A gift from my dad, this book offers a one hour tutorial on how to identify the 15 most common trees in the US. That might be a little ambitious for a single blog post, so today I'm just focusing on the ones that are not evergreen: Oak, Maple, Ash, Hickory, Aspen, Sweetgum & Elm. Whenever possible, I've included photos of leaves collected from my backyard.
The maple is the most common tree in 16 northeast states, including New York. You might recognize the leaf from the Canadian flag. The 5 veins on this leaf are in a fan shape, branching from a single point:
On an oak tree, the veins are in a fishbone pattern:
Here is an aspen leaf. It's easy to identify because it's in the shape of a spade.
These are sweetgum leaves. Sometimes people confuse with the maple because it also has a lobed fan shape. But notice that the lobes of the leaf form more of a star shape.
Here's a leaf from a Tupelo tree. Tupelo is also the city in Mississippi where Elvis was born. The tupelo leaf has no teeth -- a smooth edge.
Two common trees have leaflets -- the hickory and the ash. You can tell them apart by looking at the size of the leaflets. On a hickory, the leaflets are much bigger at the top than at the stem. (My grandfather once owned a steakhouse in Sandusky Ohio called "The Hickory." Ironically, it burned down to ash. )
On an ash tree, the leaflets are closer in size. Notice also that the ash leaf has a smooth edge.
Leaves evolved to contain lobes and leaflets because bigger leaves would rip in the wind, making the tree more susceptible to disease.
More on the evergreens next week!
About.com has an excellent tree finder function.