Welcome to the world of tree identification. There are many sources and methodologies, so do not be intimidated. As a beginner you don’t need to learn complicated terms, just familiarize yourself with each tree’s characteristics as a start. Here are twenty common native Virginia trees for you to begin with.

It is helpful to examine the whole tree, and then the individual parts – leaves, bark, branching, size and shape. Imagine you are asked to give a detailed description of a tree to someone who is unable to see it. Try to name as many details as possible – is the bark rough or smooth? Is the bark the same texture as your eyes travel up the trunk?

Trees can often be identified by a single characteristic – flowers, colorful foliage or distinct leaf shapes. Always remember to look up! Binoculars can be a big help.

Enjoy getting to know the amazing world of trees.

Getting to Know Trees (PDF)
This format displays each tree on a single page, including five key components, providing multiple ways to study each tree’s distinct features. 20 trees are included.


Getting to Know Trees is the work of Charlottesville Area Tree Steward Volunteers.

A special thanks to Virginia Tech Dendrology Department for allowing us the use of their photos and research.

Thanks to Ellen Powell of the Virginia Department of Forestry for  allowing us the use of the information in the Tree Identification Guide Common Native Trees of Virginia.



Frank Brockman (illustrated by Rebecca Merrilees Trees of North America: A Guide to Field Identification (Golden Field Guides, St. Martin’s Press) 1968, rev. 2001 Paperback  (120 pages, color illus.)

Common Native Shrubs and Woody Vines of Virginia: Identification Guide Virginia Department of Forestry Paperback 2016 (116 pages)  Also available in PDF:

Common Native Trees of Virginia: Tree Identification Guide Virginia Department of Forestry Paperback 2012 (128 pages)  (Book provided with class materials for CATS Training Class)   Also available in PDF:

Allen J. Coombes Trees: Smithsonian Handbooks Covent Garden Books  Paperback 2009 ( 329 pages, color illus.)

Michael A. Dirr and Bonnie Dirr  Manual of Woody Landscape Plants: Their Identification, Ornamental Characteristics, Culture, Propagation and Uses   Stipes Pub. Llc Paperback  2009  (1,325 pages)

Michael A. Dirr  Dirr’s Encyclopedia of Trees and Shrubs  Timber Press 2011  (952 pages)

Gil Nelson, Christopher J. Earle, and Richard Spellenberg  Trees of Eastern North America Princeton University Press  Paperback 2014  (720 pages, color illus.)

David Allen Sibley The Sibley Guide to Trees  Knopf  2009  Flexibound (426 pages, color illus.)

George W. D. Symonds with photographs by Stephen V. Chelminski The Tree Identification Book 2013  Paperback, Spiral-bound, Kindle Ebook  (272 pages, 1500 b&w photos)

Michael D. Williams  Identifying Trees of the East, 2nd edition  Stackpole Books  2017 Paperback  (408 pages, color illus.)

Michael Wojtech  Bark: A Field Guide to Trees of the Northeast  University Press of New England   2011 Paperback  (264 pages; 450 photos, illustrations, maps)