How to Use Joy's Tree Finder

This TreeFinder webpage provides several ways in which to identify a tree, making it easier for you depending upon what is available to you at the time.  In the spring, flowers might be more readily available, so you can identify it by the characteristics of its flowers.  In the summer, the leaves are more readily available, so leaf characteristics can lead you to its identity.  In the autumn, the berry, fruit, or nut characteristics may be the main thing that will help to identify the tree.  At all times of the year, unusual bark characteristics may identify it. 

Here is how to look up a tree in this Tree Finder:

  1. Select the approach that best fits the features of the tree that are available to you and are most easily describable from your observations.  Once you have selected your approach to seaching for a tree, answer the questions on subsequent webpages to narrow down your search.

    Once your search is narrowed down by answering the questions, you can sequentially go through the trees that have those qualities.

    Here are some of the things to look for when trying to identify a tree using each of the search methods:

    1. Identifying a tree by its Leaves:
      • Whether it is a simple leaf or a compound leaf
      • Whether a compound leaf is palmate or lateral (pinate)
      • Whether a leaflet is pointed or rounded on the end
      • Whether the leaf is toothed or untoothed
      • Whether or not the leaf has lobes (large protrustions)
      • Whether or not the leaf consists of needles or scales
      • Whether needles are wide or thin or are sharp and prickly
      • How many needles are grouped into each cluster of needles
      • Whether or not scaled leaves have a flat arrangement

    2. Identifying a tree by its Flowers:
      • The color of the flower
      • The number of petals the flower has
      • The overall shape of the blossom and petals

      If you choose to identify a tree by its flowers, you can find out more about how to use that approach here at How to Use Joy's Flower Finder.

    3. Identifying a tree by its Fruit, Nut, or Seed container:
      • Whether or not there are spines on the hull of the nut
      • Whether the seeds have wings
      • Whether the seeds come in pods or grow in clusters
      • Whether the fruits are hard or soft or come in clusters
      • Whether there are cones that are flexible or stiff

    4. Identifying a tree by its Bark:
      • Whether the bark is flaky or shaggy
      • Whether the bark is rough or somewhat smooth
      • Whether the bark has deep or shallow furrows
      • Whether there are vertical or horizontal striations
      • Whether or not the bark is light in color

      Note:  Bark must be quite unique to distinguish one tree from another, so only unusual bark features are listed in this Tree Finder.

    5. Identifying a tree by its overall Shape:
      • Whether the thinner branches droop nearly straight down
      • Whether the branches grow nearly straight up
      • Whether the tree is skinny
      • Whether the tree grows to a huge diameter

      Note:  Tree shape must be quite unique to distinguish one tree from another, so only unusual tree shapes are listed in this Tree Finder.

  2. If you already know a common name or scientific name for the tree, go to the index near the bottom of this or nearly any other Tree Finder webpage to look it up in the alphabetical list, and click on one of the underlined links for that name.  There may be a link to the bark, leaf, flower, or other feature of that tree.  For tree flowers, the link will be shown in the color of its flower.

  3. When viewing an entry for a given tree, it will look something like the following:
    Common Name1 / Common Name2 / ...
    [Scientific name] *footnote numbers
    -- tree attributes1 (e.g. flower attributes)
    -- tree attributes2 (e.g. leaf attributes)
    -- tree attributes3 (e.g. bark attributes)
    -- tree attributes4 (e.g. fruit attributes)
    [Photo1] photo name1
    [Photo2] photo name2
  4. At the beginning of each tree entry, I've included all of the common names for which I am aware.  Because the same common name may refer to more than one actual species, there can be more than one link with, say, the leaf attribute by that same name within the index. 

  5. For each tree entry, there will usually be just one scientific name.  In the few cases where there is more than one scientific name, it is usually because there is some controversy about how it should be named. 

  6. If you click on the scientific name, you will be shown in a separate tab the Wikipedia webpage for that species when one is available. 

    NOTE:  When you no longer want to see the Wikipedia webpage, just close the new Wikipedia tab on your browser.

  7. Clicking on the asterisked footnote to the right of the scientific name will show you the name of the plant ID book that I used to identify the tree.  You can go to the listed page numbers to find out more information for yourself. 

    NOTE:  Click on your browser's back-arrow button to return to the Tree Finder entry that you just came from.

  8. A list of attributes of the tree will follow the names and book references.  The order of the attributes will depend upon the search method that you have chosen to look up this tree.  For example, if you chose to look up the tree by its leaf, then the attributes of the leaf will be first in the list of attributes.

  9. One or more photos will follow the list of tree attributes.  The first photo will usually be a photo of the feature that corresponds to your search method.  For example, if you chose to look up a tree by its fruit, the first photo will be of the fruit.  I've attempted to include a closeup photo of each noteworthy attribute of the tree, as well as a photo showing the tree's overall shape.

  10. The name of the photo file is shown to the right of each photo.  I normally used the following format when naming a photo:

    1. General tree type (e.g. Maple or Beech)
    2. Specific tree species (Common name like Sugar or American)
    3. The date that the photo was taken in yyyy or yy, mm, dd format
    4. An abbreviation of where the photo was taken
    5. Arbitrary numbers or letters to make the name unique (A, B, 1, 2, 3)

    So a typical photo name might look like:

  11. For photos where the primary feature was its flower, the photo naming convention was altered to prefix the naming format above with the flower color and number of petals (e.g. Red4, White5). 

    A typical flower photo name might look like:

  12. The date in the photo name will help the reader to get a general idea of when certain features (such as flowers and fruits) were available for the location where the photo was taken.

  13. If you click on a photo, a larger view of that photo will be shown in a separate tab.  If you click on the enlarged photo, the photo may be enlarged again in place. 

    NOTE:  When the enlarged photo is no longer wanted, just close that tab on your browser.  Clicking on a photo does not cause you to lose your place on the webpage.

  14. If a tree is normally limited in natural settings to certain areas of North America, a range map may be shown at the end of the tree's entry.  Trees planted by man may exist outside of their natural range.  The lack of a range map may indicate a very wide distribution, or that it is an introduced species that is not native.

About Joy's Flower, Tree, and Plant Finders

Index of Common Tree Names

Index of Scientific Tree Names

Joy's Plant Finder Glossary

Joy's Tree ID References