Learning the Leaves in Lafayette-Winona

As a by-product of learning about and locating oak trees for our Autumn Study: Oaks and Acorns, for the October Outdoor Hour Challenge at our favorite Nature Study blog, Handbook of Nature Study, we also are learning to identify the many other lovely trees in our neighborhood!   The My Tree List notebooking page from the October newsletter, is perfect for keeping track of the various trees we are getting to know.  The newsletter suggests activities such as measuring the tree trunk, observing the leaves and acorns, describing the trunk, sketching the tree, and selecting a tree to observe year round.

Honestly, when was the last time you ever thought much about tree trunks?  The idea of measuring tree trunks and studying bark really caught my attention, and I started noticing so much more about our neighborhood trees.  For example, on a morning walk, I noticed that the enormous maple trees that line our neighborhood streets had the most interesting bark! It looked like a sort of pastel camouflage!  It had a wrinkled look in places like a Shar Pei dog!  I took a picture, and decided to see what I could find out about it.  Uh.  Well.  First, I discovered the trees are not maples, they are sycamore trees.  Doh! (I have referred to these trees as maples for years!)

Then it happened again;  On a recent park day we were trying to identify the large shade trees, and again a tree that by leaf shape I pronounced maple, turned out to be a sweet gum!  Surely the little prickly balls all over the ground were a rather large clue!   So, I’m learning that there is more to look at than the leaves!  Because if you put all of these leaves side-by-side, they are pretty similar.  Twice chastened, I’m trying to be careful to check my Common Native Trees of Virginia booklet, and I’ve recently downloaded Virginia Tech’s Tree ID app for my Android phone!

With this slow but steady acquisition of knowledge, our walks and bike rides have added dimension and pleasure.  It’s rather satisfying to be able to put a name with the familiar trees  in our area:  sweetgum, sycamore, red and silver leaf maple, elm, redbud and tulip poplar.   We also had a blast making rubbings of the leaves, I labeled mine and taped them into my nature journal.  GraceNotes was so enthused with this project that she just made enough to create a doorway of “falling leaves” for her bedroom.   We will put them in her Outdoor Hour Challenge Notebook when she gets tired of them hanging in the doorway!

If you’re like me, and several years have passed since you did leaf rubbings, here is a great video by Barb of Handbook of Nature Study with great instructions!

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