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Leaf Type

The first step in using leaves to identify trees is to determine if the tree has needle-like foliage (conifers) or broadleaves (hardwood). Continue to Leaf Arrangement >>>

Loblolly pine has needles. Needles are found on most conifers and gymnosperms. Trees with needle leaves are often called softwoods. American chestnut has a broadleaf. Most angiosperms are broadleaves. Broadleaf trees are often called hardwoods.

Individual broadleaves can also be classified as either simple or compound (several to many leaflets per leaf).  While a compound leaf looks like a number of simple leaves attached to a twig, the rachis (the midrib to which the leaflets attach) has no buds, is not particularly woody, and is shed in the fall. Continue to Leaf Arrangement >>>
 

Simple leaves have a single leaf blade, as seen on northern red oak. Compound leaves have several leaflets attached to a midrib or rachis, as seen on this walnut leaf. 

Leaves can grow on conifers as either scales, single needles, or in groups called fascicles. Cedar leaves grow as scales.  Spruces, firs, hemlocks as well as others grow single needles.  Pines grow needles in fascicles, or bundles of needles. Continue to Leaf Arrangement >>>

Scales of a northern whitecedar

Single-needles of a hemlock

Two-needles per fascicle on a Table Mountain pine

Three-needles per fascicle on a loblolly pine

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