Flora of North America

When it comes to Tree ID, we do have a few books listed in our bibliography, but not many in lieu of the geographical nature of the subject. Nonetheless, below is a list of online resources to get you started.  Also, HERE is a link to a Master Woodsman article and video on the subject of ID.

While plants are the foundation of Woodcraft, I would like to take this opportunity to state that (in my opinion) learning edible plants should not be as high a priority as learning plants for fire, shelter, tools, medicine, traps/deadfalls and wildlife-use first (plants are what the real food eats < joke).

Learning wild edibles is great and I encourage you to do so, but it takes a long-term commitment of learning positive identification, the right part, season, preparation, poisonous look-a-likes, etc. If your priority is wilderness survival, food will be of little concern >>—> see this ARTICLE.

If you are determined to learn edibles (for survival in particular), a good place to start is getting comfortable with those that are relatively common and easy to identify… cattail, inner pine bark, and acorns. Grass is another easy one, just make sure it is a grass and be aware of a fungus called ergot.

Harvesting Ethics

Most Native American tribes follow this practice when harvesting plant life.

Only take the fourth plant. The first is left to seed so you will have more next year. The second is left for wildlife. The third is for someone else who may really need the plant. The fourth you may harvest.

Also think ecologically. If you take a branch or whole tree, take what is suppressed to begin with. By pruning or harvesting that which will likely be infested with disease and/or insects and die anyway, you are doing the forest a favor. You may be doing yourself a favor too in that the suppressed tree will have much tighter growth rings for strength.

As an example, a suppressed tree will make a much stronger bow than a healthy quick growing tree. A win-win where man can take from the land and improve it at the same time.


General Info and ID
USDA Plants Database
Silvics of North America
Virginia Tech Dendrology (see their mobile app, vTree for North America!)
Wildflowers of U.S.
Southeastern Flora
Trees of Southeast (includes quizzes)
Desert USA
Weed ID (eastern U.S.)
Pacific Northwest
Michigan, Wisconsin, and surrounding area…
Arizona (Vanderbilt)
Northern Arizona
Desert Plants of Utah
Utah Trees

Identification Keys
Arbor Day Foundation
Virginia Tech Dendrology
Alabama Plants (flowers)
Florida Selector
Western U.S.
Pacific Northwest
Ohio Public Library

Ethnobotany and Uses
Native American Database
Phytochemical and Ethnobotanical Database
Nutritional Database
Eat The Weeds
Northeast US Plant Uses
Practical Plants of New England
Pacific NW and Canada Foraging
Healing Trees 

Wood Technology – Identification
Basic Guide to ID
Society of Wood Science and Technology

Hobbit House
The Wood Database

Wood Technology – Properties
Society of Wood Science and Technology (see links on Structure and Properties)
Wood Properties USDA Forest Service
Physical Properties of Common Woods 
The Wood Database
Strength Properties of Important Woods

Mobile Apps
vTree – free tree ID app for North America.  Have to give a two-thumbs up on this one!
Wild Edibles – free and pay versions of “Wildman Steve Brill” edible plants.  Primarily focused on northeast U.S., but many are widespread.  Well done for a mobile app.


Prayer of the Woods
“I am the heat of your hearth on the cold winter nights, the friendly shade screening you from the summer sun, and my fruits are refreshing draughts quenching your thirst as you journey on.  I am the beam that holds your house, the board of your table, the bed on which you lie, and the timber that builds your boat.  I am the handle of your hoe, the door of your homestead, the wood of your cradle, the shell of your coffin.  I am the bread of kindness and the flower of beauty. Ye who pass by, listen to my prayer: harm me not.”
– First used in the PORTUGUESE FOREST RESERVES more than 1,000 years ago. Now used on nature trails throughout the world.

Plants have a gazillion uses; the air we breath, food, shelter, indicators of the environment, and so much more. Below is my personal list of plant uses for fire and cordage.  Note that I reside in Southern Appalachia and have an affinity for the Deep South where I grew up.  For the west coast folks, here is a PDF link to an impressive list of friction fire woods put together by Storm (R.I.P.).



Scientific Name Common Name Notes on bow drill features
Acer negundo Box Elder Easy
Acer rubrum Red Maple Difficult, wide spread, opposite
Aesculus spp. Buckeye Easy – Medium
Betula alleghaniensis Yellow Birch Easy
Betula lenta Black Birch Medium – Difficult
Betula nigra River Birch
Carpinus caroliniana Eastern Hop Hornbeam Difficult
Carya spp. Hickory Difficult
Cersis canadensis Eastern Redbud Medium
Chamaecyparis thyoides Atlantic White Cedar Easy
Fagus grandifolia American Beech Difficult
Fraxinus americana White Ash Difficult
Juglans nigra Black Walnut Difficult ~ must use sapwood
Juniperus virginiana Eastern Red Cedar Easy – Medium, handles moisture well
Liriodendron tulipifera Yellow Poplar Easy, especially susceptible to moisture and decomposition
Pinus strobus White Pine Easy- medium, especially susceptible to moisture
Platanus occidentalis Sycamore Easy – Medium
Populus deltoides Eastern Cottonwood Easy
Populus deltoides Eastern Cottonwood Root Easy
Populus grandidentata Aspen Easy
Prunus serotina Black Cherry Difficult
Quercus spp. Red Oak Difficult
Rhus typhina Staghorn Sumac Easy
Salix spp. Willow Easy
Sambucus canadensis Elderberry Easy – Medium
Sassafras albidum Sassafras Difficult
Tilia americana American Basswood Easy
Tsuga canadensis Eastern Hemlock Medium – Difficult, especially suseptible to moisture
Ulmus americana American Elm Difficult
Verbascum thapsus Mullein Easy
Viburnum spp. Viburnum Medium


Hand Drill Stalks

Scientific Name Common Name
Acer negundo Boxelder
Aesculus spp. Buckeye
Apocynum cannabinum Dogbane
Cirsium muticum Thistle
Conyza canadensis Horseweed
Dipsacus fullonum Teasel
Epilobium angustifolium Fireweed
Erigeron philadelphicus Fleabane
Helianthus spp. Sunflower
Salix spp. Willow
Sambucus canadensis Elderberry
Solidago spp. Goldenrod
Typha spp. Cattail
Verbascum thapsus Mullein
Yucca filamentosa Yucca



Scientific Name Common Name
Acer negundo Box Elder
Asmina triloba Paw Paw
Carya spp. Hickory
Fraxinus americana White Ash
Juglans cinerea Butternut
Juglans nigra Black Walnut
Juniperus virginiana Eastern Red Cedar
Liriodendron tulipifera Yellow Poplar
Morus rubra Red Mulberry
Populus deltoides Eastern Cottonwood
Prunus serotina Black Cherry
Quercus spp. Red Oak
Robinia pseudoacacia Black Locust
Salix spp. Willow
Tilia americana American Basswood
Ulmus americana American Elm


Scientific Name Common Name
Apocynum cannabinum Dogbane (Indian Hemp)*
Abutilon theophrasti Velvet Leaf
Asclepias spp. Milkweed
Oenothera biennis Eveningprimrose
Urtica dioica Stinging Nettle*
* Strong for bow string


Scientific Name Common Name
Arecaceae Family Palm
Hemerocallis fulva Daylily
Iris spp. Iris
Scirpus tabernaemontani Bullrush
Typha spp. Cattail
Yucca filamentosa Yucca*
* Strong for bow string


Poaceae Family Pretty much any long stem


Scientific Name Common Name
Cupressaceae (Cypress) Family Red Cedar, Cypress, White Cedar
Juglans cinerea Butternut
Morus rubra Red Mulberry
Picea rubens Red Spruce
Pinaceae Family Pines, Hemlock
Robinia pseudoacacia Black Locust
Salix spp. Willow
Ulmus spp. Elm

CORDAGE ~ VINE (or vine bark)

Scientific Name Common Name
Lonicera spp. Honeysuckle
Parthenocissis quinquefolia Virgina Creeper
Pueraria montana Kudzu
Rosa spp. Rose
Smilax spp. Greenbriar
Vitis spp. Grape / Muscadine


Scientific Name Common Name
Fagus grandifolia Beech
Fraxinus americana Ash
Prunus serotina Black Cherry
Quercus spp. Oak
Viburnum spp. Viburnum