For Those Who Are Looking, There Are Sycamores

sycamore tree
American sycamore tree in winter. Photo: Paul Wray, Iowa State University, Bugwood.org

I knew I had to go back to school to study horticulture when I was in my mid-twenties. Every day on my way to work I found myself looking out the windows at trees instead of watching the road. The Catoctin mountain forest was particularly enticing. Route 15 was a much quieter road then, and fortunately, there were no mobile phones to provide additional distractions. Although I admired the landscape in general, there was one tree that stood out amongst the others: the sycamore. Against a blue daytime sky or a sunrise dancing with pink and purple hues, its white bark was remarkable. The shape of this towering tree with its dazzling bark and color contrast inspired me to leave a secure job in search of knowledge for the things that ignited curiosity in me. Continue reading

Learning How to Identify Maryland’s Native Trees in Winter: Look at More Than Just the Bark

I was very excited to have the opportunity to take a winter tree identification class. I attended a great University of Maryland Extension (UME) Master Gardener Advanced Training course with UME native plant specialist Sara Tangren last week. I assumed we’d be looking at bark. The classroom at the Extension in Westminster was filled with tree twigs… not bark.

I never took the time to really notice the details of a twig. The opposite leaf pairs on the stem are opposite side to side, then front to back. I never paid attention to that simple pattern. I recognized new stem growth and last years’ growth, terminal buds, leaf scars, vein scars, lenticels, etc.

Maple twig buds and leaf scars are opposite.  A trick to remember trees that have opposite leaves is “MAD Horse Buck” – Maple – Ash – Dogwood – Horse Chestnut – Buckeye!

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What Tree is This?

Five trees
Can you identify these trees? The answers are at the end of this post.

How well do you know your trees? Can you identify the trees in the images above? Do you know where to start and what to look for?

When we get tree identification questions at the Home & Garden Information Center, we look not only at the leaves or needles but also the leaf arrangement along the branches, the size and shape of the tree, the bark, buds, and fruits too.

If you want to get better at tree identification, like most anything, it helps to have a good foundation and to practice. If you are interested in getting better at tree identification, you may be interested in the upcoming events we are sponsoring.

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