Quaking Aspen. Fooled Again?

In my last post I described being fooled by a grove of White Poplar Populus alba I initially thought were Big-toothed Aspen Populus grandidentata. And on the same day I was fooled again in identifying another Big-toothed Aspen. This time by Quaking Aspen Populus tremuloides.

After the encounter with the White Poplar I headed  to Johnson County Park to take notes on Honey Locusts Gleditsia triacanthos. While taking those notes I noticed another birch/aspen tree across the road.

So I started working through the winter field marks to ensure it was the expected tree for the area, Big-toothed Aspen.

The tree (trees) in question, Big-toothed Aspen or not?

The bark seems good for a Big-toothed. A slender tree around 50′ high with light, gray limbs.¬† The branches basically ascend in a vertical manner.

The higher branches and trunk are light gray as expected.
The lower trunk has become dark and furrowed.

And now here is where my rookie status takes over. The tree has lower limbs so I can examine the twigs and buds.

Examining the bud in the field it appears long and pointed.
Another view of the pointy buds. But notice how they curve slightly?

And here is where I’ll make a comment on Field Guides.

Looking and reading about Big-toothed and Quaking Aspens I still thought my ID was correct on Big-toothed. The field guides don’t point out the difference enough on the twigs to accurately differentiate them.

And so soon I’ll be writing a post on Tree Field Guides pros and cons.

Still thinking it’s a Big-toothed Aspen I noticed some leaves on one of the trees. And the ID is made.

Notice how the leaves aren’t necessarily opposite but originate from the same point on the branch? A trait of Quaking Aspen but not Big-toothed.
Quaking Aspen
The Smoking Gun – a Quaking Aspen leaf.
Here is a side by side comparison of the two Aspen leaves. My photo above looks good for a Quaking Aspen.

So where did I go wrong?

1. For starters I’m still a rookie and learning the nuances of tree identification. When I got home and examined the twig/bud I confirmed the ID.

2. The field guides in their attempt to cover too many trees are either lacking in words, lacking in photos, or aren’t clear to a rookie.

3. According to 101 Trees of Indiana Quaking Aspen only occur in the northern part of Indiana. So did someone plant them in Johnson County Park?

4. I could be all wrong and when spring arrives I’ll positively ID the tree.

I now can’t wait to find a Big-toothed Aspen so I can compare it to Quaking Aspen and White Poplar.