Tagged: tree identification

Beginners’ guide to nature

by Sandy Garland
Thanks to participants Jim Picken and Eric Cohen who contributed photos for this posting.

Porcupine ambling down the trail

Porcupine ambling down the trail

March came in with a porcupine this year, when OFNC members Dave Moore and Bev McBride led a nature walk in Stony Swamp. On Sunday, a small group of people gathered at Jack Pine Trail, eager to learn about the natural world and grateful to be outside on a mild, sunny day.

Although it was a quiet day for wildlife, Dave says, “We managed to find a lot of trees and a few birds, plus the bonus of seeing a porcupine waddling along the trail ahead of us. The Chickadees and Nuthatches enjoyed our peanuts, as did the Red Squirrels!”

According to Eric Cohen, “The leaders were extremely knowledgeable about shrubs, trees and IDing them from trunks and leaves. They also showed us the trails of Emerald Ash Borer and other insects that lay eggs under the bark.”

Dave explained how to tell the difference between a Hairy and Downy Woodpecker “in a manner that was memorable and clear.”

Jim Picken, who sent us the great photos below, reported, “It was a good walk, and I think everyone had a good time. I really appreciated learning some tree ID points from Bev, and about some of the bird calls from Dave.”

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Recognizing trees and shrubs in winter

By Sandy Garland

An OFNC excursion to Hampton Park Woods

An OFNC excursion to Hampton Park Woods

With the sun shining and the temperature hovering just below zero, it was a great day to be out in the woods! At least 30 other OFNC members had the same idea, so we all joined Owen Clarkin for a lesson in identifying trees in winter in Hampton Park Woods.

Before starting, Owen did a quick run down of the equipment we might need or want to bring along. Warm clothes, of course, as this was a day for standing and looking closely rather than brisk marching. A hand lens for viewing hairs on bark or leaf scars, a knife to cut off a twig to take home for a closer look, a GPS unit to remember the location of a notable tree, and a hypsometer – a way to measure the height of a tree using a laser distance finder. Notebooks and pencils are also useful.

White splotches on young bark indicate sugar maple, although not all trees are marked like this

White splotches on young bark indicate sugar maple, although not all trees are marked like this

We started by distinguishing between red and sugar maple trees right near the parking lot. Sugar maple trees have deep ridges in mature bark and brownish twigs, while red maples have relatively smoother bark and red twigs. Young sugar maples sometimes have whitish blotches on their trunks and large branches – quite distinctive in a forest of young trees.

Green and white ashes can be distinguished by general shape and leaf scars. The branches of green ash grow out horizontally and the leaf scars are half-circles; white ash trees are more cup shaped and their leaf scars are crescents. The common green ash is also more readily attacked by emerald ash borer and evidence of this could be seen in extensive “scaling” by woodpeckers.

I won’t go on about all the trees we saw. Hampton Park Woods contains many species – both young and magnificently mature trees: beech, white pine, hemlock, elm, basswood, pin and black cherry, and four species of poplars among others. Unfortunately, a few invasive species, such as buckthorn, tatarian honeysuckle, and Asian spindle tree, have also found their way into this regenerated old forest, although not to a great extent.

It’s a treat to walk in this hidden jewel, off Island Park Drive just north of the Queensway. Let’s hope Owen leads another excursion there in summer.

Online resources for identifying trees and shrubs

Basswood bark

Basswood bark

Black cherry bark

Black cherry bark

Beech trees are the ones with initials carved into their bark, one participant remarked

Beech trees are the ones with initials carved into their bark, one participant remarked