On Saturday, August 31, 2019, I traveled to the Kopf Family Reservation. The Reservation is 162 acres of  wet-mesic forest and is situation on a Lake Plain in the city of Avon Lake, Ohio. The park is therefore one of the largest intact natural habitats bordering Lake Erie making it a great place to view various wildlife species! (1)

While it is easy to focus on the abundant bird species or the adorable baby deer, there are amazing tree species present in the park – as long as one has an attentive eye! I was able to identify and photograph 8 amazing tree species during my visit to the park which I will outline below.

#1 Sassafras (Sassafras albidum)
Sassafras are trees/shrubs with very distinctive leaves. There are three forms of leaves which include a simple, entire leaf; a leaf shaped like a dinosaur footprint; and one shaped like a mitten. The leaves smell sweet (almost like Fruit Loops) when crushed. This particular tree was found in the understory near the trail, however, more mature sassafras trees can be found along the bank of Gable Creek which runs through the western portion of the park. According to ODNR, sassafras oil is used for perfuming soaps and the tree roots are used to make tea! (2)

#2 Black cherry (Prunus serotina)
Black cherry leaves are simple and alternate. The tree has very distinctive, platey and dark red-brown bark.  The wood is very valuable and is used for furniture, scientific instruments, paneling, toys, etc. The fruit is also edible and is used in jams and wine. Like the sassafras tree, this particular black cherry tree was found in the understory. There are quite a few intermediate to co-dominant black cherry trees found throughout the park due to its wet-mesic nature. (3)

#3 Shagbark hickory (Carya ovata)
Shagbark hickory has very shaggy bark which peels away from the trunk of the tree. It can sometimes be mistaken for shellbark hickory which has similarly shaggy bark, however, shagbark hickories have compound leaves with 5 leaflets compared to shellbark which has 7 leaflets. This was a very large shagbark hickory which was found in an opening with little competition.  Shagbark hickory wood is used for smoking meats, especially pork products. (4)

#4 Red maple (Acer rubrum)
Red maple trees have opposite leaves which have moderately notched leaves. There can either be 3- or 5-lobed  leaves with small serrations. The Bark has interlacing ridges which furrows with increasing age. This tree was found near the trail in a drier section of the park. Red maples are popular landscaping trees because they are not as prone to storm damage as silver maples. (5)

#5 Pin oak (Quercus palustris)
Pin oak trees have alternate leaves which are simple and lobbed. The bark is slightly ridged and shallowly furrowed. This tree was found in a wetter section of the park near Gable Creek. The name pin oak comes from the term “pinning together” the timbers of a barn using the branches of this tree. (6)

#6 American elm (Ulmus americana)
American elm leaves are simple, doubly serrate, and alternate. The leaf base is uneven and the underside can be slightly rough. Young trees have bark which is slightly spongey. This was a young tree found along Gable Creek. There are hardly any mature elms in the area due to Dutch Elm disease.  DED is a pathogen which plugs the vascular system of the tree thus preventing the flow of nutrients. (7)

#7 Hawthorn (Crataegus spp.)
Hawthorn leaves are alternate, doubly serrate, and lobbed. The branches have ~1in thorns and mature bark is flaky and brown-gray. This tree was in a clearing near the trail. Hawthorn trees are notoriously hard to speciate due to the large variety as well as a tendency to hybridize. (8)

#8 Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis)
Sycamore trees have simple, alternate leaves with 3- to 5-lobes. The bark of sycamore trees is very distinct with gray-brown bark which peels back to reveal the white interior bark. This process creates a beautiful patchy pattern. This particular tree is very large and was found on a hillslope near Gable Creek. Sycamore are considered the most massive tree based on circumference in the eastern portion of the United States! (9)

While walking through the Kopf Family Reservation I tried to focus on avoided “tree blindness” as described by Gabriel Popkin. Prior to taking courses such as Woody Plant Identification at Ohio State, I unfortunately suffered from this affliction. I have definitely come to appreciate the uniqueness and awesome beauty found in Ohio’s forests and the Kopf Family Reservation is no exception. I think everyone would benefit from stopping, appreciating, and learning about the quiet giants in our own backyard!

1. www.metroparks.cc.kopf_reservation.php
2. forestry.ohiodnr.gov/sassafras
3. wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=prse2
4. forestry.ohiodnr.gov/shagbarkhickory
5. forestry.ohiodnr.gov/redmaple
6. forestry.ohiodnr.gov/pinoak
7. forestry.ohiodnr.gov/americanelm
8. forestry.ohiodnr.gov/hawthorn
9. forestry.ohiodnr.gov/sycamore