Some ways to identify trees include:
Identifying trees by the types of leaves they produce usually means observing three possible structures. Trees typically have leaves that fall into three categories: needles, scaly leaves, or flat leaves.
If a tree produces needles, the tree is usually a conifer (or part of the coniferous family of trees), and they retain their leaves year-round, notwithstanding disease or decay that might make needles drop at a considerable rate. Needles may be group on tree branches in groups; grow on twigs singly; or create a whorl pattern in their growth structure. Conifer trees can be found in most states in the continental U.S.
In contrast, scaly leaves can be found on some conifers and are more commonly found on juniper and cedar trees. Scaly leaves might resemble needles in that they are typically slender, but they can also be prickly at times. Juniper trees and shrubs are more commonly found throughout the U.S., whereas cedar trees mostly grow in pockets of the Northeast and Northwest.
The final type of leaf structure you might find when identifying trees is a flat leaf structure. In general, these trees grow and shed their leaves as the seasons change. Flat leaves may also be described as broad, as opposed to the narrow scaly leaves and pointy needles of other trees, and they may come in a wide variety of shapes. Flat leaves may be simple or compound structures. Sycamores, for instance, have simple leaves that occupy just one leaf per stalk, whereas trees like pecan trees have compound leaves where multiple leaves are attached to one stalk at a time.
Fruit the Tree Produces
In order to spread their seeds, trees use various fruits to transport them from one place to another. Most common ways of transporting seeds might include on the wing through fruits that have wings or are light enough to move the seeds in that way and through animals that carry and eat the seeds. Different types of trees have fruits with different structures. Coniferous trees, for instances, produce cones that house the seeds. Cones come in a variety of shapes and might have scales or be soft and fleshy or dry and hard, depending on the tree.
Pine trees are not the only trees that bear cones as fruits. Birch, alder, cucumber, tulip, and others produce cones as their fruits.
Winged fruits are also fruits that some trees produce. Some winged fruits have one wings, and some have two. If there is more than one wing, they may be spread out in a variety of angles. Many different types of maple trees are generally common trees that produce two-winged fruits.
Other trees with a single wing might be ash trees, as they typically have a single, elongated wing with elongated fruit. Other winged fruit is actually not winged at all, but appears to be winged with a nut or a bladder-like sac holding the fruit. American Hornbeam or Eastern Hophornbeam trees are most often the trees that appear to have this latter single apparent winged fruit.
Acorns, pods or capsules, and other types of seeds and fruits often come from trees, so this list is not extensive by any means. For other types of fruits you might want to know more about to identify the types of trees you have, review this resource from the Ohio Public Library Information Network.
Working with a certified arborist can help you determine what kind of maintenance your particular trees might need, like tree injections to combat problems or any type of trimming and pruning to help them stay healthy year-long. If your trees are at the end of their life cycle or get damaged in some way, an arborist can also recommend maintenance and possibly removal for your safety and the safety of others.
In the winter, using leaves on trees to identify what kind they are is harder because many trees lose their them as the cold weather sets in. Plus, not all trees produce fruits in cooler temperatures, so using the fruits to identify trees is not always useful.
To identify trees that are not conifers, which retain their needles throughout the seasons and thus are not necessarily hard to identify in general, you might start by looking at the branch structure to start.
(Note: if you do notice a coniferous tree is not retaining its leaves, it is important to contact an arborist to determine a treatment plan for the disease or decay the tree is experiencing to save it.)
Tree branches typically take on two structures, depending on the type of tree they are. Branches either grow with an opposing structure or an alternating structure. The best way to determine if the tree has opposite branches or alternating branches is to look into the uppermost crown rather than the branches attached to the main trunk.
Trees with opposite branches can include:
- Maple trees
- Ash trees
- Dogwood trees
- Members of the Caprifoliaceae family (honeysuckle, often considered shrubbery instead of trees)
To further narrow down the above list into specific groups, it is important to look at aspects of the tree like the pattern of the bark. Ash trees are characterized by their patterns on the bark, such as an X pattern, a diamond pattern, or what is often referred to as “alligator skin.” If the tree is an understory tree – meaning it can grow healthily as a shade tree), has a narrow diameter of a foot or less at its full adult life, and is shorter, the tree is a dogwood tree. Trees with smooth bark that looks splotchy with a light gray color are often buckeye trees. If the tree has opposite branches, but does not share any of these traits, it is in the maple tree family.
If the branches appear to be alternating, rather than opposite, it is important to start looking at the bark and other characteristics on the outer part of the tree to narrow down the possibilities. However, the list of possible traits to review can seem endless and include such things as:
- Bark patterns or peeling
- Thorns on the bark
- Coloring on the interior of segments of the bark broken off
- Furrowing or “corky” projections
TreeBarkID lists many more possible characteristics to be aware of when using this method to identify trees with alternating branch structures. If you’re still stumped, call an arborist for help!
Trees Common to Arkansas
Arkansas remains a heavily forested state, retaining about 50% of its land as forested by some estimates even as populations increase.
Hawthorn, plums and cherries, maples, oaks, and hickories are some of the typical trees that grow in Arkansas and encompass nearly two-thirds of the types of trees that often grow in the state.
In addition to the above trees, pine trees play an integral role in the state’s economic efforts. Shortleaf pine (Pinus echinata) and the loblolly pine (Pinus taeda) grow throughout the state and impact the timber and reforestation industries in a significant way.
Most Frequent Tree Problems
Like any living organism, trees can come down with ailments that require close attention and care. Some tree problems arborists see frequently are problems such as:
- Borers (like the emerald ash borer that has spread throughout the Midwest)
- Tree diseases such as Dutch elm disease or oak wilt, among other varieties of diseases
- Scale insects and leaf eating insects
If you believe your tree is suffering from any of the above problems or generally seems to have become less robust, a certified arborist can help! Our team includes arborists who are adept at determining if tree trimming and pruning, tree injections, or tree removal is a necessary solution to the problem at hand.
Contact Tree Care Experts in Little Rock, AR
David’s Tree Service is here to help residents in Little Rock and the surrounding communities with their tree problems! If you want help identifying trees or have questions about tree care, contact us to learn about our services today!