Tree identification by old fruit

A fruit is a seed-bearing structure that develops from the ovary and surrounding tissue. The seeds are enclosed within the ovary wall. If the wall becomes hard, the fruit is classified as Dry. If it becomes succulent the fruit is classified as Fleshy.

Once the fruit is ripe and the seed has fully formed it needs to be dispersed away from the parent tree to promote new tree establishment. Some trees release seeds in summer and autumn but many trees extend the release over several months and some still have fruit with seeds throughout the winter. 

Some dry fruits split open (Laburnum) to release pea-like seeds that fall to the floor but some release the whole fruit onto the wind (Ash and Hornbeam) and some have wings to aid dispersal (Maples). Some rely on animals for seed dispersal either by opening on the ground for foraging animals (Sweet Chestnut and Beech) or by opening on the tree to attract squirrels or jays (Oaks and Hazels). Where fleshy fruits are not eaten by birds or animals  they stay on the tree all winter in a shrivelled form (Whitebeam and Rowan). Old husks left after the seed has been eaten may often be found on the floor near the tree.

Tree identification by old fruit – Some trees have old fruit on the tree or fruit husks that stay on or around the tree all winter. Here are 19 examples photographed on trees in winter. Use this option to identify the tree from its old fruit. Click on any photo to enlarge it.

common ash fruit

Common Ash

hornbeam fruit in winter

Common Hornbeam

norway maple fruit in winter

Norway Maple

sycamore fruit in winter


field maple fruit in winter

Field Maple

London Plane


Common Rowan

False Acacia


English Oak

Sessile Oak

Sweet Chestnut Husk

Common Beech Husk

Turkish Hazel nut and husk

Indian Bean Tree (Southern Catalpa)

Golden Rain Tree


Handkerchief Tree