Native Tree Leaves in your Neighbourhood

Identifying leaves is a great way for you to connect with the trees in your neighbourhood.  Your Native Tree Leaves in your Neighbourhood biodiversity sheets should help you with this.

Tree identification can be tricky.  Are you up for the challenge?  Read these notes before you start.

  • There are over 70 native tree species in Ontario!  Not all of these could fit onto your sheet.  Sometimes the leaves of one group of trees are similar and are represented on your sheet with one photo.  For example, the ash leaf on your sheet represents 6 different ash species.  Other leaves on your sheet that represent groups of similar species are Cherry, Willow, Hickory, Hawthorn, Mountain-Ash, Elm, Serviceberry, Dogwood and Birch.  The leaves shown will still help you get to the correct group and learning that something is, for example, a birch, is great!  You can stop there but if you would like to learn more about all the different native trees in Ontario, you can go to our tree page by clicking here.
  • Not all the tree leaves you find will be native species!  We plant many different trees in our parks, yards and subdivisions that are not native to Ontario.  If you find a leaf that you can't find on your sheet, it might be one of these non-native species.  To find mostly native species, visit a natural area nearby.  Most of these trees will be native species.  But, even here, there could be non-native species that have "escaped."  This means that planted non-native species produced seeds that were able to spread into the natural area and grow there.  Many of these trees are called invasive species.  This means they are competing with the native species for space in a natural area.  That's not good for the ecology of that habitat.  Example invasive tree species that you might find include Norway Maple, Common Buckthorn, Glossy Buckthorn, Black Locust and Scot's Pine.
  • What is a tree, anyway?  There are three main groups of woody plants: trees, shrubs and vines.  A woody plant has a stem (trunk) that survives the winter and keeps growing the next spring.  In most cases, trees have a single main stem or trunk.  Shrubs have many trunks.  There are exceptions to this but it will be easier for you to use your sheet if you concentrate on woody plants that have a single trunk.
  • Leaves can vary in shape.  Even on the same tree, leaves might look different from one another.  It is always important to look at more leaves than just one when trying to identify a tree.

Now for the fun part!  Get outside and try your sheet!  For help, try some of the activities below with your biodiversity sheet.  The actual links to the activity sheets are at the bottom of this page.

Leaf Characteristics

These sheets shows you what to look for on each leaf to know how to tell it from other leaves.  There are some example for you to try with your biodiversity sheet.

Dichotomous Key

This activity helps you learn how to identify trees by making your own learning tool.  Try it out!