Generally trees are divided into two main categories conifers and broadleaf trees. Broadleaf trees are considered hardwoods and the conifers are considered to be softwoods. The conifers are cone-bearing trees with needle like leaves. In some species the needles are scale-like (cedars and jumipers are examples of trees that have scale-like needles). All conifers except the cypress are evergreen.

Identification of conifers is based on the location, number and length of needles. Needles may be attached to the twig in a solitary fashion or arranged on the twig in fascicles. Solitary needles occurs in firs and spruces. Needles in fascicles are found in all other pine trees. The number of needles in a fascicle and their length is a good indicator of the species.

needle type

Broadleaf species are characterized by broad leaves, varied fruit and deciduous leaves (except for the magnolia, holly and the live oak which keep their leaves year round). The following four characteristics can be used to identify most broadleaf trees:

leaf arrangement leaf type leaf margin leaf shape

Fruit and bark can also be used to identify trees. Tree fruits can be cones, nuts, berries, pods, or winged. The three basic types of tree bark are smooth, square and scaly.

Tree Identification
[Needle type][Leaf arrangment][Leaf type][Leaf shape][Leaf margin]
Example tree key

Last modified July 30, 1999