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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
When I was a wee lad, my grandfather took me along on his daily walks up into the mountains near where we lived, and he would tell me the names of trees he knew. Over the years I guess I've retained some of them and added a few here and there so recently I decided to see how many I could recall. I discovered to my surprise that many that I knew I did not know why, it was like you know a person but you would be hard pressed to describe them to a sketch artist. Anyway I think I know about 40 or 50 at the outside and I wondered how that compared to others interested in wood. Maybe I'm just a nerd that likes this kind of thing, I guess we'll find out.
 

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When the leaves and fruit are on -- quite a few! When it's just bark not near as many. And I have to admit that I have increased my knowledge in just the last few years -- better late than never! I'm not sure I can give you a number off the top of my head, I'll have to test myself and see.
 

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When the leaves and fruit are on -- quite a few! When it's just bark not near as many. And I have to admit that I have increased my knowledge in just the last few years -- better late than never! I'm not sure I can give you a number off the top of my head, I'll have to test myself and see.
Ditto - the oaks are tricky for me, we have so many kinds. Blackjacks, pin oaks, Shumard, those are easy, but there are so many more. I will think about this. Native evergreens here are limited to cedar, although these are invasive, planted as windbreaks during the dust bowl days. Oklahoma and eastern redbuds, I don't know the difference offhand. Dogwood, sycamore, river birch, maple are easy. Bois d'Arc and catalpa are distinctive. I'll think of more.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Oaks are my hardest too. Wikipedia says the genus Quercus contains about 600 species. I forgot to mention, my property is only about 3 acres and I have identified 40 different trees that grow on it. I was amazed at that much diversity in such a small space. My goal is to identify every plant that grows there. That should keep me busy for a while.
 

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Took me awhile to come up w. this inventory. When I thought carefully about it, I realized there were only a few tree/shrubs that I could identify with almost complete certainty, and not many more that I am about 80% sure.

Here's my list.

Trees I can ID by bark and shape alone (trees in winter)

beech
boxelder
catalpa
honey locust
mulberry
paper birch
sassafrass
shagbark hickory
staghorn sumac
sycamore
weeping willow

Trees I can usually ID by bark and shape

apple
black walnut
Chinese elm
cottonwood
osage orange
tulip tree/yellow poplar

Trees I need 1 big clue, or several clues beyond bark and shape to identify or tell which species in the genus.

ailanthus
ash
basswood
black cherry
black gum/tupelo
birch
dogwood
hackberry
hawthorn
hornbeams
maples
oak
paw paw
pines
poplars
sweet gum
red bud
various fruit trees
white willow

Evergreens I can identify by leaves and shape.
arbor vitae
eastern red cedar
yew

The list of those I could identify from only the wood would be terribly short. Add that to the fact that most of the wood I collect for sticks is from trees down long enough for leaves and fruits to be long gone, and even bark deteriorating. At least half the poles I've cleaned of bark are just mystery wood to me.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Wow gdenby, that's quite a list. You're way ahead of me in identifing trees in winter. I can do fairly well when leaves are on but I'm pitiful when they're bare. But that's where I want to get to so I can only cut in winter when the sap is lowest. As far as identifing wood that has been milled I would be lost mostly unless it is red oak or yellow poplar, something really obvious.
 

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I've had a minor life long interest in trees. When I was quite young, I came across my father's boy scout handbook. It covered at least 3 times more stuff than mine did when I later joined scouts. There was a very long section on tree ID. It went on for pages and pages, lots of leaf and shape silhouettes. This was followed by a section on making things w. specific woods.

We have always taken lots of walks. We had 4 kids, and one of the cheapest ways to entertain them was to go to a park, or camping. I did some foraging, and I would point out things they could eat, and those they should not. In the fall, we would always go out looking for pawpaws, and beech nuts. Side note. Pawpaws, sometimes called "Indiana bananas", produce absolutely delicious fruit that comes ripe, and then spoils in about 2 days. Get 'm while you can. Beech nuts have the highest oil content of any No.Am. nut. In the days when whale oil was most desirable for lighting, beech oil was second. Beech nut shells are so soft they can be peeled by hand. They are the first nut to ripen in the fall, and because of the tenderness and high food value, wildlife will eat them almost as soon as they fall to the ground.

Besides that, I have a very good resource. My wife and I joined a nature preserve/garden center. Just about every kind of plant on the property is labeled. So I get to stroll thru a 3-d botany catalog dozens of times a year. Eventually, some of the info rubs off.
 

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Winter is stick gathering time, with the sap down. But (of course) its the hardest time to get a good ID. I have enough trouble sorting thru species when they are in leaf. Here's a link that has many close up images of twigs, and often barks of trees at different ages.

Here's something I learned in the last few days. There are quite a few ash trees around here, but I've not bothered to tell them apart. My reading indicates blue ash may be the sturdiest. The leaves of those common around here, green, white, and blue, are very similar. Green ash leaves are a similar green on both sides. White ash has a more pastel underside. Very reasonable names given the qualities of the leave. Blue ash leaves are green on the underside, but have a prominent white center spine.
 

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By smell of the bark and or wood (and obviously this is when you are perhaps given or find a dislocated chunk o' wood) I can detect cherry, maple, sassafras (easy), walnut, catalpa, red oak, basswood, aspen, buckeye and mulberry. Hey, not a big list, but it has been thru experience that I know I can do this. Also, I imagine any cedar would be very easy to detect, especially western red (smells like pencils), and eastern aromatic (smells like gerbils).

I was joking about the taste.
 

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By smell of the bark and or wood (and obviously this is when you are perhaps given or find a dislocated chunk o' wood) I can detect cherry, maple, sassafras (easy), walnut, catalpa, red oak, basswood, aspen, buckeye and mulberry. Hey, not a big list, but it has been thru experience that I know I can do this. Also, I imagine any cedar would be very easy to detect, especially western red (smells like pencils), and eastern aromatic (smells like gerbils).

I was joking about the taste.
Sooooo, you sniff gerbils, Shawn? Ha ha, hope it's fresh gerbil smell. Yes, cedar is easy even for me. My first two very, very crude sticks were honey locust, but I just completed my first two decent sticks and they were red cedar from northeast Texas. The wood had already died and dried thoroughly, but I could still smell it just a bit when sawing or sanding.
 

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By smell of the bark and or wood (and obviously this is when you are perhaps given or find a dislocated chunk o' wood) I can detect cherry, maple, sassafras (easy), walnut, catalpa, red oak, basswood, aspen, buckeye and mulberry. Hey, not a big list, but it has been thru experience that I know I can do this. Also, I imagine any cedar would be very easy to detect, especially western red (smells like pencils), and eastern aromatic (smells like gerbils).

I was joking about the taste.
That is an impressive list. Yes, sassafras is unmistakable. I've had enough oak saw dust up my nose that that is one I can identify. If you are ever down wind from a male ailanthus (aka Tree of heaven/Stink Tree) in flower, you will not forget it. Or if you cut into the wood at any time.

Maybe walnut and redwood from sawdust.

Pines as a whole, and cedar, have an obvious aroma.

Taste does work for maples during spring sap run. I've also chewed some fresh peach sap wood, and the flavor was there. I suppose the cambium of other fruitwoods would also have noticeable tastes, but I'd rather not 'cause of the possibility of arsenic in it. Chewed some white willow once, might recognize it again if I had some.
 

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White willow bark is where Aspirin is derived, is it not?

I do have many ailanthus trees around here, as they tend to grow along highways and roads, like a weed. I have never cut one, although I have been tempted, as they seem to grow nice and straight. do they carve well? The wood itself stinks too, eh? I have never smelled one, or at least, did not connect the smell with the tree.

I have an ornamental pear in my yard, and althoug it is beautiful to look at, the spring blossoms are putrid to smell. It literally smells like rotting flesh.

Catalpa has a very reconizable smell when cut.

red oak smells like butt.

White birch has a sweet smell when cut.
 

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White willow bark is where Aspirin is derived, is it not?

I do have many ailanthus trees around here, as they tend to grow along highways and roads, like a weed. I have never cut one, although I have been tempted, as they seem to grow nice and straight. do they carve well? The wood itself stinks too, eh? I have never smelled one, or at least, did not connect the smell with the tree.

I have an ornamental pear in my yard, and althoug it is beautiful to look at, the spring blossoms are putrid to smell. It literally smells like rotting flesh.

Catalpa has a very reconizable smell when cut.

red oak smells like butt.

White birch has a sweet smell when cut.
Yes, ailanthus grows like a weed. The female trees are very beautiful when in flower. No smell that I ever noticed. The males were obvious from hundreds of feet down wind. Because they grow like weeds, I've had to clear small thickets a few times. Reminded me vaguely of ether. Wood was spongy.

I can tell black cherry from pin cherry 'cause the blossoms of the pin cherry have a sharp, bitter odor. There are 3 hawthorns around here. At least one smells rancid when in bloom.

Red oak (very porous) is susceptible to a bad smelling fungus. My experience is that that odor is more like piss than butt. How I know. I was asked to re-work a display case that came w. no kick plate. I also was given no budget. I found some red oak base board that I had to cut down. A few months later, the area had a terrible latrine odor every other day.

After asking around, I found that the housekeepers mopped the area every other day during the winter to keep the mud and salt off the floor. In the process, they doused the oak, which shortly became home to the fungus. After some research, I figured out the problem, and removed the kick plate. Problem solved.

Later visited the basement room where the spare red oak boards were stored. All produced whiffs of the same odor when cut. A big downside to that wood.
 

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OK all you Tree Identification Experts!! Identify this one for me -- I'm thinking that it is Hawthorn.

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Looks like hawthorn to me. Spikes on branches: check. Small leaves, sort of oval but serrated edges: check. Fruits smaller and harder than crab apple: check.

Usually found in more open areas where it gets lots of sunlight. Usually rather small, w. a short trunk. Found some awhile ago in an area reverting to woodland. They had grown spindly, and will probably be shaded out in a few years.
 

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Thanks gdenby -- these trees are right at the edge of the field and woods. And they are small -- I'm not sure where they came from, I have not found any larger ones anywhere on the farm (dosn't mean they are not there -- just haven't found them yet).
 

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Thanks gdenby -- these trees are right at the edge of the field and woods. And they are small -- I'm not sure where they came from, I have not found any larger ones anywhere on the farm (dosn't mean they are not there -- just haven't found them yet).
Seeds dropped in bird poop? ;-)
 
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