How to Identify Trees by Their Leaves: A Brief Guide

how to identify trees by their leaves

Imagine sauntering through your garden or a nearby park when you stumble upon a fascinating tree. Its foliage and branches display a kaleidoscope of vivid colors and intricate patterns, and you’re suddenly smitten with curiosity. “What is this specimen?” you might wonder. 

As the go-to provider of Master Arborist consulting in Fort Walton Beach, FL, we at Backridge Tree Service know how to identify trees by their leaves. Keep reading for a rundown of the basics!

Regular-Shaped Leaves

If you’ve ever doodled a leaf, you probably drew a classic leaf shape with a roundish body that tapers at the end. Tree species that sport this type of foliage include:

  • Beech: The beech tree’s leaves remain a standout with their wavy edges and leathery, dark green surface.
  • Hornbeam: Hornbeam leaves might look eerily similar to the beech to the untrained eye, but look closer, and you’ll notice more pronounced veins and finely-toothed edges.
  • Wych elm: For Wych elms, look for an asymmetrical tree leaf base and an extra pointy (usually three-pointed) tip.

Pinnate Leaves

Venture beyond the realm of oval leaves, and you’ll encounter some uniquely feather-like or pinnate leaf structures:

  • Ash: Each ash leaf comprises about five leaflets that radiate out from a central stalk like the plumes of a quill. The leaflets, usually light green in color, are long and slender, giving it a distinct feathery appearance.
  • Elder: Compared to the ash, elder leaflets have rounder shapes with a slightly askew arrangement. The tree itself has a smaller, shrub-like structure.
  • Rowan: Known as the “Lady of the Mountains,” rowan trees are like the extravagant peacocks of the tree world. Their leaves consist of six to eight pairs of slim leaflets with saw-like edges.

Star-Shaped Leaves

If you want to learn how to identify trees by their leaves, you can’t forget about the star-shaped varieties! Let’s dive even deeper and look into deciduous trees that boast a celestial charm:

  • Norway maple: A staple in many a picturesque landscape, the Norway maple’s leaves flaunt five pointed lobes that radiate from a central point, each with sharp, finely-tapered tips.
  • Field maple: The field maple’s leaves might share the same name as their Norwegian counterpart, but they present a subtly different appearance. They sport smoothly rounded edges and a smaller size.
  • Sycamore: This species’ leaves can have three to five lobes, each of which contains small teeth. Feel the underside of the leaf — if it has a soft, velvety texture, you’ve got your hands on a sycamore.

Consult a Local Arborist

Don’t be disheartened if you’re still having trouble distinguishing your beeches from hornbeams or an ash from an elder; identifying trees is a skill that takes time to master. 

At Backridge Tree Service, we remain passionate about sharing our extensive knowledge of arboriculture with our community. Our seasoned professionals know how to identify trees by their leaves, recognize when a tree is sick, and provide tailor-fit solutions for your landscaping needs. Call (850) 240-2829 today!

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