Who doesn’t love trees? I for one, am a big fan, but I have been upset at my lack of appreciation for these amazing organisms. From the article by Gabriel Popkin titled Cure Yourself of Tree Blindness, I have realized that I have been guilty of tree blindness my whole life, but not for a lack of interest, so I am very happy to get the opportunity to learn more about these plants that we get to interact with daily. I hope some of these facts and pictures help you familiarize yourself with the natural world around you and identify some incredible trees!
Black Ash (Fraxinus nigra)
The black ash has an opposite leaf arrangement and are pinnately comound in complexity. The tree has dark, smooth bark and grows in swampy areas or near streams and water sources. Though not a very strong wood, it is used to make some furniture and cabinets.
Sycamore (Planatus occidentalis L.)
The mighty sycamore! I love this tree, the scaly brown bark starts to peel as you move up the tree, revealing smooth white bark and it’s impressive size make it easy to spot and a great way to start building your confidence in identifying trees. This tree has alternate leaf arrangement with simple complexity. The leaves are lobed and serrate. Also for all those birders out there, the sycamore serves as habitat for many waterfowl species.
Box Elder a.k.a. Ashleaf Maple (Acer negundo)
Behold the box elder! It is the only ash tree native to Ohio that has compound leaves in threes. This tree is very fast growing but is also susceptible to many diseases and pest and therefore often has a short lifespan of only 15 years on average.
Honey Locust (Gleditsia triacanthos)
Fun fact, while out on my walk in the woods today I saw two stunning white-breasted nuthatch birds foraging on.. you guessed it, A HONEY LOCUST! Look, we aren’t so tree blind anymore! The honey locust has very noticeable large, spiny thorns growing out of the bark. The leaves are easily distinguishable as well, they are double pinnately compound and opposite in arrangement. The legume fruits produced by this tree is a favorite among local mammalian wildlife as they provide lots of nutrition.
Northern Red Oak (Quercus rubra)
The leaves of the northern red oak are just beautiful. They are alternately arranged and simple in complexity with noticeable lobes. The male and female flowers exist on the same tree (monoecious) but are separate, with the former growing off of branches in catkins. An interesting fact about the fruit of this tree, the acorns mature faster than most other species.
American Elm (Ulmas americana)
The leaves of this tree are alternately arranged with simple complexity. The leaves are also notably serrated. Dutch Elm disease is a scourge on this species, a fungal disease that is spread by beetles and prevents the trees from continuing to grow.
American Hackberry (Celtis tenuifolia)
Next to the sycamore, the American hackberry is my largest tree identification confidence booster. JUST LOOK AT THAT BARK! It is soft and extends out from the tree almost like it has been 3D printed onto the tree. The leaves are alternately arranged with simple complexity and serrated edges. The tiny fruits on this tree are favored by many bird species and supply them with lots of food during the fall.
Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum)
The simple leaves on this tree are oppositely arranged and lobed in patterns of 5. The wood of the sugar maple is very hard and dense and makes excellent instruments!