These are the most important characteristics to know if you are using any of the basic field guides for to identify woody trees and shrubs.
Terminal Bud(s) – placed at the tip of the twig were the branch will continue its growth the following year. Called apical dominance, the plant will put more energy into these bud(s) to allow them to grow farther, faster, and bigger than any of the lateral buds and continue the vertical and horizontal spread of the plant.
Lateral Bud(s) – buds that grow along the side of the twig. These buds develop between the base of the leaf and the stem and will create a new branch when they start to grow.
Leaf Scar – where a leaf was once attached. If you are looking at a one year-old twig the leaf scar will always be below a bud.
Lenticel – one of the many types of breathing pores on a plant. May not be on all species, will look and feel like many repeating bumps on the otherwise smooth bark.
Bud Scale – overlapping pieces that protect the bud from the elements. A bud can have many scales to just one or even none (those being called naked buds). Like leaves and leaf scars, once the bud starts to grow the scales will fall off, leaving scar tissue showing where they once where.
Bud Scale Scar (not pictured) – a ring of scar tissue around a twig or branch. Represents the site of last year’s terminal bud, marking where last year’s growth started from.