I.D. My Tree

ID my tree - Bonsai identification

You own a bonsai tree and you don't know which species it is? Then you will find out using this guide (assuming it is one of the common bonsai species). All you need to do is to have a close look at your tree's foliage and walk through the following criteria.

First, decide if you have a broadleafed tree or a pine/conifer.

 

 

Broadleafed trees

If your bonsai tree is a broadleafed species, it can be evergreen or deciduous.

Also, it can have opposite (two leafes emerging at the same point) or alternate leaves.

 

  • Broadleafed, deciduous, with opposite leaves (click here)
  • Broadleafed, deciduous, with alternate leaves (click here)
  • Broadleafed, evergreen, with opposite leaves (click here)
  • Broadleafed, evergreen, with alternate leaves (click here)

 

 

 

Pines and Conifers

Conifers can have needle-like or scale-like foliage.

Most conifers are evergreen, but there are also a few deciduous conifers.

 

  • Evergreen conifers with needle-like foliage (click here)
  • Deciduous conifers with needle-like foliage (click here)
  • Conifers with (mostly) scale-like foliage (click here)

 

 

 

 

 

Broadleafed, deciduous, with opposite leaves:

 

Acer palmatum Bonsai

Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum)

A very popular and easy to care for species with distinctive hand-shaped leaves with five pointed lobes. It needs protection from strong frost and very intensive sun.

Care guide for the Maple Bonsai tree (Acer Palmatum)

Acer buergerianum Bonsai

Trident Maple (Acer buergerianum)

An asian maple species with small leaves with three lobes, not fully frost hardy, but otherwise very easy to care for and robust.

Care guide for the Trident Maple Bonsai tree (Acer Buergerianum)

Punica granatum Bonsai

Pomegranate (Punica granatum)

A species with red flowers and round fruit, native of mediterranean countries. It does not tolerate frost.

Care guide for the Dwarf Pomegranate Bonsai (Punica Granatum)

Fuchsia Bonsai

Fuchsia (Fuchsia)

There are many Fuchsia species with different colourful flowers. They must be protected from frost.

Care guide for the Fuchsia Bonsai tree

 

 

 

Broadleafed, deciduous, with alternate leaves:

 

Ulmus parvifolia Bonsai

Chinese Elm (Ulmus parvifolia)

A robust species with a fine ramification and in most cases very small leaves. Not all of them are fully frost resistant.

Care guide for the Chinese elm Bonsai tree (Ulmus Parviflora)

Zelkova serrata Bonsai

Japanese Zelkova (Zelkova serrata)

A classic bonsai species, that is mostly seen as a delicately ramified broomstyle. It derives from the elm family. The zelkova is easy to care for and responds very well to constant trimming.

 Care guide for the Zelkova Bonsai tree (Japanese Elm)

Fagus sylvatica Bonsai

European Beech (Fagus sylvatica)

The European beech from our forests is well suited as a bonsai, but needs protection from strong frost when planted into a bonsai pot.

Care guide for the Hornbeam and Beech Bonsai (Carpinus and Fagus)

Fagus crenata Bonsai

Japanese Beech (Fagus crenata)

It is much like the European beech, but its leaves are slimmer and the especially appreciated smooth bark is nearly white.

Care guide for the Hornbeam and Beech Bonsai (Carpinus and Fagus)

Carpinus betula

Hornbeam (Carpinus betula)

It is no beech in the strict sense, but belongs to the birch family. It looks quite similar to the beech, however. The flowers and fruit are different and the buds (smaller, rounder) are not like the sharp pointed brown buds of the beech. When planted into a shallow pot, the hornbeam needs frost protection.

Care guide for the Hornbeam and Beech Bonsai (Carpinus and Fagus)

Carpinus turczaninowii / Carpinus coreana Bonsai

Corean Hornbeam (Carpinus turczaninowii / Carpinus coreana)

An asian hornbeam species, which has smaller leaves, a finer ramification, very interesting knobby trunks and a beautiful red and yellow autumn colour.

Care guide for the Hornbeam and Beech Bonsai (Carpinus and Fagus)

Wisteria sinensis Bonsai

Wisteria (Wisteria sinensis)

A vigorous twining vine with compound leaves which produces long tendrils and hanging flower clusters in blue, purple, violet or white (depending on the cultivar). It is a robust species which needs very much water in summer and does not tolerate late frosts in spring.

 Care guide for the Wisteria Bonsai tree

Magnolia Bonsai

Magnolia (Magnolia)

Magnolia are trees with quite large leaves that produces beautiful large flowers in spring. Depending on the cultivar the flowers can be white, pink, dark red or purple. Magnolia bonsai should be protected from strong frost.

Care guide for the Magnolia Stellata Bonsai tree

Malus Bonsai

Crabapple (Malus)

A nice flowering and fruit bearing species. The fruit can be yellow or red, depending on the cultivar. The trees are quite robust, but must be frequently observed in order to detect pests and diseases.

Care guide for the Crabapple Bonsai tree (Malus)

Prunus serrulata Bonsai

Japanese Cherry (Prunus serrulata)

A tree with a rough dark trunk and a stunning pink flowerage in spring. The flowers occur in clusters. Old Japanese cherries must not be root-pruned too heavily and they can be prone to fungal diseases. The beauty of the cherry flowers is unique.

Prunus mume Bonsai

Flowering Apricot (Prunus mume)

A classic herald of spring in Japan, with simple, strongly scented white, pink or red flowers, which appear singly on the leafless tree and make a lovely contrast to the black, gnarled trunks. Training of the apricot as Bonsai is quitte difficult, especially pruning, because the inner branches tend to die, and the twigs and branches are hard to wire because they are very brittle.

Chaenomeles japonica, Chaenomeles speciosa, Chaenomeles lagenaria Bonsai

Japanese Flowering Quince (Chaenomeles japonica, Chaenomeles speciosa, Chaenomeles lagenaria)

It mostly grows like shrubs or with many trunks, these species produce flowers in the very early spring. The flowers are orange or red but some cultivars can also have white ore multi-coloured flowers. The leaves are small and the fruit more or less round, they ripen and become yellow in autumn.

Pseudocydonia sinensis Bonsai

Chinese Quince (Pseudocydonia sinensis)

A strong species with a beautiful bark that peels off in patches, glossy leaves, pink flowers and big eggshaped, smooth, yellow fruit. As the ramification is quite coarse and the leaves large, it is best suited for larger bonsai.
The quince is easy to care for but needs some protection in winter.

Quercus Bonsai

Oak (Quercus)

A genus with several different species (among them also a few mediterranean evergreen species), most of which have characteristically lobed leaves. Oaks produce nuts called acorns which are enclosed by a cup-like cupule. They are very strong trees which grow very tall and old in nature. In a bonsai pot oaks must be protected from strong frost (mediterranean oks should be overwintered frostfree).

Care guide for the Oak Bonsai tree (Quercus)

Celtis Bonsai

Hackberry (Celtis)

Trees with grey bark and round drupes, growing a fine ramification and serrated leaves. Not all hackberry species are frost hardy.

Care guide for the Celtis Bonsai tree (Hackberry)

 

 

 

Broadleafed, evergreen, with opposite leaves

 

Ligustrum Bonsai

Privet (Ligustrum)

A genus with many different, mostly evergreen and sometimes variegated leaves. Privet ramifies well, is easy to care for and is robust. White flowers and black fruit can occur it the tree is not constantly trimmed.

Care guide for the Ligustrum Bonsai tree (Privet)

Buxus sempervirens Bonsai

Boxwood (Buxus sempervirens)

Often used for small hedges, topiary and pot plants. Boxwood has small, rounded, bright green leaves and a light beige bark. The plant is poisonous, but can nevertheless be infected by several pests.

Care guide for the Buxus Bonsai tree (Box, Boxwood)

Rhododendron indicum, Rh. kiusianum, Rh. Kurume Bonsai

Honeysuckle (Lonicera nitida / pileata)

This species is often confused with boxwood and indeed has some similarities. The flowers and fruit are different however and honeysuckle has slimmer leaves and a bark that flakes off in stripes. As the leaves are small and a fine ramification can be achieved, the honeysuckle is well suited for very small bonsai.

Care guide for the quite similar Buxus Bonsai tree (Box, Boxwood)

Serissa foetida Bonsai

Snow rose (Serissa foetida)

A small shrub from southeastern Asia, with very small leaves, little white flowers and trunks with a light bark. Some cultivars have variegated leaves. When the plant is pruned there is a displeasing smell. The snow rose cannot endure frost and needs constant warm temperatures. It is very sensitive to changing conditions and replacing and suffers from lack of light and low air humidity. Because of this it is not a good choice for beginners in temperate climates.

Care guide for the Serissa Foetida Bonsai tree (Snow Rose)

Olea europea Bonsai

Olive (Olea europea)

A medium sized mediterranean tree which has been cultivated by men for thousands of years. Its trunks thicken very slowly but the trees can become very old. The leaves are lanceolate and greyish green on the upper side and silvery grey with little hairs underneath. In spring yellow-white flower clusters can emerge, followed by green or black stone fruit. The olive is easy to care for, tolerates temporary droughts but can not endure frost. In temperate climates it needs a frostfree place with as much light as possible.

Care guide for the Olive Bonsai tree (Olea europaea)

Crassula Bonsai

Jade tree (Crassula)

A succulent shrub or small tree from Africa with thick shiny leaves and thick trunks. It can produce small white flowers. The crassula needs a lot of light and likes to be exposed to the sun. It can live outside during summer but cannot endure frost.

Care guide for the Jade Bonsai tree (Crassula)

Xanthoxylum piperitum Bonsai

Szechuan Pepper (Xanthoxylum piperitum)

A shrub from Asia with opposite compound leaves. Its seeds are used as a hot spice in Asia. The pepper tree has thorns and a trunk with beige smooth bark.

Duranta excelsa Bonsai

Duranta (Duranta excelsa)

A tropical shrub or tree with pretty light green leaves, thorns and light blue flowers. The yellow-orange fruits are poisonous, but wild doves like to eat them. The tree needs a lot of sunlight but doesn't tolerate frost.

 

 

 

Broadleafed, evergreen, with alternate leaves

 

Lonicera nitida / pileata Bonsai

Azalea (Rhododendron indicum, Rh. kiusianum, Rh. Kurume)

There are many different species and cultivars with very attractive flowers. The satsuki azalea – Rhododendron indicum – is most popular for bonsai and offers hundreds of lovely cultivars. The wild original azaleas are also appreciated. Azaleas need special soil and fertilizer and lime-free water (rain water) and should not be allowed to dry out. They should be protected from strong frost.

Care guide for the Azalea Bonsai tree (Rhododendron)

Carmona retusa Bonsai

Fukien tea (Carmona retusa)

It is a shrub or small tree from souteastern Asia and Australia, with a fissured grey-brown bark and dark green shiny leaves with tiny white dots and little hairs. White flowers and dark little fruit can occur during summer. The carmona needs constant warm temperatures and must not be exposed to frost.

Care guide for the Carmona Bonsai tree (Fukien Tea)

Sageretia theezans Bonsai

Bird plum (Sageretia theezans)

A shrub or small tree from Asia, with small shiny green leaves. It can produce little white flowers and small black fruit. The bark is dark brown and peels off in flakes, leaving brighter smooth spots. The sageretia needs constant warm temperatures and must not be exposed to frost.

Care guide for the Sageretia Theezans Bonsai tree (Bird Plum)

Ficus retusa, Ficus benjamina Bonsai

Fig tree (Ficus retusa, Ficus benjamina)

A tropical tree with shiny green leaves and smooth grey bark. It often has air-roots. The fig tree is very easy to care for and can thrive very well in the house.

Care guide for the Fig / Ficus Bonsai tree (Ficus Retusa / Ginseng)

Bougainvillea glabra Bonsai

Bougainvillea (Bougainvillea glabra)

Is a subtropical shrub, small tree or climbing plant from southern America. It has eggshaped to lanceolate leaves, long thorns and large flowers which can be magenta (in most cases) but also white, yellow or orange. The Bougainvillea needs a lot of direct sunlight to produce flower and tolerates no frost.

Care guide for the Bougainvillea Bonsai tree

Murraya paniculata Bonsai

Orange Jessamine (Murraya paniculata)

Is a tropical shrub or small tree with compound alternate leaves, small white scented flowers and small dark orange eggshaped fruit with two seeds each. The bark is beige, almost white. A constantly warm place with a lot of light is needed.

 

 

 

Evergreen conifers with needle-like foliage:

 

Pinus parviflora Bonsai

Japanese White Pine (Pinus parviflora)

An elegant pine species native of Japan's mountain regions, often with bluish needles. Very special is the fact that five needles grow in a bundle, while most of the other pines grow only pairs of two needles. The white pine has a smooth bark in young age but is often grafted on black pine which has a rough bark. The white pine needs a well-draining soil and should be protected from strong frost.

Care guide for the Japanese Black Pine Bonsai tree (Pinus)

Pinus thunbergii Bonsai

Japanese Black Pine (Pinus thunbergii)

A strong pine from Japan's southern coastal regions with strong, sharp needles growing in pairs and with an attractive rough bark. Training and care of the black pine is not easy because special techniques are needed to reduce the needle length. The black pine needs much sun and warmth and should not be exposed to strong frost.

Care guide for the Japanese Black Pine Bonsai tree (Pinus)

Pinus mugo Bonsai

Mountain Pine (Pinus mugo)

The European mountain pine is well suited for bonsai purposes and can develop very short needles. In the wild it often has twisted and bent trunks which are very interesting, its deadwood is beautiful and durable. The mountain pine is frost hardy and easy to care for, but must not be kept too wet.

Care guide for the Japanese Black Pine Bonsai tree (Pinus)

Pinus sylvestris Bonsai

Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris)

This pine species is widely common in Europe and can easily be recognised because of their reddish bark on the upper trunk. Its needles are thinner than those of the mountain pine. The scots pine is well suited for many bonsai styles, has a nice ramification and delicate foliage. It is easy to care for and can endure frost, but like all pines it needs a lot of sun and does not like constantly wet soil.

Care guide for the Japanese Black Pine Bonsai tree (Pinus)

Podocarpus macrophyllus Bonsai

Buddhist pine (Podocarpus macrophyllus)

A tropical shrub or tree with large needle-like dark green leaves. The fruit have an aril, just like the yews. The tree needs constantly warm temperatures and tolerates no frost.

Care guide for the Podocarpus Macrophyllus Bonsai tree

Picea abies Bonsai

European Spruce (Picea abies)

The common spruce is quite popular for bonsai, in contrast to the fir, which is often confused with it. The spruce is widespread in forests and mountains. Its needles are short and sharp and are placed around the twigs. The cones are hanging (the cones of the fir stand upright). The spruce is popular for bonsai because of its short needles and nice bark. It is not very easy to train though, because it doesn't backbud easily and wired branches can go back into their former shape even after many years. Young spruces don't have much character, but old yamadori can look very interesting and can have nice deadwood. Spruces need a lot of sun and as a bonsai some protection during winter.

Care guide for the Spruce Bonsai tree (Picea)

Picea jezoensis Bonsai

Yezo-Spruce (Picea jezoensis)

The Japanese spruce, is rare, sought-after and expensive. It has shorter needles than the European spruce and sometimes a more elegant shape, but has very similar needs. It should be protected from strong frost.

Care guide for the Spruce Bonsai tree (Picea)

Taxus baccata Bonsai

European Yew (Taxus baccata)

It is a shrub or small tree that is also often used for hedges. The foliage is dark green and the fruit catch the eye with bright red arils. The yew is a conifer, but bears no cones (which is a contradiction...). It is one of the few conifers that can live in the shade. In a bonsai pot it should be protected from strong frost because its carnose roots are sensitive. All parts of the plant are poisonous, the only exception are the red arils.

Care guide for the Yew Bonsai tree (Taxus, Taxaceae)

Taxus cuspidata Bonsai

Japanese Yew (Taxus cuspidata)

It is very similar to the European yew, but it has smaller and stiffer needles.

Care guide for the Yew Bonsai tree (Taxus, Taxaceae)

Cryptomeria japonica Bonsai

Japanese Cryptomeria (Cryptomeria japonica)

A tree native of Japan with a characteristic formal upright shape, wich is in most cases also used for cryptomeria bonsai. The tree must be kept moist and needs protection from strong frost.

 

 

 

Deciduous conifers with needle-like foliage:

 

Larix decidua Bonsai

European Larch (Larix decidua)

This tree grows in the European mountains. The needles grow in clusters on short shoots and evenly distributed on long shoots. They are flexible and soft, not sharp. In autumn the foliage turns yellow and falls off. The larch is easy to care for, loves sunlight and can endure frost. It is very well suited for bonsai.

Care guide for the Larch Bonsai tree (Larix)

Larix kaempferi Bonsai

Japanese Larch (Larix kaempferi)

This deciduous conifer is very similar to the European larch and hybridises easily with it. The Japanese larch has a broader shape, reddish long shoots and furled scales on the cones.

Care guide for the Larch Bonsai tree (Larix)

Larix eurolepis Bonsai

Hybrid Larch (Larix eurolepis)

A crossing of the Japanese and European larch. Its characteristics are a mix between both species, but it is even more robust.

Care guide for the Larch Bonsai tree (Larix)

Taxodium distichum Bonsai

Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum)

It is a tree from southern USA and Central America which can grow on very wet soil. The leaves are alternate, light green in spring, later dark green, they are soft and not sharp. In contrast to the larch there are no needle clusters, but the needles are distributed spirally around the long shoots and laterally on sideshoots. In autumn the foliage turns reddish brown, before falling off. The trunk has a reddish bark which peels off in stripes. The bald cypress grows formal upright normally and this shape is mostly used for taxodium bonsai. Bald cypress bonsai must be protected from frost.

Metasequoia glybtostroboides Bonsai

Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glybtostroboides)

This species comes from China and looks much like the bald cypress, but has opposite leaves. The dawn cypress does not like soil wetness, in contrast to the bald cypress. It needs protection from late frost in the spring.

 

 

 

Conifers with (mostly) scale-like foliage:

 

Juniperus chinensis Bonsai

Chinese Juniper (Juniperus chinensis)

A juniper species with delicate soft scale-like foliage, which depending on the cultivar can be light green to dark green or bluish green and it can be finer or coarser. The trunks often have twisted and bent shapes and most older specimen have deadwood. It is a very popular species for bonsai. The Chinese juniper is easy to care for, but must not be watered too much. If the tree is stressed it can produce some needle-like juvenile foliage.

Care guide for the Juniper Bonsai tree (Juniperus)

Juniperus rigida Bonsai

Needle Juniper (Juniperus rigida)

A Japanese juniper species with sharp leaves which is only available in bonsai shops, imported from Asia. The suitability for bonsai and its care is similar to the Chinese juniper.

Care guide for the Juniper Bonsai tree (Juniperus)

Juniperus communis Bonsai

Common Juniper (Juniperus communis)

A European species with sharp leaves, which are smaller and softer than those of the Japanese needle juniper. The species is protected and must not be collected in the wild, but there are cultivars in the nurseries which are well suited for bonsai and often more robust.

Care guide for the Juniper Bonsai tree (Juniperus)

Chamaecyparis obtusa Bonsai

Hinoki Cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa)

A tree from Japan with delicate scale-like foliage which is arranged like fans on some cultivars. Hinoki bonsai should not dry out and needs protection from strong frost.

Chamaecyparis pisifera Bonsai

Sawara Cypress (Chamaecyparis pisifera)

Also from Japan and there are many different cultivars offered in nurseries. Sawara cypress bonsai should be kept moist and need protection from strong frost.

 

 

 

More information

For tree identification use our Bonsai care forum.
General guidelines can be found in our Bonsai care section or in the outdoor & indoor bonsai pages.
Return to the Bonsai tree specie guides section.