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Native Plant Trust: Go Botany Discover thousands of New England plants

Woody plants

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Broad-leaved woody plants

Trees, shrubs, and lianas that produce flowers and seeds with carpels

Key Characteristics The "angiosperms" produce flowers and seeds enclosed in an ovary. Note if the plant is a tree, shrub or liana. In summer, note leaf size, shape, and arrangement. In winter, note size and arrangement of leaf buds and scars on twigs. Look for leaves on the ground around the base of the plant. Some species have evergreen leaves that stay on all winter. Remember the phrase "madcap horse" (for Maple-Ash-Dogwood CAPrifoliaceae and HORSE-chestnut): these are the only species with opposite leaves.

Exceptions Young saplings can look like shrubs. Try to find a mature plant that is producing flowers. Some produce tiny, almost needle-like leaves that look like gymnosperm leaves, but these don't usually have fragrant sap.

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Needle-leaved woody plants

Pines, spruces, larches, cedars, and other conifers

Key Characteristics The "gymnosperms" or “conifers” do not have flowers and produce seeds not enclosed in an ovary (the seeds are usually borne in seed cones). Many species produce a sticky resin with a sweet or turpentine smell. Leaves can vary from tiny, overlapping, and scale-like (e.g., northern white cedar) to long, slender, and needle-like (e.g., eastern white pine). If needle-like leaves, note how many grow out of each cluster. Note the texture of bark on trunk and twigs.

Exceptions Some conifers (e.g., common juniper) can be short shrubs. A few woody angiosperms have very small, narrow leaves (i.e., scale like) but have flowers and lack resin. Most but not all gymnosperms are evergreen: the larch (Larix) is deciduous.

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