A few weeks ago I attended a tree identification walk at the West Virginia Botanic Garden, hosted by WVU forestry.
Now that the chlorophyll is degrading, it’s a great time to take a walk. Enjoy those usually masked anthocyanin and xanthophyll pigments, and brush up your on your tree identification!
Trees are vascular plants meaning they have xylem and phloem tissues to transport water and photosynthates. They are also spermatophytes or seed plants. Seed plants are divided in two groups: Gymnosperms and Angiosperms. Gymnosperms don’t flower and their seeds aren’t enclosed in a ovule, unlike angiosperms.
Many people call gymnosperms evergreen, because most species’ leaves last for more than one year. However some do lose their leaves such as ginkgo, dawn redwood, and baldcypress. Angiosperms are often referred to as deciduous, although some hold their leaves such as rhododendron, live oak, and sweetbay magnolia.
Basics of Tree ID
There are many different characteristics used for tree identification.
- Leaf arrangement – Opposite or Alternate
- Leaf Type – Simple or Compound
- Leaf Shape
- Leaf Margin
- Leaf Venation
- Bark – smooth, shaggy, large plates, small plates, diamond pattern…
- Tree form
Virginia Tech has a really great website on the basics of tree ID, which you can see here! They also have a free app called “vTree”. Identification manuals are great tools for tree id! “Common Native Trees of Virginia” is available free online.
It seems to me like maples and oaks are some of the most common trees in the US. If you know these you’re well on your way to knowing the basics.
Beech (Fagus spp.) and oak (Quercus spp.) leaves have high acidity levels that work well with acid-loving plants.
Did I leave anything out? Let me know!
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