Winter Botany (FBCEC)


Trees without leaves can be a challenge to identify. Participants will learn to recognize common Ozark trees in winter by examining their twigs and other features and then go outdoors to practice their skill.

Grade Level:

8 - 12

Recommended Setting:

Indoor and outdoor classroom

Outdoor Activity:



Fred Berry Conservation Education Center, Yellville, AR


Education Program Coordinator, 870-449-3484


45 minutes -1 hour

Suggested Number of Participants:

Up to 24

Special Conditions:

Weather permitting


  • Identify the parts of a twig.
  • Recognize conspicuous features that may help identify a tree in winter.
  • Use a dichotomous key to identify common Ozark trees.

Key Terms*:


Dichotomous key

Leaf scar


*See glossary for definations


Paper/pencil/labeling tape

Riker display of “fruit types”

Twig identification kit

“Winter Tree Finder,” posters


A deciduous forest in winter may, at first glance, be of little interest to the botanist. However, woody plants can be identified in their dormant state. Leaf scars, buds and other twig characteristics can unveil the identity of the unknown, leafless tree.


  1. Familiarize participants with the parts of a twig. Use “What Twig is It?” or “Winter Tree Finder.”
  2. Explain how habitat type and conspicuous features (size of tree, bark, seeds, etc.) can help in identifying trees.
  3. Explain how to use the dichotomous key in “Winter Tree Finder.” Key out one twig sample with the group.
  4. Divide participants into groups and assign each group one or two twig samples to key out. Check for understanding and assist when needed.
  5. Before going to the field, have participants to collect their twigs carefully, causing as little damage to the tree as possible.
  6. In the field exercise, they will collect twigs from the designated tree trail then key out and label each species identified.
  7. Check their answers and discuss their field experience.


  • Describe the parts of a twig that are important when identifying trees in winter.
  • Identify four trees by their twigs.
  • Name three tree species growing along an Ozark stream.


  • Hunter, Carl G. (1989). Trees, Shrubs, & Vines, The Ozark Society Foundation Society.
  • Moore, Dwight M. (2004). Trees of Arkansas, Arkansas Forestry Commission.
  • Theilgaard, Watts, May and Tom Watts (1970). Winter Tree Finder. Nature Study Guild Publishers, Rochester, NY.
  • Trelease, William (1967). Winter Botany, Dover Publications, Inc.


Bud – undeveloped shoot that normally appears on a stem containing a leaf bud, flower bud or both (mixed bud)

Dichotomous key – tool that helps identity items in nature such as trees, wildflowers, mammals, reptiles, rocks and fish through a series of choices that leads to the correct identification

Leaf scar – mark left on a stem after a leaf falls; can be used to identify tree species in winter or from specimens of their twigs

Twig – Any small, leafless branch of a woody plant.