Forestry 101: Tree Identification Using Leaves
He recently attended his first away camp at Rock Eagle, Georgia near Oconee National Forest. This is the world's largest 4-H camp with nearly 1,500 acres of forested land and 110 acre lake.
My favorite class at camp was Forestry. Our leader took us on a hike in the woods and pointed out leaves of different native trees. She told us about some unique ways to remember these trees by looking at their leaves.
|Photo courtesy of Greater Michigan Timber Management|
Red Oak leaves grow red in the spring and in summer change to dark green so they are not as easy to identify. The red oak's leaves come to a point like a red man's spear or arrow (Settlers called American Indians "red men").
The sugar maple leaf has five points. Each point spells out the word S-U-G-A-R.
|photo courtesy of kcfehring|
The red maple has three points as if to spell R-E-D.
|Me behind a tulip popular leaf|
The tulip popular has a unique leaf and is hard to confuse with any other tree. The leaves look like a cat's head. The top two petals are the ears and the bottom two are the cat's grin and whiskers. Can you see it?
This is the easiest native tree to identify because it is the only tree to have three different shaped leaves. One leaf is shaped like a mitten, one leaf looks like a three toed dinosaur footprint and one is a single oval.
Having stories or clever clues makes it easy to remember the tree and easier to identify them. When I got home I went into our back yard and found out that we have all these trees.
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A few more words on trees...
The record rainfalls this year in the Southeast, after years of drought, has made for some interesting challenges for trees. In our area many large trees are falling down due to ground saturation. This is an important reminder to have trees in your garden properly maintained by a certified arborist.
Recently I read about a new study by scientists with the U.S. Forest Service and Harvard University which suggests that trees are responding to higher atmospheric carbon dioxide levels by becoming more efficient at using water.
Terrestrial plants remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through photosynthesis, a process that is accompanied by the loss of water vapor from leaves. The ratio of water loss to carbon gain, or water-use efficiency, is a key characteristic of ecosystem function that is central to global cycles of water, energy and carbon.
According to the study findings, how efficient trees are at using water has big implications for ecosystem function. Improved water availability could partially offset the effects of future droughts. On the other hand, reduced evapotranspiration, as a result of higher water-use efficiency, could lead to higher air temperatures, lower humidity levels and decreased recycling of continental precipitation.
|Photo credit: Chris Vogel|
The study was published in the on-line journal Nature. For more information you can view it here.