Trees are one of nature’s most recognizable features. Trees can be found in almost every area of the globe. From tall to short, thin to busy, smooth to shaggy, trees come in all shapes and sizes. With trees being so abundant across the world, one would think that people would know a lot about their green their leafy green neighbors. According to an opinion piece written by Gabriel Popkin in 2017 for the New York Times, this is not the case.
In this piece, Popkin explains something that he calls “Tree Blindness”. He described tree blindness as something where “most [people] know barely the first thing about the trees around them.” I have to admit, I suffer a great deal from tree blindness. Growing up in the suburbs, I was never taught the difference between the trees on my walk around the block with my dog. Sure, I knew that acorns came from oaks and that some maples produced sap for syrup, but that was about it.
Working with my field guide to identify these eight tree species below was no easy feat for me. I spent a few hours walking down the trail at Scioto Audubon Metro Park in Columbus, Ohio. With my filed guide in hand wide open, I began tackling the enormous (enormous for me) task laid out before me. Below are eight trees that I found growing along the bike path where hundreds suffer from tree blindness each day.
Tulips trees have alternative, simple leaves that are lobed. Theses trees tend to be straight and tall, with light grey bark that often contains whitened grooves.
One characteristic that makes the Tulip Tree stick out from the rest of its friends in the forest is its flowers. Large tulip-like flowers bloom from May – June. Colors can be orange or green. The ones on the tree that I found happened to be green and are pictured below.
This particular tree was found in the grassy clearing next to the Scioto Audubon’s Visitor Center. In the past, Native Americans would carve out the trunks of Tulip Trees to make them into canoes (Petrides, 203). Today, these trees are used for furniture and interior finishes.
Sugar Maples have leaves that are opposite, simple, and lobed. Their leaves have the easily identifiable lobe notching as in other maples. The Sugar Maple’s leaves are hairless with a velvety feeling underside and stiff edges.
This particular tree was found right outside of the Scioto Audubon Visitor Center. While this one was in a grassy clearing, many others were found throughout the deciduous forest along the bike trail. As the name states, the sap of the Sugar Maple is used to make maple syrup. However, the Black Maple also produces sap used in syrup making. When maple syrup is made, sap from the Sugar and Black Maple does not need to separated (Petrides, 98). The lumber from these two maples is also kept together when producing lumber.
The Silver Maple has leaves that are opposite, simple and lobed. One of the most recognizable things about the tree is its bark. Silver Maple bark tends to be older and grey looking, with pieces that flake off and leave brown spots. While its sap is sweet, it is less sugary than its sister, the Sugar Maple.
The Silver Maple aids in hydraulic lift in wet ecosystems (Lake Forest College, https://www.lakeforest.edu/academics/programs/environmental/courses/es203/acer_saccharinum.php). The tree helps lift water from deeper soil layers into the more superficial, dry layers. This not only helps the tree, but also helps the surrounding plant life. This tree was found along the edges of the forest path. Silver Maples are found in deciduous forests and wet bottom lands.
Leaves of the White Ash Tree are opposite, simple, and have an entire margin. The tree gets its name from the white underside of the leaves.
This White Ash was found growing along the bike path and the surrounding forest. These trees are notably known for their hard wood which is used to make furniture and farm handle equipment. White Ash wood also ranks along side that of Oak and Hickory wood when it comes to campfire fuel (Petrides, 50).
American Hornbeam (Ironwood)
The American Hornbeam is also known as the Ironwood due to its sturdy appearance. Its leaves are opposite, simple, and have toothed edges. The bark of the American Hornbeam is easily identified as being smooth and dark.
This tree was found next to an observation deck bordering the bank of the Scioto River. The American Hornbeam is notably used as windbreak for farmers. It also provides winter food for pheasants, gross, rabbits, deer, and squirrels (North Dakota State University, https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/trees/handbook/th-3-81.pdf).
Box Elder (Ashleaf Maple)
The Box Elder Tree, also known as the Ashleaf Maple, has opposite, compound leaves with an entire margin. The compound leaves usually have 3 or 5 leaflets. This tree flowers infrom April – May.
The Box Elder Tree was seen growing tall and abundant throughout the interior of the woods along the Scioto. The wood of the Box Elder is light, soft, and weak. Because of this, the tree is mainly used for pulp and other rough lumber when mixed with wood from other bottom land tree species (USDA, https://plants.usda.gov/plantguide/pdf/pg_acne2.pdf).
The American Hackberry was seen along almost the entire bike trail. The trees leaves are alternative and simple with an entire margin.
The wood of the American Hackberry is similar to that of the Ashes; hard with many uses in the furniture industry. The fruit of the American Hackberry Tree is known as “Sugarberries”. These berries provide food for wild turkeys, pheasants, the lesser prairie chicken and other birds.
The White Mulberries leaves are alternative and simple.
The White Mulberry Tree is actually an Asiatic tree that was introduced by the British to America during the Revolutionary War. They introduced it in an attempt to establish a silkworm industry (Petrides, 207). However, their attempt was unsuccessful. This White Mulberry that I saw grew in the grassy clearing sprawling over the Visitor Center was just staring to bud.