There are many ways of learning. My Kali instructor explained that to teach a technique he had to demonstrate it, write it down, explain it verbally.Then you have to do it. Ive found being dyslexic I have to have all these things then I still have to research and make up cheat sheets to try and get the information to stick in my head. So this cheat sheet is not only to help me learn but Knowledge is there to share. The tree identification parts of explaining and demonstration were from Paul Kirkleys online plant and tree identification course and from Craig Caudills Outdoorcore course. This is my writing down part of me learning, then I still have to go out and find half of these tree species which is difficult in my current location unless I can find them in a botanic gardens.

VARK visual, aural/auditory, reading/writing, and kinesthetic

Visual (spacial) learners learn best by seeing

Auditory (aural) learners learn best by hearing

Reading/writing learners learn best by reading and writing

Kinesthetic (physical) learners learn best by moving and doing

Verbal learners who learn best by speaking

Logical (mathematical) learners who learn best by using logic and reasoning (these learners are typically mathematically inclined)

Social (interpersonal) learners who learn best in groups

Solitary (intrapersonal) learners who learn best alone

What you hear, you forget; what you see, you remember; what you do, you understand.

Spruces are stiff and sharp, Firs are flexible and friendly.


Maple Ash Dogwood buckeye Horse Chestnut Leaf stems opposite one another everything else alternating

Pinus species have green foliage throughout the year. An exception is the eastern larch, or tamarack (Larix laricina)

White oaks have round tips, red oak have bristle tips. White Oak produce acorns every year, red Oak every second year.

Identifying Pines

The first steps in identifying pine trees is counting the number of needles per bundle. Then, notice the average length of the needles. Look at the type of bark the tree has. Pay attention to the size and shape of the pine cones on or beneath the tree. Observe the height and general shape of the tree. Finally, consider the location in which the tree is growing.

Needles grow in clusters of 2,3 and 5. Pines with clusters of 2 are red pines, pines with clusters of 3 are yellow pines. pines with clusters of 5 are white pines. Cones grow from a central stem and feel woody and thick, scales overlap.

Listed by the number of needles per bundle.

Two needles per bundle:

Pinus Sylvestris –Scots pine (needles 1-4 inches long)

Pinus clausa — Sand pine (needles 2 to 3 inches long)

Pinus contorta — Lodgepole pine (needles 1-1/2 to 3 inches long)

Pinus echinata — Shortleaf pine (bundles of either 2 or 3 needles on the same branch, needles 3 to 5 inches long, sometimes called “yellow pine”)

Pinus edulis — Pinyon pine (needles 1 to 2 inches long)

Pinus elliottii — Slash pine (3 needles, sometimes just 2 needles per bundle)

Pinus glabra Walt. — Spruce pine (needles 1-1/2 to 4 inches long)

Pinus jeffreyi — Jeffrey pine ( needles 5 to 11 inches long, usually 3 needles per bundle, but sometimes 2)

Pinus muricata — Bishop pine (needles 4 to 6 inches long)

Pinus resinosa — Red pine (needles 4 to 6 inches long)

Pinus taeda — Loblolly pine (needles 6 to 9 inches long, usually 3 needles per bundle, but sometimes 2)

Pinus virginiana — Virginia pine (needles 1-1/2 to 3 inches long)

Three needles per bundle:

Pinus attenuata — Knobcone pine (needles 3 to 7 inches long)

Pinus coulter — Coulter pine (needles 8 to 12 inches long)

Pinus echinata — Shortleaf pine (bundles of either 2 or 3 needles on the same branch, needles 3 to 5 inches long, sometimes called “yellow pine”)

Pinus elliottii — Slash pine (usually 3 needles, sometimes just 2 needles per bundle)

Pinus jeffreyi — Jeffrey pine, (needles 5 to 11 inches long, usually 3 needles per bundle, but sometimes 2)

Pinus palustris — Longleaf pine (needles 8 to 18 inches long)

Pinus ponderosa — Ponderosa pine (needles 5 to 10 inches long, usually 3 needles per bundle, but sometimes 2 or 4)

Pinus rigida — Pitch pine (needles 2-1/2 to 5 inches long)

Pinus serotina — Pond pine (usually 3 needles per bundle, but sometimes 4)

Pinus taeda — Loblolly pine (needles 6 to 9 inches long, usually 3 needles per bundle, but sometimes 2)

Four needles per bundle:

Pinus ponderosa — Ponderosa pine (needles 5 to 10 inches long, usually 3 needles per bundle, but sometimes 2 or 4)

Pinus serotina — Pond pine (usually 3 needles per bundle, but sometimes 4)

Five needles per bundle:

Pinus aristata — Bristlecone pine (needles 1 to 1-1/2 inches long)

Pinus flexilis James — Limber pine (needles 2-1/2 to 4 inches long)

Pinus lambertiana — Sugar pine (needles 2 to 4 inches long)

Pinus monticola — Western white pine (needles 2 to 4 inches long)

Pinus strobiformis — Southwestern white pine (needles 2 to 3 inches long)

Pinus strobus — Eastern white pine (needles 3 to 5 inches long)


The most definitive feature of pines is that the needles occur in clusters of 2, 3 or 5. A cluster of pine needles is called a fascicle. One subgroup of pines are the hard pines and include Scotch pine (Pinus sylvestris), jack pine (P. banksiana), black pine (P. nigra), and red pine (P. resinousa) with 2 needles per fascicle and pitch pine (P. rigida) with 3 needles per fascicle. The fascicle of the hard pines is wrapped at the base with a paper-thin layer that persists for the life of the fascicle.

The only soft pine is eastern white pine (P. strobus). The soft pines have a fascicle sheath, but it is deciduous so it sloughs off during the first growing season of the fascicle. Pine cones have relatively few scales when compared to other genera of Pinaceae. All of the pines are intolerant or mid-tolerant of shade, so will typically require moderate to high levels of sunlight to survive.


The distinguishing feature of all spruce is the presence of sterigmata. Sterigmata are post-like structures or projections on the stem to which the needles attach. These structures are most easily seen on sections of twigs closest to the main stem, after the needles have dropped. Visible to the naked eye at approximately 1 mm long. Spruce are also identified by have a four-sided needle, and needles that occur singly on the sterigmata (not clusters as do the pines). Spruce have a greater density of scales on the cone than do pine, and cone length helps differentiate among the species. From smallest to largest cones, native spruce include: black spruce (Picea mariana), red spruce (P. rubens), and white spruce (P. glauca). From other areas and common in yards are blue (P. pungens) and Norway (P. abies). The odor of spruce is commonly described as pungent to fetid. The spruces tend to be more tolerant of shade than the pines, though they grow well in sunlight.


Needles of fir are similar to spruce in their singular attachment, not clustered, to the twig. One distinguishing feature of fir is that the needles are attached directly to the twig, and when they drop they leave behind a slightly raised circular pad. Another feature of the genus, balsam fir, (Abies balsamea), is the 3 inch upright cone with deciduous scales. As the cones mature they are apparent in an upright or erect position on the branches, but when mature, the scales drop away leaving a naked cone stalk. The needles are flat, and typically two-ranked or attached on the sides of the twig as wings on a plane. The odor of firs is often that of citrus, though the odor of balsam has a less pronounced citric component that others species in the genus. Balsam fir up to a few inches in stem diameter will have resin blisters on the stem that contain a sticky and aromatic pitch. Balsam fir is tolerant of shade and often grows in the understory.


Eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) will resemble balsam fir except for three distinguishing characteristics. First, the cones of hemlock are marble-sized, pendant, and the scales remain attached. Second, the foliage has a “piney” (actually “hemlocky”) odor, but not any hint of citrus. Third, the needles, especially on eastern hemlock, are two-ranked, but also include miniature-sized needles that are attached sporadically on the upper side of the twig. The central leader often droops, and a purplish zone separates the layers of bark.


Eastern larch (Larix laricina) is distinctive by its deciduous foliage. Like black spruce it may be found growing in the saturated soils of bogs. The foliage may appear to be clustered on stubs, known as spur shoots. However, the clustered foliage is a result of a branch that does not extend; the foliage that would be otherwise arranged singly on the stem are compressed into a cluster on the spur. The cones are approximately the size of those on eastern hemlock, but are held erect. European larch (L. decidua) or Japanese larch (L. kaempferi), both have larger cones than the native species


Northern white-cedar (Thuja occidentalis), as all members of the cedar family, are distinguished from the pine family by the modified needles. The modified needles are described as keeled, meaning the needle is flatten and folded to create an edge along the center of the needle. A written description that provides visualization is challenging; perhaps consider a dense strand of green waxy beads, melted and pressed flat. The cones are distinctive, and to some appear as miniature wooden roses. Northern white-cedar is common in bogs and on dry ground, and is tolerant of shade. It may grow in dense stands that provide winter cover for deer, and is browsed heavily by deer. The wood is light and the most rot resistant of the conifers. Atlantic white-cedar (Chamaecyparis thyoides) is restricted to coastal areas of the state.


Junipers have two types of needle structures, one is linear and awl-like and the other is scale-like. Juvenile and vigorous shoots tend to have awl-like foliage. Eastern redcedar (Juniperus virginiana) will attain tree size and occurs in most counties of the eastern United States. Pasture juniper (J. communis) only occurs as a shrub, usually on infertile soils, and only has the awl-like foliage and in whorls of three. The berry-like cone of pasture juniper may be twice the size of that of eastern redcedar.

Fir Tree Identification

Fir trees (Abies spp.) have needles that attach to the branch by a base that looks like a tiny suction cup. The needles are soft and flattened, and usually have two white lines on the underside. Fir needles tend to point upwards, but this is not always the case.

One distinguishing feature of fir trees is that the cones do not hang downward, but stand up straight like candlesticks. Mature cones can be brown, blue, purple, or black in color, depending on the species.

Needles grow individually on branch as opposed to in clusters, needles are flexible and flat, cannot be rolled between fingers, needles have suction cup attachments with no woody projections, when needles are detached from branchcircular scar is left and feels smooth, cone scales overlap feel papery and flexible not woody. cones grow upward and often fall apart while still on tree.

Douglas-fir Tree Identification

Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga spp.) is not a true fir tree. Its Latin name means “false hemlock,” so it’s not a hemlock tree either, but its own genus all together. Pseudotsuga menziesii, are very common in western North America. There are also a few species in Asia.

The needles of Douglas-fir trees grow all the way around the branch, and the buds at the end of the branches are brown and cone shaped. These buds are one good way to identify Douglas-fir. The cones are brown and have a characteristic “mouse tail.”

Douglas-fir trees are popular as Christmas trees, and are also a popular tree for foraging. They have many benefits, and all parts of the tree have edible and medicinal uses, including the needles, bark, and resin.

Spruce Tree Identification

Spruce trees (Picea spp.) have four sided needles that attach to a small peg on the branch. The woody peg remains when the needle is removed. Most species of spruce trees have stiff and pointy needles that are sharp to the touch. The needles grow around the branch. Spruce cones hang downwards, and have thin scales and a smooth, somewhat flexible shape. New growth spruce tips form in the spring and are a popular foraged food item. They are tender and can be added to food or used to make spruce tip beer.

Needles grow individually on the branch as opposed to in clusters. needles are stiff and sharp, the cross section of the needles are either square or triangular and can be eaily rolled between the fingers, when needles are detached woody projections are left behind and the branch feels rough, cones grow from a central stem and feel papery and thin, scales overlap.

Hemlock Tree Identification

Hemlock trees (Tsuga spp.) have short and flat needles of varying length on the same branch. This is usually the best way to identify them. The underside of the needles of some hemlock species have two white lines. Hemlock bark is scaly and usually deeply grooved. The cones hang downward and vary in size.

Recognisable from drooped branches, needles grow along opposite of branch as oppsed to all around, and attached by woody pegs, needles are flat with two white perpendicular lines on the underside, needles are blunt on the tips, cones grow at tips of branches approx one inch in size, cone scales are thin and flexible.

Cedar Tree Identification

Cedar trees (Cedrus spp.), cedars have needles, not scales.Like true fir trees, true cedar cones grow upwards. Cedars are highly aromatic

Juniper Tree Identification

Juniper trees (Juniperus spp.) Junipers have needle or scale like leaves, depending on the species. Some have needles when young that turn to scales as they mature.

They have a distinctive aromatic “gin-like” scent and produce blue seed cones known as juniper berries.

Yew Tree Identification (Toxic)

The needles are flat, spirally arranged and have pale green or white bands on the underside.