Fifty Common Trees of Indiana
The classic and trusted book “Fifty Common Trees of Indiana” by T.E. Shaw was published in 1956 as a user-friendly guide to local species. Nearly 70 years later, the publication has been updated through a joint effort by the Purdue Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, Indiana 4-H, and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, and reintroduced as “An Introduction to Trees of Indiana.”
The full publication is available for $7 in the Purdue Extension Education Store. The field guide helps identify common Indiana woodlot trees.
The Intro to Trees of Indiana web series offers a sneak peek of all the species from the book as they are paired with an ID That Tree video from Purdue Extension forester Lenny Farlee to help visualize each species as it stands in the woods. Threats to species health as well as also insight into the wood provided by the species, will be provided through additional resources as well as the Hardwoods of the Central Midwest exhibit of the Purdue Arboretum.
|Tree Species Name
|Purdue FNR News Article
|Purdue Extension-FNR Video
|Publication: An Introduction to Trees of Indiana
|Intro to Trees of Indiana: Virginia Pine
|Meet the Virginia pine, or Pinus virginiana, which has clusters of two needles, approximately two inches long, which are often twisted. Bark on the Virginia pine is flaky, with a combination of gray and red-orange tones, while cones are one to three inches long and have very sharp thorns at the end of the scales.
|Intro to Trees of Indiana: Jack Pine
|Meet the Jack pine or Pinus banksiana, also known as scrub pine, which has clusters of two dark green needles that are one to one and a half inches long, noticeably curved and slightly twisted. Bark on the jack pine is dark to medium gray, thin and flaky when young and features thick plates in older trees. The cones are one to three inches long, may be curved and twisted and remain closed on the tree for several years.
|Intro to Trees of Indiana: Scotch Pine
|Meet the scotch pine, or Pinus sylvestris, also known as Scots pine, which has clusters of two blue green or yellow green needles, which are one to three inches long and do not break when bent. Bark on the scotch pine is light gray on the outside and orange in color on the inner bark,. On the tree, cones are cylindrical and pointed at the ends, approximately three inches long and do not have spines on the end of the scales.
|Intro to Trees of Indiana: Red Pine
|Meet the red pine, or Pinus resinosa, which is not native to Indiana, but has been planted widely across the state. This conifer has clusters of two slender, flexible green or yellow green needles, which are four to six inches long. The bark is scale and red-orange, while cones are egg-shaped with smooth scales.
|Intro to Trees of Indiana: White Pine
|Meet the eastern white pine or Pinus strobus, the only five-needled pine native to Indiana. Each bundle of needles or fascicle, has five needles, which are typically between two and four inches long and blue green in color. The bark is dark and smooth in young trees and heavily furrowed in older trees. The cones are up to eight inches long, have relatively thin scales and often covered in white sap or pitch.
|Intro to Trees of Indiana: Red Cedar
|Meet Eastern red cedar or Juniperus virginiana, one of the most common coniferous trees in Indiana. This evergreen tree, also known as aromatic cedar, is unique in that it has both scale-like and sharp-pointed leaves. The red cedar features a shreddy, gray-brown bark on both the trunk and branches, and it produces a small cone, which resembles a berry that is blue in color.
|Intro to Trees of Indiana: Black Willow
|Meet Black willow or Salix nigra, which has long, narrow leaves with short leaf stems, which are held alternately on slender, flexible twigs. Willows have a single scale covering the bud, which helps differentiate them from other species.
|Intro to Trees of Indiana: Butternut
|Meet Butternut or Juglans cinerea, also known as white walnut. This species, which has slowly disappeared from the landscape due to a fungal disease, has alternately held compound leaves that are one to two feet long and include a terminal leaflet. In addition to the toothed leaflets, it features bark which is silver on top and dark between the fissures and produces a lemon-shaped edible nut.
|Intro to Trees of Indiana: Black Walnut
|Meeet Black walnut or Juglans nigra, which has compound leaves with several pairs of leaflets along the individual leaf stems. The leaves, which are arranged alternately on the twigs, can be between one to two feet long. The bark has long, strong running ridges, while the species produces nuts, which are ridged and rounded with very heavy shells encased in a thick yellow-green husk.
|Intro to Trees of Indiana: Tulip Tree
|Meet the Tulip tree or Liriodendron tulipifera, also known as the tulip poplar or yellow poplar. The state tree of Indiana features large, simple, tulip-shaped leaves with three lobes, held alternately on long leaf stems. In the spring this tree produces colorful green and yellow flowers high up on the tree, while its leaves turn to a golden yellow in the fall.
|Intro to Trees of Indiana: Sycamore
|Meet the Sycamore or Platanus occindentalis. The large leaves of this species have three to five lobes and loosely resemble that of maples, but are significantly larger and alternately held. The bark on the lower part of the tree is scaly and brown, while the upper trunk and limbs are smooth, shiny and white. The fruit of this tree is a soft, one-inch brown ball-like seed head, which hangs on a long stem.
|Intro to Trees of Indiana: Sassafras
|Meet Sassafras or Sassafras albidum, which has alternately held leaves that can vary in shape from no lobes to two or three lobes. The medium green leaves and clusters of small yellow flowers turn to showy yellow, orange and red leaves and dark purple berry-like fruit in the fall. When the leaves are crushed or the bright green twigs are scraped or the strongly ridged bark is sliced into, it produces a spicy aroma.
|Intro to Trees of Indiana: Redbud
|Meet Redbud or Cercis canadensis. This tree puts on quite a show with its clusters of pink and lavender flowers in early spring before its heart-shaped leaves open. The bark is reddish brown and flaky, while its fruit is a small flat peapod.
|Intro to Trees of Indiana: Persimmon
|Meet the persimmon or Diospyros virginiana, one of Indiana’s fruit producing trees. This species is identified by its pumpkin orange colored fleshy plum-like fruit, its bark resembling alligator hide with orange coloring between the ridges and its alternately held oval shaped leaves with smooth margins.
|Intro to Trees of Indiana: Osage Orange
|Meet the Osage orange or Maclura pomifera. Also known as the hedge apple, this species has oval shaped leaves with point tips, twigs with sharp thorns, fibrous looking bark with an orange undertone, and large yellow-green colored bumpy fruit.
|Intro to Trees of Indiana: Shingle Oak
|Meet the shingle oak or Quercus imbricaria, which unlike all other Indiana oaks has shiny, oblong leaves without lobes or teeth, which it retains well into the winter. This species tends to keep its lower dead limbs attached to the tree, and also produces small rounded acorns that turn dark in color before losing their thin caps, which cover a third to half of the nut.
|Intro to Trees of Indiana: Pin Oak
|Meet Pin Oak, or Quercus palustris, which has multi-lobed, alternately held leaves with lobes coming out at nearly a 90-degree angle that have bristle tips. Other key characteristics of pin oak are lower branches which angle downward, and acorns, which have relatively flat tops with smooth scales.
|Intro to Trees of Indiana: Black Oak
|Meet the Black Oak or Quercus velutina, which can be identified by its terminal buds, which are large, angular, fuzzy and light tan; its multi-lobed leaves with deep sinuses that are dark and shiny with a leathery appearance; and its acorns, which are small and round with striping running up and down the sides and have a cap with scales on the edge that resemble loose, rough shingles.
|Northern Red Oak
|Intro to Trees of Indiana: Northern Red Oak
|Meet the northern red oak, or Quercus rubra. This species is easily identified by its bark, which looks like ski tracks or long running ridges that run up and down the sides of the tree, and its large rounded acorn featuring a tight shallow cap with tight scales that resembles a beret sitting on top of a head.
|Intro to Trees of Indiana: Chinkapin Oak
|Meet the Chinkapin Oak or Quercus muehlenbergii, which features leaves with shallow evenly lobed margins and the appearance of sharp-pointed teeth. The bark is light gray and ashy, while the acorns are small, darn brown in color and have a cap with loose knobby scales.
|Intro to Trees of Indiana: Chestnut Oak
|Meet the Chestnut Oak or Quercus montana, which has dark, deeply ridged bark; small, evenly lobed rounded margins on its leaves; and large dark brown acorns.
|Swamp White Oak
|Intro to Trees of Indiana: Swamp White Oak
|Meet Swamp White Oak or Quercus bicolor, which has leaves with wavy, uneven lobed margins with blunt teeth, which are wider toward the tip than at the base, bark that peels back or is flaky/shreddy, and acorns held on long stalks.
|Intro to Trees of Indiana: Bur Oak
|Meet bur oak or Quercus macrocarpa, which features leaves with rounded lobes, highlighted by deep sinuses, which are very broad across the top. The bur oak also features thick ridged bark and an acorn identified by hairy fringe on its large cap.
|Intro to Trees of Indiana: White Oak
|Meet white oak or Quercus alba, one of the most common upland hardwood species in Indiana, which has alternately held leaves with rounded lobes, varying in number and deepness of the sinuses between, as well as chestnut brown acorns featuring a lighter brown cap with knobby scales.
|Intro to Trees of Indiana: Red Mulberry
|Meet the red mulberry or Morus rubra. This species has variable leaves, which can come without lobes (entire) or with two (mitten), three or even five lobes. Regardless of shape, the leaves have serrated margins and pointed tips and are arranged alternately on the twigs.
|Intro to Trees of Indiana: Red Maple
|Meet the red maple or Acer rubrum, which has simple three to five-lobed leaves with relatively shallow, v-shaped divisions between the lobes. In the early spring, it is one of the earliest native trees to flower, producing clusters of reddish flowers as well as reddish colored pairs of winged seeds/fruit. In the fall, foliage typically turns a bright red to maroon color.
|Intro to Trees of Indiana: Silver Maple
|Meet silver maple or Acer saccharinum, which has simple, typically five-lobed leaves with deeply cut divisions, or sinuses, between the lobes. The leaves, which are silvery on the underside, are held oppositely on long leaf stems coming off the twigs.
|Intro to Trees of Indiana: Black Maple
|Meet black maple or Acer nigrum, which commonly has stipules, or miniature leaves, at the base of the leaf stem, mottled gray stems and black pointed buds oppositely arranged on the stems. The lobed leaves are darker green and tend to droop down at the edges as the summer goes on.
|Intro to Trees of Indiana: Sugar Maple
|Meet the sugar maple or Acer saccharum, also called hard maple, which has oppositely arranged simple leaves typically with five lobes, two smaller lobes at the base and three larger lobes at the top, with u-shaped sinuses between the lobes.
|Intro to Trees of Indiana: Honey Locust
|Meet the honey locust or Gleditsia triacanthos, also called “thorn-tree,” which has multi-pronged thorns of two inches or more in length on the trunk, limbs and twigs. Honey locust can be found with doubly compound leaves with very small oval leaflets arranged alternately on the main leaf stem, or it can have singly compound leaves with very small leaves on a straight stem.
|Intro to Trees of Indiana: Black Locust
|Meet the black locust or Robinia pseudoacacia. which has compound leaves made up of seven to 17 small rounded leaflets arranged alternately on the twigs. The black locust has thorns on the twig where the buds and leaf stems branch off and a light to medium gray marked by very rough, long running ridges.
|Intro to Trees of Indiana: Ironwood
|Meet the ironwood or Ostrya virginiana, also known as Eastern hop hornbeam, which is identifiable by its oblong leaves with doubly-toothed margins held on very fine twigs, and its fruit, a loosely formed green pod at the tip of the branches, which resembles hops.
|Intro to Trees of Indiana: Pignut Hickory
|Meet the Pignut hickory or Carya glabra. This tree is identifiable by its five-leaflet compound leaves and its small, smooth round nut with a partially open husk at the top. The pignut hickory has smaller buds and finer twigs than its cousins shagbark and mockernut hickory, and its nut is smooth and not ribbed.
|Intro to Trees of Indiana: Mockernut Hickory
|Meet white hickory or Carya tomentosa, also known as mockernut hickory. It features thick, interlacing bark ridges that are often silvery on top. Its leaves are made up of seven to nine leaflets that are hairy beneath. Its buds, leaf stems and twigs also may be hairy.
|Intro to Trees of Indiana: Shagbark Hickory
|Meet the Shagbark hickory or Carya ovata, which is easily identifiable by its rough, shaggy bark, which is often peeling off from the trunk in thin strips. Its unique leaves feature five leaflets, two held opposite one another toward the base of the stem and three held at the end of the leaf.
|Intro to Trees of Indiana: Bitternut Hickory
|Meet the bitternut hickory or Carya cordiformis. This cousin of the pecan, has anywhere from five to 11 leaflets on its compound leaves as well as a sulphur-colored, elongated bud and tight gray bark with interlacing ridges.
|Intro to Trees of Indiana: Hackberry
|Meet the hackberry or Celtis occidentalis. This species is easily identified by its lopsided, single-tooth margined leaves, and gray, ashy bark, which is often warty/bumpy with smooth spots in between.
|Intro to Trees of Indiana: Sweetgum
|Meet sweetgum or Liquidambar styraciflua. This species is easily identified by its leaves, which are shaped like a five-pointed star as well as its fruit, which are spiny spherical balls that hold tiny winged seeds inside.
|Intro to Trees of Indiana: Black Gum
|The black gum, also known as bee gum, sour gum, black tupelo or pepperidge, is a medium-sized tree that puts on quite a show with its striking red/maroon leaves in the fall.
|Intro to Trees of Indiana: Slippery Elm
|Meet the slippery elm or Ulmus rubra. It features doubly-serrated simple leaves on short leaf stems, with a sandpapery upper surface. The bark features strong vertical ridges, which when sliced open feature alternating layers of tan and dark brown.
|Intro to Trees of Indiana: American Elm
|Meet the American elm or Ulmus americana. This species is easily identified by its simple doubly-serrated oval leaves, which feature a large tooth with small teeth like edges on top that.
|Intro to Trees of Indiana: Flowering Dogwood
|Meet the flowering dogwood or cornus florida. This small native Indiana tree has beautiful white blossoms in the spring, and red to maroon foliage in the fall. It has opposite leaf arrangement with simple leaves featuring a venation pattern that sees the veins angle and sweep along the edges of the leaf and curve to the tip. The bark is a rough alligator hide texture that ranges from light to medium gray.
|Intro to Trees of Indiana: Cottonwood
|Meet the Cottonwood or Populus deltoides. This large bottomland tree’s scientific name comes from the delta shape of the leaves, which are triangular, often with prominent teeth that resemble saw blades along the edges.
|Intro to Trees of Indiana: Kentucky Coffeetree
|Meet the Kentucky Coffeetree or Gymnocladus dioicus. This species, which is part of the broad legume family, historically provided a substitute for coffee, care of the dark bean like seeds held within its fruit, which is produced in the form of a wide, thick-shelled pod. This native Indiana tree is easily identifiable by its large seed pods, long doubly-compound leaves and textured, flaking/peeling bark with vertical ridges.
|Intro to Trees of Indiana: Black Cherry
|Meet the Black cherry or Prunus serotin, which is characterized by shiny, oblong leaves with finely toothed margins, arranged alternately on slender twigs, as well as very dark, flaky bark. The white flowers, which appear in early summer, develop into clusters of small cherries that ripen from red to black in July and August.
|Intro to Trees of Indiana: Northern Catalpa
|Meet the Northern Catalpa. This species, which provides rot resistant wood great for outdoor usage such as fence posts, is native to southern Indiana along the Ohio River bottoms. It features huge heart-shaped leaves in whorled formation, long bean-like fruit pods and beautiful, large clusters of white tubular flower clusters in early summer.
|Intro to Trees of Indiana: Ohio Buckeye
|Meet the Ohio Buckeye or Aesculus glabra. This understory, which is one of the first trees to leaf out in the spring, is easily identifiable by its oppositely arranged compound leaves with five leaflets, placed like the fingers on your hand, that originate from one location on the long leaf stems.
|Intro to Trees of Indiana: Boxelder
|Meet the Boxelder or Acer negundo. This member of the maple family has opposite leaf arrangement, but is the only maple that features compound leaves, often with three to five leaflets. Boxelder is frequently found growing in wet locations, such as bottomlands and forested sites near streams.
|Intro to Trees of Indiana: River Birch
|River birch is identifiable by its simple, triangular-shaped leaves with doubly-serrated or toothed margins, which are held on fine twigs, as well as its flaking or peeling bark.
|Intro to Trees of Indiana: Blue Beech
|The blue beech, also known as the American hornbeam, musclewood or the water beech, is an understory tree that stands out due to its gray bark and striations that resemble muscles and sinews as well as its doubly toothed leaves.
|Intro to Trees of Indiana: Beech
|Allow us to introduce the beech, or Fagus grandifolia, which is easily identified by its smooth gray bark and its simple leaves featuring straight-line veins from the midrib to the small teeth on the margin.
|Intro to Trees of Indiana: American Basswood
|The American basswood, or Tilia America and also known as the linden, is commonly identified by its simple heart-shaped leaves with finely toothed margins, flat bark with long running lines up and down the trees.
|Intro to Trees of Indiana: Quaking Aspen
|Meet the quaking aspen or populus tremuloides. Also known as the trembling aspen, this species is adaptable to a variety of soils, ranging from moist loamy sands to clay, but it is shade intolerant. It is often found on the edge of woodlands or where the site has been disturbed, giving it access to full sunlight.
|Large Tooth Aspen
|Intro to Trees of Indiana: Large Tooth Aspen
|Meet the large tooth aspen or populus grandidentata. This species, also known as the big tooth aspen, needs full sunlight and thrives in areas where the soil has been disturbed and provides a good seed bed for its wind-blown seeds.
|Intro to Trees of Indiana: White Ash
|The white ash, which is typically found on higher and drier sites than its cohorts in the ash family, has been threatened due to the invasive beetle called the emerald ash borer. This species features opposite leaf arrangement, compound leaves with seven to nine leaflets, and squatty terminal buds as well as a bud that dips down into the leaf scar, which resembles a smiley face. The bark is gray, has a corky feel, and features an interlacing network of ridges forming a diamond shape.