Outdoors Magazine

Tree-following: Let It Snow!!

Posted on the 14 March 2021 by Hollis
Tree-following: Let it Snow!!Two days ago, I took a few photos of Flash and Spike, the trees I'm following this year. As you can see, there's nothing left of the little bit of snow that was on the ground a month ago. It's been dry, dry, much too dry!! My too-big-to-water yard is covered in native grasses adapted to xeric conditions: western wheatgrass, alkali sacaton, prairie saltgrass. Even they are struggling after several years of drought. But they're tough. One day, their normally vigorous selves will return.

I water the young trees whenever temps rise above 40º F, to encourage root growth. But there are no obvious changes above ground, it's too early. So I checked their twigs to identify them using buds and scars. Of course I already know what they are. This was a chance to examine features I usually ignore.

Tree-following: Let it Snow!!

I pulled the Winter Tree Finder out of my stack of tree-finders. These are dichotomous keys at their best—simple and fun. One got me hooked on tree id 50 years ago. With the handy twig diagram and friendly descriptions, I was able to find the various buds and scars, and make my way through the key.

Tree-following: Let it Snow!!

For Spike, I didn't get beyond p. 4: "Sometimes a conspicuous feature ... makes identification easier." There were just two candidates with conspicuous thorns, Honey Locust (nope) and Hawthorns (yes), p 21, where I stopped because: "Hawthorns are far too numerous to cover here."

Tree-following: Let it Snow!!

Spike the Hawthorn, with conspicuous thorns and alternate lateral buds.

With Flash, I made good use of the key, moving smoothly through the dichotomous questions. Tree a conifer or not? NOT. Leaf scars alternate or opposite? OPPOSITE. This year's twig more or less than ¼ inch wide? LESS. Leaf scars narrow, inconspicuous, with 3 bundle scars? YES. Terminal bud egg- or cone-shaped? YES. "It is a MAPLE, go to p 48" where I landed amid many maples, none of which grow here (the book covers midwestern and eastern North America).

Unfortunately, the buds and scars of the slender twigs were hard to photograph even though the wind was just a gentle breeze. I didn't dare cut twigs to photograph inside ... these young trees look like they need every twig they have. Here is my best shot, in fact, my only decent one.

Tree-following: Let it Snow!!

Flash the Maple.

I waited until this morning to post, as I was hoping the weather forecast was correct. It was close! Now the scene is very different. The snowfall is going to be "absolutely historic" according to the weather news. If that's the case, then I must be prehistoric! But it IS a lot of snow, and quite wet. The plants and I are happy 😊 

Tree-following: Let it Snow!!

Tree-following: Let it Snow!!
Tree-following: Let it Snow!!

This is my contribution to the monthly gathering of tree-followers hosted by The Squirrelbasket. More news here. Join us!

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