How to ID Common Backyard Trees

You may find that you can stand in your backyard and easily identify the trees in your landscape.

Alternatively, you may suffer from something botanists refer to as tree blindness – the lack of recognition and inability to identify the trees that occupy the space in which you live.

Unfortunately, not being able to identify tree species also means you’re unable to recognize the signs when your trees are unhealthy.

Here are a few examples of common trees in your backyard and how to identify them.


EAB BugwoodAsh trees commonly found in the eastern United States – they are a native species in the area, but are also frequently purchased for landscaping.

These trees can be identified by opposite branching (branches protruding on opposites sides of the same limb), compound leaves (multiple leaves connecting to a central stem) and diamond-pattern bark.

It’s important to be able to identify ash trees due to the infestation of Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) across the country. Be a Smart Ash helps homeowners learn how to identify the ash tree and this this invasive insect.


Maple LeafProbably the most recognized feature of the maple is its veiny leaves with a mixture of large and small teeth (think of the Canadian flag – that’s a maple leaf!).

Maples drop their seeds inside little “helicopters” that can be seen spinning down from the tree. Like ash trees, maples also have opposite branching.

There are many different types of maple trees, including sugar maple, red maple, Japanese maple and silver maple. Sugar maples are best known for the high sugar content in the sap they produce which makes them the best choice for use in maple syrup production!


Birch TreeBirches are often recognized by their smooth bark. Perhaps the most recognizable birches are those with white bark, including the paper birch, silver birch and Japanese white birch.

This tree has approximately 40 different species – white-barked birches are often used as ornamental plantings for landscaping in cooler, northern climates.

They thrive in moist soil, however, when planted too near a home the roots might grow towards plumbing pipes.

Do you have a tree that you would like to identify? Here are a few resources that might help!

Leafsnap – This free mobile app for iPhones uses visual recognition software to help identify tree species from photographs of their leaves.

Virginia Tech Tree ID – Best for Androids, this app created by Virginia Tech contains fact sheets for over 1,000 woody plants across North America. Users can enable GPS to find species in the immediate area, and can further narrow down the list by answering a series of questions about the tree’s attributes.

What Tree Is That? – The Arbor Day Foundation’s tree identification field guide is an illustrated, step-by-step process that makes tree identification easy by answering questions about a tree’s leaves.

Still stumped? An arborist would be happy to identify the trees in your landscape, assess their health and provide a treatment plan to maintain their health and safety. Use TCIA’s search tool to hire a professional arborist or tree care company.

Image Credits:

Emerald Ash Borer – Eric R. Day, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University,

Maple Leaf –

Birch Trees –

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