GREENVILLE — Identifying trees can be challenging, but without their leaves – even trickier.
According to Shawnee Prairie Preserve Nature Center Senior Naturalist Rob Clifford, anyone can become a tree identification detective. The Shawnee Prairie Preserve Nature Center hosted a tree identification workshop, November 26. It started inside with a power point presentation, followed by a hands-on exercise, outside, utilizing the students’ new skills to identify at least 10 different tree species.
“We take such a hands – off study anymore,” Clifford said. “We look at books and web-sites, but to really soak in all of the characteristics of trees, we have to use our hands.”
Some tree identifiers are their bark, twigs, growth patterns and their fruits. Shag bark is a hickory tree, bright white bark is a sycamore. Through the help of a Winter Tree Key, which is a dichotomous identification key, the process is almost full-proof. The key takes the student through a process of deductive reasoning. The first step is deciding if the three is coniferous or not. According to the key, if the tree is not coniferous, go to item 11. If it is coniferous, go to item two.
If it is coniferous and the needles are in bundles, go to pines, which is item three. If the needles are in bundles of five, soft and flexible, the tree is a White Pine. Another hint, White has five letters matching the bundle of five. For deciduous trees, the most prominent clues are the terminal buds that grow at the end of the twigs, leaf scars and bundle scars. These all have different, distinctive shapes. For example, the Ohio Buckeye tree has very large, sharp and pointed terminal buds that are slightly scarlet and gray in color. Another clue in identifying that tree, is to look on the ground at the buckeyes. With practice, the process becomes second-nature.
“Treat them as clues like a detective and piece everything together,” Clifford said.
For information about the Shawnee Prairie Preserve Nature Center, visit www.darkecountyparks.org/shawnee-prairie-preserve-nature-center.
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