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How To Identify Ash And Maple Trees In Winter

How To Identify Ash And Maple Trees In Winter

During Canadian winters it might be difficult to tell the difference between ash and maple trees when their leaves are gone. You can identify them by observing the structure, twigs, buds, and bark of the trees.


Both ash and maple trees have “opposite branching,” opposed to “alternate branching,” in which the side branches stagger and alternate throughout the branch. Opposite branching trees have branches growing directly opposite each other. The twigs grow in the same pattern on the branches.


Ash trees have robust twigs to support dense clusters of leaflets. Maple trees have individual leaves supported by delicate twigs. A tree with opposite growing branches and big, fat twigs is likely an ash. Trees with opposite growing branches and thin, delicate twigs are probably maples.

How To Identify Ash And Maple Trees In Winter

Bark and buds

This is another clue to identifying the bark and maple trees. If you know the bark of a particular ash or maple tree, you might be able to use its cracks, fissures, and colours to spot the tree type in wintertime.

  • Ash – White Ash has soft bark that develops diamond-shaped fissures as it gets older. Its brown buds grow inside a leaf scar shaped like the letter C. Green Ash bark is also soft, but the fissures of mature trees are shallower than those on white ash trees. Green ash buds grow from a D-shaped leaf scar. Black ash has bark with very shallow furrows and darker buds.
  • Maple – Red Maple trees have smooth, gray bark that breaks into irregular fissures as the tree ages. Strips of bark often begin to detach from either end and curl outward. The red maple has red winter buds. Silver maples have dense bud clusters. The young bark of a sugar maple often has a mosaic of cracks that look like glazed pottery. As it ages, vertical fissures that have horizontal cracks begin to develop. Thick plates of the bark may also begin peeling on one edge. Sugar maple buds have layers of tiny scales. The striped maple has bright green bark that has vertical white stripes when young and darker, reddish-brown bark and black vertical lines as it matures.

Rather than looking for “maple trees for sale” signs or guessing which tree is which, contact Caledon Treeland at 905-880-1828 and let us help you determine which trees are on your land and which you’d like to purchase.

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