Posted January 29, 2020
When identifying trees, looking at the leaves is typically the first step; however, this is much more difficult in the winter since most trees have lost their leaves. To identify trees in winter, the shape of the tree, bark, and buds, from which new leaves emerge, are used.
American beech trees (Fagus grandifolia) have a tall, oval shape with smooth gray bark, which is often compared to the look and texture of elephant skin. Variations in appearance can be caused by beech bark disease, which causes the bark to have bumps with white spots.
Paper birch trees (Betula papyrifera) typically have a single trunk that is narrow at the top. The bark is white and papery, and it tends to peel on older trees.
Red maple trees (Acer rubrum) have a broad oval shape with a short trunk. The bark is usually gray; it is smooth on young trees, and it is broken and cracked on older trees.
Eastern white oak trees (Quercus alba) are broad with a short trunk and gnarled branches. The bark is an ashy-gray color and can be furrowed and scaly.
For more information on identifying trees by their buds, click here!
To try identifying trees this winter, check out a field guide at your local library, and get outside!