Have you ever gone for a stroll in your neighbourhood or a hike in the woods and admired all the beautiful trees that do so much for our health and well-being?

They do so much for us. The least we could do is learn their names.

Here are a few tips to help you identify four of the more common deciduous (leafy) trees found in the Credit River watershed. It’s really all in the leaves, and with all the deciduous trees fully leafed-out by now, identifying them should be a walk in the park, which is actually the best place to start identifying!

The first one is easy. It’s majestic, iconic and fills us with national pride. That’s right, it’s the sugar maple, known by scientists and people who study ancient languages as Acer saccharum.

Sugar Maple
Sugar maple leaf (click to enlarge)
  1. Sugar maple leaves have a dark green upper surface and a lighter green colour on the underside.
  2. Sugar maple leaves have five lobes. There are three large lobes and two smaller lobes near the stem. The lobes have sharp teeth and are connected by shallow U-shaped notches.
  3. Leaves have three main veins, one running through each of the large lobes. These veins are more visible on the underside of the leaf.
  4. Leaves are usually between 7 and 13 cm long and just as wide.

Staying within the maple family, our next tree is the swamp maple (also known as Freeman’s maple) or Acer x freemanii.

Freeman's maple leaf
Swamp/Freeman’s maple leaves (click to enlarge)
  1. Swamp/Freeman’s maple leaves have a green upper surface and a silvery white underside.
  2. Swamp/Freeman’s maple leaves also have five lobes. There are three large lobes and two smaller lobes near the stem. The lobes have sharp irregular teeth and are connected by deep V-shaped notches. This is the most obvious difference from sugar maple leaves.
  3. Leaves have three main veins, one running through each of the large lobes. These veins are more visible on the underside of the leaf.
  4. Leaves are usually between 7 and 13 cm long and just as wide.

The swamp/Freeman’s maple is actually a naturally occurring hybrid of silver maple and red maple. This tree can be found throughout the Credit River watershed. It prefers wet conditions and is often found in wetlands, but can tolerate a wide variety of conditions.

Next we’ll move to another beautiful native tree – the red oak or Quercus rubra.

Red oak leaf
Red oak leaf (click to enlarge)
  1. Red oak leaves have a dark green upper surface and a lighter green colour on the underside.
  2. Red oak leaves have between seven and 11 pointy lobes that are connected by rounded U-shaped notches.
  3. Leaves have one large central vein running down the length and a number of smaller veins that branch off the central vein and run the length of each lobe. Veins are more visible on the underside of the leaf.
  4. Leaves are usually between 12 and 22 cm long.

For our last tree, we’ll stay within the oak family and move on to the wonderful white oak or Quercus alba.

White oak leaf
White oak leaf (click to enlarge)
  1. White oak leaves have a dull green upper surface and a pale green colour on the underside.
  2. White oak leaves have between seven and nine rounded lobes that are connected by rounded U-shaped notches.
  3. Leaves have one large central vein running down the length and a number of smaller veins that branch off the central vein and run the length of each lobe. Veins are more visible on the underside of the leaf.
  4. Leaves are usually between 12 and 22 cm long.

The next time you visit one of our beautiful conservation areas, or even take a stroll in your neighbourhood, you’ll be able to easily identify sugar maple, swamp/Freeman’s maple, red oak and white oak.

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