How to Identify Small Pine Trees

Overview

Identifying pine trees while they are small is important. That is because there are special uses for each species of pine. Knowing the type of tree you have while it is young can help land owners better plan the use of their forests. Determining the type of tree can be somewhat like detective work because the pine tree itself will give clues as to its identity. Gathering and deciphering these clues can be a fun and educational experience that children will enjoy as well.

Backyard

Step 1

Look at the bark of the tree for clues as to what type of pine tree it is. Check to see if the bark is rugged or smooth, thick or thin, light or dark or if there are any other unusual features.

Step 2

Look at the pine needles for information as to what type of pine tree is growing. Check to see if needles are flat or thick, the pattern they are growing in and what color they are. Photograph the pine needles with a digital camera.

Step 3

Collect a pine cone from the tree. Make sure there are no other pine trees nearby if you are picking one up off the ground because you will want to make sure that you collect a specimen from the particular tree you are trying to identify.

Step 4

Take notes on the tree's height and shape. Write this information and any other unique information such as the location of the tree down in a notebook.

Step 5

Look through the tree identification guide. Match the picture of the pine needles to the appropriate picture of the pine tree in the guide. Check the information you have written in the notebook and compare pictures of that tree's pine cones to verify your discovery.

Woods

Step 1

Take a photograph of the tree you are trying to identify. Use a compass or global positioning system to determine the coordinates of the tree. Write this information in your notebook along with general information about the immediate area such as soil type and other plants nearby.

Step 2

Take a close-up photograph of the tree's needles. Photograph the bark of the tree and any cones as well. Write in your notebook the numbers of the photographs displayed on the camera screen.

Step 3

Pick up samples of the tree's leaves and pine cones if possible. Place these samples in a plastic zippered storage bag and label "tree no. 1" with a grease pencil. Continue photographing and writing down information about other trees you want to identify.

Step 4

Bring all of your findings into an area with a long work table so you may spread out your evidence when you have finished. Begin by comparing the photographs of the first tree to the identification guide. Use all written, physical and photographic evidence to help verify the tree was correctly identified.

Step 5

Write the result of your findings in the notebook next to your GPS coordinates. Use this information to return to the location and place an identifying marker near that tree for future reference if needed.

Tips and Warnings

  • Do not take pine needles and cones without permission, especially in such places as national forests.

Things You'll Need

  • Digital camera
  • Notebook
  • Tree identification guide
  • Compass or global positioning system
  • Zippered storage bags
  • Grease pencil
  • Long work table

References

  • University of Tennessee Extension: The All-Season Guide to Identifying Common Tennessee Trees
  • Virginia Tech Forestry Outreach Site: Basics of Tree ID
Keywords: pine tree identification, tree identification guide, pine tree characteristics

About this Author

Misty Amber Brighton has been writing for 10 years. Her writing experience includes Trails Travels and GolfLink. She is a veteran of the United States Armed Forces and attends South University.