You Don't Need to Be an Arborist to Identify These Trees in Your Backyard

By: albertaarb - September 23, 2014

All trees share a few commonalities: a trunk, roots, leaves and branches. Some keep their leaves year round (evergreen trees), and some lose their leaves, usually during autumn (deciduous trees).

Just about anyone can spot a tree and know immediately it's a tree, but determining what kind of tree may cause a little more uncertainty. Every tree has distinctive characteristics that serve as clues to its identity; you don't need to be a tree surgeon to identify trees in your own backyard.


Apple trees are a cinch to identify when apples are present, but a little more difficult to recognize before the fruit has appeared.

       Height: Most are pruned to a maximum height of 10 feet, but can grow to 100 feet; some dwarf varieties only grow to about 8 feet.

       Leaves: Leaves are simple (one body, and a single stem runs ups through the body of the leaf), oval, and a silvery green on the underside.  Some have serrated edges.

       Bark: Usually brownish-gray with scales, patches or bumps; the tree's bark often peels in areas along the trunk.

       Blooms: Five-petal, honeysuckle-scented flowers are white, with a trace of pink around the edges.


Poplar trees are common, fast-growing backyard trees. The dancing leaves that move with the slightest breeze characterize deciduous poplars.

       Height: 30 to 150 feet -- can vary greatly, depending on the variety.

       Leaves: Simple round, heart- or egg-shaped turn yellow in autumn.

       Bark: Smooth, creamy white, gray, or bronze-brown bark may become coarse and ridged in older trees.

       Blooms: Pollen-bearing catkins emerge in spring.


Tall, attractive, aromatic cedars prefer moist habitats. These evergreen trees are members of the pine family and are often confused with juniper trees.

       Height -- Attain heights of 100 feet or more, but generally grow to about 50 feet.

       Leaves -- Silvery green leaves resemble needles rather than true leaves. The needle/leaves grow on side branches.

       Bark -- Grayish-brown bark with a shaggy or scuffed appearance.

       Blooms -- Cedar trees produce cones that aid in reproduction.


Birch trees are easily identifiable because of their white, gray or salmon-colored bark; too, their bark peels like paper as the tree matures. Like cedars, birches thrive in wet areas.

       Height -- Reach a height of about 80 feet.

       Leaves --  Simple, diamond-shaped, toothed leaves turn yellow in fall.

       Blooms -- In spring, catkins suspend from branches, as do seed-bearing winged, helicopter-like pods.


Junipers and cedars are often confused because of their blue-green needles and evergreen beauty. Most junipers only grow to about 15 feet and often resemble shrubs, rather than trees. In fact, they are often used as tall hedges. Needles turn yellow-brown in winter, but do not drop.


Stately elm trees once lined the streets of many small-town North American communities before Dutch Elm Disease decimated many elms.

       Height -- Elms grow to heights between 30 and 130 feet, and can have

       Trunk -- Rough, coarse, light-gray or brown bark. Elms often take on a large umbrella shape when mature.

       Blooms -- Hidden yellow or purplish blooms.


Maple trees are best known for their dramatic displays of fall colors: reds, purples and oranges. Maple leaves are also distinctive with several defined lobes.

       Height -- Heights range from 35 - 140 feet

       Flowers -- Brush-like green, yellow orange or red flowers emerge in early spring.

       Fruit -- "Whirlybirds" or "maple keys" describe the fluttering seed-containing "fruit" of a maple tree.

If you're still confused as to how to identify trees on your property or in your neighborhood, call Alberta Arborists. We identify trees, but we also inspect them for disease and advise you on the proper tree treatment to help solve the problem.

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