Exploring the trees around my neck of the woods

I never found myself to be so blind by the beautiful flora that surrounded me. Once I started to examine the different trees that surround me I realized that there is so much diversity around me. It was truly humbling and took me by surprise.  I found 8 different kind of trees along the Olentangy trail that I am going to talk about in detail. I even met a biologist on my walk that taught me more about the trees in the area. Trees are cool and everybody loves them!

The habitat surrounding the trees was mostly dry land next to the Olentangy running trail. I never went down near the river to look at the trees I stayed above the water near the running trail. The habitat provided plenty of sunlight for the trees and enough nutrients with some bugs and plenty of birds to create an entire ecosystem.

Dr. Klips assigned an opinion piece to read with this assignment that discussed a phenomenon known as “tree blindness”. The New York Times article written by Gabriel Popkin can be found here. Have no fear because Popkins argued that this blindness can be cured. I agree with him. As someone who is going into science education I think it’s important for not only teens and young adults but everybody to appreciate and understand the nature around us. I personally believe it could make us better people as we understand that we are at the mercy of the nature around us and not the other way around. There are also environmental benefits to fighting this blindness that many people might not see. Our law makers could create better environmental policy if they were less blind to the nature around us and the people would care a whole lot more as well. I hope we one day reach a point where more and more people cure their tree blindness because the world would be a much better place if we did.

The red line follows the trail I took to find the trees that I will be discussing.

Ohio Buckeye

(Aesculus glabra)

Everybody in Ohio knows this tree even if they don’t think that they do. Every professor who aren’t native to ohio also have a story on how they thought these plants where the other infamous Cannabis. Little do they know is that there are very different qualities between them. The Buckeye tree is the only tree  with opposite compound leaves whose leaflets are arranged like the spoke of a wheel and I think that is very interesting. Thank you Peterson. This buckeye tree was spotted at the start of my hike on the trail. The ohio buckeye has weak thorns with 5 leaflets and a shape that made it indistinguishable.

White Ash

(Fraxinus americana)

The white ash tree is a tree that is very cool and very beautiful. The opposite leaf patterns narrows down the choices for identifying the tree. If you look closely you can see round twigs which set it apart from other types of ash trees.I found this tree near the olentangy river. The furrowed bark also sets it apart from the other ashes in its family. A very interesting fact that I learned from the Arbor Day Foundation is that the white ash is famous for one of the most famous wooden products – the baseball bat! The white ash is known to be very sturdy and strong and also very light.

Shellbark Hickory

(Carya laciniosa)

The Shellbark Hickory was one of my favorite trees to observe during my time outside. If you look closely you can see shellbark nuts on the tree. The velvety arrangement of opposite leaves make the hickory tree a sight to behold. I absolutely loved the arrangement of leaves on this tree and found it very fun to identify. One of the defining features that set this hickory tree apart from many of the other hickory trees is that the twigs are hairless! Trees have hair too! Who would have thought that. I wonder what the tree with hair need it for?

Sugar Maple

(Acer saccharum)

Suagr and Maple! Two of the best things on the planet combined into one of the best trees on the planet, the Sugar Maple!! This tree was something to behold. I could feel the strength of the tree as I walked up to it. Maple Tree leaves are very defined and these leaves where moderately lobed and it made it a little easy to identify because of this. The twigs also appeared to be glossy and according to Peterson’s field guide that is a distinguishable characteristic of the sugar maple tree. A very interesting fact about the sugar maple tree is that the Native Americans would use the inner bark of the sugar maple to treat coughs and sometimes diarrhea.


(Cercis canadensis)

I really wanted to find this plant and before I had given up all hope and before the sun set I thought I would never find it. But then alas! As I was walking next to a skatepark I found one I screamed with excitement and a kid asked me “Hey mister what is that?” I told him it was a riveting redbud. He didn’t seem as excited as me but I knew it was a redbud from the toothless heart shaped leaves. If you look at the picture on the left you can see a legume growing on the branch of the redbud. It would have been easier to spot as this tree blooms into a pretty pink color earlier in the year.

Black Walnut

(Juglans nigra)

The Black Walnut was a tree that I thought looked very neat! It is not one of my favorite trees of all time but it is up there. As you can see from the picture on the right the end leaflet is absent which made me think of the black walnut tree. Of course this could have been a fluke or some freak genetic accident but after examining a couple more of the branches I learned that there were a lot of them like this. This seemed like a relatively young tree since there were no walnuts present but alas the show must go on.

Sweet Buckeye

(Aesculus octandra)

Another Buckeye?? Where are you finding all of these buckeye trees you might ask. This is a very special buckeye tree that only I can know the answer to. (It is definitely not on a famous Ohio State walking yard that resembles an ellipses.) Also called a yellow buckeye these buckeye trees are different from the flower that they produce on along with their buckeyes. It is a nice variation to the other buckeyes trees surrounding the entirety of Ohio State. It’s almost like if they were sentient they could take over. Eek!

Chinese Fringe Tree

(Chionanthus retusus)

This tree was by far one of the hardest for me to identify. I wanted to identify it because I thought it was the prettiest out of all the other trees I worked with and identified. The Chinese Fringe Tree has palmately compounded leaves that connect to the slightly aromatic flower in the middle. This tree is beautiful and I highly recomemened people go see it. It can be found near the Sweet Buckeye Tree wherever that may be. Now go forth and explore the flora of central Ohio!

This activity really opened my eyes to the beautiful nature that I don’t even notice when I take my daily morning walks to and from work. I encourage everyone to learn a little bit about the trees in their neck of the woods so you can greet your tree friends whenever you pass by them or whenever you see them!


Credits for this webpage include Dr. Kilps and his wondeful instruction during lecture and lab and George A. Petrides field guide on Trees and Shrubs.