A Walk in the Woods

After all that rain earlier in the week, the air is refreshing now. What would you say to a walk in the woods today? Grab your walking shoes and let’s go!

What do we have here? Why this gnarly old beauty is from the Oleaceae family and is otherwise known as FRAXINUS. If you are not up on your Latin tree names, it is better known as an ash tree. While there are 45-65 species within the ash family, some of the more common types in Ontario are the white, green, black, blue, red and pumpkin ashes.

Ash Leaf

One way to identify an ash tree is by its compound, opposite leaf pattern. Ash trees are a hard wood, hence often used for baseball bats, guitars, furniture and firewood, among other things. Admire it now, as the emerald ash borer is ravaging the ash population across the Northern US and into Canada. Of course you, my loyal readers, would know that already, as we have already talked about the EAB and ways to combat its attack.

Now here’s one we all should be familiar with. Our national flag sports one of its leaves. They colour forests in waves of red, orange and yellow in the Autumn. Best of all, they provide a sweet treat in the early spring when the sap starts to flow again. We are talking about maple syrup from maple trees (genus – ACER) of course!

Maple Leaf

With its distinctive sharply pointed leaf pattern that comes in an opposite leaf arrangement, this leaf is probably one of the first leaves you were able to identify as a child. That and the maple keys that fly through the air, scattering the maple’s seeds wherever the wind blows them. The wood from maple trees is also hard enough to be used for bowling pins and alleys, pool cues, butcher blocks and of course an assortment of beautiful furniture. Just avoid that pesky Norway Maple if you can!

How about something a little harder to identify? Can you guess what this tree is? Would it help if I told you its genus is CARYA and that pecans are in the family? That’s right, it’s a hickory tree. One of the hardest, stiffest and most shock resistant woods, it is prized for tool making and for wood fires. You will also find it in lacrosse sticks, skis, paddles, and not so very long ago, it was the wood of choice for making switches by parents and school teachers alike.

Hickory Leaf

If you just want to admire the tree for its foliage, you will note that they have a compound alternate leaf pattern, as well as large round nuts. The bitternut (nuts NOT edible) and shagbark hickories are the most common in Ontario, but you can also find shellbark and pigbark hickories as well.

Elm trees are another common tree in North America and fall under the ULMAS genus. Their leaves fall in an alternating pattern, are oval coming into a point, with prominent veins and sharply toothed edges. Sadly, their numbers have been decimated due to Dutch Elm disease during the last half of the 20th Century.

Elm Leaf

Thankfully, there have been successful efforts to breed new cultivars of elm that are more disease-resistant.  You can find rock, slippery, white and english elms in Ontario, as well as hackberry and dwarf hackberries. It seems somehow sadly appropriate that in days gone by elm trees were the wood of choice for coffins, but its resistance to splitting also made it popular for wagon wheels, ship’s keels, longbows and chair seats.

Birch TreeHere is another tree that is easy to identify, this time by its bark. Iconic images of canoes and wigwams made by Native Americans from the lightweight, but sturdy bark fill history books. Hailing from the BETULA genus, this tree is of course the birch tree. Birch trees have similar leaves to the elm tree, in that they are also serrated and alternating, but it is the distinctive horizontal lenticels, or papery stripes in the bark, that make this tree so easy to identify.

Birch Leaf

As far as uses go, the list is endless. Birch bark can be eaten and used for making casts. Birch twigs bound together were handy in “birching” (corporal punishment) or put into a sauna  to help one to relax (note the irony in the comparisons). The wood was historically prized for making paper in India and Russia. It is also sought after for making drums, acoustic guitars and even speaker cabinets. Turn it into a skateboard, furniture, throw it into the fire or even pray to it (in Russian, English, Scottish and Irish folklore). Today, we just admire it though for its stately form on our late summer wander through the woods.

We hope you enjoyed your tour of some of the trees in the forest with CLC Tree Services today. There are umpteen numbers of tree species out there though. We just might have to return another day to explore a few more genus with you. Let us know if there are any particular trees you would like to learn a little more about. We just love talking trees!


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Can’t help loving almost all trees in my industry, but the maple reminds me of our Canadian heritage & flag, plus the birch is just darn beautiful to look at. Thanks for stopping by c&c

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Published by
August 26, 2011 4:45 pm