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How do I evaluate a natural element such as a tree or a shrub, for example?
Read the information tip under Permanent and Distinct to see if it meets that aspect.
Natural features, such as just a tree, hill, etc, do not meet criteria if the nomination is just of the natural feature in the photos. However, if the natural feature has a sign or plaque, such as one with information on the type of tree or history of the hill, those you can vote on. The signs/plaques should be good places to explore, which is the part I use to determine if something is educational with the new system.
For example, there's a well know snow sledding hill in the city I live in at a local park. It gets nominated all the time, and it's just of the hill in the photos, and since there's no sign in the park marking it as a snow sledding hill, it gets rejected every time.