There are more than 120 native tree species in Kentucky; including 20 different oak species and 10 different hickory species. The dominant forest type in Kentucky is oak-hickory. Kentucky owes a great deal of its tree diversity to our geographical location (in the middle of the country) and our wide variety of habitats from the mountains of eastern Kentucky to the bottomlands of western Kentucky.

Fortunately each tree species has distinctive characteristics to help you tell them apart.  For example, our red oaks have bristle tips on the leaves and the white oaks haverounded tips.  Learning to recognize the various characteristics of trees is a critical step in successfully identifying them.

Kentucky has a large diversity of trees with more than 120 native species.

  • Each tree species has distinctive requirements for where it can grow and successfully compete with competition from other plants.
  • Oaks, walnuts, maples, yellow-poplar, and hickories are some of the most commercially important but many other trees also have commercial value.  In fact,  about 50 Kentucky tree species have some commercial value depending on what part of the state you are in.
  • Learning to identify the trees (at least the most common ones) on your property is an important skill that can be learned with a little practice and patience.
  • Leaf characteristics are used to distinguish one tree from another.   SeeTube video on leaf characteristics.

Please be warned…once you start to learn your trees it is difficult to look at any tree and not want to try and figure out what species it is.

LEAF CHARACTERISTICS