How to Know the Difference Between an Oak Tree and Pine Tree

Written by kelvin o'donahue
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How to Know the Difference Between an Oak Tree and Pine Tree
Pine trees have needle-like leaves. (Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

An oak tree represents one of the major divisions of trees -- the deciduous, or hardwood trees. A pine tree is a member of the softwood, or conifer trees. The two types have many differences that help distinguish them from each other. To tell an oak from a pine, study the tree's shape, flowers, leaves and seeds.

Skill level:
Easy

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Stand back and study the tree's overall shape. Pine trees have a cone or Christmas-tree shape, with the longest branches at the bottom and the shortest at the top. Oak trees resemble the "lollipop" shape drawn by children, like a ball sitting on a stick. You can tell a pine from an oak even if the tree is dead and has no greenery.

    How to Know the Difference Between an Oak Tree and Pine Tree
    The cone-shaped crown of a pine tree makes it a favourite at Christmastime. (Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)
  2. 2

    Inspect the leaves of a twig. Oak trees have broad, flat leaves on small stalks. Pine trees have long, needle-like leaves in bunches instead of singly.

    How to Know the Difference Between an Oak Tree and Pine Tree
    Oak trees have broad, flat leaves that form intricate shapes. (Dynamic Graphics Group/Dynamic Graphics Group/Getty Images)
  3. 3

    Look up into the tree for flowers in the spring and early summer. Pine trees do not produce flowers, but oaks produce small clusters of green flowers on hanging stems. If you see flowers, the tree is not a pine.

  4. 4

    Search for seeds, either in the tree or on the ground under the tree. Oak trees produce large numbers of acorns, little ball-like nuts that grow with a cap where they attach to the tree. A pine produces a small number of cones, each containing many seeds. When fresh, the cones are solid, but as they dry, the cones open and spread apart.

    How to Know the Difference Between an Oak Tree and Pine Tree
    Oaks produce nuts called acorns, that have small caps where they attach to the branch. (Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

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