Can You Identify These Trees of North America?

By: Kennita Leon
Image: Shutterstock

About This Quiz

These beautiful trees have hunkered their roots into the North American soil and are here to stay. Are you enough of a nature-lover to identify all of them?

Mostly found on the west coast of the North American continent, Yew trees are a variety of species of coniferous trees belonging to the Taxus family. They are characterized by red barks, and green leaves that lay flat on either side of the stem. Yew species include the Western Yew, Pacific Yew, Yew Brush, and Mountain Mahogany.

If you’ve ever used pinecones for craft projects, then you may be familiar with Prickly Pine, also known as the Table Mountain Pine. Mostly found in the Appalachian Mountains in the USA, this conical tree is characterized by spiky evergreen needles, and can grow up to 12 meters high.

Thriving in moist conditions, Cypress trees can usually be found near rivers or streams. They are most popular in the southeastern United States, southern Africa, and southwestern Australia. Like the prickly pine, this coniferous tree has thick evergreen needles and a course bark.

Although they are best known for their tasty seeds, walnut trees are quite majestic. Standing up to 131 feet tall, they offer a shady canvas in the spring and summer, and a beautiful red blanket during the autumn months. Walnut trees can be found in Europe, Canada, Japan, Argentina, and the United States.

Earning its name from the red tints in its grey-brown bark, the Red Pine can grow to 115 feet, and survive for over 500 years. As a native to North America, this pine tree stands tall and proud, and is crowned with evergreen, yellow-green leaves that have survived generations.

Unlike many trees, the Gray Birch flourishes in both dry and moist conditions. Its ashen-grey, smooth trunk is usually characterized by knots from shed branches. Its dark green leaves shed during the North American winter months.

As a member of the Elm family, the Slippery Elm is usually found on the eastern side of North America. The tree is characterized by a red-brown fruit that is covered in similarly colored hairs. For this reason, the Slippery Elm is sometimes called the Red Elm.

This maple tree variety can be found in North America, Ireland, and the United Kingdom. Unlike many trees, its bark maintains a green color while its trunk is light brown. Over the seasons, its leaves turn from a deep green in the summer to a yellow-green in the spring.

Characterized by oblong, leather-like leaves and a light grey, creased trunk, this evergreen tree can only be found in five states across the USA: Arizona, Colorado, Maine, New Mexico, and Texas. The White Oak can grow up to 8 meters. However, at higher altitudes, it is typically a large shrub.

Typically associated with Beverly Hills, the California Palm is a common sight in movies. It is most notable by its long, cylindrical trunk, crowned with full fan-like leaves. When the leaves die, they turn brown and remain attached to the tree at the base of its crown. At this stage, they serve as a habitat for birds and other animals.

Distinctive features of this tree include the wart-like protuberances on its bark, serrated leaves, and edible berries. Although this tree is soft and susceptible to damage, it is typically used for cheap furniture and fencing. In other instances, you are likely to see it lining the streets in cities.

With needle-like leaves, a course bark, and small pinecones, this evergreen tree is mostly found in the southeastern United States. It thrives in moist areas, but unlike most other pines, it can tolerate some shade.

Touching the sky at over 130 feet, the Sycamore tree is among the larger tree species that have been popular for centuries. Its speckled bark is splashed with brown and gray areas, while the trunk can grow up to 13 feet wide.

Also known as the Water Oak, this tree is characterized by dark green, durable leaves, and a dark bark which becomes gradually scaly as the tree grows. Since this tree flourishes in swampy areas, it can be found in lowlands.

The butternut tree can be found in the eastern United States, southeast Canada, and Hawaii. It grows up to 66 feet tall, has odd-pinnate leaves, and bears an egg-shaped nut. This tree is shade-intolerant and found at altitudes of about 5,000 feet.

This cold-resistant tree can tolerate temperatures down to -65 degrees C. It is both coniferous and deciduous because the pin-like leaves remain blue-green until they turn yellow and fall in the autumn. They also produce brown cones that darken with age.

With yellow-green leaves and bright red berries, the Winterberry is the go-to ornamental plant for Christmas decorations. Because of its thin, gray branches, the winterberry can be described as a large shrub. It is native to the USA and can mostly be found in the east and southeastern regions.

Despite its name, the Black Oak is characterized by its yellow internal bark. With an average height of 82 feet, Black Oak trees are fairly small. Their leaves are pinnately lobed with tiny hairs growing on them.

With barks that resemble alligator skin, Sourgum trees grow to about 100 feet tall. The leaves are deep green, but turn into brilliant shades of red and orange during autumn. The Sourgum tree is most popular in the mid- to southeastern United States, as well as some parts of Canada.

Generally found along the Pacific coast of the USA, this evergreen plant can either grow as a shrub or a tree. In drier soils, it can be found as a shrub, but in moister locations, it can grow up to 150 feet tall. Its dark green leaves are complimented with fluffy yellow flowers.

With the scientific name “Umbellularia Californica," this tree can only be found in California and some parts of Oregon in the USA. The leaves are evergreen with a strong fragrance, and the flowers are small and colorful. The Myrtle also produces a fruit that is referred to as the “California bay nut."

Known for its thin, light-gray bark that peels like paper, the Paper Birch is one of the more popular species in North America. The short-lived tree grows to about 60 feet and its yellow-green leaves turn into a bright yellow during the autumn.

As the name suggests, the Water Elm is usually found in wet areas, like in swampy areas and along stream banks. This resilient tree can survive in winter temperatures as low as -42 degrees C. It is generally found in mid- to eastern USA and Canada.

This tree is sometimes colloquially known as the Alligator Tree because its bark is attached obliquely to its thin branches, giving it an eerie, reptilian appearance. The palmate leaves have five lobes, and they turn into many shades of orange during autumn. The Sweetgum is typically found in the south and eastern United States.

This tree produces its harvest five years after being planted. It goes by many names, including Mexican Walnut, Texas Walnut, and Little Walnut. The tree size ranges from 10 to 30 feet tall.

Referred to as “dogberry “ tree by Canadians, it is also known as Rowan or Mountain Ashes. This shrub grows to 10 to 20 meters tall, producing small fruit 4 to 8 millimeters in diameter. The color of the sweet fruit varies form bright orange to red, yellow and pink.

This pine tree grows to 20 to 35 meters tall and has needle-like leaves which are bundled in two. The Spruce Pine flourishes in the southern United States, namely Florida, South Carolina, and Louisiana. It is unlike other pine species in that it does not grow in pine forests, rather it can be found scattered in woodlands.

Known also as White Fir, Red Fir, and Silver Fir this high-growing tree can reach heights of 45 meters. Because it is soft, wood from this tree can be used for inexpensive construction work and to make paper. Older tree barks have furrows and darkened scales.

This tree gets its name from the ash that comes from the gray-dusted waxy underside of its leaves. The White Ash is found in forest areas and grows well near the Sugar Maple. Producing a dense white wood, makes this tree popular for everyday uses, like furniture making and flooring.

This tree thrives in moist uplands and goes by many different names, including Moose elm, Indian elm, Grey elm, and Red elm. It grows to about 12 to 19 meters tall and has reddish-brown wood. The fibers from the inner back are spun and used as twine or rope.

Producing large edible fruit, this tree can be found in 26 states of the United States. The Paw Paw tree is a small tree that reaches just 2 to 12 meters in height. The fruit of the Paw Paw tree is long, with several seeds that are yellow-brown when ripe and green when unripe.

Used as a popular Christmas tree, the Golden Fir is also known as Red Fir or Silvertip Fir. It is a great evergreen tree that can measure up to 40 to 60 meters tall, with a thick trunk and a conical-like crown. The leaves of this tree resemble cones which stand erect and are yellow-green, turn brown when ripened, and eventually fall off.

There are 10 to 13 species of this tree which is found in Asia, Europe and North America. This low-branching tree can flourish in acidic soil or basic soil. The wood from the Beech makes superior firewood because it is easy to split and burns for hours with calm flames and bright results.

This tree varies in size ranging from 20 to 40 meters tall. It is also a low-spreading shrub. Its berries are very aromatic and can be used for spices. The leaves of the Juniper tree resemble needles and are sharp and hard.

The Pecan tree is a massive growing tree reaching heights of 20 - 40 meters. The tree produces the pecan seed. The pecan has a buttery flavor and can be eaten raw or used in cooking. The Pecan tree was made the state tree of Texas in 1919.

Known also as a Nettle tree, American Hackberry and Sugarberry, this hardwood tree is medium size, ranging from 9 to 15 meters tall. It produces a small orange-red fruit in autumn. Its light yellow wood is used in fencing and furniture making. The berries are edible raw or can be used in cooking.

One of the largest growing North American Oaks, the Valley Oak tree can live to be 600 years old. Exceeding 30 meters in height and surpassing 3 meters in diameter, this tree is the tallest established North American oak. The Valley Oak produces acorns which provide food for birds and a number of mammals.

Also known as American Yellow Wood and Kentucky Yellow Wood, it is native to the southern United States. It grows to 10 to 15 meters in height, has grey bark and produces fragrant flowers and a pod-like fruit that is about 8 centimeters long.

This pine tree provides excellent timber to be used for decking, pulpwood and utility poles. This tree grows to 9 to 22 meters tall. However, due to poor growing conditions, the Black Pine does not usually grow straight.

Also known as Tupelo, this is a medium-sized tree native to North America that grows 20 to 25 meters tall. This tree is used in the production of honey as its hollow section provides a hive space for bees. The wood of the Blackgum is very tough and makes it perfect for firewood, pallets and agricultural rollers.

This small oak tree is native to the central United States, growing to about 15 meters tall. The bark of this tree has cracks with orange fissures and its leaves are dark green and glossy. It bears small acorns, about 12 to 20 millimeters in size. Its dense wood is perfect for wood burning stoves.

Also known as the Giant Redwood or Big Tree, it is the world’s largest tree and also the largest living thing by size. They grow to be 50 to 85 meters tall and 6 to 8 meters in diameter. This tree produces cones and seeds. Due to its brittle and fibrous wood, it is usually used in construction.

It is also known as Leverwood, Hardhack and Hackmatack and it is a small tree growing to heights of 18 meters tall. Due to its resilient wood, it is used to make fence posts and tool handles. The leaves are broad and veined with the upper surface being mostly hairy and the underside being relatively fuzzy.

An aromatic tree that is native to North America, this tree got its name from the French botanist, Nicholas Monardes, from the French word, sassafras. This tree grows to 9 to 35 meters tall and all parts of the tree are aromatic. It is the main ingredient in root beer and is also used medicinally to treat acne and high fevers.

This tree grows to 5 to 12 meters in height and has a smooth gray bark. The leaves are elliptical in shape and have pointed tips. Juneberry bears flowers with white petals and its fruit is a reddish purple pomme which resembles an apple. The fruit of the Juneberry is often dried or used in jams and pies.

This aromatic tree is native to Mediterranean regions but has made its way to North America. It is also known as Bay Leaf, Bay, Sweet Bay, and Grecian laurel. It is an evergreen shrub which varies in size from 7 to 18 meters tall. Laurel is used as a spice and it is a popular herb. It is also used in alternative medicine to treat rheumatism, arthritis, and high blood pressure.

This tree is also known as Horse Chestnut and has 13 to 19 flowering species. It is native to the Northern hemisphere of North America and can be described as a short shrub with sticky buds. All parts of this tree are lightly toxic, including its seeds. If ingested, it causes gastrointestinal problems.

There are more than 10 to 16 species of Mulberry trees, which are rapidly growing trees in their youth but don't exceed 12 to 15 meters in height. The fruit of the Mulberry tree is often used to make sherbets and jams. In the past, a Mulberry paste was made to treat ringworm.

During spring, the Wild Plum tree blooms with white flowers and full, tangy, brown and green fruit. Given its multi-purpose function as a fruit and an ornament, this tree is usually found on farms. However, it grows natively in northeastern USA.

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