Using the Bulletin

The best place to study the trees, of course, is in the woods where the characters (bark, twigs, buds, leaves, and fruit) are most easily observed.

Pay considerable attention to the bark.  It is always present, summer and winter, and even in the log you can tell the tree if you know the bark.  Try to remember the points mentioned in the text, such as color and texture, whether smooth or furrowed, scaly or firm.

Twigs are interesting to study in the wintertime.  They vary in color; some are brittle, while others are tough and pliable; some are slender, while others are coarse.  A taste of the twig often helps to identify the tree, as for example, the cherries or the black birch.

The buds go along with the twigs as part of the winter study of the trees.  Frequently it may be important to recognize a forest seedling in the early spring before the leaves are out, especially if you want to transplant the seedling.  This also would be true if it were a valuable forest tree, such as a sugar maple, and it was desirable to clear around it to allow it more light.  In such instances the buds are a helpful means of identification.

Study the winter twigs carefully.  It is obvious that hickories have a terminal bud, as do the maples and the ashes.   But be ready for basswood, elms, and birches.  They may appear, at first glance, as if a terminal bud is present, but on closer examination it is evident that there is a leaf scar on the end of the twig and the bud is a little below and to one side.  The color of buds is also helpful.  For example, by a glance at the color of the bud you can tell at once whether the tree is a soft (red) or a hard (sugar) maple.  The opposite or alternate arrangement of the leaves can also be applied to buds and helps you to distinguish some trees (plate 1).

Leaves are the easiest to observe.  Compare the leaves and look for the following points: Are they simple (one leaf to a stem) or compound?  Are they arranged opposite on the twig or alternate?  How is the margin of the leaf shaped?  In some leaves the margin is entire (no breaks at all).  In some, the margin is like the fine teeth of a carpenter's saw (serrate or saw-like); or it is doubly serrate.  In others, the margin is more deeply notched, as in the chestnut, the beech, and the bigtooth aspen.  In some oaks and others where the margin is very deeply cut, the leaves are described as lobed, and the hollows between are called clefts (plate 2).

Trees have flowers as do most green plants, but the blooms are not usually noticeable high up in treetops where you cannot easily see them to aid in identification.  In addition, they are present only for a very brief season.  In the interest of using available space for easily observed, more available characteristics, the description of flowers has not been included.

The fruit of the forest trees is an important item in the appreciation of the forest, not so much as a means of identifying the tree, but for finding and recognizing the seeds from which the different forest trees develop.  Fruit, it should be remembered, does not necessarily mean fleshy, edible products, such as apples or cherries, but includes any seed and the covering in which it develops, whether cone, pod, samara (winged-seed), burr, or husk.  Note in the species descriptions the time of year the seed matures.

The uses of each tree and where it occurs naturally are also briefly mentioned in the descriptions.  This should round out the knowledge and appreciation of the trees of the forest.

Learning to know the names of the trees is like playing a detective game.  With certain "clues," such as color of the bark, size and branching of the twig, shape of the bud, and form of the leaf, the names of the trees can be "tracked down."

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