It’s a great time of the year in Pennsylvania to get out and walk around in the woods. The leaves are really coming out and everyday gets greener and greener. I’ve been out learning to identify the different species of trees. It’s a lot easier once you can see all the leaves on the tree, but after a little bit of practice you can really tell the difference just by the bark and the look of the tree.
All of Hickman Timber management lands are FSC certified and have been managing the forest for decades to be sure that they’ll be around for a long time. There is a Native American Proverb that says
Treat the earth well.
It was not given to you by your parents,
it was loaned to you by your children.
My grandpa and great grandpa have always stressed the importance of forests and from their actions I feel like this proverb represents their thought process and actions pretty well. I’ll get more into the management of the forest in another blog. Today I just want to focus on the tree species.
This is going to be a guide for you to help recognize the differences between some of the more common species. There are over 100 native species to this area, but 90% of the biomass is made up of 10% of the species so it’s not impossible to have a good idea of what a good chunk of the trees are around you.
NORTHERN RED OAK – Quercus Rubra
- Tall Strong Straight tree. Typically grows to 90 feet with 20-40 inches D.B.H (Diameter at Breast Height)
- BARK – dark reddish grey brown, bark thin rounded ridges with shiny stripes down center.
- younger trees will be smoother and lighter gray.
- Their FRUIT is large, broad, rounded acorn with a very shallow disk-like or saucer-shaped cup or cap.
- TWIGS – greenish brown to reddish brown. Smooth when mature. Buds pointed, light brown & smooth
- LEAF – Simple, alternate. 7 to 11 toothed lobes that are separated by sinuses extending about halfway to the midrib.
- Springtime leafs come out later than Maple trees.
- In the fall they turn Dark red, fading to brown but may remain on the tree well into the fall & winter.
- SHADE TOLERANCE – classified as intermediate, but Hickman Timber Management has seen amazing regeneration after a small clear cut strip facing east & west allowing a tremendous amount of light.
- FUN FACT- northern red oak stumps sprout more frequently than black oak or white oak.
WHITE OAK– Quercus alba
- In the forest they grown taller and straighter, out in the open it will branch out from the easy sun access.
- Grows to 65 – 85 ft. with a 35 – 48 inch D.B.H
- BARK- light gray, not deeply fissured, often flakey by varying degrees. When you look into the woods the White Oak bark can stand out because it really is so much lighter.
- FRUIT-acorn 3/4″ -1″ long. light brown, cup bowl like, hairy inside enclosing 1/4 of the nut.
- TWIGS- Red-grey. Buds rounded, reddish brown clustered. 1/8″ long.
- LEAF- Simple, alternate 6″-9″ long & 4″ wide. 6-10 rounded lobes.
- Springtime leafs are light pink, in autumn turn
- SHADE TOLERANCE- more tolerant in youth and becomes less tolerant as the tree becomes larger
- FUN FACT- White Oak bark has numerous medicinal benefits.
There a few other subspecies of Red Oak. They have a lot of similar features, but not as grand as the red oak and the timber is a lower quality. A few examples are Scarlet Oak & Pin Oak. Leafs are similar to the red oak. Chestnut Oak is a subspecies of White Oak and has some very unique qualities. It has the thickest bark of any eastern North American Oak, it’s dark gray, massively- ridged and very deep fissured. The leaves are very shallowly lobed with 10-15 rounded lobes on each margin.
SILVER MAPLE -Acer saccharinum
- Relatively fast growing tree reaching 50-80ft and 30-40″ D.BH
- BARK- can by gray and shaggy. Younger trunks bark is smooth and silvery gray. This one is difficult for me to tell just from the bark.
- FRUIT- Horseshoe shaped with wings almost parallel. Largest of the native maples. wings 2″ long widely spreading.
- TWIGS- Red with red buds. Blunt rounded at end.
- Lower branches have a distinctive upward curve at the end.
- LEAF- simple, opposite, deeply 5 lobed & coarsely toothed. About 5″ wide. Bright green, silvery beneath, Fall – greenish yellow,
- SHADE TOLERANCE – highly adaptable tree.
- FUN FACT- widely used as an ornamental tree
Soft Maples, like the Silver Maple & Red Maple are much more common around this area of western PA. Hard Maple is also common. The bark tends to be smoother and gray brown. Leafs are similar shape as the silver, but not so coarse and deeply lobed. Hard Maple Leaf is the leaf used on the Canadian flag. Hard Maple also produces that delicious maple syrup.
CHERRY Prunus serotina
- Commonly grows to 50 – 75 feet high with a 27″ – 47″ D.B.H
- BARK – very distinctive and easily identified in a forest by its burnt potato chips look. Very Dark, almost a shade of purple.
- The thinner and flakier the bark is signifies a healthier tree.
- FRUIT- fruit is a drupe. 1cm. diameter. Green to red at first and ripens to black.
- TWIGS- smooth, reddish brown, buds smooth shiny, sharp pointed, reddish brown
- LEAF- simple, alternate 2″ – 5″ long. Narrow with tapering tip
- SHADE TOLERANCE – intolerant of shade.
- Under a forest canopy cherry seedlings start practically every year, and survive 3-4 years, but few will make it more than 5 years under low light.
- FUN FACT- often found with maple trees.
- 80′-90′ with 36″-48″ D.B.H
- BARK- Gray to dark gray, usually tight becoming shallowly fissured on older trees
- FRUIT- Nut somewhat pear shaped tapering toward the stem 1″-2″. Bitter to taste
- TWIGS – slender Y usually smooth, reddish brown with numerous pale lenticels. Buds reddish brown to gray, blunt pointed
- LEAF – Alternate, compound, 8″ – 12″ long usually divided into 5 toothed lance shaped leaflets.
- SHADE TOLERANCE – intermediate
- FUN FACT – use to feed the nuts to pigs.
Shagbark Hickory is the other common hickory in this area. The bark is noticeably more shaggy! The nuts are edible
BEECH Fagus grandifolia
- Typically reaches 50′ -60′ high.
- BARK – smooth and light gray. If you want to carve into a tree this is the one you could do it on.
- FRUIT – stalked, prickly 4 valved bur containing triangular, pale brown shining nuts. Nuts are edible.
- TWIGS – slender, dark yellow to gray, at first hairy later smooth. Buds very long slender pointed covered by 10-20 reddish brown scales.
- LEAF – alternate, simple, 3″ – 4″ long, stiff leathery texture, with a tapered tip and sharply toothed margins.
- SHADE TOLERANCE – very tolerant of shade
- FUN FACT – chips of beech wood are used in the brewing of Budweiser beer as a fining agent.
BIRCH Betula alleghaniensis
- small to medium sized tree. 60 ft high with about 30″ D.B.H
- BARK – tight bark with circle like rings around the diameter
- FRUIT – small samara, although the wings may be obscure in some species
- LEAF – simple, alternate, singly or doubly serrate, feather-veined, petiolate & stipulate
- SHADE TOLERANCE – regarded as a pioneer species, rapidly colonizing open ground
Pennsylvania was named for it’s woods. It’s latin meaning is Penn’s Woods. Today over 60% (17 million acres) of the state is covered in forest. It’s also growing twice as fast as it’s being harvested thanks to proper management practices.
Learn more about Hickman Timber Management at www.hickmanwoods.com