Hey, y’all! Over the past two years, my interest in plants, more specifically native plants has grown ten-fold. I often even find myself slowing down while driving down a road to see if I can identify what the blooming flowers are. (Certain species of Goldenrod or Ironweed are always common favorites to run into). However, for whatever reason I have refused to dig deep into tree identification, especially in my home state of Ohio. I can always take a pretty good guess at a family and maybe a fun fact or two to impress my friends but have never really made a conscious decision to explore to the species level of things. I don’t think that this tree blindness has really been an choice of mine but I am certainly looking forward to curing this “disease” through the tools I am given in this course. I have already caught myself saying “Hey I know what tree that is!” walking around town.
This week I identified and photographed 8 trees on and around campus. Most of these were taken on my walks to and from a few of my classes. I mainly referenced Peterson’s Field Guide for Trees and Shrubs along with some internet resources as well in order to make my identifications. I’ve have fairly limited experience in identifying trees further than their family but I have already enjoyed seeing improvements in my “tree-blindness”
Located just about 15 feet outside my front door I fairly quickly identified a Redbud tree that stands at about 10 ft tall. The heart-shaped leaves was what first caught my eye and I confirmed by suspicions observing the alternating arrangement and simple leaf complexity. The fact that I want to share about the Redbud throws it back to my Sunday school days. It is a myth that the flowers of the Redbud were previously white until Judas, Jesus’ betrayer hung himself from the Redbuds branches. An interesting and gruesome story.
Oaks are a tree that I am certainly familiar with, with my favorite tree actually being the Live Oak (Quercus virginiana). Here’s his cousin the White Oak. Located outside of Jennings in a grassy patch, alternating leaves along with their lobed margins and simple complexity showed me that it was an oak. It was obvious that it was a planted tree nearing 25 feet tall. The Angel Oak in Charleston, South Carolina is the largest live oak east of the Mississippi.
Sugar maples are identified through their simple leaf complexity, lobed leaf margins and opposite leaf arrangement which I think is shown very well in the photograph. This Sugar Maple is also conveniently located right outside my front door in my residential neighborhood. Fun fact about maple trees is that maple is the most common wood to make baseball bats out of.
Okay last tree that is just right outside of my house yet again. 3 out of my 8 trees could have been all found within 10-15 feet of my door which was partially out of laziness but I found it cool that they were right under my nose the whole time. I knew quickly that this was a walnut tree mainly because of the walnuts that litter my parking lot. I noted the opposite arrangement, bipinnately compound complexity and the absent end leaflet led me to the Black Walnut.
I took a small field trip to find this species. Hayden Falls, not far off of the Scioto River, has a beautiful boardwalk and waterfall (it was dry when I was there) and is also full of plant diversity that was enjoyable to identify. The pawpaw tree standing out with his large oval shaped leaves that have smooth margins with an alternate arrangement. The Pawpaw fruit is currently in season however this tree had no fruits present. However it is becoming increasing popular to gather and harvest pawpaws in the middle of fall.
The White Ash was the second unique tree species I was able to identify at the Hayden Falls location. This particular tree was naming others in the understory of the area I was observing. The ash tree has an opposite leaf arrangement with a pinneately complex leaf complexity. It makes sense that the ash tree is in this area because they are common among streamside and riparian zones.
O-H! I knew exactly where to hunt down one of my favorite trees on campus, since it was located right behind my sophomore year dorm, Scott House. Other than the palmantely complex leaves the Ohio Buckeye can be quickly identified by its fruit. The biggest difference between the Ohio and the Sweet Buckeye can be seen in the fruit. The Ohio has a weakly thorny husk while the Sweet has a smooth husk. This was my deciding factor in this species ID. One of my fondest memories is going to the buckeye tree in my grandparent’s backyard in the fall and cracking them open on the back patio. Buckeyes are actually poisonous to dogs so if you have on in your yard make sure to pick any fallen buckeyes off the ground.
Here’s lucky number 8! The tulip tree! The uniquely shaped leaves are a dead give away to the Tulip Tree. Symmetrical four-lobed leaves that are alternately arranged and simple are also identifying factors. I first remember encoubtering the tulip tree on a trip to Henderson, North Carolina this summer where I visited waterfalls and took plenty of plant pictures. However this particular specimen was also photographed around Hayden Falls. The tulip tree is the state tree to 3 different states, Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee.