Almost 40 percent of the Michigan landscape is dense forest vegetation. These include evergreen, coniferous and deciduous trees. By understanding the many visual and textural cues, these leaves can help reveal the identity of the tree. Botanists can especially use these points to help narrow the broad category of trees in Michigan.
Michigan has a temperate climate with well-defined seasons. The state is well known for its large percentage of trees and dense forests. The diversity of trees makes an excellent home for many organisms and helps promote clean air, recycled water and aesthetic values.
There is a general guide botanists and tree enthusiasts can use to ascertain the types of trees in Michigan. Designed and organized by Bill Cook, who is part of the Upper Peninsula Tree Improvement Center, the guide takes into account the shape and design of tree leaves. There are more than 64 categories of trees in the Michigan forest, but through the process of elimination this guide can be easily implemented as a field manual.
Needle leaves are easily identified organs unique to deciduous trees. They are long, thin leaves that grow in bundles from specific clusters. They are found on various pine, hemlock and spruce trees. In winter, the tree is able to go dormant without shedding a lot of leaves in the process.
Scale leaves are not common in Michigan but are found on two species there, the northern white cedar and red cedar. Their leaves resemble a fan, spread out with small branchlets. Both of these trees have fruit that can help identify the trees: a reddish-hued fruit on the white cedar and a small blue berry on the red cedar.
Broad leaves fall into two categories, compound or simple. Compound leaves are large, broken into smaller leaf structures. Trees such as the box elder and horse chestnut have compound leaves. They may have waxy surfaces to protect against evaporation from the sun.
Simple leaves do not have leaflets. They are found on the majority of trees in Michigan, including dogwoods, poplars and catalpa. Although the most general of types, knowing the difference between leaf types is an efficient way of narrowing down the possibilities.