To identify trees and shrubs – everybody knows – look at the leaves. Like nametags, leaves identify who’s who. For this reason, your winter woods can seem pretty mysterious, but it doesn’t have to be.
“I just love walking my woods in the winter. It’s quiet and I can easily walk off-trail,” says Gigi LaBudde, Forest Educator and woodland owner. “Plus, I learn a lot. The common species are really easy to tell apart and I can see them over large areas.” “It’s just one or two characteristics to winter ID a tree,” says LaBudde. Buds, leaf scars (where leaves were attached), fruits, and bark are the clues to winter tree ID. These characteristics have really different placement, color, shape, and size between species.
Do you know which two common trees these are?
A. Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum)
B. Green Ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica)
While both trees have leaf scars that are opposite from each other on the twig, differences between the size, color, leaf scars, and buds are more noticeable. Maple twigs tend to be slender, can vary from brownish to reddish, and the leaf scars are more narrow and crescent-shaped. Ash twigs are fairly stout and can vary from gray to brown. The leaf scars are oval to U-shaped and very visible under the “chocolate chip” buds.
Learn more about winter tree identification characteristics with this handy Winter Tree ID Key produced by the LEAF – Wisconsin’s K-12 Forestry Education Program through UW-Stevens Point.