Winter Tree Identification

No leaves? No problem

Winter Tree Identification

When it comes to identifying trees in winter, there are two main types: Deciduous, those that drop their leaves, and coniferous, those that keep their leaves all year round (also known as evergreen). We can identify coniferous trees the same way in which we would in summer but it can seem a harder task to identify leafless trees. However, there are a number of alternative key features to look out for.

Goat Willow buds alternating along twig
  1. Buds: Buds are like leaves in that they are very specific to each tree, essentially a fingerprint. They grow in particular patterns, either directly opposite each other on the twig or alternating or even spiralling along the twig. They come in a whole range of colours from dark purple to bright green. Some appear hairy, like those of the Rowan, where others are smooth or sometimes even sticky.  
  1. Bark: The bark of a tree can be a great indicator of the species. Firstly, different trees have different colours of bark. For example the Cherry has a distinct reddish bark, and of course the Silver Birch which is very pale and silvery hence the name. Secondly, tree barks come in a range of textures. Sycamores have a very scaly bark, whereas others such as the Beech have a very smooth bark. Others have lenticels which look almost like horizontal stripes across the bark.
Male and female catkins of an Alder tree
  1. Clues: Is there any leaf litter surrounding the tree? Usually when tree’s drop their leaves they will remain in the vicinity so have a look and see if there are any clues. Some trees, such as Oak, also retain a small amount of leaves which can be a big clue. Does the tree have any flowers or catkins? You might have spotted some trees that have what look like mini pine cones or even caterpillars hanging from their branches like in the picture to the left. 

Using these features, you will easily be able to identify these trees using a guide book, a key, or a handy app such as the Woodland Trust British Trees app.

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