On official USGS topo maps, vegetation is represented by green, and non vegetation by white as you can see below.

How much vegetation does an area need to be colored green? Are short bushes enough or does it require trees?

  • 1
    In reality, of course, what you find varies quite a bit since most maps are quite old and things have changed (sometimes a lot) since then.
    – topshot
    Jun 11, 2019 at 12:27

2 Answers 2


Vegetation is recorded when it exceeds 20% cover of the landscape for an area greater than one acre (0.4 ha), and 6 ft (2 m) or more in height - tall enough to conceal troops or fugitives - with the same consideration for clearings within vegetated areas.

USGS Topographic Maps


According to this USGS pamphlet (last page, bottom right), solid green is "Forest". This link gives us

The mesomorphic tree canopy is typically >10% cover and often exceeds 5 m in height

(I was not able to find a good reference for a definition to "Shrubland" for the spotted irregular green to get a second notion of how green is used.)

In the map you have given us, I assume that the vast majority of the ecosystems in the green fall under the forest definition. Since your map doesn't have a key, I have to assume they are referencing the solid green as a standard.

  • 1
    Interesting that two different sources linked to the USGS would provide slightly different answers...
    – Jon Custer
    Jun 11, 2019 at 17:23

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.