On a brisk October afternoon, Paul Quinlan led 21 nature enthusiasts into the Preserve for an engaging field trip about the trees that reside inside. Throughout the walk, Paul pointed out a variety of Wisconsin trees along with a few key leaf/bark features and environmental notes to consider when differentiating between species.
Here are a few notable insights for distinguishing between tree families:
Maples: It can be tricky to distinguish between Sugar, Silver, and Norwegian Maples in the Preserve. By looking at specific parts of the leaves and the fungi that grow on them, we can make this task a bit easier!
-Sugar maples have leaves with deep and rounded sinuses, five lobes with a sharp point at the apex. They also have the sweetest sap of the maples!
-Silver maples also have leaves with deep sinuses and five lobes. If you look at the underside of these leaves, you’ll notice a white coating which is a very helpful cue! Silver maple leaves may also feature black spots from the tar fungus that colonize on them.
-Norwegian maples have leaves with five lobes and shallower sinuses compared to the sugar and silver maples. The tar fungus also leaves black spots on the Norwegian maple leaves. Finally, if you tear a Norwegian maple leaf off a twig, you may notice that they ooze a milky white sap from the end of the leaf!
Oaks: The Preserve features White, Red, and Burr Oaks! How can you tell the difference between them all? Simple!
-White oaks have rounded lobes on their leaves. If you look at the bark on a white oak tree, you may notice that it looks lighter than most oak bark.
-Red oaks have very pointed lobes on their leaves. The bark has deep grooves (“skiing tracks” as Paul would say) as well!
-Bur oaks distinctively have deep sinuses ONLY on the bottom lobes on its leaves. In the upper lobes, the sinuses are much shallower. If you look at the cork-looking bark on a bur oak tree, you will see that it extends all the way to the branch tips of the tree— a good cue to look for!
Conifers: Check out these key cues Paul recommends to crack the conifer classification conundrum!
-White pines have long and floppy needles which give them a “delicate” looking appearance. Also, the needles are grouped into a fascicle—each fascicle has a bundle of 5 needles.
-Red pines have “stocky” looking needles that are clustered at the ends of the tree branches. On a red pine, fascicles have 2 needles each. The bark on red pines looks slightly reddish as well.
-Spruces do not have fascicles. Instead, the needles come out all along the twig. Also, if you were to cut a spruce needle in half, the cross-section would look triangular. Norway spruces specifically have needles that droop and produce very long cones.
Friends host was Olympia Mathiaparanam, who also provided this summary and photographs. Thank you all.