Identifying Trees for Fun and Profit

Identifying Trees for Fun and Profit

Everyone likes to look smart, right?

Folks like to impress other folks else with their knowledge of the world and all things in it.  So why not study up on some seasonally-appropriate facts to offer up at your various autumnal gatherings?  Here are some common and easy-to-identify species of tree that you can use to appear worldly and more ecologically-minded than you may actually be.



Acer saccharum (sugar maple)

maple leaf

Interesting things to say:

Maple wood is the choice material for things like bowling pins, pool cues, and butcher blocks.  It is also used (along with ash and hickory) to make wooden baseball bats, however maple bats are less popular due to their higher likelihood to shatter under extreme stress.

Maple is also considered to be a ‘tonewood’.  This means that the wood itself carries sound waves well, and is often used in the manufacturing of musical instruments. Specifically, things like guitars, cellos and violins.


Quercus velutina (Black Oak)

oak leaf

Interesting things to say:

Pig farmers used to plant oaks near their pig enclosures so the acorns would eventually fall into the pen and help feed/fatten the pigs for the cost of nothing but sunshine and rain.

Oaks also make great material on which to grow shiitake mushrooms (and other gourmet types). Chances are pretty good you have some very healthy mushrooms growing on a nearby oak right now (but don’t go eating them until you are sure of what you have).


Betula papyrifera (Paper Birch)

birch leaf

Interesting thing to say:

Due in large part to their usefulness and natural beauty, birch trees have been considered sacred for a very long time. People used to hang birch twigs above doors and entryways in order to ward off mischievous spirits that were known to cause sickness and impotence.  Seriously.


Ulmus americana (American Elm)

elm leaf

Interesting thing to say:

Elm wood is super durable.  Because of its toughness, it was used to create wagon wheel hubs and flooring.


Salix alba (White Willow)

willow leaf

Interesting things to say:

Willow wood is great for making wooden toys, as well as unconventional uses such as building sweat lodges.

Willow bark can be used to treat some minor aches and pains very similar to aspirin.


With this little cheat-sheet of tree leaves and facts, you are sure to be impressing all sorts of people with your in-depth knowledge of arboriculture.  Good luck!


As always, happy gardening (and happy leaf-peeping)!


The Greencare Team