Winter Tree ID – Part 1 – Evergreens

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As looked out the window on Monday morning, on January 17th, 2022, at the 30 inches of snow that fell Sunday over to Monday morning, I began thinking about items of interest to the avid gardener and thought, “Why not consider tree id in the middle of winter?”




This week we will look at tree id of evergreens. Next week we will explore deciduous trees. Obviously, evergreens are easier, since they retain their needles or leaves. Deciduous or woody ornamentals can present a greater challenge, since they lose their leaves or needles in the fall.


If you look at tree id as a year-round activity, some of the trees that can create a challenge in winter, can be easily identified at other times. If you commit to embracing tree id as a four-season activity, observing the tree in spring, winter, summer, and fall (even going as far as to label it), you can become proficient at tree id.


Starting with evergreens, there are narrowleaf and deciduous. In Ohio, we have narrowleaf evergreens including pine, spruce, fir and in some areas, hemlock. Our broadleaf evergreens include holly, some magnolias, and in some areas like northeast, Ohio, Rhododendron and Azaleas.


The narrowleaf group include Pine, Spruce and Fir. I will not cover all genus and species in each group but the most common.


White Pine, Pinus strobus,


P. strobus


which is our only 5 needle pine in Ohio.


5 needles




Two needle pines include scotch and  Austrian.

Scotch Pine, Pinus sylvestris, (sometime called Scots Pine). This is a tree that can grow fairly tall and will develop an orange-red bark with age.


P. sylvestris


Since Scotch Pine, a two-needle pine is prone to pine needle scale, many times it can help in identification.


2 needles




Austrian Pine, Pinus nigra, has been widely planted as a tree used as a screen, that can tolerate some salt spray.


P. nigra



Unfortunately, Austrian pine has been on the decline due to a fungal infection, Dothistroma needle blight.


needle blight




Firs in general, have grown in popularity. Canaan Fir, White Fir, and in some cases, Nikko Fir are planted in the landscape. One additional fir, which not actually a true fir, is Douglas Fir.



Canaan Fir, Abies balsamea ‘Canaan’ has become a very popular Christmas Tree and is gaining popularity in the landscape.



canaan close




White Fir, Abies concolor, is gaining popularity in the landscape and can tolerate a higher ph than most evergreens.


white fir

wt fir close




Nikko Fir, Abies homolepis, is not readily available but can grow into an attractive tree.



nikko close




Douglas Fir, Pseudotsuga menziesii, can be a good selection as an evergreen.


doug fir

doug fir needles




Onto the Spruce as a group. Common spruce include Colorado Blue Spruce, Norway Spruce, and Dwarf Alberta Spruce.

Colorado spruce, Picea pungens, is found in the landscape.


P. pungens


The Colorado Blue Spruce is well known for needles having a blue-green color.


blue spruce

In recent years, some of these trees have succumb to fungal infections of Rhizosphaera needle cast.




Norway Spruce, Picea abies, has gained much popularity in the landscape.



norway close





Draft Alberta Spruce, Picea glauca ‘Conica’, is a common shrub found in the residential landscape.



alberta needles




Don't want to leave out my FAVORITE evergreen tree Canadian Hemlock, Tsuga canadensis.








A few broadleaf evergreens can include holly, azalea, and rhododendron.


American Holly, Ilex opaca can become a small tree in the landscape.


ilex o

amer holly



Blue Holly, Ilex × meserveae ‘Blue Princess’ and ‘Blue Prince’ is a common shrub found in the landscape.



blue prince






azalea close



and Rhododendron




are mostly found in northeast Ohio due to the requirement of lower ph of 5-6.


Sweetbay magnolia, Magnolia virginiana, is semi evergreen in Ohio.



sweet mag





I know I did not talk about ALL evergreen plants. Sorry if I missed your favorite!


So put on your boots, zip up your coat, put on you hat and gloves and get out and look for evergreens!





And Stay Warm!!!!


This video is geared toward elementary youth:

Tree identification for kids- Pine, Spruce, Fir: