Spring is in full bloom and trees are beginning to look green again. Learning how to identify trees in yards, neighborhoods and local parks provides insight into the diversity and relationships found in nature. Lenny Farlee, Purdue Extension Forester, shares how to identify trees native to Indiana.
Leaf arrangement is one of the first characteristics to check for on deciduous (trees that lose their leaves annually) broadleaved trees that make up the majority of our native species. The two arrangements we commonly find are alternate and opposite.
Opposite arrangement means the leaves are held on the twig directly opposite of one another. Alternate leaf arrangement means the leaves are arranged on the twig in an offset manner. We have one leaf, then another in a zig-zag or spiral fashion.
There are only a few native tree families with opposite leaf arrangements: Maple, Ash, Dogwood, Catalpa, Buckeye. You can remember these from the anacronym MAD Cat Buck – Maple, Ash, Dogwood, Catalpa, Buckeye. Almost all other native trees have alternate leaf arrangements.
The next characteristic to check is if the tree has simple or compound leaves. To do this, we need to understand the difference between a leaf and a leaflet. A leaf has a bud at the base of the stem. The entire structure after the bud is the leaf.
A simple leaf is singular and never divided into smaller leaflets. A compound leaf consists of several or many leaflets joined to a single stem after the bud.
ID That Tree, Playlist, Purdue Extension – Forestry and Natural Resources YouTube Channel
A Woodland Management Moment, Playlist, Purdue Extension – FNR YouTube Channel
Purdue Extension, website
Shrubs and Woody Vines of Indiana and the Midwest, The Education Store, Purdue Extension Resource Center
Native Trees of the Midwest, The Education Store
Investing in Indiana Woodlands, The Education Store
Forest Improvement Handbook, The Education Store
Lenny Farlee, Sustaining Hardwood Extension Specialist
Purdue University Department of Forestry and Natural Resources