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How to Identify a Tree by Its Fruit

By Denise Bertacchi ; Updated September 21, 2017
Most trees bear fruit--but not always the kind of fruit you eat.

Most trees can be identified by the fruit they grow--but not all fruit is the kind you find at a grocery store. Nuts, pine cones and seed pods are all kinds of tree fruit. Many tree fruits are very distinctive, like the oak's acorn, the maple's "helicopter" seeds or the pine's prickly cones. There are many types of fruit that grow on trees, so a good tree classification guidebook will also come in handy when trying to identify an unknown tree.

Acorns are tree fruit from an oak.

Find the fruit. Trees bear fruit--which contains their seeds--after flowering in the spring, but sometimes you'll find fallen fruit around the tree well into the summer. Make sure you get the correct fruit from the tree you wish to identify by plucking it directly off the branch. Remember, fruit is anything that contains the tree's seeds: You could be looking for a nut, a seed pod or a berry.

Conifer trees have pine cones for fruit.

Examine the fruit. Is it a pine cone, a winged seed, a pod, an acorn or a fleshy fruit like something you might eat? Write down notes on the fruit's color, size and special characteristics.

Maples have winged seed pods for fruit.

You can determine the basic identification of a tree by classifying the fruit. Acorns come from oaks, pine cones come from conifers, winged seed pods come from maples, sweet gums have spiky ball-shaped capsules, and both walnuts and hickories have nuts encased in large green husks that turn brown after falling.

Cherry trees have edible fruit.

Compare the fruit to the photos and descriptions in the guidebook, or consult Internet sources to discover the tree's identity.

 

Things You Will Need

  • Tree classification guidebook
  • Pencil
  • Paper

Warning

  • Never eat the fruit from a tree until it is properly identified. Many tree fruits are poisonous to humans.