It can be a tricky job, tree identification. Do you know your ash from your yew? Or your palmate from your pinnate leaves?

If this does not come naturally, our brief guide will tell you where to start and how to go about tree identification.

Shape

Tree identification - the Horse Chestnut TreeThe profile of the tree is a good starting point to narrow down the species of the tree.

Is its shape conical like the conifers or spire shaped? Is it an upright tree like the Silver Birch? Or perhaps it could be a spreading tree such as the Horse Chestnut or a weeping tree, made famous in this country by the weeping willow.

 

 

Leaves

The shape of the leaves tends to be the primary indicator of the type of tree it is. The flat surface of the leaf is called the blade or lamina. The upper surface of the leaf may be very different from the lower surface.

The leaf margin

The edge of the leaf is called the leaf margin. A lot of useful information to help you identify your tree is here. Leaf edges can be ‘entire’, ‘lobed’ or ‘toothed’

Simple or compound leaves

Tree identification - oak leaf A leaf is said to be ‘single’ if it complete and the lobes or teeth do not reach down to the main vein, as seen in this image of the oak leaf. Compound leaves have several ‘leaflets’ which join up with a main leaf stalk. Compound leaves can be broken down further:

 

 

 

Pinnate compound leaf

 In this leaf arrangement the leaves are arranged in pairs (sometimes slightly displaced rather than truly opposite each other), with a single leaf at the top as in this image of Ash leaves.

 

 

 

 

Palmate compound leaf 

Horse Chestnut leavesPalmate leaves join together at one central point.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Needles 

Tree identification - spruce needlesThere are many varieties of conifers growing in this country, mostly evergreen, such as pines, spruces and firs. They have equally varied needles or scales.

 

 

 

 

Fruit

varieties of tree fruitHave a look at the fruit of the tree. Does it bear cones or catkins? Is the fruit fleshy or soft (such as cherry or apple trees) or does it yield hard or woody fruit (like acorns or conkers). Is the fruit contained in pods or is it winged as in the sycamore tree?

 

 

 

Bark

Tree identification - barkThe bark of the tree is the outer layer that protects it. The type of bark depends on the species growth rate. Smooth barked trees such as the beech tree grow slowly but the bark of the oak tree grows much faster and has grooves and ridges.

 

 

 

There are lots of resources available on the internet to help you identify the most common trees. The Woodland Trust  has a large list of tree species descriptions, and Kew Gardens  have an interactive app which helps you to match the tree you are looking at with the species they have in their database.

If you are having trouble identifying the trees on your land or are concerned about their health, contact your helpful tree surgeons at Totally Trees for assistance.