Have you ever thought about how many kinds of trees there are? No matter where you are, if you walk outside or look out a window, chances are you will see at least a few different kinds of trees—sometimes you can see many different kinds just in one yard!
Trees aren’t only a beautiful part of nature. They are homes for wild animals, they help keep the air clean, and we humans use them to make all sorts of things, from medicine to houses.
Here are five common trees that you can find outside, maybe even right in your own backyard.
The Black Cottonwood is native to the western United States: that means it grows there naturally. This tree has a few other names: it’s also known as the California Poplar or Western Balsam-Poplar. From late May until late June, you might see the cottonwood’s seeds floating around in the air like clumps of white cotton. Scientists study this variety of tree, or species, quite a lot: there are many things we can learn from how it grows and how it’s used in the economy.
There’s a maple leaf on the Canadian flag, but maple trees can also be found all around the world—many maple species are native to Asia! Their many-pointed leaves are easy to recognize, and another important feature is their fluttering seeds. They’re called samaras, and they are actually fruits! Inside the samura is a single seed, tucked inside a container called a nutlet, which is attached to a flat, papery wing. The samaras are often nicknamed “helicopters” because of the way that they spin as they fall from the tree to the ground!
Bigleaf Maples are the most common maple trees in Oregon. They grow all along the west side of the Cascade and Sierra mountain ranges. They are large trees, growing up to 100 feet tall, with very big leaves, as you may have guessed from their name! Sometimes Bigleaf Maple sap is used to make syrup, but not too often, because they don’t contain as much sugar as Sugar Maples.
There are about 400 different species of willow tree, and they come in many shapes and sizes. The Weeping Willow is a well-known variety! It is a hybrid, which means it was created by combining more than one species of tree. The Weeping Willow is a hybrid of the Peking Willow from China and the White Willow from Europe. These sorrowful-looking trees have shown up in folklore for centuries. For example, the classic witches’ broom is believed to be made from branches and twigs of weeping willows! In many legends, the willow tree is also the home of nymphs and dryads.
The Pacific Dogwood is a species of dogwood tree that’s native to western North America. Although the white petals on the tree look like flowers, they are actually called bracts. The dogwood’s blossoms are really those tiny, delicate yellowy-green clusters you can see in the center of the bracts. Mice and birds like to eat the small fruits that sprout from this tree.
Scientists estimate that pine trees have existed for over 150 million years. They can be found in almost any climate all over the world. Pine trees are used to make furniture, and they’re also used as Christmas trees! The Ponderosa Pine is the most common pine tree in the mountains of North America. The world’s tallest Ponderosa Pine tree grows in Oregon’s Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest: it’s about 268 feet tall!