There’s a saying: “Trees become your friends when you know their names.” As a Georgia native who is currently social distancing solo in Vermont, I will take all the friends I can get. I set off to learn more about my new home environment, with the help of Forester Ethan Tapper. Check out our tips and tricks below for identifying our forest friends, or watch the 20-minute video for more information.

Sugar Maple

Identifying sugar maples

Sugar maples are a popular tree because they make that delicious syrup! They are the official tree of the state of Vermont. To identify a sugar maple, look at its leaves, which will have five lobes with pointy “teeth” on them. Some say that their buds look like sugar cones for ice cream.

White Birch

White birch bark/ paper birch bark; photo by Katherine Hancock

This tree’s name speaks for its most identifying feature: that bright, white bark! The bark can look like it’s peeling off in layers, and it tends to get darker as the tree gets older. It has leaves with an oval shape with serrated, or jagged, edges. The branches of a birch will only appear at the very top of the tree.

Red Oak

Red oak leaf and bark

Red oaks have leaves with seven lobes that have those pointy “teeth.” They also have bark that is silvery-blue and pretty smooth; the bark breaks up into broad, flat ridges as the tree ages. A unique trait of red oaks is the taproot, which is a long root that extends far into the ground as soon as they start to germinate. The taproot helps anchor the tree.

Eastern White Pine

Eastern white pines have five needles per cluster.

Eastern white pines are a common conifer—or evergreen tree—in Vermont. They can grow very tall, which makes a safe nesting site for birds, including bald eagles. To identify an eastern white pine, look at a cluster of its needles. Eastern white pines have five needles per cluster. It’s easy to remember because “white” is spelled with five letters.

Red Pine

Red pines are another common conifer in Vermont. They may look similar to an white pines at first glance, but look again! Red pines have two needles per cluster; white pines have five needles per cluster. Red pines also have reddish-brown bark that flakes off rather easily when you run your hand over it.

What trees are we missing? Check out our webinar above, or visit our YouTube channel for more on exploring Vermont’s natural landscapes.


Written by: Katherine Hancock, LEAP AmeriCorps Education & Outreach Coordinator

This educational post is part of our #StayGroundedVT campaign to help Vermonters stay connected to nature, find tools to teach their kids about nature, and support farms producing local food. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram to get the latest!