Linda Bailey is the Nature Education Coordinator for Fredericksburg Parks & Recreation. The Nature Notes blog highlights natural happenings in the area, and highlights various nature programs available in the city.
Beautiful Buds and Bark
Gray spires, leafless branches, and the coppery limbs of beech trees sprinkled in for color. The hardwood forest takes on its own special personality in winter! Without leaf cover, the woodland terrain is more visible and individual trees are easily recognized.
Take the American Beech for example. This tree is one we all know for its smooth gray bark and all-too-frequent carvings. The trunks are wide at the base and resemble the leg and foot of an elephant, and the gray bark can be likened to the smooth, gray sand at the beach, helping us to remember its proper name – beech. These trees are in the same family as oaks, and often hold onto their lower leaves until the winter buds open in early spring. The buds of American Beech have a hard, pointed end, which pioneers reportedly used as toothpicks. Try it out!
The Red Maple also has smooth, gray bark, but only only on the younger limbs. Pioneers would boil the inner bark of this tree to make a purple dye. The winter twigs of maple are easily identified with their deep red color and multiple scales over the buds. These scales act like a raincoat, helping protect the tree buds from freezing. Maples, Ash, and Dogwood, all belong to a group of “MAD” trees which have twigs growing opposite from each other. Take a look at a tree branch the next time you’re outdoors. You may not have noticed, but most of them have alternating or a zigzag pattern to their twigs. Not Red Maple. The branches, twigs, and buds all emerge “across the street” from each other. If you see that on an eastern tree, you can immediately narrow it down to one of the three MAD groups!
To become better acquainted with the trees in your backyard, come join me for our annual “Winter Tree Trek,” at Motts Run Reservoir, on Sunday, March 9th (Rescheduled due to RAIN – may pay onsite), from 3-4:15pm. You’ll learn to tell a hickory from a tulip poplar, a white oak from a sweetgum, a dogwood from an ash, and much more, using just the clues of the tree’s twigs and bark. It’s great fun for all ages, but you need to PRE-REGISTER so I’ll know to expect you! https://www.usedirect.com/FredericksburgRec_Web/
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