Here’s a quick guide to how to identify 5 common tree species in Alberta! Before we get started here a few key words that will help you out:

Deciduous: trees that lose their leaves every year.

Coniferous: trees with needles that stay on all year round. They also have cones as a a way to spread seeds.

Simple vs. Compound Leaves: A simple leaf are one main leaf. A compound leaf has many small leaves (called leaflets) that all part of the same leaf.

Alternate vs Opposite Leaf Patterns: Opposite leaf pattern is where leaves are attached to the branch mirrored to each other. Alternate leaf patterns is where leaves are attached alternately along the branch.

Sheathed Needles vs Unsheathed Needles: Sheathed needles means that there are two needles attached at the same point together on the branch. Unsheathed needles means that needles are attached on their own on the branch.

Aspen Poplar

Key Features


Bark: smooth green-white (young) and rough dark grey (old, especially near the bottom)

Leaves: Oval with a tapered point and jagged edge

Leaf Pattern: Alternate leaf pattern, simple leaves

Fun facts:

  • The green trunk of aspen trees can absorb the sun just like the leaves do! They even have a white powder that protects their trunk from the sun – just like sunscreen would do for our skin!
  • These trees are what we call suckers! This means that they can clone themselves! They do this by growing a identical twin tree through a root underneath the ground.

White Birch

Key Features


Bark: white or slightly red paper like bark that peels

Leaves: Oval with a tapered point, with jagged edge

Leaf Pattern: Alternate leaf pattern, simple leaves

Fun Facts:

  • These trees are common along riverbanks and wet forested areas!
  • Birch trees look very similar to aspen trees, but you can always tell them apart by the birch bark peeling off the trunk

White Spruce

Key features


Bark: scaly thin, grey-brown

Branches point out horizontal (not curving up or dropping down)

Needles: Square, attached singly (unsheathed), 1 inch needles with pointed end

Fun facts:

  • Did you know that white spruce needles smell bad when young, and that they become pleasant smelling with age?
  • Aboriginal people use young white spruce trees for making things like snowshoe frames and even bows.

Logepole Pine

Key Features


Bark: thin, brown and at time scally

Long slender tree with branches curved upward

Needles: always attached in groups of two (sheathed needles), 1 to 2 inches long with pointy end

Fun fact:

  • Did you know the Lodgepole Pine is the provincial tree of Alberta?


Key Features


Bark: rough and is dark grey

Needles: are soft, feather-like needles grouped in clusters of over 10. Needles turn orange in the fall and fall off for the winter

Fun Fact:

  • Although tamaracks have needles and cones, they are in fact deciduous because their needles fall off in the fall!

Now you are ready to identify trees on your next nature walk! Check out our Resource Tab for flashcards and activities with tree identification!

Do you have a specific tree you want to identify that wasn’t mentioned above? Check out this Guide to Common Native Tree Species of Alberta to find out what it is!


Between The Stands Tree Guide, 1996

Government of British Columbia, White Spruce:

Guide to Native Tree Species of Alberta, 2011


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