Tree identification can be very challenging in winter, but some trees are much easier than others to start with.
So let’s look at 4 common trees that are also some of the easiest to identify in winter.
It’s all here in the following video:
For the video mentioned at the end: Go check out How To Read The Secrets Of A Forest
You can also read below for more details on how to identify these trees in winter. We’ll look at bark, buds, and dried leaves remaining from the previous growing season.
How To Identify Birch Trees In Winter
Most birch trees can be easily identified in winter by their colorful and eye catching bark.
As the name suggests, white birch has white bark. Yellow birch has a yellow/gold bark, and silver birch has bark with a silvery shine.
Many birches also have bark that peels away in layers which is a particularly prominent feature of white/paper birch.
Other species of birch like gray birch have less peeling and overall less colorful bark, which can make them a bit more difficult to identify.
If you ever feel uncertain about whether a tree is birch, study the bark closer and look for little horizontal lines.
Even birches with less obvious bark like gray birch can be identified by these little horizontal lines on the trunk.
Young birches also typically have bark that looks very different from adult birches, but can be identified in winter by these small horizontal lines.
Birches also frequently have catkins in winter.
Look for these key identification traits and you’ll be able to identify birch in winter.
How To Identify Oak Trees In Winter
In winter, Oak trees commonly hold onto their dried and dead leaves, which makes them extremely easy to identify. Oak leaves have a very distinct and unusual shape with numerous pointed lobes coming off the sides.
The number of leaves retained by oaks in winter ranges from many dozens down to just 1 or 2. Spotting these few remaining leaves is the easiest way for beginners to start identifying oak trees in winter.
Remember to look up high in the tree because full grown trees may only have a few leaves remaining in their canopy.
Old Oak trees also have a very distinct silhouette with thick trunks and many gnarly branches reaching out in all directions.
The trunks of younger oaks often have small white splotches, and develop long vertical ridges that run up and down the trunk, giving it a less rounded shape compared to other trees.
This shapely trunk is a subtle trait but easily noticed once you know how to spot it.
Oak buds are small, brown and tear drop shaped.
It’s always good to study the buds of every tree you identify because it gives you a solid point of comparison with other trees.
How To Identify Beech Trees In Winter
Beech trees have some of the most distinctive and interesting buds of all trees during the winter season. Beech buds are long and sharp with a distinct orange color.
Similar to Oaks, beeches also commonly hold onto their dead, brown leaves during winter. This feature is most prominent in young beeches, but can sometimes be seen on older trees too.
Beech leaves have very distinct parallel veins fanning down to many small points at the edge of the leaf, and a prominent point at the tip.
Their leaves make a characteristic trembling sound in the winter winds, which even makes it possible to identify these trees by sound.
How To Identify Maple Trees In Winter
Maple trees are one of the few north american tree species that have an opposite branching pattern.
Opposite branching means their branches grow off the trunk in sets of two immediately opposite each other. This same pattern can also be seen in how the buds grow off the branches.
If you want to learn more about branching patterns, read my other article on how to start learning about plants which includes more examples of opposite branching compared with other types of branching patterns.
Most maples have distinctly smooth bark when they’re younger. This is a great way to distinguish young maples from young ash because ash trees have bark that’s much more rough.
As maples get older they develop much more chunky, rough and deeply ridged bark.
It’s also extremely common for maples to become covered in lichens and mosses.
Maple buds are very small and thin.
Additionally, red maple trees have a very distinctive red color throughout their branches and buds. Their opposite structure is visible even in the bud.
Ash trees also have opposite branching, but their buds are much larger and have a more rounded appearance than maple buds. Ash buds have a striking, almost fuzzy appearance that is overall much more noticeable.
There are also a number of shrubs such as elderberry that have opposite branching. Most shrubs can be easily distinguished from maples by their short height, never reaching much more than 15 feet, and frequently have multiple trunks.