American Sycamore (Plantanus occidentalis)
One of the most distinguishing features of this tree is the different bark colors. Originally the bark is a dark scaly pattern, but sloughs off as it grows and gets older. Left behind is a white-green, smooth layer of inner bark. The tree contains simple, alternate leaves with five lobes that have pointed margins. They are often a light green to yellow-green color. Sycamores can attain massive heights and are usually found near riparian areas. This particular tree was found in Griggs Reservoir Park uphill from the Scioto River. According to the website ‘Speaking Tree’, sycamore trees acclimate to air pollution very well, which makes them great in urban areas or neighborhoods! Click here to learn more facts about them!
American Beech (Fagus grandifolia)
Similar to the sycamore tree, the American Beech is also easy to identify from the bark. I was not able to snap a picture of the bark for this tree (which made it more difficult to identify!). If you are unable to see the smooth, gray bark of the beech, be on the lookout for alternate, simple leafing patterns. The leaves are also oval-shaped with a slender point on the end and coarsely-toothed margins. This particular tree was the neighbor of the sycamore at the Griggs Reservoir Park. As Gabriel Podkin stated in his article, these trees are extremely common in understory environments, which is exactly where this one was residing! American Beech trees are monoecious, meaning it contains both male and female sexual parts. This means not only is it a son-of-a-beech, but it’s also a daughter-of-a-beech! Find more interesting facts about the Beech here!
White Ash (Fraxinus americana)
Ash trees are becoming harder and harder to come by ever since the Emerald Ash Borer made its debut in North America. When I stumbled upon this tree near a creek in Griggs Reservoir Park I did not believe it was a naturally growing ash tree. As I looked around, there was a dead tree nearby with the characteristic D-shaped holes and S-shaped egg galleries of the Emerald Ash Borer. Sadly besides its opposite, pinnately compound leaving patterns, an easy determinate to identify a young ash tree are nearby dead trees (possibly its ‘mother’). As Gabriel Popkin elaborated in his article, the death of ashes affects everyone and is a devastation to forested and urban environments. Besides being a wonderful tree to gaze at, white ash trees have strong, yet light, wood that is used to make baseball bats! Here are more fascinating facts about the White Ash.
Ashleaf Maple (Acer negundo)
Another name for this tree is a box elder, even though it’s not an elder tree. An easy way to identify this tree is to picture a maple leaf torn into 5 different segments. This tree has opposite leafing patterns which is characteristic of only a few different families of trees in Ohio: Maple, Ash, Dogwood, and Buckeye (MAD Buck). The bark on this tree appeared to be smooth, but as it gets older it will develop shallow ridges on it. This maple was found near an edge of a creek in Griggs Nature Preserve.
Pawpaw (Asimina triloba)
A very identifying feature of this native tree is its fruit. The fruit is fairly large and is extremely edible. It has the consistency of custard on the inside and tastes very similar to a banana! If the fruit is not on it at the time, the leaves are unlike most in the forest. They are quite large and tend to sag down from the twig. They tend to be an interior, understory tree because they can be quite fragile during windstorms or other disturbances. Similar to the other trees on this page, it was found on the edge of a creek at Griggs Nature Preserve.
Red mulberry (Morus rubra)
The leaves of this tree are quite fascinating in that they are not all the same. Some of them can have many 3 or more lobes or not be lobed at all. The fruit of this tree are considered to be multiple drupes and are quite tasty to be eaten. This tree was found in my backyard, but was not planted on purpose. It was a weed that never got taken care of and grew into a strong, healthy tree. The habitat of it was an edge-type environment with a lot of sun.
Eastern hophornbeam (Ostrya virginiana)
A characteristic trait of this tree is it’s rough-textured bark. Some say that it appears that a cat has used it as a scratching post because of all the torn parts on it. The leaves are simple with serrated edges. The hophornbeam gets its name from the fruit it produces because it resembles hops! The fruit is called a catkin. This tree was found at Camp Mary Orton on the top of a dry-oak forest hillside
Witch-hazel (Hamamelis virginiana)
Witch-hazel can be a confusing plant because it can be either a shrub or a tree. This one specifically resembles more of a young tree because it was not multi-stemmed. The leaves are simple and broad with wavy margins. In the winter, it is easy to identify it because its buds look almost identical to deer hooves (the twig can even be a little fuzzy like a deer leg!). If you look closely you can see a growth forming on the leaf in the middle. These are formed because of aphids that cause the tree to form the gall around it. It protects the insect and her babies, while it doesn’t ten to hurt the plant itself (Learn more about this interesting symbiosis relationship here!). The tree was found right beside the eastern hophornbeam on the top of a hillside.