Big Tree Registry

Big Tree Champions

Division of Forestry

What is a tree?

A tree is any woody plant that can reach a height of 15 feet or more at maturity and is usually single-stemmed and has a crown or branched-out area at the top. This distinguishes trees from shrubs, which are woody but short and multi-stemmed, and from vines, which may be long and woody but lack a crown.

Minnesota's Own

To the 52 species of trees listed in the Big Tree Registry, Minnesota is home. These "native" species (also called indigenous species) grew naturally or spontaneously in the undisturbed forest vegetation before the arrival of Columbus or other Europeans.

Down to Basics

All of Minnesota's native species belong to one of two basic categories: gymnosperms or angiosperms.

Gymnosperms are trees whose seeds are not encased in a structure such as a fruit or nut. Most gymnosperms bear their seeds in cones, so they are also called conifers ("cone bearers"), and have thin needlelike leaves that sometimes earn them the name needleleaf. Virtually all are evergreen, meaning they shed only a portion of their needles each year. People in the wood products industry often refer to coniferous trees as softwoods.

The second major kind of tree, the angiosperms, has covered seeds. Also known has covered seeds. Also known as deciduous or broadleaf trees, trees in this category drop their leaves each autumn. They are the ones that make the forest so colorful each fall. These trees are sometimes referred to as hardwoods (even though their wood is not necessarily harder than that of softwoods!).


To obtain more information about trees and their identification and care, try these places:

Minnesota's Bookstore
660 Olive St,
St. Paul, MN 55155
651-297-3000 (Metro)
800-657-3757 (Toll Free)

Trees of Minnesota, stock number 9-1, is a pocket-size, spiral-bound field guide to Minnesota's native tree species.

Minnesota Extension Service
Distribution Center
University of Minnesota
Room 20, Coffey Hall
1420 Eckles Avenue
St. Paul, MN 55108-6069

A Beginners' Guide to Minnesota Trees, BU-06593 and Minnesota Trees, BU-00486 are also excellent resources for identifying Minnesota trees.