How to Use This Book


Ihe book is divided into five principal sections;

I. Plants with needlelike or scalelike leaves. II. Plants with opposite compound leaves.

III. Plants with opposite simple leaves.

IV, Plants with alternate compound leaves, V\ Plants with alternate simple leaves.

Sections II-V contain the broad-leaved plants.

The five basic leaf types and arrangements are illustrated on pages xvi-xviu They can be learned in a few minutes. In summer, plants can be easily assigned to one of these sections. In winter, plants without leaves can be placed in the combined opposite-

leaved (Sections II and III) or alternate-leaved (Sections IV and V) categories according to leaf-scar arrangements (see drawings of leaf types and arrangements preceding the plates in each Section, pp. 55, 99, 149, 297),

Keys, which are explained below under identifying Unknown Plants," further assist in identifying species in summer. Winter keys to all nonevergreen species are to be found in the Appendixes and deal respectively with plants with opposite leaf scars ( Appendix A) and alternate leaf scars (Appendix B). Additional keys arc provided as Appendixes C and D, These should he useful in identifying plants that obviously are trees, being 25 feet or over,

A summary of family and other relationships of woody plants is provided as Appendix E, The meanings of some terms are summarized in Appendix F. Appendix G permits conversion of inches to millimeters.


In leafy condition, all woody plants fall into one of the five major categories described above under "General Layout" and illustrated in the drawings on pages xvi-xvii.

Plants whose leaves obviously are not needlelike or scalelike are brood-leaved plants,

Cardamom Plant Diagram

Upper drawing: Compound leaf and twig

Lower drawing: Simple leaf blade, twig, etc.

Compound Leaflet










Leaf Base

Gland — Leafstalk

Bundle Scar


Compound leaves are those divided into three (rarely two) to several dozen leaflets. The leaflet of a compound leaf is attached by its stalk to a midrib, or rachis, which is not especially woody, and there is only an indefinite mark on the midrib when the leaflet is plucked. iTie midrib is attached to the woody twig and leaves a definite leaf scar (see drawing, p. xxiv) on it when picked.

A simple leaf has only a single leaf blade and is joined by its stalk to a woody twig. It leaves a distinct leaf scar when plucked.

Both compound and simple leaves may vary in shape, size, texture, and other characteristics, but despite all variations, these two main leaf types are fundamental,

Opposite leaves are of either compound or simple type and occur in opposing pairs along the twigs. Less frequently, whorled leaves may occur where three or more leaves arise together and *their attachments tend to encircle the twigs at intervals. Plants with opposite and whorled leaves are grouped together in this volume.

Alternate leaves are arranged singly at intervals along the twigs. One should be cautious of misidentifying the opposite leaflets of some compound leaves, even of alternate compound leaves, as opposite simple leaves. Also, some alternate-leaved plants bear spur branches, on which leaves are densely clustered (see p, 310). These can be mistaken tor opposite or whorled leaves if one is not careful to select strong-growing specimen twigs for study (see "Identifying Unknown Plants").

Leaflets of compound leaves and simple leaves both have essentially the same parts. Similarly, the various leaf shapes may occur in both. Leaf shape within each species usually varies considerably, Fewer major shapes are named in this book than in most technical manuals. The comparative drawings, page xxii, illustrate common leaf shapes-

Other leaf characteristics are described or illustrated where encountered in the book.


A twig is not just any small division of a branch. It is only the end portion, the part that constitutes the newest growth. It is separated from the branchlet, which is the previous year's growth, by a series of encircling end-bud scars.

In winter, nonevergreen broad-leaved plants make up two main groups: (I) those of Sections U and III, with leaf scars arranged on the twigs in opposing pairs, or, much less commonly, in whorls of three or four, and (2) those of Sections IV and V, with leaf scars arranged singly on the twigs in a more or less scattered pattern. I'hese positions are illustrated on pages xxiv and xvii. Some alternate-leaved plants have spur branches on which leaf scars are densely crowded, appearing opposite or

Leaf And Bud Nematode DiagramLeaf And Bud Nematode Diagram

Feather compound


Leaf And Bud Nematode Diagram


Leaf And Bud Nematode Diagram
Leaf And Bud Nematode Diagram

Wedge shaped

Leaf And Bud Nematode DiagramLeaf And Bud Nematode Diagram


Leaf And Bud Nematode Diagram Leaf And Bud Nematode Diagram


Leaf And Bud Nematode Diagram
Leaf And Bud Nematode Diagram



whorled. Spur branches can be recognized as such or avoided by selecting quick-growing twigs for study (see 4tIdentif> ng Unknown Plants," p, xxvii),

It is not always possible to distinguish between leaf scars of compound leaves and those of simple leaves, though often those of compound leaves are larger and have more than three bundle scars. Further subdivisions within the opposite or alternate-leaved groups depend on the number of bundle scars, occurrence of true or false end buds, type of buds, type of pith, presence of milky sap, and other characters. Tnie end buds and clear sap may be considered to be present unless statements are made to the contrary (alternate references to end buds present or absent correspond with end buds true or false, respectively). Central end buds are lacking in several species with opposite buds (as shown on Plate 8). Bud descriptions apply to mature winter buds. The term pith chambered is used here to include all types of segmented, transversely divided pith, including those diaphragmed and partitioned. The main characteristics of winter twigs and buds are shown on page xxlv. Unless otherwise specified, references to bark characteristics apply to the trunk bark.


The plates are located at the end of each Section for convenient use with the text descriptions in the five main parts of the book* fhey are diagrammatic illustrations, indicating the principal identification points of most species. The diagrammatic form avoids the possibility of minor individual differences in specimens being interpreted by the reader as identification points. Occasional dotted lines indicate varying leaf shapes in some species.

he reader will recognize that not all specimens will look precisely like the drawings, but they will possess the designated critical points of identification as well as unpredictable irregularities not necessarily of value in identification* Stipules (p. xx) are illustrated only where they are of diagnostic value, since they often drop off easily, The green color was provided to aid identification by emphasizing leaf shape; it does not represent the shade of green of the plants,

Cach plate attempts to show those plants that most resemble each other in leaf and twig characteristics. Often these are related plants; frequently, however, they are not. Wherever possible, related species are shown on plates as close to one another in sequence as is otherwise consistent with the main objective of grouping plants similar in appearance. Family relationships are indicated briefly in Appendix E. Because of great variation in leaf size no attempt has been made, except in a general way, to draw the plants to scale. Leaf and plant sizes are given in the text.

Leaf And Bud Nematode DiagramLeaf And Bud Nematode Diagram

Bud Scales: None

Bundle Scars: One Pith: Solid

Side Buds

End Bud false True

Side Buds

Leaf And Bud Nematode DiagramLeaf And Bud Nematode Diagram

Two Three Chambered

Stipule Scar

Stipule Scar

Leaf And Bud Nematode DiagramLeaf And Bud Nematode Diagram

Bud Scale

Bundle Sea Leaf Scar

Bud Scale

Bundle Sea Leaf Scar


Several Numerous Hollow

Leaf And Bud Nematode Diagram
Leaf And Bud Nematode Diagram

Alternate Alternate


Buds: Opposite

Leaf Scars: Opposite

Stipule Scars: Not Ringed

Whorled Whorledl Absent

Alternate Alternate




For convenience in quick reference the following symbols are employed on the legend pages opposite the plates:

4 Tree, A large woody plant having one (rarely several) self-supporting steins or trunks and numerous branches, the whole ranging from about 20 feet to a considerable height V Shrub. Most plants in this Field Guide fall into this category. A shrub, or bush, is a woody plant, smaller than a tree, which consists of a number of small steins from the ground or small branches from near the ground. Small tree or shrub (usually not exceeding 25 feet). Ihese borderline plants may assume either form, 5f Vine. A climbing or sprawling woody plant without self-supporting upright stem,


Where both italic and boldface page references occur at the beginning of the species descriptions, the italic numbers refer to the silhouettes, the boldface numbers to the plates.

riant names. Both common and scientific names are given for each species, Although for many species common names are well established, these or similar names are sometimes also applied to different, even unrelated species. Kor instance, Purple Honeysuckle frequently is given as the common name of an azalea. Other species may have no well-known common name. For the most part, one of the names given by Fernald {see my Preface) — usually the one considered to be most widely used — has been chosen for use in this hook. But for tree species reference was made to the U.S. Forest Service Check List of Native and Naturalized Trees of the United States by Elbert L. Little, Jr. (Washington, D.C: Govt.

Printing Office, 1953), An effort was made to use the preferred common name given there; in some cases, where confusion seemed likely, alternates were chosen. The work of Kelsey and Dayton* was consulted on occasion. For some species, especially shrubs, in cases where no common names were known, or where it seemed preferable to avoid undesirable connotations, liberties were taken in modifying or assigning names. It is hoped that the names selected will be acceptable.

Scientific names have three essential parts: the name of the gcnus {plural, genera), the name of the species (plural, species), and the name or names, commonly abbreviated, of the botanist(s) who assigned the scientific names. Example: Quercus rubra L,,

° Htatulardized Plant Names, 2nd ed,t by Harlan P. Kelsey and William A. Dayton (Harrisburg, Pa,: Me Far land. 1942) for the American Joint Committee on Horticultural Nomenclature.

where the initial stands for Linnaeus, the "father of systematic botany/1 Where the varieties (or, less frequently, forms) of species are named, the varietal name and the name or names of the authority or authorities responsible for them is placed after the scientific name of the species. Example: Que reus rubra var. borealis (Miehx, f.) Farw,

A main purpose of scientific nomenclature is standardization, permitting botanists anywhere to discuss a plant with the assurance that they are indeed all talking about the same species. It is an international cataloguing system that also indicates, within limits, plant relationships. Scientific names are not constant, however, but may change as authorities decide that a species has closer relationships in a different genus than that first assigned, that what once were considered two species should only be termed two varieties of a single species, that a species described as new already had a name. The rules of botanical noimrnclature arc much too involved to go into here, fo the reader the principal value of scientific names probably will be in looking up the same species in several reference books. As stated previously, the names used here are the same as those in the 8th edition of Cray Manual of Botany (see my Preface), Following the example of Little (1953), however, none of the Latin species names are capitalized.

Incidentally, no one need hesitate to attempt pronunciations of scientific names. In the United States and Canada nowadays such names tend to be anglicized and most pronunciations are acceptable. If one can say Hibiscus or Hydrangea, he already uses scientific names. In speech, the authors' names are usually omitted.

Recognition. Plant descriptions are limited largely to identification characteristics, A statement of the general growth habits of the species is followed by characteristics of foliage, twigs, and hark. Invariably there is variation between individual specimens of a species. Where such individual variation may cause confusion in identification, its extent is indicated in the text. Attempts to describe degrees of "hairiness" are made where possible, but the exact extent of hairiness in leaves and twigs is sometimes difficult to describe, Nearlv all leaves will show some fine hairs if examined r closely under a hand lens. Plants described in the text or on the plates as being hairy are usually markedly so. "Hairless" plants are those in which hairiness is not conspicuous, A hand lens should be used in ascertaining the abundance of hairlike structures. Reference to bark is to the mature bark of large stems unless otherwise indicated.

The few measurements given are in the following order: leaf lengths, plant heights, and, for trees, trunk diameters. Minimum and maximum leaf lengths are generalizations for normal leaves and include the length of the leafstalk unless stated otherwise, Sprouts of some species bear abnormally huge leaves. I he heights of shrubs are given as the usual maximums. For trees, the common minimum height and diameter for mature specimens are each followed by the common maximum for each measurement and, in parentheses, the exceptional maximum. Diameters are given for tree species and are trunk diameters at breast height (about feet above the ground; the foresters' d.b.h.). All these figures are given only as general guides. The several maximum measurements usually are not all possessed by a single specimen. The "largest ack Pine recorded by the American Forestry Association, for example, is only 27 feet tall, though 42 inches in circumference. All measurements are given in feet ('), inches and fractions rather than in metric-system units, because the English units are more widely familiar in our area.

Flower and fruit data are limited to those general identification characteristics that might be useful in supplementing vegetative characteristics. Further details are provided only for those species not easily recognized by leaf and twig characteristics alone* Iypes of fruit cluster, though not given, are the same as for the flowers. The extreme dates of flowering and fruiting given may have to be modified by a month or so, according to locality. Where fruiting dates are lac king, those of the flowers will indicate at least the earliest possible for fniits. Fruit colors apply to ripe fruits.

General statements regarding the distinctiveness of certain species apply to the geographic area of the book.

Similar species. Critical differences are discussed for species that most closely resemble one another, either when in foliage or in leafless condition.

Where found. General habitat and limits of distribution are given for the area north of Mexico, range limits reading from northeast to northwest and southeast to southwest, ¡'hese are taken mainly from Fernald (1950); Little (1953) scarcely differs. For illustrated plants geographic ranges are opposite the plates and for nonillustrated or partially illustrated, in the text; sometimes, however, the range is duplicated on the legend page to aid identification of certain species.

Remarks- General observations are provided on those plants that serve as sources of lumber, fuel, medicine, food, drink, poison, fiber, ornament, tannin, and Christmas trees, or are of especial value in soil and wildlife management. References to wildlife usually are limited to game birds and to mammals of chipmunk size or larger. Most of such references are taken from William R. Van DersaPs Native Woody Plants of the United States: Their Erosion Control and Wildlife Values (U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Misc. Publ. 303, 1938),


Before attempting to identify unknown plants, one should first learn the general appearance of Poison-ivy, Poison-oak, and

Poison Sumac ( Mates 25 and 26). Once their main characteristics are learned, the plants are easily avoided.

Rather than collecting specimens for later identification at home, it is highly preferable that identifications be made in the field, where additional materials are available and growth habits are evident. If this cannot be done, then twig specimens, with leaves when available, may be collected and either carried fresh or pressed- Good specimens are essential to easy identification. Dwarfed, twisted, gnarled twigs should be avoided. Except for abnormally large sucker shoots, strong quick-growing twigs should be collected for study. On such twigs, the leaves and leaf scars are larger and all details are more evident

In summer, the first step in identifying an unknown plant is to place it in one of the five main groups (see drawings, pp. xvi-xvii) according to leaf type and arrangement;

1. Leaves needlelike or scalelike Section I, p. 15

1. Leaves broad:

2- Leaves opposite or whorled:

3. Leaves compound Section II, p. 46

3* Leaves simple Section III, p, 66

2. Leaves alternate:

4> Leaves compound Section IV, p. 122

4> Leaves simple Section V, p. 168

Turning to the proper Section, one follows the key given there.

Keys to plant identification may look formidable at first but should be regarded as something like a book s table of contents. They merely divide the subject matter» in this case plant species, into subsections, further sub-subsections, and eventually species or groups of species. For the most part keys attempt to divide the many species into two groups. Then each group in turn is divided into two. This is repeated again and again until finally species or groups of species are named. In such a key, as in the short one of the preceding paragraph, the person seeking identification of a tree or shrub chooses first between the two number I s, then between the two number 2 s, and in that case finally decides between either of the two number 3\ or the two number 4's. It is only a matter of following a trail that forks repeatedly but rarely offers more than two paths at any single point. The seeker continues to make choices between the options which bear the same number, making certain at each point that the choice made fits the plant being identified, until an end point is reached.

After following the sectional kevt the plate (or plates) finally arrived at are then scanned and the species most like the unknown one is selected- It is important to take the next step and read the text description of the species. Agreement should be reached between the specimen and its description and range, or else

Copyrighted m another attempt should be made to "run it down/' The text portion on "Similar species" also may disclose errors in interpreting identification marks.

It is possible, of course, to disregard the sectional leaf keys and rely upon spotting the proper diagram, for the plates in themselves are a pictorial key* ['his often is possible if the species falls in Sections I through IV, There are relatively few plants with needelike, compound, or opposite leaves. But unless the specimen has quite distinctive characteristics, in Section V one should follow the keys.

In winter, unless the plant is evergreen, one must either find leaf remains on or under the specimen (and run some risk ot picking up a wrong one) or rely on twig and other winter characteristics. If dried leaves are found, one can attempt to proceed as in summer. If not, then it is suggested that good twig spec imens be secured and the Winter Keys used as follows:

Leaf scars opposite or whorl eel — Appendix A Leaf scars alternate — Appendix B.

The most difficult time for woody plant identification usually is early spring, when buds have burst but leaves are small and new twigs soft. Some plants then may not be easily identifiable for a month or so.

Where one wishes to identify a plant that is definitely a tree (plants smaller than 25 feet or so might be either shrubs or small trees), another approach is available through the keys to tree identification supplied as appendixes. Appendix C is for trees in summer leafy condition and Appendix D for use in winter. These two keys supplement the others given throughout the book and need not be used unless one wishes to.

Everyone likes to feel that he has discovered a rare specimen. But when one identifies a species outside its usual range or thinks he has something entirely new to science it would be well to recheck carefully to make certain that no error in identification has been made. If something unusual still seems likely, a specimen could be collected (with flowers or fruits, if possible, and always with notes on the exact location, date of collection, and collectors name and address), carefully pressed, dried, and forwarded to the department of botany at ones state or provincial university or agricultural college with a request for confirmation of identification,


Fortunately, plant identification requires little paraphernalia. Only two items are essential: a field guide or manual and a hand lens. Some progress can be made without the latter, but a good hand lens is especially helpful in ascertaining twig characteristics.

Furthermore, it discloses hidden beauty in small tree blossoms and in other plant parts. Lenses for general use should magnify 6x to 10X. I hose manufactured by well-known optical companies generally are worth the slightly higher price usually asked for them. Hand lenses sell for from $8 to $15 and are practically indestructible. Often secondhand ones can be procured very cheaply, especially in university towns.

It is strongly suggested that identification he made in the field, where additional specimens and supplementary data arc available. When you need to collect specimens, however, a large plastic bag will preserve them until they can be pressed. A roll of newspapers held by a strap, or even a large magazine, may also do well as a field carrier if specimens are being carried for early identification, but serious collectors will want to acquire a plant press, available from any biological supply house.

In a press, plants arc placed within newspaper pages, which are inserted between blotters and placed between sheets ol corrugated cardboard. The entire series is packaged between wooden frames and securely tied by straps- It will occasionally be necessary to replace newspapers and blotters to permit tin »rough drying and to prevent molds from invading the collection.


Each plant species, through evolutionary processes, has become something of a specialist. Each lives in a certain type of place, the habitat, and each thrives under a particular set of climatic, soil, and water conditions. On a newly available site local conditions are varied and usually seeds or other reproductive parts of several species manage to be present. This results in the establishment of a plant community composed of several species. Once established, most plants and plant communities alter their sites so that the longer they persist in a spot the less suitable it becomes for them. Increasing fertility due to root decay and leaf fall, for example, may permit competition from species originally unable to become established on the site; or increasing shade may prevent survival of seedlings even though they are adjacent to or even surrounded by their parents. These factors and others result in the phenomenon of succession, wherein plant communities and the soils they occupy pass through succeeding stages until finally a stable community of plants and a mature soil structure are developed. This final relatively permanent community is the climax plant association.

Primary plant succession occurs when community development begins and develops from a bare surface or in open water. Primary succession may begin on such areas as cliff faces, rockslides, gravel slopes, road cuts, sand dunes, lava flows, peat deposits, gully sides, or on shallow lake bottoms, in bogs, or on river bars and deltas. In such places pioneer plant communities become established which eventually are succeeded by others, each of which tends to be more intermediate in its moisture requirements than the community it replaced. That is, within the limits set by climate, succeeding communities beginning in a wet environment live on drier sites than do their predecessors, while those in a dry environment live on moister sites, with the climax community occurring on neither wet nor dry, but upon intermediate, moist sites.

Secondary plant succession occurs when a plant community is entirely or partly killed or removed, exposing a soil that has already advanced to some degree toward maturity. Such plant destruction might be accomplished by light fires, trampling, drainage, wind throw, lumbering, cultivation, or otherwise. The secondary plant community series that follows a change in the original vegetation is generally different from that of the primary succession.

Species in developmental stages of plant succession may lie more widespread than those of the ctimax stage. They may even take a part in succession in regions with different climax types. Some species may occupy slightly different habitats and successional stages in different portions of their ranges, whereas others are restricted to only a portion of a single climax area.

Knowledge of local successional stages is very important in studies o1 land use, soil conservation, forestry, wildlife management, and outdoor recreation. An interesting and valuable project for the amateur botanist is the preparation of a plant succession chart for his locality (see H, J. Oosting's The Study of Plant Communities* San Francisco, Freeman and Co,, 1956).


Krom north to south and from east to west in our area, major changes in the character of the climax vegetation are evident. These major units are mostly characterized by distinctive vegetative life farms (evergreen trees, deciduous trees, grasses, etc.) and are termed plant formations* The tundra of the Far \orth and of the mount a in tops of eastern Canada and New England is vegetated with sedges, grasses, lichens, herbs, and low and creeping shrubs. The northern evergreen or boreal forest that covers most of Canada and part of the northern United States is dominated by White Spruce and Balsam Fir. although American Larch becomes prominent along its northern edge. The hemlock-hardwood forest of the Great Lakes area — a formation of mixed conifers and broad-leaved trees — sometimes is also designated as the lake forest Its dominant species include Hemlock, Beech, Sugar Maple, Yellow Birch, and White Pine,

Over i11osI of our area is the broad-leaved or deciduous forest. Several principal climax associations occur in this formation:

(1) Mixed Mesophytic (Beech-Sugar Maple-Tulip-tree-Sweet

Buckeye-White Oak-Red Oak-Hemlock) in southern mountain valleys and some lowlands, (2) Beech-Sugar Maple in moist deep soils, (3) Oak-Hickorv or Oak-Pine (and formerly Oak-Chestnut) mostly in drier areas, and (4) Sugar Maple-Basswood in parts of Wisconsin and Minnesota. On the flat coastal plain in the southeast of our area is a portion of the southeastern evergreen forest> principally of Loblolly and Short leaf Pines. Prairie formations occur in the western part of our area, w ith woody species important only in valley bottoms.

A Field Guide to Trees and Shrubs

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  • girma
    What are the characteristics of a buckeye leaf?
    2 years ago

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