How to Identify Tree Seedlings


The tree seedling in your landscape might be small and a mystery to you, but it holds clues to help you identify it. Because a tree seedling does not have fruit or mature bark to inspect, the best way to identify it is by closely examining the few leaves it has. As you classify the leaves into different categories, you can then compare the results in a tree book or online to pinpoint exactly what kind of tree it is.

Step 1

Identify whether the leaves are simple or compound. Simple leaves are made up of only one leaf, which grows from the twig. Complex leaves also grow out from the twig but are made up of several smaller leaves along the same leaf stem.

Step 2

Observe the shape of the leaves. The leaf may look like a rounded oval, a hand or a long, skinny oval, among other shapes.

Step 3

Examine the edge of the leaves. They will be smooth, lobed or toothed.

Step 4

Look at how the leaves grow along the twig. Both simple and compound leaves will either alternate sides along the twig (called alternate) or the leaves will grow from both sides at the same spot along the twig (called opposite). Three leaves might also grow from the same spot in a circle around the twig (called whorled).


  • Virginia Tech: Basics of Tree ID
  • North Dakota State University: A Guide to Deciduous Tree Knowledge
  • What Tree Is It?: Background
Keywords: identify tree seedlings, identify tree leaves, different kinds leaves

About this Author

Melissa Lewis has been a professional writer since 2005. Her work has appeared in various online publications. A former elementary classroom teacher and media specialist, Lewis is also a script writer, with a movie script, "Homecoming," she co-wrote currently in production. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology.