Trees and Seeds and Leaves Galore
It’s hard to embrace but soon fall will be upon us. September 22nd marks the second of this year’s equinoxes, meaning that day length and night length will be approximately equal. It also marks the beginning of fall and the slow decline to shorter days and cooler nights.
But all is not lost. Fall is one of my favourite times of year if only for the sheer magnificence that is fall foliage. Add to that the intricacies of tree seeds and that’ll do it for me.
So let’s talk about tree seeds because, why not?
This is the best time of year to get out and ID trees. The leaves have yet to fall, their autumn colours are just starting to show the seeds are falling all over the place. Kids, especially, will benefit from a tree ID outing in the next few weeks.
What to Bring
Not a lot really but it depends how much tree ID you will be doing and how much detail you’d like to get into.
– Whatever you need to stay warm and dry
– Binoculars (just in case the birds are out and about)
– A simple ID book or a regional one
– A detailed ID book, like this one that I have.
How to ID Trees
Like I said before, you can make it simple or get into some serious ID’ing. For the kids, simplicity is probably better (but gauge based on age and interest).
You can ID trees from their leaves (easier and great fun this time of year) or from the bark (a good winter time activity). Bark ID is inherently more difficult: the bark of most species changes as the tree ages. My bark ID has never been very good but I know a number of people who are spot on, every time. Practice, I suppose. Remember to look at the range when you’re trying to ID a species. No point in stressing over whether it’s a sugar maple or a southern sugar maple if you live in Quebec where the southern sugar maple won’t grow.
A Few Popular Species in my Area
And now for some of the leaves I picked up in the last little while. I tried my best to find summer and fall colours. My tree ID isn’t perfect so if there’s an error in here, let me know! I found some seeds already but it’s early for most.
The black walnut is highly prized for its wood but beyond that, it is a remarkable tree. Don’t plant it anywhere near your gardens as it puts out a toxin known as juglone that hinders the growth of species nearby. Shown here with the walnut seed and its parts.
Ash trees are in trouble in Ontario as the Emerald Ash Borer sweeps through. Leaves are found in clusters like this and can contain 7-11 leaves per cluster.
Pagoda Doogwood is more of a small tree or shrub but is a common understory tree here in Ontario where I live. The leaves splay out flat in a cluster like this (hence the common name, pagoda).
The Bigtooth Aspen is similar to the Quaking Aspen but has large nodes that run the circumference of the leaf.
Aspen trees are tall and thin. Leaves are easily recognized on a windy day as they flutter readily, making a distinct soft scratching sound.
Hop Hornbeam (Ironwood)
A relatively small tree, Ironwood is technically in the Birch family. It is a common understory tree in the area where I live.
White Birth (Paper Birch)
Paper birch trees are easily recognized by their white bark that peels away from the trunk in sheets.
Beech nuts are encased in a prickly shell that splits into quarters letting the seed fall out. Beech trees have smooth bark with a slightly blue hue.
Despite Dutch Elm disease wiping out thousands of Elm trees, many still survive in isolated areas.
Often planted for its erosion control properties, it can be an aggressive spreader so only plant it where you don’t ever want to plant anything else.
I love the varying colours from the Sugar Maple leaves seen in the fall. Sizes vary largely due to the tree’s age. I’ve included a few maple keys at different stages (lighter with green are early and dark, dry-looking are older).
Similar to the Linden trees, the Basswood has an uneven base where it attaches to the stem.
This photo has Northern Red Oak leaves (large and on top) and Black Oak leaves (smaller with larger grooves). Acorns from the Northern Red Oak are larger than those of the Black Oak.