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Explorer’s Notebook

Julie Hart takes us into the woods to learn how to identify trees by their bark, just in time for early spring woodland walks.

 
Most tree identification guides focus solely on the structures of twigs and buds, the appearance of flowers, and the size and shape of leaves. This can be frustrating for anyone wishing to improve their tree ID skills. After all, the flowers are only there for a short while, most trees lose their leaves for more than half the year, and those twigs and buds are usually high and out of reach!

But year-round, right there at eye level, is one identifying feature you can always examine: the bark. Just like people, there are some characteristics that change very little as we grow from youth to elder, and other things that change profoundly. Tree bark is one characteristic that can change a great deal from sapling to old growth, but when you learn to recognize some distinctive features, you can be a whiz at tree ID year-round!

Want to know more? Pick up a copy of Bark: A Field Guide to Trees of the Northeast by Michael Wojtech.

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