Forest Tree Identification by Gordon K. Weddle Photographs by Robert Doty and G. Weddle May 26 2004 Outdoor Classroom Institute 2004 Forested Ecosystems Introduction Study of forests requires knowledge of the species that compose them but…….. Leaves of forest trees are often inaccessible Species must be identified primarily by their bark and fruit as leaves are too far away for careful examination Here we use photographs of bark for identification Bark Characteristics Texture Color Thickness Tightness Pattern Bark Texture Smooth Rough with ridges and fissures Tight barked Loose Flaky Shreddy Delaminating Color Bark Thickness Bark on many trees is quite thin. Examples would be American Beech, Black Cherry and Ironwood Thin Barked trees generally do not have a lot of texture in their bark Thick Barked trees include ash, walnut, and yellow poplar. All trees develop thicker bark with age. Bark Tightness This is a measure of how firmly attached the bark is to the woody tissue. It is not related to bark thickness as Oaks have thick bark but bark that is also very tight. If the Bark is exfoliating, shredding and scaling off then the bark would be said to be loose Bark Pattern Bark consists of ridges and valleys or fissures separating them Some have wide fissures Some have narrow fissures Some have fissures “painted white” Thin barked trees can have pigment-based patterns. For example tree of heaven has diamond-shaped patches. Eastern Red Cedar Juniperus virginiana, is our only native cone bearing tree. This species is the source of cedar lumber so often used in cedar chests. It is identifiable by its shreddy reddish bark and by the persistence of dead limbs on the lower part of the tree. Leaves are scale-like. Black Willow Salix nigra, is a wetland species that is common along streams and lakes. At Clay Hill it occurs only where the soil is persistently wet. Bark is black and deeply furrowed with scaly ridges. Leaves are 3-6 inches long and lance shaped. Walnuts (Juglandaceae) Alternate pinnately compound leaves Fruit encased in a fleshy husk Twigs with chambered pith Species of forest openings and gaps intolerant of shade Black Walnut Juglans nigra, has compound alternate leaves, deeply furrowed reddish black bark superficially resembling ash. Bark of walnut is layered as seen in the insert on the left. Walnuts are usually found near these trees. Twigs have chambered pith. Butternut Juglans cinerea, white walnut is identifiable by its sinuous dark ridges that separate flat white patches between. The leaves are walnut-like. The nut looks like an elongated walnut. The roots of larger trees are distinctively buttressed Hickories (Juglandaceae) Alternate pinnately compound leaves Nut enclosed in a woody husk Pith solid Bitternut Hickory Carya cordiformis, has bark that contains shallow furrows and ridges that are more or less parallel to one another. Fruits are about 1 “ or less and distinctively winged. This species has sulfur yellow buds and yellowish color on the nuts. Bitternut differs from the other hickories because its buds are slender. Pignut Hickory Carya glabra, resembles bark of mockernut hickory but differs in having 5 leaflets rather than 7-9. and in the size and shape of the nut. Pignut fruits are smaller than those of either mockernut or shagbark. They also are differently shaped being somewhat oval with an elongate stem such that they appear pendant. Mockernut Hickory Carya tomentosa, is one of three so-called tight-barked hickories we have at CHMF. Its bark is fissured. The fissures are arranged such that the ridges between them appear braided or interlaced. The tree has compound leaves with 7-9 leaflets. Nuts of this species are large (1 1/2 -2 inches) and similar to those of shagbark hickories. Shagbark Hickory Carya ovata, is a common, easily identified forest tree. The only other tree with such shaggy bark is the kingnut hickory and it is a bottomland species. Leaves have 5-7 leaflets. Winter buds are quite large to ¾ “. Nuts are edible and a favorite of humans and squirrels alike Birches (Betulaceae) Leaves alternate and simple Leaf edges serrated Generally small trees Two woodland species, hornbeam and eastern hornbeam both also called ironwood. Both species are slow growing understory trees. Hop Hornbeam (Ironwood) Ostrya virginiana, is a distinctive understory tree seldom reaching a diameter of 10 “ or more. Ironwood has a distinctively shreddy bark, oval unlobed leaves with saw-toothed edges and a distinctively hops shaped fruit in autumn. This species is one of the slowest growing species in the forest. This slow growth makes growth rings incredibly small and the wood incredibly hard. Bluebeech Carpinus caroliniana, has bark that resembles American beech, but it has a very sinuous appearance. Bark is often mottled with light and dark patches. The photograph was taken when this tree was wet so it appears darker than it normally would American Beech Fagus grandifolia, is one of the more easily identified trees. This large forest species has thin gray bark that does not change much with age. It gets covered with patches of algae and lichen occasionally giving it a greenish tint. The leaf edges are serrated and the leaves are ovate in shape. In winter the buds are very elongate and sharp, often resembling needles or awns. Oaks (Fagaceae) Leaves simple and alternate Leaves have highly variable margins Fruit is an acorn Acorn shape and size is species-specific Terminal buds are clustered at the end of stems Pith is obviously star-shaped White vs Red Oaks White Oaks Leaf edges are smooth or scalloped Acorn matures in one year Nut shell smooth inside Red Oaks Leaf lobes commonly sharp and bristle tipped Acorn matures in two years. Nut shell woolly inside White Oak Quercus alba, is one of the more important trees in forests of Kentucky. This species is easily identifiable by is light gray color, by its relatively thin bark and by shreddy nature of its bark. Leaves are distinctively lobed and its acorns are quite small (~1/2 “) relative to those found in red oaks. Black Oak Quercus velutina, is a large forest tree with dark bark that is very hard and deeply fissured. In older trees the fissures fragment horizontally forming a bark with a very blocky appearance. Leaves resemble those of red oak but have flat bases. Acorn is distinctive with cup covering ½ of nut and having loose scales. Kernel is yellow Northern Red Oak Quercus borealis, is an important, large forest species. Its bark is similar to that of most other red oaks except that in the younger branches there are silvery streaks between darker patches. Northern red is also easily identifiable by its distinctive acorn which is ¾-1 inch in length and capped by a saucer shaped cup. Shumard Oak Quercus shumardii, leaves are more distinctive than the bark or acorn. Leaf notches or sinuses tend to be narrower at the edge of the leaf than they are closer to the mid-vein. Bark most closely resembles that of black oak. Acorn cup is shallow and identifiable by elongate pointed scales. American Elm Ulmus americana, was one of our largest forest species until the introduction of Dutch Elm Disease. Now most of the trees are small. It is recognizable by having thinly fissured bark with ridges between these fissures flakey. The general color is brownish red. The tree is also identifiable by its distinctive simple leaves. They are ovate and serrate-edged with uneven, asymmetrical bases. Hackberry Celtis occidentalis, is common in fencerows and other openings but not common in woodlands. Younger trees have bark that is similar to American Beech but as they age the develop warty ridges of layered bark. Leaf base is uneven or lopsided. Yellow Poplar (Tulip Tree) Liriodendron tulipifera, is a very common species at CHMF. This straight tall tree is characterized in younger species by shallow white-colored patches between narrow ridges. Also the tree leaves triangular limb scars as the lower limbs are lost. In the spring this member of the magnolia family has showy yellow flowers that eventually produce a winged fruit. Sassafras Sassafras albidum, is a distinctive tree young or old. This specimen is quite large. Its bark has a reddish cast and a distinctive spicy odor. It is deeply furrowed and blocky. Younger trees are identifiable because the new twigs are green in color and the leaves have distinctively two or tree different shapes. Sycamore Platanus occidentalis, also known as the plane tree is one of the larger trees in North America. This species has thin peeling bark with patches of white in younger branches. It requires substantial moisture and can be considered a wetland species. Black Cherry Prunus serotina, is a common forest species that is easily identifiable by its black scaly bark. It has a thin platy appearance. Leaves are simple, serrate and alternate. Fruit is a small (1/4 inch) black cherry. Eastern Redbud Cercis canadensis, is a small understory tree with thin orange tinted bark that becomes scaly with age. Leaves are heart shaped. Flowers are pink-red in early spring. Seeds are born in a pod-like fruit . Tree of Heaven Ailanthus altissima is an introduced species. Its origin is China and it has fast become one of the most invasive of introduced trees. Tree of heaven has a thin gray to black bark with diamond-shaped markings and a generally sooty appearance. Leaves of this species are pinnately compound and they possess a distinctively foul odor. Leaflets have a small projection or yellowish gland at their base. Sugar Maple Acer saccharum, is the source tree for hard rock maple furniture and maple syrup. Maples all have opposite leaves, winged fruits. Bark is incredibly variable but generally has long scaly plates. Red maple has bark broken up into smaller scaly plates. Red Maple Acer rubrum, is a common forest tree with oppisite serrate edged leaves. The bark in this tree is much more similar to that of silver maple (water maples that is often used as a shade tree because of its rapid growth. Yellow Buckeye Aesculus octandra, is a distinctive tree. Its bark is thin and platy and almost always covered with mosses and algae. Its leaves are compound with leaflets arranged like the fingers of a hand (palmate). This species is shade tolerant. It occurs at moist sites. Black Gum (Tupelo) Nyssa sylvatica, is one of two species with “alligator bark”. It is deeply fissured vertically and horizontally such that it is quite blocky in appearance. The edges of these irregularly-shaped blocks are often rounded over. Tupelo leaves are among the first to change colors in the fall. Generally they are bright crimson red. Flowering Dogwood Cornus florida, is perhaps our most common understory tree. It is recognized by opposite simple leaves. The bark is thin, reddish and broken into squarish plates somewhat similar to black gum but the fissures are much shallower in dogwood Persimmon Diospyros virginiana, is one of very few species in which the bark of young trees is broken into squarish blocks. Its leaves are untoothed, oval-shaped and net-veined. Its twigs are distinctive because they have distinctive bundle scars. White Ash Fraxinus americanus, is one of the few species of tree with opposite compound leaves. The bark varies from having regular diamond shaped ridges to having the irregular fragmented appearance of the tree figured here. The outer bark of ash is spongy when pressed with the thumbnail. No attempt was made here to include every tree. It is my hope that I have included the more common species. It is also my hope that this project will serve as incentive for you to adapt this program for use with your particular grade level. You may freely use the images for educational purposes. If you find a good use for them I would appreciate seeing what you have done. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or better yet, stop by CHMF for a longer visit.
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