Do you think you have a good handle on identifying trees by merely looking at their leaves? Do you know the difference between coniferous and deciduous, or can you tell the difference between pines, beeches, and dogwoods? If so, Stacker has put together a quiz for you. The quiz features 25 trees commonly found in the United States from forestry and landscaping sites.
Each clue slide comes with information about the texture, size, and color of the trees’ leaves, as well as where in the country they can be found. While some trees are evergreen, they can be distinguished by the hardness of their needles and whether they grow in groups or individually.
Many of the trees included in this quiz are valuable for lumber or as pulpwood. One tree is highly sought after by musical instrument makers for its durability and tonal quality. The bark of another tree is waterproof, making it a prime candidate for the building of canoes. Other trees are useful sources of food for birds and mammals, providing roosting and shelter in colder climates.
Tree location ranges throughout the country, and one tree type once accounted for nearly a quarter of all the trees in the Appalachian Mountains. However, diseases beginning in the 1800s have rendered it all but extinct.
Several state trees and one of the most massive trees in the country like the Boogerman, which extends 191 feet above the forest floor, are also featured in this quiz, as is a tree that is part of the largest living thing on Earth: a grove in Utah that spans over 100 acres and includes 50,000 trees from a single root system.
Read on to see if you have the tree chops to identify the leaves of these 25 trees.
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This tree’s leaves can be found in the Pacific Northwest, stretching from California to as far north as Alaska, with Oregon being its primary location. Its shiny, green leaves turn reddish-brown in the fall and can measure 12 to 24 inches when fully grown. The tree is the largest of its species, growing between 50 and 100 feet and living up to 300 years, with wood that is highly sought after by musical instrument makers for its sound quality and durability.
Bigleaf maple (Acer macrophyllum)
These dull, green leaves grow to around 8 inches in length and have forward-facing teeth and a lance-shaped tip. In the fall, they turn a light brown and become hard and brittle, and the nuts it produces once fed billions of birds and animals. The tree thrived on the East Coast, accounting for nearly a quarter of the trees in the Appalachian Mountains, but a series of diseases beginning in the early 1800s have rendered it almost extinct.
American chestnut (Castanea dentata)
The tips of this tall, skinny tree consist of bunches of pointed needles twisted in a spiral. It grows in a wide variety of climates in the western half of North America, from the Black Hills of South Dakota across to Baja, California, and is among the first to return following a fire. Native people relied on the tree as lumber for building, used its cones in medicines, and ate its inner bark in the spring as a sweet treat.
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Lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta)
These four-petaled leaves are mostly seen in the eastern United States or northern Mexico, producing vibrant white or pink flowers in the spring. The tree grows between 15 and 30 feet with a canopy equally as wide and is used primarily as an ornamental tree in landscaping. In the summer, petals turn green before turning a deep purple in the fall, producing a bright red fruit that should never be eaten raw.
Flowering dogwood (Cornus florida)
This evergreen tree is partly named for the color of its sharp needles and can grow up to 100 feet tall and 25 feet wide. Found primarily in the Rocky Mountains, it is an important part of the ecosystem at high elevations, providing nesting and coverage areas for birds. Smaller versions are used for landscaping and Christmas trees because of their ability to hold heavy ornaments without losing their needles.
Colorado blue spruce (Picea pungens)
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This evergreen is native to the eastern part of North America, with flat, green needles that produce flowers in the spring and ripening cones in the fall. This state tree of Pennsylvania can grow up to 160 feet and live up to 1,000 years. Since the late 1980s, it has been plagued by the woolly adelgid, an invasive species from Asia that feeds on the tree’s sap, threatening its existence in the next 20 to 30 years.
Eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis)
Native to the southeastern United States, this evergreen tree’s leaves are shiny and leathery on top, with a dull underside. In the early summer, large white flowers bloom, giving off a strong, pleasant fragrance, yielding fruit that is sought after by birds, squirrels, and even wild turkeys. President Andrew Jackson transplanted one of these trees from his home near Nashville onto the White House grounds in 1828, but it was cut down in 2017 after multiple attempts to save it.
Southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora)
Star-shaped leaves that change from green to yellow, purple, and red in the fall adorn this tree, which grows between 60 and 70 feet. Growing throughout the United States, most varieties produce spiky, gumball-sized fruit that can be painful to the touch. The tree, which can live to 400 years, draws its name from the brownish-yellow sap that oozes when the bark is cut.
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American sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua)
Pointed leaves that grow up to 10 inches long distinguish this tree from other varieties in the same family. Leathery, green leaves in the summer turn a brilliant shade of red, orange, or yellow in the fall, before browning in the winter. Unlike most deciduous trees, this 70-plus footer keeps its leaves in the winter to protect it from disease, shedding in the spring as new buds appear.
Red oak (Quercus rubra)
Dark green leaves turn brilliant shades of yellow, orange, and red in the fall, and they feature five lobes with pointed edges. Native mostly to the northeastern part of North America, the sap from this tree is a popular pancake topping, with 40 gallons of sap producing 1 gallon of syrup. Using a baseball bat made from this tree rather than a traditional ash tree, Barry Bonds broke the record for home runs in a season in 2001.
Sugar maple (Acer saccharum)
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Stiff, green, leathery leaves with sharp points adorn this tree that's popular for Christmas decorations. This evergreen tree can be found on the East Coast of the United States, growing between 15 and 30 feet. The bright red berries the tree produces is a valuable source of food in winter for birds and small mammals, while the thorns are conductors of electricity, drawing lightning strikes away from other trees.
American holly (Ilex opaca)
Peeling white bark with streaks of black and pink highlight the trunk of this tree, and the leaves are triangular with serrated edges. The green leaves sprout yellow catkins in the late spring, before turning yellow in the fall. Native to northern climates, this tree’s bark is naturally waterproof and was used in the construction of canoes.
Paper birch (Betula papyrifera)
This tree draws its name from its soft, green (yellow in the fall), spade-shaped leaves, which tremble in even the lightest breezes. The most widely dispersed tree in North America, it grows from Alaska to Mexico, with the only exception being the mountainless Southeast. The largest known living thing on Earth is a grove of this tree in Utah, with 50,000 trees covering over 100 acres from a single root system.
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Quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides)
Dark green, triangular leaves with pointed tips mark Kansas, Nebraska, and Wyoming’s state tree, which typically grows 80 to 100 feet in the wild. Native to the Midwest, it is the fastest-growing tree in North America, adding up to 6 feet each year, with the largest standing at 88 feet with a 108-foot canopy in Beatrice, Nebraska. The emerald green leaves change to bright yellow before falling off in the fall.
Eastern cottonwood (Populus deltoides)
Oblong leaves with double-serrated edges sit at the tip of this tree, which reaches 60 to 100 feet on average. The tree was once a top choice for landscapers for its vase-like shape and flowers that bloom in late winter or early spring. However, disease in the early 1900s made planting more difficult. The tree is famous in American history, most notably with George Washington taking control of the Continental Army under one in Massachusetts.
American elm (Ulmus americana)
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This tree draws its name from the bright red flowers, twigs, and fruit, while its leaves, which have three to five lobes, change from green to bright red in the fall. The ability to tolerate a wide range of habitats makes this tree one of the most prolific in the eastern U.S. While Rhode Island made this its state tree in 1964, the largest of the species lives in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, standing 141 feet tall.
Red maple (Acer rubrum)
This evergreen tree is the largest tree in the eastern part of North America, with thin, feathery needles that grow in clusters of five. Serving as the state tree of Maine and Michigan, it can reach over 100 feet in height, with the Boogerman registering at 190-feet tall, the largest tree east of the Rocky Mountains. The branches spread out like a wagon wheel called a whorl, with a gap in between as the tree adds a new whorl every year.
Eastern white pine (Pinus strobus)
Primarily found in the southeastern U.S., this state tree of Florida and South Carolina grows roughly 60 feet tall. The long trunk leads to a series of green fan-shaped leaves on top that grow directly from the trunk and can reach several feet in length. For conservation purposes, harvesting the heart of this tree, which many enjoy eating, is frowned upon in Florida.
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Sabal palm (Sabal palmetto)
The leaves of this tree turn green with age after emerging yellow and folded, and they feature four distinct lobes with rounded notches in between. Yellow and orange flowers help give the tree its name, while its leaves turn bright yellow in the fall. The state tree of Kentucky, Indiana, and Tennessee is among the largest hardwoods in North America, with a straight trunk anchoring a tree that typically grows between 80 and 100 feet.
Tulip poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera)
This tree can grow up to 100 feet tall and draws its name from both the white underside on its leaf and its wood color when first cut. The leaves are roughly 5 inches long, with rounded, finger-like lobes that change from blue-green to a deep red in the fall. It is the state tree of Maryland, Connecticut, and Illinois, while the acorns it produces are a valuable source of food for a variety of wildlife.
White oak (Quercus alba)
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Distinguished by its smooth, light gray bark, this tree contains elliptical leaves that can reach 6 inches long with ridges along the sides. This tree is native to the eastern half of the United States and grows anywhere from 50 to 80 feet. Younger trees sport bright green leaves with a layer of hair while older leaves are dark green and hairless. This tree’s soft bark is a favorite for carving initials into since it cannot heal itself and will preserve markings forever.
American beech (Fagus grandifolia)
This tree is among the fastest-growing pine trees in the Southeast, drawing its name from mud puddles it’s known to grow in. The dark bluish-green needles group in sets of three, between 6 and 10 inches in length, while the tree itself typically reaches 50 to 80 feet in height. The tree is used as pulpwood and lumber and is drought- and fire-resistant. It can also grow in areas other trees can’t.
Loblolly pine (Pinus taeda)
Bluish-green oblong leaves in groups of 15 to 20 adorn this tree found in the southeastern United States along the Appalachian Mountains. Timber from this tree, which can grow from 40 to 100 feet and produces fragrant white flowers in the spring, was used to build the original Jamestown colony. One-inch thorns protect this fast-growing and short-lived tree, which typically lives for only 90 years.
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Black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia)
Flat, pointed needles with a greenish-yellow hue adorn this giant pine tree, which can grow up to 200 feet and live up to 1,000 years. Also called an Oregon pine, its thick bark is highly resistant to fire, and its large size makes it useful for lumber and plywood. The state tree of Oregon, the tallest known tree is the Doerner, measuring 327 feet tall and 11 feet in diameter.
Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii)
Native to the cooler climates in the northern United States, this evergreen features shiny leaves and needles with rounded tips. Its cone shape and aroma make it ideal for use as a Christmas tree and in wreaths, and its commercial uses include pulp and construction, with its sap being used in the production of turpentine. The tree yields purplish cones that are roughly 2 to 4 inches long, with seeds that are an essential food source for animals in colder climates.
Balsam fir (Abies balsamea)
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