Introduction to Trees, Bushes and Woody Vines

The identification schema presented here for trees, bushes and woody vines (hereafter referred to as "trees") differs somewhat from that used for wild flowers. The features useful for identification are not identical in the two groups and there are, of course, many more species of flowers than of trees. There is the same spectrum of flower architecture, from radial and bilateral symmetry to little or no symmetry at all, but the fruit of trees seems more varied and more useful for identification than in wild flowers. Trees are with us all year long, and it is often possible to identify an unknown even when it is not in flower. This schema will address the flowers, leaves, bark and fruit of trees separately.

Tree flowers are divided into several broad categories and if a tree is in flower it should be possible to place the tree in one of these categories. Families within each category are briefly described in terms of leaves and fruit to aid in the assignment of an unknown tree to one, or at most a few families. Reference to these families should then lead to a specific tree name.

Only relatively unusual leaves are noted: Compound leaves, subdivided into palmately and pinnately compound; evergreen leaves; and needle-like and scale-like leaves. The majority of trees have simple deciduous leaves and while some are distinctive many are not.

Fruits are also divided into several broad categories. The presence of cones, for instance, places the unknown in one of only a few families. The same applies to capsules and pods, nuts and acorns, keys, wings and balls. Berries (drupes are included with berries) are found in many more families but are still useful in identification.

There are relatively few woody vines in our area, and a short section is devoted to them. Since there are so few there is no attempt at classification, but brief descriptions are included to aid identification.

Unfortunately many local trees are not yet included here. When trees are crowded in forests there are no leaves, flowers or fruit close enough to the ground to photograph. Only when trees are solitary or at the edge of woods are they likely to have low branches. Nonetheless, the flowers of trees are surprisingly interesting and sometimes quite beautiful. So enjoy!