Identify trees and shrubs

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What is the name of this Tree or How to identify Trees and Shrubs?

(Wikified Ilias Learning unit, Version 1)

If you want to find out the name of a plant or an animal that you don´t know and that is in front of you there are 3 basically different ways to do this.

  1. You can ask your father, your mother, your teacher or somebody who is standing near you. But be aware that you can not always rely on the answer and that your victim will be bored if you ask for more than a few names.
  2. You can buy one or more books with lots of pictures and compare your plant/animal with every picture in the book and then choose the name of the picture that is similar to your plant. This can be boring for you.
  3. You can use a “Key”. The “key” is a marvellous “machine” that can be within a web-site, in a computer, in a PDA or also printed out. The “key” will go the other way round. Not you are asking for the name of the plant or animal, but the key will ask you a few questions that you can easily answer. After answering these questions the key will offer you a name and a picture of the plant or animal that “he” thinks is in front of you and you can easily decide: I´ve got it. - KeyToNature

Is it a tree or shrub at all?


Before you can easily answer the questions of the “Key” you will have to learn the language of the Key-machine. First we will hear about some basic expressions used by the “Key to trees and shrubs”. But these words are common and will be used by all the keys that can help you to find out the names of plants all over the world.

So as to use the “Key to trees and shrubs” first of all you have to be sure that the plant, whose name you want to know is at all a tree or shrub and not a herb or bush.

Trees and shrubs normally are woody (sclerified) at least near the ground. The plants boys use for making bows and arrows normally are trees or shrubs.

Some words you will have to know


Having decided it is a tree or shrub, we have to look at the leaves, fruits and flowers to answer the questions of the key and find out the name of the plant. Here are some words the key will use that may be unknown to you:

opposite / not opposite (alternate)

Leaves can be opposite or not opposite (alternate). Opposite is the way arms or legs are arranged at the body. Your arms and legs and also the legs of insects (beetles, ants and so on) are opposite.

If they are not opposite (alternate), something seems wrong to us.

lobed / not lobed

Lobed means that a leaf is partly (not completely) divided in larger parts so that sometimes it seems that large areas are missing. Not lobed leaves anyhow can be toothed or undulate.

entire / compound

Most leaves are entire (in one piece), but sometimes the lobes divide the leaf down to the main vein of the leaf. Thus the leaf is divided into lamellas, we say it is compound. Be careful not to confuse with a twig with opposite leaves. You can recognize the twig, because there will be buds where the leaf is inserted.


If you hold a leaf against bright light or against the sun you can see a dense grid of veins. These veins do the same job as the veins do in your body. They carry energy to each place and so they divide and split to reach the most remote place of the leaf or of your body.

Palmately /pinnately

Within leaves the veins can start from one point like fingers from a hand so they are called palmately or from a strong vein in the middle like a feather is build what is called pinnately.


Petals (Krone)


petals free / petals fused

The flowers of most plants are composed of stigma (5), filaments (4), corolla (3) and calyx (2). In some cases the colored leaves of the corolla (the petals, 3) are free and thus can be torn out separately, in other cases they are fused and if you tear it out the corolla will get off in one part.

  1. =receptacle
  2. =calyx
  3. =corolla/petals
  4. =filaments
  5. =stigma

Sometimes parts of the corolla are reduced or entirely missing. For example the hazelnut-flowers: only the stigmatas can be seen clearly in february. Haselnuss-blüte.jpg


bilaterally symmetric / radially symmetric / asymmetric

Symmetry means that something can be complemented by a mirror. A face or a butterfly is called bilaterally symmetric because there are two sides the same (bi is the latin word for two). A starfish is radially symmetric because there are many possibilities to mirror it. Only a few creatures are asymmetric for example flukes are.