Texas native trees include oak, buckeye, cassia, cottonwood, palmetto, acacia, pine and gum. By learning to identify the trees around you, you can select the best new landscape tree for your home, or identify wild fruit trees and harvest fruits. Tree identification relies on visual data about the trees; anyone regardless of age can do it and it makes a fulfilling group activity for nature classes.
Touch the tree's bark to feel its texture. Note whether it's smooth or rough and what color it is, since bark ranges from white to reddish brown. Observe the shape of the tree trunk and the branch structure.
Look at the tree's leaves. Are they needle-like, suggesting a pine or evergreen? If so, what color are they, and are they flat or rounded? Needles that you can roll between your fingers are rounded; ones that you can't are flat. If they have lobes (like maple leaves), how many lobes do they have and how sharp are the edges or teeth? Do ovoid leaves have teeth? Are all of the tree's leaves the same shape? Are they arranged one opposite the other on both sides of the stem or are they staggered in an alternate arrangement?
Notice any other clues that can help you identify this tree, such as whether the tree has flowers, acorns or samara-like seeds. What color are flowers? Are they fragrant?
Check the photo gallery of Texas Native Trees and the Texas Tree Selector from Texas A & M (see Resources). These resources provide images of the trees (leaves, bark and flowers), geographic information about their distribution in Texas and data on the tree's height, size and shape. Browse these resources until you have identified the tree using the information you gathered and the photo database.
- Tree identification is easiest in the spring and summer when the tree has leaves, so avoid tree identification in the winter until you have plenty of practice.
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