Winter Tree Identification Made Easy For Beginners

winter tree identification

Can you identify trees during winter?

Winter tree identification is not simply a matter of looking at the leaves because trees don’t have leaves in winter. Here are tips on what to look for to identify trees in winter.

I realize that tree identification in the summer can be difficult for beginners.  In the winter when the trees are dormant tree identification can be intimidating.  But, as long as you focus and look for certain things you can do it.  Here are some good tips on what you should look for to help you identify trees during winter.

winter tree identification

Be observant! Photo via Flickr.

Winter Tree Identification Tip #1 – You Need To Be Observant!

The first and most important skill for anyone that wants to learn more about the natural world is to be a good observer.  This means that you need to take your time, go slow and really look closely at things.  The closer you look at a tree, a leaf, a flower or anything, the more you will see about it.

Keep in mind that it is not easy to become an expert observer.  Like anything, it takes lots of time, practice and effort to get better at noticing things.  You can get a journal and write down your thoughts that way.  Nature journals are a good way to get you to observe closely.

winter tree identification

A twig with an alternate arrangement. Photo via Flickr.

Winter Tree Identification Tip #2 – Twigs

Find a twig from the tree you are attempting to identify.  Then on the twig look at the arrangement of the leaves or where the leaves would be, which now may just show as buds.

Look at the arrangement of the leafs on the twig – are they alternate or opposite?  Alternate means that each individual leaf comes out from the twig one at a time.  For example, one leaf comes out from the twig on the left, then up a little bit higher on the twig a leaf comes out on the right side.  Opposite means that each leaf comes out from the twig on the opposite side of another leaf.

winter tree identification

Look at the bark – this is brownish and kind of scaly. Photo via Flickr.

Winter Tree Identification Tip #3 – Bark Of The Tree

The bark of a tree can also give good clues as to what kind of tree it is.  However, be careful because the bark of some trees does change as the tree ages.

When looking at the bark notice the color.  Is it white, red, brown, or gray?

Also, pay attention to the texture.  Does the bark feel smooth, bumpy, or is it furrowed (meaning there are long grooves going up and down the tree)?

Do you see any distinguishing marks on the bark?  For example, birch trees have lots of small horizontal lines on the bark.

Winter Tree Identification Tip #4 – Look At Shape/Size of Tree

Another clue is to look at the overall shape of the tree.  Is it tall with a very narrow crown, meaning the branches are short and stay tight to the trunk?  Or is it short with a very broad crown, meaning that the branches extend far from the trunk?  Does it have just one main trunk or does it branch off and have several main trunks?

Winter Tree Identification Tip #5 – Do You See Any Seeds, Fruit, or Such On Or Near Tree?

Look all around the base of the tree and even up at the tree itself.  Sometimes you may find lots of small acorns or samaras around the base of a tree (if there is not snow!).  Or you may even find some berries, or catkins still attached to the tree itself.  These will also help you identify the tree.