This site is for people who like plants -- growers, enthusiasts, aesthetes, novices and professionals, those who appreciate wild things and those who appreciate the cultivated. I garden in Chelsea, and I've been visiting people's yards for 20+ years in the course of my work. My goal is to make this blog a community project, so if you share my interests, please consider becoming a participant and contributing content -- Guerin. Info: guerinw@gmail.com

Friday, February 18, 2011

More winter ID

In the real world, one uses many different characteristics to identify a tree species in the absence of leaves -- bark texture, branching pattern (opposite vs. alternate), coarseness of smaller branches, and (best of all) leaf and flower buds. But tree habit is sometimes all you need, like in the following:

American elm (Ulmus americana) is perhaps the easiest of all trees to recognize from a distance. Botanists of course invented a term to describe this branching pattern: deliquescence. See if you fit that one into daily conversation. The term refers to a branching pattern the results in no single central trunk.  

Another tree that is relatively easy to pick out when it is young and growing vigorously is the sugar maple (Acer saccharum). Note the ascending branches and the finely textured twigs. A norway maple will look similar but more squat and with thicker twigs.

This is a cottonwood (Populus deltoides). No obvious shape to help one pick it out of a crowd. The crown is open, the twigs are more coarse than in the preceding two trees. The fat prolific flower buds tell you it is a Populus. This species will start swapping pollen before most anything else. If you collected and dissected a flower bud today, you would be able to tell whether you have a male or a dreaded female.

Lastly: a big black walnut (Juglans nigra) -- very coarse branching, very dark colored bark. If you can find a bud or fruit, you can't go wrong.

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