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Our 2017 Super Quest is now live! This year’s theme is “Miraculous Trees” where we celebrate the beautiful tree diversity present in our backyard. Many of the Quests featured this year require some basic tree identification, so we’ve put together a short guide to help you!

Tree Components

General Terms

  • Deciduous: A tree that sheds its leaves annually
  • Coniferous: A tree that bears cones

Leaves

A major way we identify trees is by their leaves! Leaves carry out photosynthesis which provides food for the tree and releases oxygen into the air.

Leaf Types

  • Compound Leaf: A leaf with more than one blade (leaflet), where all blades are attached to a single leaf stem, which then attaches to the twig
  • Simple Leaf: A single leaf blade where its single stem attaches to the twig

Leaf Placement

  • Alternate: Leaves are staggered and not placed directly across from each other along a twig
  • Opposite: Two or three leaves that are directly across from each other on the same twig

Leaf Characteristics

  • Lobes: Outer Projections that shape a leaf
  • Teeth: Notches on the outer edges of a leaf
  • Sinus: The spaces between lobes of a leaf
  • Pinnate: Characteristic of some compound leaves that have more than one branch

Branches and Twigs

Grow out of the tree trunk and provide support for leaves, fruit, and flowers. Branches also branch alternate or opposite.

Seeds/ Fruit/ Flowers

These are present for reproduction purposes. Many trees have seeds or cones that are designed to spread through transport vectors, such as the wind or insects!

Trunk

A layered network that provides the tree with protection and transportation networks that move water and food throughout the tree. The outer bark is what we can visibly see to help us identify specific tree species.

  • Furrow: grooves that appear on the bark of the tree

Roots

Not terribly helpful in identification, but are extremely important in obtaining water and nutrients from the soil.

 

Now that we have a basic overview of tree features, let’s identify some common ones around the Upper Valley! Key features of a tree depend on the species, so it’s important to recognize leaves, bark, fruit, and height.

 


White pineSpecies: Eastern White Pine

Coniferous/Deciduous: Coniferous

Height at maturity (ft’): 50-80′

Key Characteristics: Alternate needles that are bunched in groups of 5, needles are 2-5” long. Cones are large and 6-8” long.

 

 

eastern hemlock

Species: Eastern Hemlock

Coniferous/Deciduous: Coniferous

Height at maturity (ft’): 60-75′

Key Characteristics: Deeply furrowed bark. Short flattened needles, with tiny brown cones.

 

 

white birch

Species: White Birch

Coniferous/Deciduous: Deciduous

Height at maturity (ft’): 50-70′

Key Characteristics: Peeling white bark, alternate toothed simple leaves. New Hampshire’s state tree!

 

 

beech

Species: Beech

Coniferous/Deciduous: Deciduous

Height at maturity (ft’): 50-70′

Key Characteristics: Leaves are simple, alternate, with parallel veins that lead to sharp incurved teeth. 3-6” long. Glossy green color in summer, copper in the fall/winter.

 

 

sugar maple

Species: Sugar Maple

Coniferous/Deciduous: Deciduous

Height at maturity (ft’): 80-115′

Key Characteristics: Bark is grey and furrowed. Leaves are opposite with 5 lobes. Vermont’s state tree!

 

 

white ash

 

Species: White Ash

Coniferous/Deciduous: Deciduous

Height at maturity (ft’): Up to 80′

Key Characteristics: Straight trunk. Blackish grey bark with ridges and deep furrows. Leaves are compound, pale green with pointed leaflets, and turn to yellow in autumn.

 

 

northern red oak

Species: Northern Red Oak

Coniferous/Deciduous: Deciduous

Height at maturity (ft’): 60-75′

Key Characteristics: Leaves are simple, alternately arranged, 4-8” long with pointed lobes. Dark green color in the summer, changing to red in autumn.

 

 

apple

Species: Apple

Coniferous/Deciduous: Deciduous

Height at maturity (ft’): 10-30′

Key Characteristics: Leaves are simple, alternate, 2-4” long with a toothed margin. Dark green leaves with white or pinkish flowers in the summer months.

 

 

 

american elm

Species: American Elm

Coniferous/Deciduous: Deciduous

Height at maturity (ft’): Up to 100′

Key Characteristics: Straight trunk, with an umbrella like crown. Deeply furrowed bark. Alternate, double toothed, light green leaves. Change to yellow in autumn. Small white flowers in the spring. Flat seeds encased in a notched wing.

 

kentucky coffee

 

Species: Kentucky Coffee

Coniferous/Deciduous: Deciduous

Height at maturity (ft’): 60-75′

Key Characteristics: Bi-pinnate compound leaves that are 2-3” long. Light green color in the summer, changing to yellow in autumn. Leathery pods that are 5-10” long that are dry and hard.

 

 

black walnut

Species: Black Walnut

Coniferous/Deciduous: Deciduous

Height at maturity (ft’): 70-80′

Key Characteristics: Pinnate, alternate, compound leaves that are 12-24 inches long consisting of 15-23 2-5” leaflets with fine teeth. Dark green color. 2” clusters that are hard, black and corrugated.

 

honeylocust

 

Species: Honey Locust

Coniferous/Deciduous: Deciduous

Height at maturity (ft’): 60-90′

Key Characteristics: Pinnate or bi-pinnate leaves that branch once or twice, bearing 8-14 leaflets. Produces large brown pods 6-8” long.

 

 

basswood

Species: American Basswood

Coniferous/Deciduous: Deciduous

Height at maturity (ft’): 60-80′

Key Characteristics: Deeply furrowed bark with large, alternate, toothed leaves

 

 

red maple

 

Species: Red Maple

Coniferous/Deciduous: Deciduous

Height at maturity (ft’): 40-60′

Key Characteristics: Features simple, green leaves 2–6″ in length with 3 or 5 lobes and sinuses that are irregularly toothed. Leaves are yellow to red in autumn.

 

 

alder

Species: Speckled Alder

Coniferous/Deciduous: Deciduous

Height at maturity (ft’): 20-30′

Key Characteristics: Trunk is smooth and thin with reddish brown bark. Leaves are simple, alternate and green with irregular teeth.

 

 

 

 

american chestnut

Species: American Chestnut

Coniferous/Deciduous: Deciduous

Height at maturity (ft’): 60-90′

Key Characteristics: Pinnate or bi-pinnate leaves that branch once or twice, bearing 8-14 leaflets. Produces large brown pods 6-8” long.

 

 

All information on this page is provided by The National Arbor Day Foundation website and Eastern Forests by John C. Kricher.