On Saturday, March 28, 2015 we had a room full of people at FLCC interested in learning from Dr. Bruce Gilman how to identify tree species without their leaves. Bruce set out specimens of logs, twigs, and fruits/seeds at each table for folks to enjoy a hands-on practicum. He explained that naked trees up close could be identified during the winter months when the confusing leaves are gone by their twigs, buds, scars (galls, fungi, leaf stalk’s last growing season, animal damage), and other interesting features (thorns and stipule spines). Our senses are essential when identifying tree species. We can tell a lot through what we see but tree identification can also rely on taste (cherry with an intense bitter almond flavor), smell (sassafras), feel (bark or seeds), and sound (cucumber tree).
After allowing us to work to identify our twigs, logs, and fruits/seeds with the help of a winter tree identifier key, Bruce went around to each table to demonstrate various methods to correctly identify the specific tree species. Bruce entertained us with a “Tree ID from afar” game where it was the class versus THE PLANT MAN. Even with Thomas keeping score, the class won but only with Bruce’s assistance to identify trees by their sketched silhouettes.