U.P. TREE IDENTIFICATION KEY
SHRUBS & SMALL TREES
Apples, Pears, Plums, Juneberry, Mountain Ash, Hawthorne, and Elderberry
Rosaceae, The Rose Family
The rose family is a large group with about 120 genera and 3300 species. It is primarily a temperate climate family but is scattered around the world. Most of the species are not trees but some are very important in the fruit industry. There are many shrubs that are family members. The family also includes wild rose, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, elderberries, and gooseberries. This particular page will cover some of the shrubs found in the U.P. They all have showy 5-part flowers that are white or pink, often with long stamens. These shrubs or small trees usually grow in clearings or along the edges of forest. However, they sometimes survive in understories of young forests that have overtaken an opening or old field. Occasionally, some of these species will reach truly tree proportions. In these cases, even seasoned foresters might get puzzled by the identification.
APPLE (Malus spp.)
Other Names: Wild Apple, Common Apple
Key ID Features: Fruit, Leaf, Twigs, Shape, Habitat
Malus has about 25 species across the northern hemisphere. Malus pumila is the common apple which has many horticultural and commercial varieties. Apples grow in every county but have not necessarily become components of forest stands in every county (see range map). LEAVES are oval-shaped with wavy margins. They are 1-3 inches long sometimes almost as wide. The FRUITS are known by nearly everyone but do come in many different sizes and colors. The FLOWERS are white to pink and are a common sight in the spring on old farmsteads. Apple trees are usually short with POOR FORM. The ends of TWIGS have bark that looks like rolled up long shirt sleeves. Terminal buds are often fuzzy. Common pests: eastern tent caterpillar, gypsy moth, cankerworms, skeletonizers, tussock moths, ugly nest caterpillar, walkingsticks, black knot, fire blight, frost cracking.
Other Names: Wild Pear
Key ID Features: Fruit, Leaf, Thorns
Pyrus is not a native American genus but occurs occasionally across the U.P., almost always the result of human planting. The common pear is Pyrus communis, which has many varieties, like the apples. LEAVES are apple-like. Terminal buds are hairless and pointed.
Other Names: Wild Plum, Canada Plum, Others
Key ID Features: Fruit, Leaf, Spur Branches
Most wild plums are either Prunus nigra (Canada plum) or Prunus americana (wild plum), neither of which are common in the U.P. Canada plum has a more northerly range and is most likely the wild plum seen. TWIGS have a bitter taste. Terminal buds are slightly longer than the twig is wide. The first side bud is often very close to the terminal bud.
Other Names: Serviceberry or Shadbush
Key ID Features: Spring Flowers, Leaves, Bark, Habitat
Several species of juneberry occur in the U.P. but the most common is probably Amelanchier laevis. The early spring white BLOSSOMS can be easily seen along highways at the edge of woods and open woods. Usually when you see one shrub there are many. A. laevis has light gray BARK with darker gray stripes running up and down the stem, similar in pattern but not color to striped maple. Newer TWIGS may be somewhat purple with fairly long buds. Juneberry LEAVES may be pointy or more oval than in the picture above, depending upon the species. The margins are finely-toothed. Near Brevort, there is a juneberry about 45 feet tall and 10.5 inches in diameter! Common pests: eastern tent caterpillar, leafminers, tussock moths, black knot.
MOUNTAIN ASH (Sorbus spp.)
Other Names: Rowan
Key ID Features: Orange Berries, Leaves, Bark
Three similar species may be found in the U.P. Sorbus americana and Sorbus decora are native, and Sorbus aucuparia is a native of Europe. There are many ornamental varieties. LEAVES are compound with serrated margins. TWIGS are somewhat stubby with fairly large and triangular terminal buds. FLOWERS bloom in dense white clusters. Berry-like FRUITS ripen in late summer and early fall and turn a bright orange. These berries are popular among late fall songbird migrants, especially cedar waxwings. Tree SIZE is usually under 30 feet but the tree can grow to 40 or 50 feet with diameters over one foot. Common pests: sawflies, sapsuckers.
Other Names: Thornapple or Haw
Key ID Features: Thorns, Leaves, Fruits
Hawthorne is a large genus with many very similar species. Botanists debate the differences between true species and varieties. For most of us, simply hawthorne is good enough. The long THORNS may grow to 3 inches long. Some cultivated varieties may have the thorns bred out. The LEAVES are variable, sometimes with 3 distinct or vague lobes. Other times, the LEAVES are simple without lobes. The margins are always toothed. LEAVES are white or light pink and bloom in flattish clusters. The FRUITS appear similar to tiny apples, usually less than a half-inch in size. Color may be orange, red, purple, or yellowish. TWIGS are shiny and purplish brown with knobby buds. BARK on larger shrubs is shaggy and medium gray or brown. Hawthorne is almost always found on disturbed and often DRY SITES, sometimes in old fields. SIZE rarely gets over 20 feet tall and there are often multiple stems. Common pests: skeletonizers.
Other Names: Red Elderberry, Common Elderberry, Elder
Key ID Features: Berries, Brown Stems, Bad Odor
Family Caprifoliaceae. Elderberry BERRIES grow in clusters. A flat-topped cluster is common elderberry (Sambucus canadensis). A more spiky cluster is red elderberry (Sambucus pubens). LEAVES are compound (5-7 leaflets) and serrated. Red elderberry has large purple BUD and a large, brown, soft PITH. Common elderberry has smaller brown-green buds and a large, white, soft pith. Both have brown-tan STEMS with warty bumps on them. When crushed, they both SMELL like something rotting.
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This site created and maintained by Bill Cook, MSU Extension Forester for the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Editing and modification is ongoing. Submit suggestions, questions, and corrections to email@example.com or call 906-786-1575.