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Tree and Invasive Plant Identification

What is this tree?

Identifying Trees

Being able to identify one tree from another is a good starting point in getting to know your woods. Much of what we want to do with our woods depends on what types of trees we have or want, from wildlife viewing to recreation to hunting. When learning how to identify trees, you will also learn about the various characteristics that can benefit you and your woodland goals.

With a little practice, anyone can develop the skills and knowledge it takes to identify any tree they encounter. Many tree identification guides use a dichotomous key. This type of key offers a series of choices that narrow down what the tree might be. Each choice offers two options for a distinguishing characteristic, such as the branch, leaf or fruit. Common choices you might have to make are defined here:

coniferous, deciduous
opposite, alternate
simple, compound
-margins (toothed, smooth, lobed, sinus)

Check out our self-paced class on identifying trees to learn more about how to use a dichotomous key.

Here are a few web resources to help you identify a tree:
WI Department of Natural Resources Tree Key
UW-Green Bay Herbarium

Invasive Plants

We have introduced plants from all over the world, to Wisconsin, to add beauty or a new fruit or a new food source for livestock. Most of these have been relatively harmless, but some of these plants can cause problems due to the absence of their natural predators and other controlling conditions. In turn, these plants are dramatically changing the character of our forests.

We call these non-native plants “invasive” because they invade and out-compete our native plants for resources, such as light and nutrients. Ultimately they can completely take over a forest understory creating generally poor habitat for wildlife and reducing the forests ability to regenerate itself. It is a good idea to know how to identify these invasive plants in your woods, so that you can control or eliminate them before they become a problem.

Here are a few web resources to help you identify some of these plants:
Common and glossy buckthorn
Garlic mustard
Non-native honeysuckle
Japanese barberry

Self-paced “Tree Identification” Lesson

In this first lesson, you will learn to use a tree key to identify tree species.
After this lesson, you will be able to:
1) use a tree identification key,
2) identify the main species of trees in your woodlot.

Additional Resources:
Tree Identification Key
** Prior to this lesson, it is recommended that you open, and print, this tree key in order to follow along.

If you have questions after this lesson, please email us.
See the main page for more self-paced lessons and non-Flash versions.

Learn In Less Than 5 video: Identifying trees in your woods

Related Blog Posts

Controlling invasive species in your woods
Recreation and invasive pests
June is invasive species awareness month
Spring wildflowers and edibles

Related Publications

Forest Trees of Wisconsin
Invasive species section in publications

Related Links

DNR invasive plants control videos
Invasive Plants Association of Wisconsin (IPAW)

Looking for More Information? Try:

How Trees Grow

Hear from a Woodland Owner

Shackelfords talking about invasive plants