Can You Identify These Trees by Their Leaves?

SCIENCE

Jacqueline Samaroo

7 Min Quiz

Image: tihomir_todorov / E+ / Getty Images

About This Quiz

Tree huggers unite! If either dendrology or plant morphology is your thing, then you'll definitely be barking up the right tree with this quiz!

One of the most important functions of leaves is as a primary site of photosynthesis—where the vast majority of food chains start. Another of the valuable jobs leaves perform is preventing soil erosion by slowing down raindrops before they hit the ground.

From an aesthetic point of view, leaves add beauty to the landscape, whether they are in shades of green or an array of rich autumn colors. Those colors can act as identifiers for some trees whose leaves blend into the greenery around them for most of the year and then change to eye-catching hues of red, yellow, purple and brown for the fall season.

Leaves also come in a wide range of shapes and textures, including broad, flat, smooth, bumpy, curly, spiky and, of course, the characteristic needles of conifers. There are examples of all of these in the quiz - get started and see if you can spot them!

It's time to go leafing through your knowledge of trees with this awesome leaf identification quiz. Take the challenge and see how many of these trees you can name from their leaves. Get started!

This tree earns its name by being the most massive living thing on Earth, by volume. Do you recognize its leaves?

Also known as Sierra redwood and giant redwood, giant sequoia are superlative in almost every way! They have the thickest bark and limbs of all tree species, as well as the most voluminous trunks. Giant sequoia are also among the world's oldest trees.

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Despite its name, this tree doesn't grow on the seashore—it's more a forest dweller. Can you identify it?

This hardwood tree can grow up to 100 feet tall in its natural habitat but tends to only reach half that size in home landscapes. Its wood is often used for making wear-resistant flooring and furniture. Plus, it's a great choice for making food containers, since it has no taste or smell.

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Can you name this "sappy" tree whose leaves can also turn yellow or orange, in addition to its namesake color?

The red maple or scarlet maple is well-known for its brilliantly colored leaves which stand out in the autumn landscape. Lesser known is the fact that maple syrup can be harvested from this variety of maple. Growers have to be quick about it, however, since the sap turns unpalatable early in the season.

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This native of northeastern North America is named for the golden color of its bark. Do you know which tree it is?

This tree's leaves change to bright yellow in autumn, but it's the color of the bark which gives the yellow birch its name. Thin curls of silvery yellow bark decorate the tree for most of its life, while the more mature trunks take on a red-brown or bronze color instead.

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It doesn't bite, but this tree's bark and tons of showy blossoms will certainly grab your attention. Which of these is it?

The flowering dogwood is a popular ornamental plant which can live up to 80 years in the right climate. It blooms continuously for approximately 3 weeks with the most common color of the flowers on wild trees being white. Cultivated trees have flowers of pink or red.

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You would be headed in the right direction if your journeyed to Mississippi to find this tree. Do you know it?

The beautiful southern magnolia is the state tree of Mississippi. Its scientific name is magnolia grandiflora, referring to its large flowers which can grow to be as much as 12 inches across. These showy white flowers have a rich, pleasant, lemony scent.

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This tree's bark is dark on the outside and orange-yellow on the inside but do you recognize it from its leaves?

The eastern black oak has antiseptic properties and was used by some Native American tribes to treat fever, sore eyes and indigestion, among other ailments. It is used to make yellow dye and its hard, coarse-grained wood gets turned into construction lumber and fence posts.

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Along with the giant sequoia, this tree serves as the official tree of a US state. Do you know its name?

The California or coast redwood is noted for being the tallest tree species in the world. In fact, the tallest single living tree in the world is a California redwood named Hyperion in Redwood National Park. The California redwood is also among the longest-living trees.

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The gentlest of breezes will cause these leaves to tremble—hence the name of the tree. Do you know it?

This distinctive tree in known as the trembling aspen or quaking aspen in reference to the easy movement (and accompanying rustling) of its lightweight, shiny, green leaves. Thanks to those leaves changing to brilliant yellow in the fall, the tree is also called golden aspen.

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The bitter fruit of this tree is used to make wine and jelly. Do you recognize its leaves?

Black cherry wood is used to make a variety of items, including toys, paneling and specific instruments. It can also add a mildly sweet but distinctive flavor to meats being smoked or barbecued. Most importantly, it is highly prized by carpenters for furniture and cabinet-making.

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These leaves belong to New Jersey's state tree which is named for its eye-catching fall colors. Can you name it?

The large leaves of the northern red oak (or champion oak) change to a splendid red color in fall, making the tree a popular choice as an ornamental plant. Thanks to its superior quality, the northern red oak is also widely used for lumber.

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This tree goes by two fruity names, one of which is the hedge apple. Can you spot the other one?

Despite its common names, this tree is neither an apple nor an orange. It is, in fact, a species of mulberry. The bumpy yellow-green fruit is unpalatable and generally considered to be inedible. This tree makes an effective hedging plant, however, due to its many spines.

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You can tell by its name that this tree holds a place of honor in one US state. Do you recognize its leaves?

The Colorado blue spruce (or simply blue spruce) gets its name from the bluish waxy powder coating its needles. This member of the pine family can grow up to 75 feet tall. Its height, combined with its near-perfect symmetry and characteristic color, makes it quite a distinctive-looking tree.

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Can you name this beach-loving relative of the coconut just by looking at its fan-shaped leaves?

The sabal palm is also known as the cabbage palm but you would have to look closely to see why. Its heart or terminal bud (at the top of the plant where new growth takes place) is, in fact, shaped like a cabbage. The sabal palm was chosen as the state tree of both Florida and South Carolina.

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These leaves are from a once common tree which bears the name of a continent. Can you spot it?

The American elm has suffered catastrophic levels of die-off due to a fungal infection known as Dutch elm disease which first arrived in the US in 1928. Very few of the trees are resistant to or tolerant of the disease which is spread by a type of bark beetle.

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These leaves are from a tree named both for its location and beautiful branches. Do you know it?

The Western redbud is a small tree which only grows to about 20 feet high but is quite impressive when in bloom. It has showy flowers which range in color from pink to purple on a single plant. Its wine-red young branches are prized among the Native American basket weavers of California.

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Despite its name, it's not the state's official tree—the Douglas fir is. Do you recognize this tree from its leaves?

The Oregon white oak (or Garry oak) is a member of the beech family. Its appearance varies according to growing conditions, ranging from a solitary tree up to 80 feet tall with widespread branches, to a grove of trees forming a canopy, or a low shrub.

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Can you identify this plant from the hickory family whose nuts make a delicious holiday pie?

The frond-like compound leaves of the pecan tree often get up to 20 inches long. This large tree can grow as much as 160 feet tall with branches spread as wide as 75 feet. The massive tree gets plenty of support from its trunk which can measure up to 6.5 feet across.

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This plant's name hints at the fact that it has quite a wide range. Can you identify it from its leaves?

The common persimmon is also known as the American persimmon and possum apple for the location it is native to and for the animals which love to eat its fruit. Its scientific name, Diospyros virginiana, hints at how delicious these fruits are—diospyros means "food of the gods."

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Most parts of this tree, including its leaves, have a characteristic spicy scent. Do you know its name?

The nut of the black walnut tree is noted for its superior taste when compared to other walnuts. Removing the nuts from their tough shells, however, is a difficult job. Plus, the brown-black dye contained in the shells is notorious for leaving your hands stained days after handling them.

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It is not uncommon for this tree to have three types of leaves but can you identify it from the ones shown here?

Sassafras was once widely used for making root beer but has been banned by the Food and Drug Administration for use in mass-produced foods since 1960. Many persons still use it as a flavoring to add a distinctive, strong lemon or fennel-like scent to foods and drinks.

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Although the bright red fall foliage on this tree is a sweet treat for the eyes, its name says otherwise. Can you identify the tree?

Sourwood is an ornamental tree from the heather family. It thrives best when planted in full sunlight and makes quite an autumn spectacle when its leaves change from rich green to brilliant red. The acidic-tasting leaves of the sourwood tree can be used a laxative.

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Do you know this popular tree's name? Hint: it sometimes gets referred to be a different (contrasting) color.

The green ash or red ash is a common tree throughout most of Canada and the United States. It thrives in open woodland and ravines as well as in wetter areas such as swamps. The green ash can also be found in urban areas where it is often planted as a shade tree.

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Can you name this tree whose spiky leaves and scarlet berries are closely associated with the Christmas holiday season?

Along with its spiky leaves, the American holly's bright red berries are on of its most distinguishing features. There are some varieties of the tree, however, which bear yellow fruit, instead. Apart from its association with Christmas, holly was also revered by the Druids and Romans.

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These leaves are from a tree whose bark develops a "bloody" color when scraped or bruised. Can you name it?

The red alder tree does not actually bleed, but its bark will turn a bright rusty red color if scraped. Scientists often use the red alder as a way to monitor ozone pollution since its leaves develop red, purple or brown spots when exposed to excess ozone.

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This tree gets its name from its edible pods which resemble large grasshoppers. Do you recognize its leaves?

Humans and the black locust have a love-hate relationship. The tree is considered an invasive species with the potential to turn grasslands into forests. Its abundant, creamy white and sweetly scented flowers make it a popular choice as an ornamental plant.

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Can you identify this Chinese native which also goes by the names princess tree and empress tree?

The paulownia grows fast in almost any type of soil, adding up to three feet to its height each year, It is fancied for its habit of being heavy-laden with beautiful trumpet-shaped, vanilla-scented, lavender flowers.

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These leaves are from a plant whose syrupy name refers to the fragrant resin it produces. Do you know the tree's name?

The sweetgum tree is a popular ornamental plant since its glossy green leaves change to bright red, yellow and purple shades in autumn. Its flowers are much less showy and usually do not appear until the tree is about 15 to 20 years old. The sweetgum tree can live up to 400 years.

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Do you recognize the leaves of this tree which is also known as the buttonwood or plane tree?

The American sycamore has several easily recognizable features. For starters, its flaky mottled bark falls off to expose a smooth patchy surface colored in green, white, brown and gray. It also has spiky, fuzzy, golf ball-sized seed clusters which dangle from the tree well into winter.

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Can you name this plant which flourishes in aquatic environments such as swamps?

The water tupelo belongs to the sour gum family. It is often found growing in swampy areas where its swollen base is visible just above the water's surface. The wood of the water tupelo ranges in color from light brown to pale yellow and is a particular favorite of carvers.

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It may not be the "weeping" variety but can you still name this tree by looking at its leaves?

The black willow is among the three largest trees of the willow species. It grows to about 65 feet tall and can be found in various environments in cooler regions. Its light, flexible bark was once the preferred choice for making prosthetic limbs.

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Can you name this drought-resistant nut-bearer just by looking at its needles?

The pinyon pine or nut pine is one of the most common pine trees in North America. Its small rose-shaped cones are quite decorative but most persons are only interested in the tree's pine nuts. They are highly nutritious and are noted as an excellent source of iron and healthy fats.

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It you recognize these lengthy needles then you probably know they belong to Alabama's state tree. Can you name the tree?

As its name suggests, the longleaf pine is distinguished by its very long needles which can grow to up to 18 inches long. As for the tree, it can reach heights of over 100 feet with a trunk more than 3 feet wide.

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It's quite likely you have heard of the Alaskan city after which this evergreen in named. Do you know what tree it is?

The Sitka spruce can grow to around 300 feet tall, making it a dominant presence in forests. Its wood is prized by luthiers (makers of stringed instruments) as an excellent tonewood for making guitars, violins and harps. The towering Sitka spruce is Alaska's state tree.

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This member of the magnolia family goes by several names, one of which refers to its showy flowers. Can you spot it?

Tulip trees have bright green leaves which change to bright yellow once autumn comes around. The trees typically do not flower until they are about 15 years old but once they start, viewers are treated to large, beautiful tulip-like flowers for the next 200 years - give or take a few years!

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The leaves of Hawaii's state tree are shown here. Its native name is kukui but do you know its other name?

The oil-rich nut of the candlenut tree was traditionally burnt as a source of light by early Hawaiians. The nuts are also eaten in various dishes throughout the countries of the region. The candlenut's nuts and flowers are also often used among the material making up the Hawaiian lei.

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This plant sheds its flat needle-like leaves very early in the season—hence its name. Do you know what it is?

Old bald cypress trees tend to be hollow, making it difficult to determine their age. One thing, however, is for certain: these trees can live for well over 600 years with one of the oldest bald cypress trees (located in North Carolina) being estimated at around 1. 600 years old!

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Five blue-green needles to a bundle is the distinguishing feature of which of these trees?

Among the Native American Iroquois, the eastern white pine is known as the Tree of Peace. It is historically held to be symbolic of the declaration of peace among the different groups making up the Iroquois Nation. The eastern white pine also serves as the state tree of both Maine and Michigan.

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This tree takes the name of the entire continent it is native to. Can you name it?

American basswood, American linden and American whitewood are some to the names given to this fast-growing tree. Its leaves are typically cordate (heart-shaped) or ovate (oval-shaped) and grow to between 6 and 10 inches long. They turn yellow or tan in the fall.

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Do you recognize the needles of this evergreen which is often used during the holidays as a Christmas tree?

The Douglas fir is put to several other uses apart for being decorated at Christmastime. It is planted in various landscapes as a year-round ornamental tree and its strong wood, which is classified a softwood lumber, is used in building construction and boat-building.

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