How to Identify Ornamental Trees

Written by ehow contributor
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A landscaper or homeowner can highlight a portion of his acreage with an ornamental tree, making what may have been an unremarkable spot into an attractive piece of the property over time. There are several ornamental trees that she may have to choose from, many of which grow in the wild in most parts of the country. If you desire to know what different trees might look like on your land, you can go afield and seek them out in their natural setting, if you know what they look like.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Recognize a flowering dogwood by its four-sectioned flowers in the spring and by the red fruit in the summer. Look for white or pink flowers with four large bracts, a term for what many people mistake for petals on a dogwood. These bracts will have a notched end and be 2 to 3 inches long; the greenish white flower heads are in the middle of them. Dogwoods produce a bright berry that turns red by summer and the leaves change from green to a shade of red by autumn.

  2. 2

    Seek out the red buds, twigs, leaf stems and red autumn leaves of a red maple. This maple species has leaves with either three or five lobes and grows to heights of 70 feet. In the winter months, a red maple has reddish twigs and the buds, which are also red, will develop long before spring is in full swing. The flowers of a red maple are red as well, and the stems that attach the leaf to the twigs are red. In the fall, the red maple leaves go from green to a number of colors such as scarlet, orange and yellow, but ornamental hybrids will typically turn red.

  3. 3

    Look for the long and sharp needles of a Colorado blue spruce. This ornamental evergreen tree has needles that can be an inch and a half long and their silver-blue color gives the tree its name. Blue spruce as ornamentals can make it to 50 feet high but grow much taller in the wild areas of the Western states where they are native. Check out the shape of a Colorado blue spruce and you will see that it has a pyramid-like silhouette.

  4. 4

    Identify a river birch by its flaky bark. In the wild, this bark will normally be gray to black, and underneath it as it peels away, you will observe a tan to cream-colored inner section. Some ornamental river birches have an orange-colored outer bark layer. The leaves of river birch have a wide base and resemble a triangle, with the green changing to yellow some years and chartreuse in others.

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