A nontechnical winter key to the fifty trees


1. Leaves persistent and green throughout the winter, needle-shaped, awl-shaped, or scaly (see summer key).
1. Leaves deciduous,  not remaining on trees throughout winter.

2. Twigs with lateral wart-like branches, slender, glossy brown, resinous.

(28) American Larch

2. Twigs lacking lateral wart-like branches.

3. Arrangement of branches, leaf scars, and buds opposite.

4. Twig stout, gray to brown in color; buds brown or black (ashes).

5. Buds rusty brown; bark dark brown, corky in texture with
diamond-shaped fissures. 

(3) White Ash

5. Buds usually black; bark ashy gray without ridges, scaling off easily.

(2) Black Ash

4. Twigs slender, red to brown; buds red or brown (maples).

6. Buds narrow, sharp-pointed, brown.

(33) Sugar Maple

6. Buds broad, blunt-pointed, reddish color, often clustered.

7. Twigs lacking odor when broken.

(31) Red Maple

7. Fresh twigs with rank odor when broken.

(32) Silver Maple

3. Arrangement of branches, leaf scars, and buds alternate.

8. Terminal bud absent (first lateral bud may seem terminal but is not).

9. Bud with only one scale, forming cap over bud.

10. Twigs stout, zigzagging, brown.

(47) Sycamore

10. Twigs slender, not zigzagging, green to brown.

(50) Black Willow

9. Bud with many scales.

11. Buds very small, inconspicuous; twigs with spines or thorns.

12. Twigs usually bearing spines in pairs at nodes; twigs slender, reddish to greenish brown, brittle.

(29) Black Locust

12. Twigs usually bearing branched thorns; twigs stout, zigzagging, smooth, glossy.

(30) Honey-Locust

11. Buds medium to large, conspicuous; twigs lacking spines or thorns.

13. Buds lopsided or bulging on one side at the base, green to red; twigs zigzagging.

(6) Basswood

13. Buds symmetrical, lacking bulge at base, brown; twigs not zigzagging.

14. Twigs stout, pith star-shaped.

(15) American Chestnut

14. Twigs slender, pith circular.

15. Bark of trunk scaly.

16. Scales easily removed when rubbed.

(26) American Hophornbeam

16. Scales difficult to remove when rubbed (elms).

17. Buds dark, chestnut-brown, with long rusty hairs at tip; twigs light gray, hairy, mucilaginous when chewed; inner bark of trunk with alternating white and dark layers.

(19) Slippery Elm

17. Buds light red-brown, mostly lacking hairs; twigs red-brown, smooth; inner bark uniform.

(18) American Elm

15. Bark of trunk smooth.

18. Bark dark bluish gray.

(27) American Hornbeam

18. Bark chalky white.

19. Bark peeling off in thin papery layers, lacking triangular patches.

(10) Paper Birch

19. Bark not peeling off in papery layers, with distinct triangular patch below each branch where it joins the stem.

(9) Gray Birch

8. Terminal bud present either surrounded by a cluster of buds or borne singly.

20. Terminal bud surrounded by a cluster of buds at end of twig; fruit an acorn (oaks).

21. Buds oval or rounded.

22. Buds oval, rather blunt at top, somewhat woolly, especially upper half, red-brown; twigs light red.

(37) Scarlet Oak

22. Buds rounded, blunt-pointed, red-brown.

(38) White Oak

21. Buds sharp-pointed.

23. Buds covered with dense yellow-gray wool.

(34) Black Oak

23. Buds smooth.

24. Buds light yellow-brown; twigs light orange.

(35) Chestnut Oak

24. Buds red-brown; twigs red-brown to green-brown.

(36) Northern Red Oak

20. Terminal bud borne singly. (In the birches only the short spur-like lateral twigs have terminal buds, not the long shoots.)

25. Buds with 3-4 dark brown smooth outer scales spreading away from bud; bark peeling in long strips.

(25) Shagbark Hickory

25. Buds variously colored with various number of scales; flattened against twig or spreading; bark usually tight, not peeling.

26. Buds covered with close-fitting woolly scales.

27. Twigs with chambered pith (walnuts).

28. Pith cream colored; twigs lacking "mustache" of hair beneath bud.

(49) Black Walnut

28. Pith chocolate-colored; twigs with "mustache" of hair beneath bud.

(12) Butternut

27. Twigs solid, lacking chambered pith.

29. Twigs brittle, brown, smooth; buds dark brown.

(17) Cucumber Tree

29. Twigs tough, yellow to red-brown color, hairy toward end; buds yellow.

(23) Bitternut Hickory

26. Bud scales smooth, not woolly.

30. Bud with 2 scales united into a cap; twigs brittle with aromatic odor.

(48) Tulip Tree

30. Bud with more than two scales.

31. Twigs with wintergreen flavor or aroma; terminal bud on spur-like lateral branches only.

32. Twigs with strong wintergreen flavor, red-brown; bark black, smooth, lacking papery fringes.

(8) Black Birch

32. Twigs with slight wintergreen flavor, yellow-brown; bark yellow-gray with papery fringes.

(11) Yellow Birch

31. Twigs lacking wintergreen flavor and aroma; terminal bud on lateral branches.

33. Lateral buds usually same size as terminal bud.

34. Buds usually round, red to chestnut-brown; thorns on twigs.

(21) Hawthorn

34. Buds long, sharp-pointed.

35. Buds tinged with purple; the lateral buds flattened against twig.

(44) Shadbush

35. Buds red-brown, the lateral buds bending away from twig.

(7) American Beech

33. Lateral buds smaller than terminal bud.

36. Bark and twigs spicy aromatic.

(43) Sassafras

36. Bark and twigs odorless or with bitter almond odor, not spicy aromatic.

37. Twigs and bark with bitter almond odor and taste, slender (cherries).

38. Twigs red-brown; bark on trunks becoming scaly.

(13) Black Cherry

38. Twigs bright red; bark remaining smooth; buds very small.

(14) Pin Cherry

37. Twigs lacking bitter almond odor or taste.

39. Twigs very tough; lacking rank odor.

(24) Pignut Hickory

39. Twigs brittle, with rather rank odor when broken (poplars).

40. Lateral buds flattened against twig; twigs slender, red-brown.

(5) Quaking Aspen

40. Lateral buds spreading away from twig; twigs red-brown or yellow.

41. Buds large, shiny, often slightly resinous; twigs bright yellow.

(16) Eastern Cottonwood

41. Buds medium, dull, dusty looking; twigs red-brown.

(4) Bigtooth Aspen

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