Being able to identify one tree from another is a good starting point in getting to know your woods. Much of what we want to do with our woods depends on what types of trees we have or want, from wildlife viewing to recreation to hunting. When learning how to identify trees, you will also learn about the various characteristics that can benefit you and your woodland goals.
With a little practice, anyone can develop the skills and knowledge it takes to identify any tree they encounter. Many tree identification guides use a dichotomous key. This type of key offers a series of choices that narrow down what the tree might be. Each choice offers two options for a distinguishing characteristic, such as the branch, leaf or fruit. Common choices you might have to make are defined here:
-margins (toothed, smooth, lobed, sinus)
Check out our self-paced class on identifying trees to learn more about how to use a dichotomous key.
We have introduced plants from all over the world, to Wisconsin, to add beauty or a new fruit or a new food source for livestock. Most of these have been relatively harmless, but some of these plants can cause problems due to the absence of their natural predators and other controlling conditions. In turn, these plants are dramatically changing the character of our forests.
We call these non-native plants "invasive" because they invade and out-compete our native plants for resources, such as light and nutrients. Ultimately they can completely take over a forest understory creating generally poor habitat for wildlife and reducing the forests ability to regenerate itself. It is a good idea to know how to identify these invasive plants in your woods, so that you can control or eliminate them before they become a problem.
In this first lesson, you will learn to use a tree key to identify tree species.
After this lesson, you will be able to:
1) use a tree identification key,
2) identify the main species of trees in your woodlot.
Tree Identification Key
** Prior to this lesson, it is recommended that you open, and print, this tree key in order to follow along.