Taking walks in nature is one of my favorite things to do. However, after reading Gabriel Popkin’s New York Times article “Cure Yourself of Tree Blindness”, I realized that I have been missing out on a huge chance to further connect with the world around me. Mr. Popkin explained that “Tree blindness” is essentially the idea of seeing patches of trees as just seeing a sea of green and not realizing the complexity of each one and the variation between them. After walking around a local park for a couple of hours identifying trees I am headed in the direction of curing this very common “disease”. I appreciate identifying trees in because it reflects so much about the ecological health in that area. For example, the status of the leaves can give insight into if the zone around it is experiencing a drought or if a particular tree is infected. Or, high levels of invasive trees can reflect on the management or lack thereof.
I headed to a park a few driving minutes southeast of the Ohio State University’s campus. This area is a woody park in a temperate climate. On this first tree, I noticed the alternate, simple leaves with a bristle on the tip. With my tree guide, I identified this tree as a Red Oak (Quercus rubra).
An interesting fact about Red Oaks is that many of the leaves stay on during the winter and don’t fall until spring when the new buds grow. This is to prevent open wounds (which can allow disease to enter) and to save energy (Interesting Facts About Red Oak Leaf, n.d.).
Another tree from this park is a White Elm (Ulmus laevis). I believe this tree is the only one I identified with double teeth, so that’s pretty cool. At first, it looked like these leaves were compound, but then I realized that they were alternate and simple. These quick-growing trees are very commonly used as a shade or street tree. My guess is because it is able to grow well with poor drainage and compacted soil, which is common in urban soil (American Elm Tree Facts, n.d.).
This next tree (from the same park) is a sycamore (Platanus occidentalis). Something about the leaf to trunk size ratio makes this tree looks almost comical to me. I believe it was aggressively pruned due to the bridge right next to it. Anyways, I came to the conclusion that it may be a Sycamore because of the alternate, simple, lobed leaves. I was able to narrow it down to this because, among other characteristics, the leaves lack a wolly undersurface and they are not bristle tipped.
Sycamores are known for living very long (up to 400-600 years) and have a rich history. It is referenced in the Bible as well as in an Egyptian book “Book of the Dead”. For Americans, it represents strength and protection (“Stupefying Sycamore Tree Facts That Will Leave You Amazed,” 2010).
I found this next tree along a trail in the Olentangy Park. This is a dogwood species. (opposite leaves, parallel veins)
Also along the Olentangy Trail, I saw a small tree. This tree has alternate, simple, heart-shaped leaves. It may be slippery elm but I am not sure.
This next tree is one that I saw in that park not far from campus. I identified this as a Tulip Tree (Liriodendron tulipifera L.). This one was visually my favorite tree that I found! Partly because the notched apex on the leaves is so striking. The leaves are also alternate, simple, and have 4 lobes. The dark spots on the leaves are indicative of disease. This fast-growing, hardwood tree is popular for use as wood for building furniture (Tulip Poplar Tree Facts, Uses, and Planting Tips, n.d.)!
This last tree I identified as an Ash. Probably a White Ash (Fraxinus Americana). I could tell from the opposite, unlobed, pinnately compounded leaves. In the fall, they have red/purple leaves and in the spring they have purple flowers (White Ash Tree Care, n.d.)! This was from the same park close to campus.