Identifying Trees

Despite being rooted in place, it can be surprisingly difficult to identify a tree. Local growing conditions, diseases, and disturbances can alter the appearance of a tree. Even leaves from the top of a tree can be drastically different from leaves near the base. Yeesh! Fortunately, our tree guides will familiarize you with tree anatomy and equip you with the skills and knowledge (and keys) to get you acquainted with your sylvan neighbors.

Origins + Meanings of Tree Names

Want more etymology? Check out the full guide to translating the common and scientific names of Vermont’s trees, available as both a full booklet PDF and a Google Sheet document.

Anatomy of trees

It might seem obvious that we can tell spruces from a firs, maple from ashes because they look different. Sometimes the difference is great (like the difference between the seeds of white cedar and those of red cedar) and other times it is subtle (like the difference between paper birch and yellow birch leaves). But how do these differences allow one species to outcompete another?

Here we learn the evolutionary reasons and ecological adaptations behind the various appearances of flowers, fruits, leaves, bark, twigs, and roots!

Habitat + Natural Communities

All of that morphological variation between different species isn’t all for naught. Trees compete for resources and the morphological variation represents modifications over time that species has evolved to live well in place. Here you’ll find details on habitat and natural communities, as well as a kickin’ map of field trip sites.