Leaf identification is the best way to properly identify the type of tree that is gracing one’s presence. Strolling through a forest or park can be a refreshing and meditative experience that will be enhanced by even a nugget of knowledge regarding what leaves comprise these havens of nature.
Identifying leaves is a fairly simple process that requires only brief observation. There are two very basic types of leaves that decorate North American trees: needles and simple or compound leaves. Needles will most easily come to mind if one imagines a Christmas tree (which is most commonly a fir tree; the advantage to using a fir tree for Christmas is its ability not to shed). A simple leaf is comprised of a midrib, stalk, and veins – it is the standard leaf commonly found in one’s backyard that grows directly off the tree. A compound leaf is defined by its body structure: several leaflets attached to a common stalk. The shape of simple leaves will help characterize the tree whence they came. The most common shapes that simple leaves may take are linear, round, or lobed. Compound leaves, on the other hand, are identified not only by shape but also by amount of leaflets to an individual stalk. A trifoliate compound leaf, for instance, entails three round-shaped leaflets to the main stalk.
Another key factor in leaf identification is arrangement of leaves on the tree twig. The two most basic arrangements are alternate and opposite. An alternate arrangement entails leaves that do not grow directly across from one another any tree arm or twig. An opposite arrangement entails a more symmetric patterning; each leaf grows directly opposite another on any tree arm or twig.
For trees that bear needles, two sub-considerations are significant to remember: arrangement and color. The needles of a tree will either be arranged as clusters or single needles, and the color of each individual needle will usually vary between green, yellow and white.