Curing Tree Blindness in the City of Trees
For our first field experience, Wolfgang and I set out to take pictures of the trees in my backyard and the park across the street. What made this assignment especially fitting is that we live in the “city of trees”: Sylvania, Ohio! Trees of all different sizes and backgrounds are all over the place and provide us with oxygen, shade, and great views.
The first tree on our journey was found in our driveway.
This tree has alternate leaves that are entire and have smooth edges. The veins in the leaves are parallel to the margin, making this tree a flowering Dogwood: Cornus florida. Sadly, the flowers did not bloom as nicely this year but this tree is still pleasing to the eye. This specific type of Dogwood can have white or pink flowers, and is actually appealing in all four season which makes it a great Midwestern tree. It blooms in the Spring, has bright foliage in the Summer and Fall, and is just pleasing to the eye in the Winter.
The second tree was found in our front yard and has been a family favorite for as long as we have lived here. It unfortunately did not bloom as well this year as it has in the past, but its sweet scent is still incredibly pleasant.
Just like the dogwood, this tree has entire leaves that are alternating and smooth with some bumps. This tree was identified as being a Magnolia, however this one is actually a hybrid: Magnolia x soulangeana. This Magnolia was created by crossing M. liliiflora with M. denutata. When it is at its prime, it produces gorgeous pinkish-white flowers. This type of deciduous Magnolia is actually the most commonly grown, which I found to be surprising since it is a hybrid.
The rest of yard is covered in basic maple and coniferous trees, so Wolfgang and I set out to the park across the street to find other trees. Our third tree was found right as we entered the park.
As seen in the pictures above, this tree has amazing small white flowers. The leaves were hard to picture but they were heart-shaped, entire, and alternating which narrowed this tree down to being a Redbud: Cercis canadensis. What threw me off was the color of the flowers, however the anthocyanin that gives Redbuds their pinkish-purple color must not be active yet.
Moving on to the next tree, we came across a quite odd looking one. It had very sparse and small leaves.
Upon further inspection, the leaves had a fan shape and were all attached at a singular node of the branch making their arrangement whorled. This tree is believed to be a Ginkgo: Ginkgo biloba. Hopefully this tree will become more filled in as the weather progresses, as it does not seem like much as of now! Ginkgo trees are fascinating as their leaves are used in a variety of medicinal products. Flavonoids, a component of Ginkgo, have antioxidant qualities and terpenoids can improve blood circulation. Surprisingly enough, raw Ginkgo seeds cannot be eaten and can be poisonous.
Our next tree was easily identified as it is a Northwestern Ohio classic: a maple tree (Acer saccharum)! This tree has leaves that are lobed, palmately compounded, and quite large compared to the other tree leaves. The rain made the leaves very droopy, and completely changed the look of the tree.
Maple trees are a popular tree of the east coast because of their color changes with the seasons. Their green leaves become brilliant shades of orange, red, and yellow once Fall hits, making this tree great for scenic views.
Our sixth tree is one in a family of especially adored trees here in Ohio: the yellow Buckeye (Aesculus flava).
The leaves are in a whorled arrangement, are palmately compound, and are very long. The Yellow Buckeye is actually the largest of the Buckeye family, and although its leaves are green in the picture they will turn yellow in the Fall which is where their name stems from.
The seventh tree was a challenge because at first glance the leaves appeared to be similar to a pine tree: spiky. However, its leaves were found to be pinnately compound, opposite to each other, and soft to the touch.
This tree’s identity was revealed to be a Dawn Redwood: Metasequoia gyptostroboides (good luck saying that 10 times fast!). It is closely related to bald cypress and redwood, and has been shown to exist at least 50, 000, 000 years ago! Its light green leaves will turn into a dark green by the end of Summer, and a reddish-bronze color by the end of Fall.
The final tree of our tree expedition has alternating leaves that are entire in shape and have lines parallel to the margins. Their edges are not entirely smooth and seem to have some fine ridges.
This tree is the European Birdcherry: Prunus padus. It is a flowering tree with small white flowers that are just now starting to bloom, and will eventually produce bitter cherries. The black cherries is makes can actually be used as dye for wool or for making liqueur. At their prime, their flowers actually emit an almond-like scent, which will attract many animals. The fruits are primarily eaten by birds, but can be eaten by some small mammals such as badgers and mice.
Before learning about tree diversity, I was truly blind to the trees in my area. As Gabriel Popkin wrote in his New York Times article, curing ourselves of our tree blindness can be easily done. Being able to truly appreciate the diversity in the trees around us is actually a valuable skill, and can add variety to our lives. Trees are amazing with their differences in leaves, flowers, and even bark. They are also essential to our planet because they recycle our carbon dioxide, and are a source of habitat to many creatures. Being able to appreciate the variety of trees so close to me was a great experience, and I cannot wait for the opportunity to appreciate more!
Additional Information for Each Tree:
Flowering Dogwood: https://www.uky.edu/hort/Flowering-Dogwood
Saucer Magnolia: http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/PlantFinderDetails.aspx?kempercode=a885
American Redbud: https://www.gardenguides.com/96905-american-redbud-tree.html
Sugar Maple: http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/PlantFinderDetails.aspx?kempercode=h240
Yellow Buckeye: http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/PlantFinderDetails.aspx?kempercode=b985
Dawn Redwood: https://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/PlantFinderDetails.aspx?kempercode=a396
European Birdcherry: https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/trees-woods-and-wildlife/british-trees/a-z-of-british-trees/bird-cherry/