“How do I go about identifying a tree in my yard?” -Isabel

There are almost 700 species of trees native to the US and Canada, not to mention naturalized and exotic varieties, which is more than more of us can keep in our brains. Identifying a tree isn’t all that difficult – all you need is a little information and a good identification resource, such as a tree key or guidebook.

Step 1: Take Note of the Tree’s Features

Observe, sketch, or photograph the main features of the tree, including:

  • Leaf size and shape
  • Bark
  • Flowers
  • Fruit, seeds, or cones
  • Overall shape and size

If you’re out walking and need a shortcut, you can make a fairly accurate identification simply using a leaf sample.

Step 2: Consult a Tree Key or Identification Guide

A “tree key” is designed to help you identify your tree by answering a series of multiple-choice questions. Most tree keys begin by asking you if the tree has needles or broad leaves, and it goes on to more detailed questions. Some tree keys also offer identification by twig, flower, or seed. There are many online tree keys available, including:

Another good resource is a tree identification guidebook, which categorizes trees according to leaf shape, flower type, fruit, cones, and seeds. Some tree identification guides include:

  • National Audubon Society Field Guides to Trees
  • Peterson Field Guide Series for Trees
  • Tree Finder

No matter what resource you use, simply compare your sample and information to the guide, and you will soon have your tree identified. Most have photos or diagrams that help to make sense of the terminology, and most have an easy step-by-step process to narrow down the choices. Before you know it, you’ll have that tree identified!


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    Danny Lipford


    Danny Lipford is a home improvement expert and television personality who started his remodeling business, Lipford Construction, at the age of 21 in Mobile, Alabama. He gained national recognition as the host of the nationally syndicated television show, Today's Homeowner with Danny Lipford, which started as a small cable show in Mobile. Danny's expertise in home improvement has also led him to be a contributor to popular magazines and websites and the go-to source for advice on everything related to the home. He has made over 200 national television appearances and served as the home improvement expert for CBS's The Early Show and The Weather Channel for over a decade. Danny is also the founder of 3 Echoes Content Studio, TodaysHomeowner.com, and Checking In With Chelsea, a décor and lifestyle blog.

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