Do, Make, Play: Leaf Identification

Here in Canada it’s hard not to know what a maple leaf looks like, seeing as it has a fairly prominent place on our flag, but what other leaves can you identify? On your next walk with the kids see if you can name the trees along the way by looking at the shape of the leaves. We have a quick run-down of some species here. Although its definitely not an exhausted list, we think it’s a great place to start! We also have a list of great resources for you at the end.

Coniferous Trees

These trees tend to have needles and are the only trees that bear cones. Many Coniferous trees are evergreen and keep their needles year-round.

botany for children

Fir: these needles only have two sides and are flat, so unlike a spruce tree it won’t spin in your fingers.

Pine: the needles of the pine tree are bundled together

Spruce: if you pluck a needle from a tree and it spins easily between your fingers it’s probably a Spruce!

Broad Leaf Trees

If it has a leaf and not a needle it is a broadleaf tree. These trees also have a seed in the form of a fruit or a nut, instead of cones. Many broadleaf trees are Deciduous, meaning they lose their leaves in the Autumn.

kids leaf activity

Oaks: the easiest way to spot an oak is to find the acorns. If you are just looking at the trees look for lobed leafs – leafs that have a bunch of round protrusions at the end.

Maple: these leaves grow in pairs, meaning there is one leaf coming out of the same spot on a branch on either side. It is known for having multiple pointy lobes, or projections.

Willow: look for long, narrow leaves with tiny serrated edges. The leaves are mostly green but sometimes they can be a mix of shades of white, pink and green depending on the species.

teach kids about leaves

Elm: these are simple shaped leaves and are oval shaped with a point at one end. They have toothy, serrated edges and are asymmetrical at the base of the stem. Some elm leaves are smooth on one side and fuzzy on the other

Birch: look for heart shaped leave that have serrated edges that meet symmetrically at the base of the stem. In the Autumn they turn very bright colours like golden yellow and deep red

Other Resources

What Tree is That? Is a website that presents you with a series of questions to help you narrow down what kind of leaf you have found.

ThoughtCo has a great section on tree identification which is sure to spark the interest of any new arborists in your family!

Tree Musketeers also has a great tree identification guide that is perfect for beginners!

These printable leaf identification cards from Amy of Wild Flower Ramblings are great for any age!

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