I was out hiking last weekend in the Middlesex Fells just outside of Boston. I am working on a project that I've set for myself, which is to inventory and be able to identify all of the tree species that grow in this natural area. My ultimate goal is to learn how to identify these trees from their bark alone, without the need to look at their leaves.
But, I learned yesterday that tree identification for novices is not as easy as I had hoped. I managed to identify a few tree species including sugar maples, pitch pines, american beach, white oak and white birch, but then things got real confusing. There were a lot of species I simply couldn't identify in the tree book I had brought along with me.
I quickly broke down and tried to identify trees based on their leaves but there are so many that look alike that it's hard to differentiate between them. I guess it's just a matter of learning to recognize the subtle differences between leaf shapes and structure.
I also found that there is a good deal of variation in the bark of a single species between young trees and older trees.
I recognize that teaching myself how to identify trees is going to take a while. When faced with similar situations in the past my normal reaction is to go by some books that I can use as a resource to develop a skill. I visited Amazon.com today and bought a few tree guides that focus on trees in the eastern US including A Field Guide to Eastern Trees (Peterson Field Guides)and the National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees: Eastern Region.
I also started googling like mad and found an excellent online resource called VTreeID, an online tree identification database hosted by Virginia Tech Forestry Department, that provides searchers with Tree Fact Sheets. Each of these provides an assortment of pictures of a tree's leaves, bark, buds, seeds, and shape without leaves. It's already cleared up a few mysteries for me.
Do any of you tree experts out there have any advice for a novice tree spotter?
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