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information on the anatomy of that item

In order to use this program, it will be helpful if you have some background information about leaves, fruits, and trees. If you feel comfortable with what you know about leaves, fruits, and trees, you can begin going through the identification process.

NOTE: As leaves and fruits age and dry, they may change their shape and/or color.


The leaf of a tree contains the biological engine that makes life possible for the tree. The leaf receives the raw materials that Nature provides, and it makes food for the tree.

Although leaves function in similar fashion, the leaves of most trees are distinctive. And each kind of tree makes its own kind of leaf.

A Sugar Maple tree always makes Sugar Maple leaves, and a Pin Oak tree always makes Pin Oak leaves. The leaves on one kind of tree usually differ from those on another kind of tree. Closely related trees typically have similar leaves, and sometimes they are very similar and hard to distinguish. Trees that are distantly related usually have noticeably different leaves. This is convenient and helpful for you when you try to identify a tree.

A word of caution! Some trees produce leaves that don’t all look alike, and the leaves on one particular kind of tree may seem to mimic those of another.

There are two major kinds of leaves on the common trees of Ohio:

NEEDLES and SCALES are familiar on "evergreen" trees. Most of the trees with these leaves hold them throughout the winter season.

BROAD, FLAT leaves are what we see on trees that typically change color and drop their leaves after the summer’s growing season is over.

Needles are of varying lengths.

They are narrow and often pointed, and they may be more or less ROUND in cross section, or FLATTENED. They grow either singly or in bundles.

SCALES are short, flat and lie close to their stems.

There are two major kinds of broad leaves: SIMPLE leaves, and COMPOUND leaves.

A SIMPLE leaf has a single leaf blade on its stalk. The stalk in turn is attached to a woody twig. When the stalk is removed from the twig a distinct scar is left on the twig.

A COMPOUND leaf has more than one leaf blade on a stalk. These multiple leaf blades are called leaflets. The leaflets that make up a single leaf are attached to a single stalk. As with the simple leaf, when that stalk is pulled away from its woody twig it leaves a scar on the twig.

The other main thing to look for in broad leaves is the arrangement of leaves on a twig.

In some trees, leaves occur ALTERNATELY along the stem.

In other trees, leaves are arranged in OPPOSITE pairs along the stem.

To use of this characteristic you will need to know how the leaf stalks are attached to their stems. Be certain to look at its tree and note the arrangement of those leaves.

Since both of these arrangements can be found with both simple and compound leaves, there are four possible combinations: simple and alternate, simple and opposite, compound and alternate, and compound and opposite.

Now you can try to identify your tree by selecting characteristics based on your leaf sample. Once you have selected your choices, you will arrive at a FACT PAGE for a particular tree. Read about other characteristics, such as fruit, bark and shape. These will help you to be certain of the tree’s identity.


The fruit of a tree is part of the mechanism by which the tree reproduces itself. The fruit contains seeds. Under the right conditions each seed can produce a new tree of the same kind.

Some people think of fruits only in terms of what they buy in a market to eat. If so, they may be surprised to learn that a pine cone is a fruit, and that the maple "wings" that glide to earth in the spring are fruits. Fruits are not just what we humans eat. Many animals eat fruits, including some that we would find most distasteful if not actually poisonous.

Each kind of tree makes its own kind of fruit. Often, you will be able to identify a tree by carefully examining its fruit. Throughout this program select the condition that best describes the fruit that you have found. In making a final decision about your tree, it will be best if you can identify both leaves and fruit.

Ohio’s conifers, the trees that we sometimes call "evergreens," produce CONES. Each CONE consists of a number of SCALES. Each SCALE carries a SEED. Unlike the fruit of other trees in Ohio, the seeds lie naked on the scales. They are not enclosed by a surrounding structure.
In the case of certain fruits the seeds are covered by a FLESHY material. With some each fruit contains a single seed. With others a single fruit may contain many seeds. Examples of these are Black Cherry, Pawpaw, and Hawthorn. Often these fruits are eaten by animals or humans.
Color Some seeds are contained within CAPSULES that split open at maturity. An example of this is the Bigtooth Aspen.
The seeds of locust trees are contained in long, bean-like PODS.
The familiar ACORNS are products of oak trees. The nut which contains the seed is partially enclosed in a husk, often called a "cup."
Other trees produce fruits in which the nut is entirely enclosed in a HUSK. With different kinds of trees these HUSKS can be highly variable. Some are spiny or prickly ("bur"), some are smooth. Some are thick, and some are thin. Examples include hickory trees and the American Chestnut.
Maples, ash, and elm trees produce distinctive fruits with membranous "WINGS" that extend from the seed cover. These thin WINGS surround the seed cavity or extend from one end.
The Sycamore tree produces a small, plumed fruit, each with a single seed. A great many of these fruits are tightly PACKED together in a characteristic ball. Upon maturity, these fruits fall away from the ball and are dispersed by the wind.

Also, you should always read the whole description of the tree, looking for other characters that may help you, and perhaps you will want to read the descriptions of closely related trees as well.

Fruits from different groups of trees often are distinctly different from one another. Often, the different kinds of fruits will have different characters that we will use in identifying them.

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