Tree Identification

Full image of a sugar maple in the wild

Close up of a sugar maple

Hello everybody! Today we are going to learn about some trees. The first tree on the list is Acer saccharum, or more commonly known as the sugar maple. Most maples have an opposite, simple leaf arrangement and complexity, and this species also falls into that category. Additionally, maples are distinguished by a lobed leaf. This tree was found in a relatively urban environment in a temperate deciduous climate in Columbus, Ohio near the campus of Ohio State. The sugar maple is particularly useful to human’s as it is the source of maple syrup and also hardwood lumber used in making furniture (Brittanica, 2019).


Full image of a black locust

Close up of a black locust

For our next tree, we have Robinia pseudoacacia, or the black locust. This tree has alternate, pinnately compound leaves with relatively small leaflets those of which are only about 1-2 inches long. This particular individual was also found in an urban environment, right outside of the Ohio Union. Black locusts can have some ecological importance since they can be useful in stopping soil erosion. However, they are an invasive species, so when introduced into an environment, they tend to take over that environment (Klebs, 2013). You win some, you lose some!


Full image of a white oak

Close up of a white oak

Now onto tree #3. For this tree, we have Quercus alba, or the white oak. Oak trees have an alternate, simple leaf arrangement and complexity with lobed leaflets. Lobe patterns depend on species, but white oaks tend to have a less dramatic lobe pattern with more rounded edges. This individual was spotted in an urban environment near the Ohio Union (I’m sure you are sensing a pattern here!). White oaks are ecologically important because its abundant acorns are often a major food source for many different species in the tree’s ecosystem (Lindell, 2021).


Full image of a horse chestnut

Close up of a horse chestnut

The fourth tree I found on my morning walk was Aesculus hippocastanum, or the horse chestnut. This tree has a leaf arrangement of alternate and palmately compound. This is very similar to the buckeye tree, but the two have slight differences such as distribution and seed size. The horse chestnut seed is larger than the buckeye seed. However, this tree was found near the Ohio State campus, home of the buckeyes. This is quite an urban environment in central Ohio. In terms on human importance, their seeds which are also called “conkers” is a traditional game in the UK dating back to 1848 (Crampton, 2021).


Full image of an American elm

Close up of an American elm

Next, I’ll tell you about the classic Ulnus americana, or the American elm of course. Its leaf arrangement and complexity is alternate, simple, but what is most telling about the species is its leaflets are double serrated. This individual was found in–you guessed it–an urban environment near Ohio State’s campus! The inner bark of this tree is strong and heavy, which makes it a good fit for flooring. This particular species once lived for about 200 years, but since the rise of Dutch elm disease, they only have a lifespan of about 30 years (Illinois State Museum, 2019).


Full image of a black maple


Close up of a black maple

This next tree might get kind of confusing, so buckle up. This tree is a Acer nigrum, or a black maple. This is to NOT be confused with the previously mentioned sugar maple. However, one thing they do have in common is they both have an opposite, simple leaf arrangement and complexity. Another thing these two individuals have in common is they were found in an urban environment in Columbus, Ohio. Some key differences between the two are leaf shape. Black maples tend to have more shallow sinuses between lobes than sugar maples do. Also, black maple leafs tend to droop, leaving them with a claw-like appearance (bplant, 2021).


Full image of a pawpaw

Close up image of a pawpaw

Now we’re going to look at Asimina tribola, which is better known as the pawpaw tree. The pawpaw has an alternate, pinnately compound leaf arrangement and complexity. This particular individual was found right outside of the Ohio Union in an urban environment. The pawpaw is useful to humans as its fruit is edible. However, it has been reported to cause severe irritation and stomach pain to some individuals (doesn’t sound too edible to me!) (TWC Staff, 2018).


Full image of a European hornbeam

Close up image of a European hornbeam

And for our last tree……drumroll please……we have Carpinus betulus! This is also known as the European hornbeam. This tree has an alternate, simple leaf arrangement and complexity. Its leaflets are also slightly serrated. This individual was found on the Oval at Ohio State in an urban environment. The hornbeam actually has the hardest wood in Europe, so it has many uses including but not limited to piano hammers, wood screws, butchers’ chopping blocks, and can be used as firewood (Woodland Trust, 2021).



Addressing Tree Blindness

Adding onto the points Popkin made in the Tree Blindness article, I too had very little tree knowledge before entering this class. Now, even after just one short week, I keep finding myself trying to name every tree I see along my walk. At the very least, I am categorizing its leaf arrangement.

I thought it was incredibly interesting how the article explained how trees can tell a part of history. It’s interesting because they also tell about the current state of its ecosystem, which can then be used to tell how the future may look for the forest. This means once you can identify tree patterns, you get a past, present, and future look into the ecosystem.

Additionally, I liked how they mentioned how trees are the last truly wild beings in urban settings, and that resonated with me as well because there is not much flora and fauna in Columbus, Ohio, but I did not have much trouble at all finding any trees. Overall, I liked the article a lot and I too would like to continue learning about trees and other aspects of the environment (Popkin, 2017).

Tree Blindness