By Sandy Garland
With the sun shining and the temperature hovering just below zero, it was a great day to be out in the woods! At least 30 other OFNC members had the same idea, so we all joined Owen Clarkin for a lesson in identifying trees in winter in Hampton Park Woods.
Before starting, Owen did a quick run down of the equipment we might need or want to bring along. Warm clothes, of course, as this was a day for standing and looking closely rather than brisk marching. A hand lens for viewing hairs on bark or leaf scars, a knife to cut off a twig to take home for a closer look, a GPS unit to remember the location of a notable tree, and a hypsometer – a way to measure the height of a tree using a laser distance finder. Notebooks and pencils are also useful.
We started by distinguishing between red and sugar maple trees right near the parking lot. Sugar maple trees have deep ridges in mature bark and brownish twigs, while red maples have relatively smoother bark and red twigs. Young sugar maples sometimes have whitish blotches on their trunks and large branches – quite distinctive in a forest of young trees.
Green and white ashes can be distinguished by general shape and leaf scars. The branches of green ash grow out horizontally and the leaf scars are half-circles; white ash trees are more cup shaped and their leaf scars are crescents. The common green ash is also more readily attacked by emerald ash borer and evidence of this could be seen in extensive “scaling” by woodpeckers.
I won’t go on about all the trees we saw. Hampton Park Woods contains many species – both young and magnificently mature trees: beech, white pine, hemlock, elm, basswood, pin and black cherry, and four species of poplars among others. Unfortunately, a few invasive species, such as buckthorn, tatarian honeysuckle, and Asian spindle tree, have also found their way into this regenerated old forest, although not to a great extent.
It’s a treat to walk in this hidden jewel, off Island Park Drive just north of the Queensway. Let’s hope Owen leads another excursion there in summer.
Online resources for identifying trees and shrubs