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Key to Identifying Common Colorado Landscape Trees   arrow


A “key” is a systematic process of elimination. It will guide you through a series of choices and narrow down the selections until one selection remains.

Once you work through the key, it takes you to a description of the tree. Check the description and photographs against the plant sample. Does it match? If not, return to the key, looking for other possible options at various levels.

Characteristics used in this key are generic for the tree genus and species, assuming an environment conducive to good plant health. For plants under growth stress, leaf size may be different along with differences in coloration and texture. These factors could lead to a incorrect identification.

For tree identification, a small branch with leaves will be needed. Avoid sucker and watersprout growth as these may be atypical.

This key includes trees common to Colorado Front Range landscapes. However, it does not include all trees grown in the region.

Key to Conifer or Broadleaf Tree

A1. Does the foliage have a broad, flat blade?Continue with this key

A2. Is foliage needle-like or scale-like? — refer to CMG GardenNotes #172, Identifying Conifers.

This online key was adapted from Identification Key for Woody Plants of the Pikes Peak Region by CSU Extension, El Paso County. This publication was developed by Linda Smith, El Paso County Extension Office for Colorado Master Gardeners. Only the deciduous tree section is online. The print publication also contains a key for conifers and deciduous shrubs.

For a print copy of Identification Key for Woody Plants of the Pikes Peak Region, contact Colorado State University Extension, El Paso County Office at 17 North Spruce Street, Colorado Springs, CO 80905; phone: 719-636-8923. [Order Form]

Authors: Linda Smith (El Paso County Extension Office, retired), Christine Prins (Colorado State University), and David Whiting (Dept. of Horticulture & LA, Colorado State University)

  • CMG GardenNotes are available online at
  • Colorado Master Gardener/Colorado Gardener Certificate Training is made possible by a grant from the Colorado Garden Show, Inc.
  • Colorado State University, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Colorado counties cooperating
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  • Copyright. 2018. Colorado Master Gardener Program, Colorado State University Extension. All Rights Reserved. CMG GardenNotes may be reproduced without change or additions, for nonprofit educational use.


November 2017