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Week 2: Early Spring Tree ID Using Bark & Buds

​​Early spring is a great time to try to identify deciduous trees by their bark and buds.                This week our pocket nature guide will teach you how to identify 3 trees in our                      region this way; Northern Red Oak, Red Maple, & American Beech.  


Alternate: Climb up the branches or buds one at a time

Opposite: Branches and buds appear in pairs


Ridges and Furrows: Vertical ridges separated by deep furrows

Vertical Strips: Strips running from top to bottom that are at least three times longer than wide

Smooth/Unbroken: Not peeling, cracked, or furrowed


Northern Red Oak: (Quercus rubra)

Bark Color: Greenish brown or gray, with rusty red inner bark

Bark Type: Wide, flat-topped ridges run vertically down the tree and

look like ski trails; dark, shallow, reddish furrows separate the ridges

Branches: Alternate and heavy

Buds: Alternate, sharp and tapering with hairs near the tip, resemble a crown

Leaves: Bristle-tipped lobes (some may still be on tree)

Fruit: Acorn

Red Maple: (Acer rubrum)

Bark Color: Light to dark gray

Bark Type: Almost smooth to crackled, vertical, plate-like strips; on older trees, strips curl outward on either side; sometimes bull’s eye target caused by a fungus

Branches: Opposite

Buds: Opposite, short, red balls, often clustered, on red twigs

Leaves: Opposite, 3-5 lobes with edges irregularly toothed

Fruit: Winged samara

American Beech: (Fagus grandifolia)

Bark Color: Silver-gray or grayish green

Bark Type: Smooth/Unbroken (often pockmarks or cankers caused                                                        by beech bark disease)

Branches: Alternate

Buds: Alternate, long, slender, come to sharp point 

Leaves: Alternate, 3-5 inches long, hooked  teeth on edge                                                               (some remain until new leaves form)

Fruit: Bur filled with two triangular shaped seeds

Do not be afraid to go out on a limb . . . that’s where the fruit is.” Anonymous

Note: Don’t pick more than one bud/tree as the leaves they

become are necessary to produce food

Bark Rubbing

  1. Bring some sheets of white paper and crayons/pencil outside

  2. Place the paper against the bark of a tree and make a rubbing

  3. Compare the different types of patterns made in your bark rubbings.
  4. Can you identify any of the bark patterns listed above? 

Acorn Hide-N-Seek

  1. Gather five to ten acorns like a squirrel 

  2. Hide each one in a special place like under a rock or beside a fallen log, making sure to remember where you placed them

  3. Leave your acorns behind and do another activity

  4. When you return to the area where you hid the acorns, try to find them

  5. How does it feel to be a squirrel?

  6. How many did you find? 

  7. Did you find some acorns that your family members hid? 

  8. What will happen to the acorns you didn’t find? 

red oak buds.jpg

Opposite (Red Maple)                                Alternate (Red Oak)

b-red oak bark up close.jpg
Red Maple.jpg
5-beech bud, long, slender, many scaled

 Week 2 

Printable Pocket

Journal (PDF) 

Click the PDF icon to the left. Set to print at 95% or fit

to page. Cut around the grey border before folding.

Follow the folding instructions below:

Nature Quote Pocket Journal

Here is a bonus journal this week for adults featuring inspirational quotes for these unprecedented times.  Download the PDF to the right and print at 95%.  Follow the folding instructions below:

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