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Unlock the secret to tree identification

Published September 9, 2013
Tree in a field

URBANA, Ill. - Knowing your trees can help diagnose disease, said a University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator.

“Pathogens and problems can be specific to a particular species,” said Andrew Holsinger. “Knowing the identity of the tree is the first step toward deducing what plant disease may be affecting your tree.”

Holsinger suggested some resources that can help in tree identification.

“It goes beyond just looking at the shape of the leaves,” he said. “There are many more characteristics that can be used in identification.”  Leaf arrangement is one of those differences.” Maple trees typically have opposite leaves,” Holsinger said. “The leaves are arranged opposite of each other on the stem.”

If the leaves are not opposite, it’s probably not a maple.

The use of a dichotomous key is one of the easiest methods to identify a tree.  “Dichotomous means ‘dividing into two parts’ so the key gives only two possibilities to choose from at a time, narrowing your options until you arrive at the identity of the tree.

“Winter tree identification works in a similar manner,” he said. “Bark patterns and bud structures are unique to each tree species and are often used in winter identification.”

Holsinger offered several websites that may be helpful in tree identification.

http://woodyplants.nres.uiuc.edu/

https://pubsplus.illinois.edu/X780.html

http://urbanext.illinois.edu/treeselect/index.cfm

http://dnr.state.il.us/orc/urbanforestry/treeid.htm