Saturday, May 23, 2009

On Identifying Trees

I took a morning walk today to the college campus, with the idea of trying to identify as many trees as I could. The sugar maples were plentiful and easy to identify, but I was pretty much lost after that. I realized I need a refresher course in how to approach tree identification.

1. The first step is to determine whether the leaves are needlelike, scalelike, or broadleaf. I am going to deal only with broadleaf.

2. With a broadleaf, you need to examine the positioning of the leaves on the twig to see if they are alternate or opposite. My approach this morning of bringing back a single leaf to study at my leisure doesn't work, because you need to see the leaf in relation to its neighbors.

3. The next step is to determine whether the leaves are simple or compound. There are technical ways to work through this, but just use your common sense and you'll get by here.

4. The other characteristics to work through are whether the leaves are lobed or not, and whether they are toothed or smooth.

Once these characteristics are determined, look in the guidebook under the appropriate subcategory.


chessart said...

Yesterday I took my tree book to lunch at Paul's. After lunch I went out to the backyard with Paul, my dad, and my niece, and spent awhile working on tree ID. The big one in back, with the treehouse, we decided was a dogwood. One beside it my niece and I thought was a box elder, but Dad said it wasn't. There was also some confusion on whether the leaves were compound or not, Dad again being wrong on this, as Paul clarified when he came out.
We concluded it was a box elder, and on the other side of the yard, we identified a hackberry.

chessart said...

This morning I took a walk out to Village Park, taking my clipboard and tree book with me. Some observations:

1. Sugar maple. Many at VP just like at the college campus. Learned from my book that the squirrels like to gnaw into the bark to get at the sap, which explains why I see squirrels around sugar maples so much. Noticed that the 3 longest lobes (of the 5 total) have "shoulder subpoints".

2. Boxelder. Compound leaf, which my book says has 3 leaflets in spring, and 5 in summer. It is pestered by the boxelder bug, and I saw much evidence of leaf damage, presumably from this pest.

The boxelder is a kind of maple, and has the greatest range of all North American maples, and is the only NA maple with pinnately compound leaves, meaning the leaflets are on either side of a leaf stem, as opposed to palmately compound, where the leaflets attach to the leaf stalk at a single point.

3. Near the ball field I looked at a tall tree which I concluded was a black ash, which is another pinnately compound species.

4. On the way home I noticed some cottonwoods along the creek. It appears that the species is Eastern Cottonwood, and is the same variety which is common in Kansas. The range map shows it extending west into Colorado.

chessart said...

Monday night I saw a number of small maples in my sister's backyard. We finally identified it as a Norway Maple. The Norway is characterized by 7 lobes, instead of the 5 of the sugar maple.

Today at the Buckeye Lake I quickly identified a shagbark hickory. The smoky-gray bark is a big tipoff, along with the markedly shaggy nature of it.

I had my tree book at the optometrist's and the lady who adjusted my glasses mentioned that she had led a group of
Webelos Scouts in the tree badge. They had a mnemonic device to identify Ohio trees, which was "mad buck". This stands for maple, ash, dogwood, and buckeye.

chessart said...

Wednesday a week ago I found myself re-identifying trees which I had already identified. I got the idea of starting a notebook with leaves in it, to reinforce what I've already learned. This has worked out wonderfully. I now have leaves from 22 different trees in my notebook. My favorites are: 1) Norway Maple, big, broad leaves, rich dark green in color, with 7 lobes; 2) Sweetgum Tree--wonderful leaf shaped like a star, or starfish (I've found 2 in Bluffton); 3) Eastern Redbud--leaf shaped like a heart. I've also found a whole bunch of mulberry trees--had my first taste yesterday from one that is ahead of the others.