the pictures. That way, you should find the tree name in a fairly quick time. 

6. Try to find the tree in your area 

Try to find the tree in your area 

Another thing you can do is a manual search of the tree. Go around the neighborhood looking for the exact tree that the leaf fell from. Once you’ve found the tree, it will be easy to find its name.

7. Go to an expert for help

identifying the tree

If you have a local nursery or garden nearby, you can take the leaf to them and ask for help identifying the tree. Since they’re expert at this; it will be really easy for them to find out the name of the tree. 

What Other Methods Can We Try to Find the Tree Name

Bark

Bark

The color and texture can give away the name of the tree easily. And I find this method very reliable when trying to find the origin of a tree. 

Let me give you an example here. Over the years, I’ve found that cork oak has one of the most unique barks among the trees. The bark of the tree is dark brown and thick, spongy, and hard. Its bumpy texture is caused by the presence of tiny pores in the bark. The eucalyptus tree also has an easily identifiable bark. 

The bark on this tree is thin, bright red, and peels away in strips. It is easy to identify even from a distance due to its smooth texture and vibrant color.

So, when finding out the name of the tree in the wood, take a closer look at bark, as it might have all the answers for you.

Fruits

Tree Fruits

There’s a sure shot way to identify a tree; its own fruits.

I know that not all trees produce fruit, but many do, and the fruit is unique to its tree species. 

For example, mangoes are only produced by mango trees, while orange are only produced by orange trees. If you learn about the various kinds of tree fruit, you can easily identify the right tree every single time.

Branches

Tree Branches

Branches can be a good way to find out the tree name. Some trees have unique types of branches that can aid you in spotting them. For instance, the Spruce tree has long and slender branches, while maple trees have short, strong, and thick branches.

Flowers

Flowers

This one is a tricky one, but if you can use it properly, flowers can be the most reliable method to spot a tree. Look closely at the tree’s blossoms. 

Check the color of the petals, how many petals they have, and the shape and size of the flower. 

Several flowering dogwoods come with small, white flowers that you can witness in early spring. These flowers are replaced by clusters of red berries that provide food. Another tree with distinguished flowers is the Bradford pear, as they come with large, showy flowers in shades of pink or purple. 

Tree Shape

Tree Shape

The tree shape can also be of help to ID the tree. But for that, you’ll need to know what you’re looking for exactly. Like, the palm trees come in multiple trunks, which makes it very simple for you to recognize the tree.

Summary

I won’t say that the entire process is easy, but it’s certainly not that difficult either. If you acquire some basic knowledge about the leaves of the trees, you can use them to id any tree. So, getting acquainted with the leaves is your first step in the journey.

Mohammed Rujel

Over the Years, I have gained a lot of experience in different aspects of gardening. I actively learned about plants and how to care for them, and also have a lot of experience in dealing with pests and diseases. My expertise is on teaching how to grow healthy plants and make them look their best.

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