What's That Tree? A Guide To Minnesota Trees

Have you ever been walking around your neighborhood or on a hike and thought, “what kind of tree is that?”

Or maybe you have seen some of our Facebook posts about tree disease warnings and were unsure about which trees in your yard to be concerned about.

You are not alone. Tree identification is not always easy, but it is important; you need to know what kind of tree you have before trying to take care of it.

IDENTIFYING TREES IN MINNESOTA

In the ISA-certified arborist exam there is an entire section on tree identification. But don’t worry; we are not here to test you! We just want to give you information  on how to identity the most common Minnesota trees so you can spot them on your next jog around the lakes or so you can identify unhealthy or at risk trees in your yard.

IDENTIFYING ASH TREES

 Courtesy of Dave Roberts, Michigan State University

Courtesy of Dave Roberts, Michigan State University

Identifying ash trees is especially important due to the continued spread of EAB in Minnesota. The DNR has quarantines and cutting restrictions in place, so know your trees before pruning. Here are the two things you need to know for spotting an ash tree:

  • Branches and buds are directly across from each other versus staggered.
  • Leaves compound and are composed of 5-11 leaflets.

The only other tree that has branches directly across from each other and compound leaves is a boxelder, but they almost always have 3-5 leaflets.

IDENTIFYING ELM TREES

 Copyright: Wikipedia

Copyright: Wikipedia

Identifying elm trees is also important due to the spread of Dutch elm disease. It is community effort and awareness that will help slow the spread. Here are a few go-to facts when identifying an elm:

  • Elm trees have branching trunks. Two or more trunks branch away from the main trunk. If it has a single, vertical trunk it is not an elm.
  • Elm leaves alternate along two sides of the stem. The leaf is oval with a point at the end, has prominent veins and the edges are jagged. 
  • Many varieties of elm trees have leaves that are smooth on top and fuzzy on the bottom.

IDENTIFYING BIRCH TREES

 Copyright: Wikipedia

Copyright: Wikipedia

Obviously, we have to talk about birch trees. As mentioned in our leaf spot disease blog post, birch trees are prone to getting anthracnose. Here is how you spot a birch tree:

  • The most telling sign of a birch trees is the bark. It looks like peeling paper.
  • Leaves alternate on the stem and have jagged edges.

IDENTIFYING OAK TREES

 Copyright: Wikipedia

Copyright: Wikipedia

Another tree prone to getting anthracnose are oak trees. Here are a few signs that you are looking at an oak tree:

  • Acorns are the easiest way to identify an oak tree. If it produces acorns, it is an oak tree.
  • Leaves are generally symmetrical around a prominent center line.
  • Most oak leaves have lobed leaves.

IDENTIFYING MAPLE TREES

 Copyright: Wikipedia

Copyright: Wikipedia

All the above-mentioned trees are native to Minnesota, while maple trees are actually an invasive species in Minnesota and the DNR does consider them an ecological threat. Here is how to tell if you are looking at a maple tree:

  • Maples are distinguished by opposite leaf arrangement. The leaves in most species are palmate veined and lobed, with 3 to 9 veins each leading to a lobe, one of which is central.
  • In late summer, red, two-winged, inch-long fruit grows on mature trees.

Now that you can identify common trees, we promise your walks will be more entertaining and you will be able to better care for the trees in your yard. We can’t promise that people won’t call you a tree hugger.