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Taking Photos of Trees for Expert Identification and Urban Forest Inventories

Filed Under:
Publication Number: P3678
View as PDF: P3678.pdf

Extension personnel often receive questions regarding the identification of a particular tree. Digital photography, email, and text messaging make submitting specimens for identification very quick and easy.

Digital Photography

  1. Take close-up photos of the specimen with a digital camera. Please consider the following:
    • Select a specimen that shows as many distinguishing characteristics of a species as possible. These would include leaves and twig, flowers, fruit, bark, form, and position in the landscape.
    • If there is a dramatic variation in leaf shape on a single plant, include photographs of all leaf shapes (Figure 1).
    • Unique characteristics are particularly important to include, such as thorns, twigs and branching patterns, or fruits and nuts (Figure 2).
    • Include a photograph that shows the characteristics of the bark (Figure 3).
    • Finally, send a photograph of the tree in the landscape to show its form (Figure 4).
    • If necessary, crop the photos to reduce their size for easier downloading.
  2. When sending your photographs to Extension personnel, include your contact information and any description you would like to provide about the plant, such as its size, history, or habitat. If you like, you may use the Tree Identification Request Form on the back. Send photographs via email to your urban forest inventory facilitator/coordinator/team leader, or regional Extension Forestry Specialist.
Figure one demonstrate the proper way to capture a leaf for tree identification. Make sure at least one full leaf is in view.
Figure 1. Leaf
Figure two pictures maturing fruit on the limb of tree. Capturing blooming flowers or fruit on a branch can further help experts identify a tree properly.
Figure 2. Maturing Fruit
Tree bark varies among trees and should be captured at close range to help experts identify the tree for proper classification.
Figure 3. Tree Bark
The full height of a tree is pictured in a forested area. To help experts identify a tree properly, ensure that a photo of the tree is taken within in its landscape and next to other trees for comparison.
Figure 4. Landscape and form.

See the attached PDF for the Tree Identification Request Form.

Publication 3678 (POD-8-21)

By John D. Kushla, PhD, Extension/Research Professor, North Mississippi Research and Extension Center.

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