The Cities of Waco in the north, College Station on the east, San Antonio to the south and parts of the Hill Country and Austin on the west roughly bound the Central Texas area. The area's ecosystem contains blackland and grand prairies and the eastern part of the Edwards Aquifer. The native vegetation in Central Texas primarily includes grasses and short trees such as the mesquite, varieties of oak, juniper and cedar. To identify a tree growing in Central Texas, you need a reference book and detailed observations on the habitat, bark, flowers and leaves of the tree.
Estimate the height of the tree and make note of its general shape---cone, pyramid, columnar, fastigiate (parallel, erect, clustered branches), oval or irregular. Take a picture of the tree.
Look at the tree bark and describe it. Tree bark may be smooth, scaly, fissured, peeling or cracked. Make note of the bark's color.
Examine the shape of the leaves. The shape may be elliptical, ovate, cordate (heart-shaped), hastate (wider at the base with sharp lobes) or linear with veins that are parallel, pinnate (midrib with veins) or palmate. Measure the dimensions of the leaf.
Describe the edges of the leaves--smooth, curved, serrated or lobed. Also, note how the leaf is attached to the branch either directly or with a thin stalk (petiolated) and describe the leaf's color.
Describe the color and characteristics of flowers, fruit, or cones on the tree, if they are present, and include the season of the year in your notes.
Use your pictures and notes to compare the tree with reference samples. The Texas Forest Service website has drawings and descriptions of approximately 150 trees that grow in Texas including all of the native trees of Central Texas. The drawings include the tree, individual leaves and detailed information on the bark, flowers and fruits.