Indiana Native Trees Winter Identification

Previously I discussed Indiana’s Central Till Region and the odds I might see 60-70 native tree species in the Johnson-Marion county area. So before I start learning them I need a starting point. How many Indiana Native Trees Winter Identification can I currently make? And why?

To begin with I’ve done a lot of reading over the last month on trees. Some of which I’m sure I’ll eventually share with you. But let me say I have never seen so many different names for the same species. I swear each tree has 3 or more common names. For now I’m going to stick with the common names from 101 Trees Indiana Field Guide but include the scientific name to erase any doubt.

Here are the trees I can currently identify in winter without the use of any field guides and how I can ID them:

Eastern White Pine – Pinus strobus  Because I took the time last year to learn it.

Eastern Red Cedar – Juniperus virginiana  Growing up we had one in our yard. Plus the shape and the reddish color of the tree.

Eastern Red Cedar

American Sycamore – Platanus occidentalis  The green-white bark and the large size make them distinctive.

Sweet Gum – Liquidambar styraciflua  The spiny fruit that hangs on the tree in winter is a giveaway.

Northern Hackberry – Celtis occidentalis  The year-round warty, light gray bark is distinctive.

Shagbark Hickory – Carya ovata  The peeling, long curly strips of bark are unique.

Shagbark Hickory

Pin Oak – Quercus palustris The lower branches start right above the ground and droop. Plus it still usually still has leaves.

Indiana Native Trees Winter Identification
Pin Oak

American Beech – Fagus grandifolia  Distinctive by lover’s initials carved in the smooth, gray  bark.

River Birch – Betula nigra  The orange, cream, and near-white peeling bark on the smaller tree make it the easiest Birch to ID.

Honey Locust – Gleditsia triacanthos  Thorns up to 12″. Enough said.

As you can see it’s basically the bark I use for easy winter ID. Eventually I’ll make and share a reference chart for more Indiana Native Trees Winter Identification but for now I’ll just keep it at a simple line for each.

Indiana Central Till Plain Species

Since there isn’t anything to report from the weekend I’ll pick up where I left off on my last post.  The post ended by stating even though there aren’t any unique Indiana Central Till Plain Species, it’s still home to a majority of Indiana’s species.  Which means I don’t have to go far to learn them. And remember to find a rare species you need to know your local species. In fact I can probably see 2/3 of the state’s butterfly and tree species by checking my backyard or local parks.

How did I arrive at the 2/3 figure? For birding I had previously posted my analysis. I concluded that with consistent birding I could locally see 180 – 200 species of the state’s 250 species. Approximately 75%. Of course I would expect a higher percent for birds since my birding skills are higher than my rookie status with other flora and fauna.

Also in the last post I referenced both the Butterflies of Indiana and 101 Trees of Indiana field guides. Both field guides come with maps showing which counties have had species recorded. Of course an argument can be made this isn’t the best way to demonstrate county sightings. The problem is maybe only one sighting might have been recorded in a county. But by studying the maps you can get a sense of whether or not you have a good chance of seeing a species.

Central Till Plain Species
As demonstrated in these maps the odds are good I might see the species on the left in my local Johnson and Marion Counties. But it would be a long shot for the species shown on the right.

After analyzing both books I estimate I might see around 2/3 of the states 101 Native Trees by checking the Johnson-Marion Counties area. And a similar number for the state’s 100 or so reoccurring butterflies.

Which once again shows you don’t have to go far to see and learn the majority of your state’s different species.

Natural History First Tree

This post is a personal to start keeping track of my Natural History first tree. As previously stated I’m going to start learning other Natural History objects to compliment birding. And this past week I identified my first tree.

A few weekends ago Mike pointed out several trees which could be identified mainly by their bark. With that experience and trying to identify leafless trees in my “backyard”, I’ve decided to wait a few weeks for trees to leaf before attempting to ID those trees.

So the first tree I identified is an evergreen with needle-leaves. And like birding there are steps to identifying trees. The process looked easier with an evergreen so I started there. Plus there was no need to wait for the leaves.

I’m using two sources to identify trees. Peterson’s Field Guides Eastern Trees by George A. Petrides and Janet Weir and The Tree Identification Book by George W.D. Symonds. I decided on those for a couple of reasons and after I use them for a few months I’ll give each a review. All I’ll say for now is I can tell each has strong and weak points.

Following is how I identified my first tree.

First Steps to Tree ID

  1. First step is to determine which of the categories listed in the guide the tree falls under. In this case it’s obviously a tree with needle like leaves.
  2. Are the needles growing in clusters or singularly? The needles appear to be growing in clusters. This means it is a Pine. I have identified it down to the genus level.
  3. Clusters of 2, 3, or 5? In this case the clusters are in groups of 5. A cluster of 5 needles narrows it down to an Eastern White Pine. My first ID!!
  4. Now to verify.
    1. How long are the needles? 3-5″? Yes- 4″.
    2. Cone – 4-8″? Yes 5″.
    3. Bark not scaly with deep furrows? Yes, to my untrained eye.Natural History first tree

So that’s the process. With a leafed tree it appears the process will be harder.

I haven’t double checked this ID with anyone so please let me know if I’m in error.