Bored? Get to know your neighborhood trees

Spring has officially sprung, so what can you do to celebrate? There are plenty of safe (and fun) outdoor activities within your own yard or neighborhood street – like tree identification.

Tree identification is a tricky business, especially when the leaves aren’t back yet. But as of right now, mid-March in Nashville, certain trees have telltale giveaways that make them easier to identify. Check out these pictures snapped today from a neighborhood in Madison, and look to see if you have these trees in your own neck of the woods! Some of our favorite identification resources and websites are also included at the bottom of this post.

Cherry

We’ll start with one of the easiest species to identify at this time of year. A cherry blossom is hard to confuse with anything else. They do come in both pink and white shades, but always with similar flower shape and size. Cherry blossoms also grow in clusters. In Nashville right now, cherry trees are just beginning to bloom and will become even more spectacular in the coming few weeks.

More about cherry trees: 25 Best Cherry Blossoms Facts That You Definitely Never Knew Before

Cherry blossoms in early spring

Redbud

Like cherry trees, redbuds are also understory trees, meaning that they don’t get too large. The blooms are more purple than cherry trees and are a bit smaller than cherry blooms. You might be able to still spot some of the redbud’s seedpods hanging on, too – their shape is a lot like sugar snap peas.

More about redbuds: Numerous Redbud Tree Facts That Make for an Interesting Read

The color has arrived, but these redbud blooms aren’t fully out yet — more to come!
The redbud seedpods are an easy indicator

Dogwood

Dogwoods haven’t started to bloom yet (not here, anyway), but they still have a great distinguisher for identification – their unique bud shape. Branches gently curve upwards, like little hooks, and the buds look like almost-perfect little circles right now. These will most likely fully bud out after the cherries and redbuds… but we’ll see! Once you’ve identified these flowering trees in your neighborhood, keep an eye on them over the next few weeks to see how they change. At this time of year, sometimes you can even tell a difference from morning to night.

More about dogwoods: All About the Flowering Dogwood

For dogwoods, look for small trees with hook-like twigs reaching upwards, with small circle buds on the tips

Hackberry

Okay, before you read any further – no, we aren’t planting any new hackberries. The branches are easy to break, and so these trees are often regarded as hazardous. However, they do have a feature that make them easy to spot… and many neighborhoods in Nashville have large hackberries. Look for very warty and bumpy bark, although hackberry bark can look quite different from tree to tree.

More about hackberries: Interesting Facts about the Hackberry Tree

Got funky-looking bark? You might have a hackberry

Do you know what kinds of trees are outside your front window, or lining your street? Look for the common four trees mentioned above, and then explore some of these resources to learn more. Tree identification isn’t easy, but when you’ve got some time on your hands, this is a great time of year to get to know your trees so you can watch them leaf out over the next month.

Online resources:

The All Season Pocket Guide to Identifying Common Tennessee Trees, Tennessee Forestry Department of Agriculture

How to Identify Deciduous Trees by Their Leaves, ThoughtCo.

What Tree is That? Online, Arbor Day Foundation

Books:

The Sibley Guide to Trees

Tree Identification Book: A New Method for the Practical Identification and Recognition of Trees

A Field Guide to Eastern Trees: Eastern United States and Canada, Including the Midwest

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