North Shore trees & shrubs

Keep track!

Get a list of North Shore trees & shrubs and keep track of the trees and shrubs you see during your state park visit.

Did you know?

  • Bark is the skin of a tree. Peeling bark can kill a tree.
  • Going off park trails can cause soil compaction and erosion, which could lead to stress or death of a tree.
  • Gathering downed wood for firewood takes away food, homes, and nesting places for all kinds of animals. Please leave this wood where it will do the most good.

Trees are protected. Please do your part to help protect them in state parks.

Tree identification: A simple guide to leaves

Use the leaf guide below to help you identify some North Shore trees during summer. (In winter, use other clues such as bark, twigs, buds, fruits, cones, tree shape, and habitat.)


Needlelike leaves in groups of 5: White PineLine drawing of white pine needles: long and in bunches of five.
Needlelike leaves in groups of 2, 4-6 inches long: Red PineLine drawing of red pine needles: long and in bunches of two.
Needlelike leaves in groups of 2, 3/4 - 1 1/2 inches long: Jack PineLine drawing of jackpine needles: short and in bunches of two.
Needlelike leaves in clusters (some attached singly): TamarackLine drawing of tamarack needles: short and in soft clusters.
Needlelike leaves are single and flat: FirLine drawing of fir needles: single and flat.
Needlelike leaves are single and 4-sided: Spruce 
Scalelike leaves: CedarLine drawing of cedar needles: short and scaled.

Deciduous broadleaves:

  • Simple leaves, alternate on stem, doubly toothed margins: Birch
  • Simple leaves, alternate on stem, singly toothed margins: Aspen and Poplar
  • Simple leaves, opposite on stem, 3 to 5 lobed margins: Maple
  • Compound leaves, alternate on stem, leaflets of 11-17: Mountain Ash
  • Compound leaves, opposite on stem, leaflets of 5 or more: Ash
Leaf margins: smooth, toothed, doubly toothed, lobed.
Simple leaf: one leaf on each stem.Compound leaf: multiple leaflets on each stem.
Alternate leaf.Opposite leaf.

Trees & shrubs: What's the difference?

Trees are defined as woody plants that are approximately 15 feet or higher at maturity. Trees usually have a single stem and spread out on top to form a crown. There are two categories of trees: conifers and deciduous broadleaves.

Conifers usually have thin, needlelike leaves. They're often called evergreens because they shed only a portion of their needles each year (except for tamarack). Conifers produce seeds in cones; the name "conifer" means "cone bearer." Common conifers found in North Shore state parks are white cedar, white spruce, white pine, and balsam fir.

Deciduous broadleaf trees have broad (wide) leaves, which are shed for winter. They are also referred to as hardwoods or the flowering trees. They produce covered seeds (fruits, berries, nuts). Common deciduous trees found in North Shore state parks are paper birch, quaking aspen, balsam poplar, mountain ash, and black ash.

Shrubs are multi-stemmed, woody plants that range from a few feet high to almost 15 feet tall at maturity. Shrubs, which lack crowns, dominate most of the forest understory. Common broadleaf shrubs found in North Shore state parks are speckled alder, bush honeysuckle, mountain maple, juneberry, raspberry, thimbleberry, beaked hazelnut, and ninebark.

Fall leaf color

There are two seasons of fall color on the North Shore of Lake Superior due to temperature variations found from along the shore to the inland "high country" known as the Sawtooth Mountains. The first season begins inland around mid-September, with color peaking between September 20 through October 7. The second season occurs directly along the lakeshore and usually peaks during the last week of September and may last through early to mid-October.

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