Tree Identification

Last week I headed out into the woods with kids in tow. This isn’t a singular occurrence. My children and I are often in the woods. We know all of our local nature centers very well. However, this day, I was leading a co-op class on tree identification. I have to admit that identifying trees is something I have been interested in since I was a kid. There is something very satisfying about being able to identify what type of tree you are looking at. It’s kind of like calling the tree by name. So, back when the kids and I were discussing possible class ideas to offer for our various co-ops, I was just a bit thrilled when I tossed out the idea of tree identification and heard a resounding “Yes!”

When I first came up with the topic, I wasn’t certain how exactly we would lead a tree identification class. I’m not one to lecture to kids, which probably has something to do with our consensual living/unschooling lifestyle. I wanted to find something cool and fun that they could use to start identifying trees. I found it.


James Kavanagh’s Trees: An Introduction to Familiar North American Species (North American Nature Guides) was just what I was looking for. The fold out pamphlet is laminated, perfect for those mucky trips out in the woods. You can find them online at various places for about $5.95. If you look around locally, you can probably find them at nature centers for the same price. You’ll have to pay tax, but you will be supporting your local nature center at the same time you purchase a cool field resource for your family.

While the pamphlet is not all inclusive and you won’t find every single species of tree in here, it has quite a bit. You’ll find drawings of leaves and any berries or nuts. There are a few sentences for each tree to help in identifying certain characteristics and a small section that addresses those trees with identifying bark. We’ve been out with the guide since the class and the kids really enjoy using it. I’ve had requests for similar field guides on different topics.

We can learn so much about ourselves when we head out in nature and learn about it. By getting to know the world around us, we also learn about ourselves. I have a feeling my children will always search out the connection to the world they have now.

One thought on “Tree Identification

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  1. I love that my kids (5 and 3) can identify all sorts of plants and trees, and in all seasons. I live in Western Washington and the publisher Lone Pine has a ton of great guides. I became interested in plant identification recently. I pursued my own interests and my kids have just tagged along learning with me. 🙂

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