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Tree Branching: What is Opposite Branching?

Tree Branching: What is Opposite Branching?

Unless you spend an extensive amount of time around trees, you may not have noticed that they have different types of branching . Let’s take a look at the differences.

Depending on the tree you are looking at, they may have either opposite branching or alternate branching. We are going to discuss the how they differ from each others and which trees have each type

Let’s start with opposite branching.

What is Opposite Branching?

Opposite branching consists of side branches that grow exactly opposite of each other in both shrubs and trees.

There are way less types of trees that have opposite branching than alternate branching. This means that you will probably have a much easier time identifying the tree as there are less options to what it could be.

Trees with opposite branching are able to have either simple or compound leaves – compound leaves are made of several leaflets and simple leaves have either toothed or smooth outlines.

Trees With Opposite Branching

Here are the only trees that you will ever come across with opposite branching. Like we said, there are very few, so they will be much, much easier to identify.

Dogwood trees are one of the most common ones you will see regularly with opposite branching. These trees come to a full blossom in the springtime and have very fragrant and large blooms. They also grow very small and colorful berries that are typically white, red, or blue – they are not edible. Dogwoods are the state flower of Virginia and North Carolina, and is considered the state tree for the state of Missouri.

Ash trees , from the lilac and olive family, also have opposite branching. This covers about 65 different species of trees, and they can be identified by their compound leaflets – there are around 5 to 9 per leaf.

Maple trees fall into this category as well, and this is probably the broadest category of opposite branching. There are well over 100 different species of maple trees, and they are very popular in many countries. These trees are mostly native to Asia as well.

Other various plants, trees, and shrubs that fall into this category are horse chestnuts , the Caprifoliaceae family, winter creepers , privets , and burning bush .

Now let’s get into alternate branching.

What is Alternate Branching?

Instead of having the branches grow directly opposite of each other on the tree limbs, alternate branching consists of side branches that are staggered and alternate back and forth throughout the whole branch.

This probably sounds and looks familiar to you, and it's because every single tree that isn’t one mentioned in the opposite branching section has alternate branching. It is normal for the majority of trees, and therefore you will see it much more often.

Cottonwood , oak , and cherry trees are all really popular and common examples of trees with alternate branching.

Why is This Important?

The most common use for this information is being able to more easily and correctly identify the tree you are looking at. This factor is huge for narrowing down the type of tree you are observing, and may help you diagnose any problems you are experiencing with it too.

If you do have additional questions about tree identification and tree problems, always feel free to contact us with your questions!


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