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How to Identify Trees

Tree Identification Guide: Guest Post

It’s easy to go through life with what our third-grade teacher taught us about trees. What we ‘half remember’ is enough for us to happily relegate trees to the background of everywhere we go and everything we do.

It isn’t until something – or someone – gets us to look at a specific tree, or knowingly spouts the name of a tree because of its leaf shape, that we take a closer look and start to marvel at the diversity of shapes, leaves, branching or barks. Then we want to know more.


So, if we’re going to start learning to identify the trees around us, what comes first?


Sounds obvious, but officially it’s a woody plant with a single vertical trunk that measures a minimum of 3 inches in “Diameter at Breast Height” (DBH).



shrub or bush, on the other hand, is a woody plant that grows low and has multiple stems. No trunk.

vine, also a woody plant, cannot stand on its own but needs to support itself on something. Again, no trunk.

And a palm is not woody.




It’s “an individual kind of tree that shares the same general appearance and the same characteristics of bark, leaf, flower, and seed.”

Nearly 1,200 species of trees grow naturally in the U.S. To that we can add all the trees that people have brought here from elsewhere and planted where conditions are similar enough for the trees to thrive.

(That accounts for hundreds of more species of ‘naturalized exotics.’) All told, worldwide we have about 50,000 species. With that many species, we’d better have a good way to name them.





We refer to trees by a double name, made up of their genus and species. A species is the most specific level of classifying living things. A genus brings together a group of closely related species.



To continue reading this article about tree identification, please visit the Tree Musketeers website! 

14 thoughts on “How to Identify Trees

  • awesome references to tree information! I am bookmarking the tree infor for quick customer reference when i need to help with clarification. Thanks for the read!

  • Very nice, it is important for people to know what kind of trees they have on their properties so the trees can be properly taken care of!

  • Very good article. Thanks for sharing. We at Tree Care Service Harare look forward to reading more of these articles. Thank you again

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  • Loretta M. Mandell

    It is easy to identify trees or plants, trees are tall with big trunks while plants or bush grows in a small area.


  • This is some great basic information. In first identifying what is a tree we can start with what is not a tree.

  • Pingback: How to Identify Trees | Bogan Tree Service

  • This article about tree identification is great. It is definitely very important to know the species of tree you are working with, as to be able to properly care for the tree i.e. Trimming, when to trim, how to trim, how much to trim, wood density and much more…. It pays off to do research before taking action on tree projects. If anyone needs some great professional Tree Services in Wisconsin check out Waukesha Tree Service at

  • Great content being provided here, we lean a lot. This article about tree identification is a great one. More species of trees are identified here. If anyone needs more great professional Tree Felling Services in Pretoria check out Tree Tree Pretoria at


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