Tree Identification in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern US

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bribroder
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Tree Identification in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern US

Post by bribroder » Mon Aug 20, 2018 11:38 am

Hi all,

Long time hiker and tree-lover, and after discovering this society I plan to soon be a measurer! However, besides learning how to get the numbers right, I think that my tree identification knowledge may need some polishing... The diversity of trees is amazing!

Is there a field guide you all would recommend for the mid-Atlantic region, specifically DC, Maryland, Virigina, and West Virginia? I'm based out of DC and try to get out to Monongahela as much as possible, but this site has revealed a plethora of respectable spots to visit closer to home as well--I also get up to the Adirondacks and Connecticut pretty often. I would love to contribute to this project but want to make sure my data are solid :)

Cheers!

Brian

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ElijahW
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Re: Tree Identification in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern

Post by ElijahW » Mon Aug 20, 2018 6:01 pm

Welcome, Brian,

While all guides have weaknesses, I’ve used Audubon’s for the eastern US for years. Peterson’s is also a good resource. Typically, the more useful a guide is, the less portable it becomes, due to increased size. Nowadays, I almost exclusively use the Virginia Tech app, together with Google Images for rarer exotics. The VTree app is gold, though. I highly recommend it. Hope that helps,

Elijah
"There is nothing in the world to equal the forest as nature made it. The finest formal forest, the most magnificent artificially grown woods, cannot compare with the grandeur of primeval woodland." Bob Marshall, Recreational Limitations to Silviculture in the Adirondacks

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JHarkness
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Re: Tree Identification in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern

Post by JHarkness » Mon Aug 20, 2018 8:59 pm

Brian,

I would recommend the National Wildlife Federation's Field Guide to Trees of North America, while it has a lot of the common errors and lacks good photos for some species, it provides a wealth of information and can point you in the direction of the right identification. I'm not sure that it would be of much use for the Mid Atlantic, but in the mountains and in the Northeast and Great Lakes this site is an excellent source of tree information, with stunning photographs to go along with: http://northernforestatlas.org/

They have several field guides available through Cornell University's website to.

Another good site, though again for more northern latitudes, is this: https://gobotany.newenglandwild.org/

Best of luck,
Joshua Harkness
"Be not simply good; be good for something." Henry David Thoreau

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Erik Danielsen
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Re: Tree Identification in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern

Post by Erik Danielsen » Tue Aug 21, 2018 7:24 am

Welcome on board!

I've personally found the most instructive process to be posting misidentified trees here and then getting corrected by the more experienced- helpfully correcting mistakes seems to be what brings out the finer points of personal knowledge held by some of our more expert members!

Most guides I've seen are pretty marginal on trees aside from relatively young specimens. Telling black from red from scarlet oaks with just a field guide in hand, especially aged trees, ends up being mostly guesswork.

The gobotany site is great as it incorporates nearly all of the dichotomous keys and technical information from the Flora Novae Angliae (a rather expensive book!) but may have limited application in your area. It also uses the most recent taxonomy (on the "splitter" side of lumpers vs splitters) which can be confusing to match up with taxonomy in older materials at times.

Some of the older guides are actually pretty good, since newer guides often try to be more user-friendly to the novice by being simpler, a well-meant recipe for confusion. I have an older "Trees of North America" by Thomas Elias printed in 1980- just line drawings, no colorful pictures. Decent dichotomous key to get you started and then the species descriptions include detailed measurements of relevant parts like buds and seed structures, and careful descriptions of relevant details for identification. Not bad for a couple dollars at the thrift store. Probably cheap used on amazon.

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Lucas
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Re: Tree Identification in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern

Post by Lucas » Tue Aug 21, 2018 7:32 am


Click on image to see its original size

My favorite has always been the above. Bulky and heavy for the field though. It probably is not regional enough for your use but great as a general reference. Comparing species across the continent helps. Some non natives included, too.
We travel the Milky way together, trees and men. - John Muir

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Lucas
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Re: Tree Identification in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern

Post by Lucas » Tue Aug 21, 2018 7:34 am

We travel the Milky way together, trees and men. - John Muir

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Lucas
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Re: Tree Identification in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern

Post by Lucas » Tue Aug 21, 2018 7:37 am

https://www.facebook.com/groups/treeid/ ... browse_new

Tree identification on facebook is good. 30,000 members with some that are amazing. Some clods can confuse things at times, though.
We travel the Milky way together, trees and men. - John Muir

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Lucas
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Re: Tree Identification in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern

Post by Lucas » Tue Aug 21, 2018 7:41 am

Erik Danielsen wrote: Most guides I've seen are pretty marginal on trees aside from relatively young specimens. Telling black from red from scarlet oaks with just a field guide in hand, especially aged trees, ends up being mostly guesswork.
Speaking of which, how easy is to tell seedling\sapling red oaks from black oaks? Which markers are key? Does the yellow bark trick still apply on blacks?
We travel the Milky way together, trees and men. - John Muir

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JHarkness
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Re: Tree Identification in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern

Post by JHarkness » Tue Aug 21, 2018 8:04 am

Lucas,

In my experience the leaves of seedling red and black oaks are almost identical, except that red oak leaves are a littler narrower and have well defined lobes and noticeable bristles. Generally, the black oaks seem to have larger, rounder leaves without bristles. However, black oaks have quite a lot of leaf variation and this has so far only been tested in this area where they're not native. One thing that is interesting is that as they mature their leaves begin to look more and more like red oak, when they get towards the end of their lives their leaves can even look more like scarlet oak, but the leaf trick is true for small trees.
"Be not simply good; be good for something." Henry David Thoreau

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Erik Danielsen
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Re: Tree Identification in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern

Post by Erik Danielsen » Tue Aug 21, 2018 8:24 am

I wouldn't put any faith in leaf shape differences except in local populations that you have high personal familiarity with. Red oak and black oak on the coast have differences from those in my WNY area and are different in turn from those I see in Michigan. Leaf shape and mature bark are the biggest differences between regional populations that I've observed. Both can be well within the range of variation of the other species.

Buds and acorns are quite distinct, consistently, across the species (even though there is variation within those species). Black oak buds should be densely hairy, often velvety, and often fairly large, sharply pointed and angled in cross-section. Red oak buds tend more towards hairlessness (though can often be finely hairy in the upper half, especially in the great lakes) with a red-brown hue to the bare scales. The bark trick is also positive for black oak, but you do have to cut into it- coloration in the base of a bark fissure is not indicative.

In zoar valley the other week I examined two oaks on a talus slope, right next to each other, same size, sun exposure, etc. One had field-guide-picture perfect black oak leaves from top to bottom in its crown. The other, classic red oak leaves, top to bottom. In both the leaves were fairly leathery, and glossy on top, and there were hints of little clusters of hair in the axils of the leaf veins. Confusing! But both had perfect hairless red oak buds, and tan inner bark. The individual variation and environmental response traits in any oak species can be very deceptive, especially at range edges or where there might be genetic mixture, sometimes just persistent traces from a population that's no longer present due to environmental changes.

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