Quick, take a look outside.
Chances are, no matter your vantage point, you can see at least one tree nearby or in the distance. If you’re at work, you probably drove past plenty on your way to the office!
It’s all too easy to take these leafy wonders for granted, but trees are an incredible, beautiful and downright valuable part of our ecosystem.
Not only do they provide shade, shelter and food for the many critters that call them home, but they also create oxygen and help clean the air we breathe.
In all, there are more than 6,000 different types of trees around the world! These range from gorgeous, towering redwoods to tiny fruit trees and minuscule shrubs. Understanding the different types of trees is a great way to renew your appreciation for the outdoors.
While it’d be impossible to cover the thousands of varieties out there, I thought I’d take a closer look at a selection of different trees that stand out from the crowd.
Want to learn 15 fascinating types of trees by name? Keep reading!
Deciduous vs. Coniferous Trees
Before I start listing the names of different types of trees, it’s important to distinguish between two main types: deciduous and coniferous.
In short, deciduous trees shed their leaves at a certain time of year. A few of the most common ones include:
On the other hand, coniferous trees tend to keep their leaves all year long. They get their name from the fact that they reproduce by forming a cone. Their seeds are contained in this cone, rather than inside a flower.
A few of the most common types of coniferous trees include:
- Douglas firs
In conversation, you might hear the term “coniferous” interchanged with “evergreen”. While it’s true that most coniferous trees are evergreens, this isn’t always the case.
Take the larch tree, for instance.
Also known as the tamarack tree, this species looks similar to any other evergreen in the summer, showcasing its long, green needles. However, in the winter, you’ll discover that the larch tree is actually deciduous! Its needles turn yellow and it even displays fall foliage.
At the same time, many evergreen trees are not coniferous. Some examples include:
- Holly shrubs
- Boxwood shrubs
- Azalea shrubs
- Mountain laurel shrubs
- Sheep laurel shrubs
These trees reproduce via flowers, not with cones. Thus, while they might stay green through the winter, they aren’t technically classified as coniferous.
10 Common Kinds of Trees to Know
Unless you’re a seasoned arborist, you might not be able to identify the names of different types of trees that are growing right outside your bedroom window. If you’re a hiker exploring the world, identifying these species can become even more difficult.
Everyone has to start somewhere, so let’s begin by taking a look at 10 common trees that you need to know!
1. Birch Trees
As Robert Frost wrote, “One could do worse than be a swinger of birches”. These deciduous trees are strong and sturdy, making them excellent for climbing!
To identify a birch tree, look at the bark. On birches, it will be thin and papery, and it’s usually white or silver-coloured. Another trademark sign is the birch’s long, drooping branches, which are decorated by tiny, triangular-shaped leaves.
Due to its hardness, birchwood is often used to make furniture and plywood.
If you see some near your campsite, you’ll also be glad to know it makes excellent firewood. Of course, you may be more tempted to simply set up a hammock and hang!
2. Oak Trees
If you’ve ever been pelted in the head with an acorn, you’ve been near an oak tree!
Some oaks are deciduous, while other species are evergreen. You can also find them in tree or shrub form. In all, there are more than 90 different oak species! Two of the most common types include white oaks and red oaks.
White oaks have light-coloured bark and rounded leaves. Red oaks tend to have darker bark and pointier leaves. Both type of trees produce acorns, which feature a smooth outer shell inside of a rugged outer top, called a cupule.
This is a type of tree with wood that’s known for being especially hard and rugged. As such, it’s a go-to resource for furniture-makers around the world.
3. Black Ash Trees
Black ash trees are deciduous varieties, found mostly around Canada and northeastern America. They also grow in other provinces and states, including Manitoba and Newfoundland.
These trees are distinguished by their dark, corky bark. In the winter, they sprout dark brown buds that are soft as velvet. They also create a beautiful type of fruit, shaped like a winged pod. When this fruit falls in autumn, it can cover the ground and create a strikingly beautiful effect!
If you have a black ash tree nearby, consider yourself lucky. These gorgeous trees are on the brink of extinction due to a particularly nasty, invasive pest: the emerald ash borer. To date, these bugs have killed around 7.5 million black ash trees!
4. Maple Trees
Maples are among the most common and beautiful tree species. With their dark brown bark, narrow red-brown twigs, and lobed leaves, they’re relatively easy to spot.
While you’ll find maples across North America, most are actually native to Asia. You’ll also find species in Europe, such as the sycamore maple tree.
Of course, maples are closely associated with one of the most beloved breakfast staples around: maple syrup!
Real maple syrup is made from the sap of a maple tree. While any maple will technically produce syrup, only sugar maples create sap that’s sweet enough to eat.
5. Mahogany Trees
Named for the trademark colour of their bark, mahogany trees are a special type of redwood. While many species are native to North and South America, there are some mahogany trees found in other parts of the world, including Africa, Asia and New Zealand.
One interesting fact about these trees is that their bark is more than just beautiful to look at. It also possesses fine tonal qualities. This makes it a natural choice for craftsmen looking to create musical instruments!
6. Cedar Trees
Cedar trees are coniferous and sprawling, recognizable by their needle-like leaves and woody branches. The leaves can be dark green to blue-green in colour and grow in spiral clusters.
Native to the Mediterranean region, cedars can reach extreme heights up to 165 feet or taller!
While you might hear of certain cedars that are native to North America, these species simply have the word “cedar” in their name. However, they are not classified as true cedars. In fact, most are more closely associated with juniper trees.
Due to their oversized, stately nature, cedars are often used as ornamental trees. Their deliciously-scented bark and foliage are also used as aromatic accessories.
7. Mulberry Trees
You might curse mulberry trees if they’ve dropped their fruit all over your car in the summer, but there’s no denying that those berries are delicious!
Turns out, these long-living deciduous trees produce more than just fruit. They also display simple, jagged-edged leaves that have a unique, fuzzy texture. The bark on these trees is strong and makes fair firewood.
Native to North America, mulberry trees are most commonly found along the east coast, in states reaching from Massachusetts to Florida.
8. Pine Trees
A softwood coniferous species, pine trees are often used for ornamental or decorative purposes. If you’re used to walking past piles of woody cones as you walk in the woods, you’re likely traipsing under the shade of a pine!
If you want to see the very top of that shade, you’ll have to look way, way up! Some pines can soar as tall as 270 feet into the air!
In addition to cones, these trees will also drop clusters of needle-shaped leaves. Their bark is reddish-grey and their trunks are straight and narrow.
9. Sycamore Trees
Sycamores are large, deciduous trees that are easy to confuse with maples. Both species have similarly-shaped, broad leaves. If you want to distinguish between the two, be sure to look at the bark.
If it’s a true sycamore tree, it will have red-brown, flaky bark, with patches of white or grey interweaved on the surface. The bark is extremely hard and isn’t often used as a building material.
In late autumn to early winter, sycamores will grow round, brown seed balls all along their branches. Native to North America, these trees are often found in parks, though their powerful roots can destroy foundations and sidewalks.
10. Willow Trees
Few trees are as easily identifiable as the deciduous, flowering willow tree. Its long, drooping branches thrive in rich, moist soil and their elongated leaves are light green and eye-catching.
In all, there are about 400 different species of willows. In addition to the large, weeping varieties that are easy to spot, you may also find dwarf willows or low, shrubby ones.
As you might imagine, the wood from willow trees is relatively soft and flexible. It might not be excellent for making sturdy furniture, but it makes beautiful wicker baskets!
Five Fascinating Types of Trees around the World
Now that we’ve covered some of the most common trees you may encounter, let’s have a little fun! Here are five unique, jaw-dropping trees that you’ll have to see to believe.
This tree has one major claim to fame: It’s the tallest tree in the world!
This coastal redwood is located in northern California and reaches around 380 feet tall! Two hikers, Christ Atkins and Michael Taylor, discovered it in Redwood National Park in 2006.
Until then, the tallest tree was believed to be the Stratosphere Giant, located in Humboldt Redwoods State Park. Spanning 369 feet high, it was easily eclipsed by Hyperion.
When Atkins and Taylor were hiking, they found a grove of trees that stood even higher, and one stood above the rest. Dubbed “Hyperion”, this tree is legendary and to date, unsurpassed in height.
12. Dragon Blood Trees
When you first spot a dragon blood tree, it looks a lot like an upside-down umbrella. Its trunk is left bare, with an inverted canopy of leaves at the top.
These unique trees are native to a specific desert area in Socotra, Yemen.
How did they get their fear-inducing name? When you cut into one, you’ll see red sap start to ooze out of it that looks like, you guessed it…blood.
13. Methuselah Tree
Although it isn’t a specific type of tree, the infamous Methuselah tree deserves special mention. As the world’s oldest living tree, it’d be rude not to include it on a list of special trees!
Also located in Northern California, Methuselah is a type of bristlecone pine tree. Though its exact location remains undisclosed, we do know that it sits 10,000 feet above sea level somewhere in Inyo National Forest.
Just how ancient is Methuselah? Researchers estimate it to be around 5,000 years old! Take a moment to let that sink in. This tree is 5,000 years old…
14. Baobab Trees
Baobab trees are tall and majestic, standing as giant pillars in regions around Madagascar, Africa, Arabia and Australia. For most of the year, their sprawling branches remain leafless.
However, for three months, they develop small leaves on their tips, as well as small white flowers that bloom only at night. The blooms give off a distinct scent reminiscent of sour milk!
They also grow long, egg-shaped fruits that locals consider to be a superfood. Chocked full of potassium, calcium and magnesium, it looks similar to a banana.
These trees are commonly called the “Trees of Life” because they conserve the most water of any species, using their trunks and branches as vessels.
15. Traveller’s Tree
No list of the different types of trees would be complete without a mention of the traveller’s tree!
Found in Madagascar, these trees look like giant peacocks or outstretched fans. They accumulate water in their leaves, which can serve as a makeshift refreshment in the case of an emergency.
The leaves are shaped like a banana tree’s leaves, with bases that look like huge cups. Each one can hold about one litre of rainwater, so if you ever find yourself in that area, you know you’ll never be too far from a sip!
Remember the Names of Different Types of Trees
As you travel, be on the lookout for these different types of trees! The ability to identify a tree by its appearance is an excellent skill that can help you navigate through a forest, find sources of food and water, and even create shade or shelter.
More than anything else, though, learning more about trees is a sure-fire way to gain a newfound appreciation of both their beauty and all-important place in the world!
Planning to hike in the forest at night? Be sure to take along the right gear! Before you head out, check out my post on the best hiking flashlights.