Tree I.D.

On Saturday, May 11th I visited the Secrest Arboretum and walked through the trails with my girlfriend, identifying trees along the way.Walking through Secrest Arboretum is educational, and makes for a good date!

As we walked around, I realized that I may suffer from what Gabriel Popkin describes as “tree blindness”( as I can identify a maple tree or an oak tree, but I cannot tell what species it is, nor can I identify various other trees that are native to Ohio. I have much to learn, but practicing in the arboretum was helpful.

Black Maple (Acer nigrum)

The black maple is a species of maple closely related to the sugar maple (Acer saccharum) and is sometimes considered a subspecies. This tree is found in the Midwestern United States, and I found this tree in a sparsely wooded area of the Arboretum.  This tree grows differently in different shade areas. Black maples in open areas (like the one I found) will have broader crowns than trees growing in shaded areas. (

The leaves of the black maple are opposite and simple, and have 3 lobes, unlike the Sugar maple which has 5 lobes.

American Linden (Tilia americana)

The American Linden is a member of the basswood family native to much of North America in the U.S. and Canada. I found this tree in a sparsely wooded area and it was in fairly saturated soils (although we’ve had a lot of rain recently so most soils were saturated). This tree is very adaptable and can tolerate wide ranges of pH and shade. (

The leaves of the American Linden are heart-shaped and large. Leaves are simple and arranged alternately.

Green Ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica)

The Green Ash tree is one of many species within the ash family. It has a very irregular crown and is often shaped weird. ( I found this tree in the lowland of the arboretum.  The green ash is the most widespread species of ash trees.

Leaves of the Green Ash are opposite and pinnately compound, have toothed margins, and have between 5 and 9 leaflets.

Pin Oak (Quercus palustris)

The Pin Oak is the more slender and graceful looking tree in the oak family. Most oaks are gnarled and twisted, but the pin oak is straight and thin. ( I found this oak in a sparsely wooded area that was almost prairie-like.

The leaves of the pin oak are simple and alternate, with U shaped lobes making it distinguishable from the scarlet oak. Leaves also have bristles at the tips of the lobes.

Quaking Aspen (Populus tremuloides)

The Quaking Aspen, also known as the Trembling Aspen, is called so because of its leaves being light and having long petioles. I found this tree along the main trail in the arboretum with few trees around it. These trees generally live in cool, moist, upland soils, and are often found in rocky and clay soils. The largest known living organism in the world is a quaking aspen in Utah, which has 50,000 stems coming from one root system, it covers 100 acres and weighs 6,000 tons. (

The leaves of the aspen are small and round, alternate, serrated, and simple.

American Beech (Fagus grandifolia)

The American Beech is a tree with shallow root systems that grow best in moist,  rich soils. It has silvery and smooth bark and has a very dense canopy. It produces edible beechnuts and was easily recognizable by early European colonists as it resembles the European Beech (Fagus sylvatica). ( I found this tree along the main trail with few other trees around. It was a young tree.

The leaves of the American Beech have simple and alternate leaves, with toothed or serrated edges.

American Elm (Ulmus americana)

The American Elm can come in many forms, which can be vase-shaped, short and broad, or narrow and enclosed. The elm I found was narrow and enclosed. I found it in a sparsely wooded area. This tree has been impacted by the Dutch elm disease, which is a fungus that was accidentally introduced by Europeans and is spread by a beetle. (

The leaves of the American Elm are oval or elongated, doubly serrated, alternate, and simple.

American Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis)

The American Sycamore may not be the tallest tree, but it is the most massive in terms of circumference in the eastern U.S. ( I found this sycamore in a low-lying area along a creek. This tree was a young one.

One distinguishing characteristic of the sycamore is its bark, as it is mottled and flaky.

The leaves of the American sycamore are three or five-lobed, toothed, and can be variable in shape. Leaves are alternate and simple.

The exercise of identifying trees in the wild by distinguishing characteristics is a great way to cure your “tree blindness”. My day of hiking and observing was enjoyable and educational, and I highly recommend it for anyone who enjoys spending the day in nature and wants to sharpen their tree I.D. skills.