Amateur’s guide to the trees of Northeastern North America

When my sister and I had both just moved to the northeastern United States a few years ago, she requested a guide to the unfamiliar trees around her.  So I drew her this *extremely* goofy guide and although the artwork is pretty terrible, I thought someone on the internet might also enjoy it.  Keep in my that my sister is a lawyer, so I did not aim it toward a botanist, but rather someone who knows very little about plants.

Caution: The jokes herein are terribly corny (even though corn is a grass and not a tree!).  Some might even qualify as “groaners”.  Read at your own risk.
(PS If you’d like a pdf, just send me an email! (You can still send me an email, but I’m providing a link to the pdf below.) I’m more than happy to share)
(PPS If you like this one, you might also like my amateurish guide to northeastern birds here.)

You can download the pdf to this book here: TreeBook.

Red and White oaks

Maples and Sweet Gum

Sycamore and Tulip tree

Poplars and Willows

Alders and Witch Hazel

Ashes and Paw Paws

Dogwoods and Sassafras

Magnolias and Mulberries

Elms, beeches, and Lindens

Hickory and Horse Chestnut

Black Walnuts and Black Locust

Catalpa and Redbud

Black Birch and Paper Birch


19 thoughts on “Amateur’s guide to the trees of Northeastern North America

  1. As a lawyer, handicapped by my upbringing in west Texas where there were no trees, I found your tutorial helpful. But we planted a maple tree in our back yard last year, and now I’m worried it is going to drop either not-moons or helicopter seeds. And I know that cottonwoods and aspens are different trees. Are you trying to say they are both in the poplar family, or that poplar is another word for cottonwood? I thought poplars were tall and skinny, and cottonwoods aren’t. Or are you saying they all have the same shaped leaf? Ohhh, the horror of the extent of my ignorance!

    • Sorry that I was not clear! Poplars include anything in the Populus genus, which includes both cottonwoods and aspens (close cousins). The leaf shape is fairly well conserved in Populus, but of course there is some variation. In the Northeast, the only two common natives are the Cottonwood (Populus deltoides) and the Quaking Aspen (Populus tremuloides). I hope that helps!

      • Thank you. I might not have read closely enough; I was having difficulty reading some of the text. Thank you for the clarification. I think I have a flame maple and we didn’t see any helicopters last year, so maybe we won’t ever. But, it was just a baby! We have many aspens in our back yard though; they’re my favorite tree.

  2. I am VERY impressed with your field guide. I have one done by extension 4-H and it is no where close to yours! You have great detail, super facts, good descriptions, and clever drawings. I have a fondness for trees and have done a number of posts about trees and their IDs. That being said, I learned a little with your posting. Birch, beech and elms get me confused sometimes. The most prominent birch in our area is River Birch. Have Winged Elms that are easy to recognize, Slippery Elm…not so easy. Is it an Elm or an Ostrya ? Great posting!!!

  3. Pingback: Backyard Bird Primer: Common Songs of the Northeastern US « standingoutinmyfield

  4. Pingback: Benji the Little Red Fox « standingoutinmyfield

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