Identify trees by their barkHow to recognize common trees by their bark
Take a look at the photos of tree bark on the following pages and see if they resemble anything in your area. Remember that identifying tree bark is not a very precise science initially. It takes lots of work and practice. Even after years of practice, you will make mistakes, and some trees will "stump" you.
While there are dozens of additional tree species, the following photos are some of the most common in the eastern United States. Keep in mind that trees are like people. No two look alike. Younger bark is generally smoother, while older bark may look significantly different. Enjoy your exploration of nature, and be prepared to heighten your skills of observation by looking closely at the bark of trees around you. Soon, you will be able to reliably identify trees by bark.
The peeling bark of a yellow birch tree
While not entirely divisible into neat categories, we have taken the liberty of dividing trees into three categories by the texture of bark generally found on mature trees.
Uniform Tree BarkIdentifying trees with uniform bark can be fairly easy, or extremely difficult. "Uniform" could mean smooth tree bark, like the American beech tree. It could also mean rough tree bark, like that found on an old white oak tree. Take a look at some photos of trees with fairly uniform bark
Ridged Tree BarkMany trees have ridged bark. It could be a rough, deeply fissured bark, or it could be bark made of regular, small, tightly spaced ridges. These take some practice. Sometimes younger trees can have bark that is tightly ridged and will resemble mature trees of another species. Take a look at this page to examine photos of trees with ridged bark
Flaky Tree BarkIn many ways, trees with flaky or peeling bark are the easiest to identify, as long as they are naturally occurring. These pages cannot be used to accurately identify the species of ornamental trees. See some photos of trees with flaking or peeling bark.
For more information about tree identification, you may wish to purchase the following guides: