CONIFERS

White Pine

Needles of White Pine are the longest of the four common conifers on campus. Needles come out of twigs in bundles of five. Needles are usually greater than 5 cm in length.

Like most trees, bark is variable and changes with tree size. On small trees, bark is greenish, but by the time trees are 10 to 20 cm in diameter, bark turns gray. Gray bark can be flaky on smaller trees (though a conifer with very flaky gray bark is probably Red Spruce) and chunky on larger trees. There's usually not much red color in the bark - if a conifer has reddish-brown bark, it's probably an Eastern Hemlock.


Eastern Hemlock
Needles have blunt tips, are usually shorter than 1.5 cm, and are variable in length. On most hemlock branches some needles are only half as long as the longest needles. It's easy to confuse Eastern Hemlock with Balsam Fir, the other common conifer on campus that has needles with blunt tips. However, Balsam Fir needles are typically longer than 1.5 cm and are more consistent in length on a given branch.

The bark of Eastern Hemlock often has a subtle reddish-brown color.


Balsam Fir
Needles have blunt tips, are usually longer than 1.5 cm, and are fairly consistent in length. On most Balsam Fir branches the shortest needles are almost as long as the longest needles. It's easy to confuse Balsam Fir with Eastern Hemlock, the other common conifer on campus that has needles with blunt tips. However, Eastern Hemlock needles are typically shorter than 1.5 cm and are less consistent in length on a given branch.

The bark of Balsam Fir often has many small circular bumps, about 1 to 2 cm in diameter.


Red Spruce
Needles are typically shorter than 1.5 cm and have pointed tips - if you grab a branch you will feel the needles "prick" you, though they won't draw blood. These pointed needles (along with their nearly square cross section) distinguish Red Spruce from Eastern Hemlock and Balsam Fir.

The bark of Red Spruce is gray and often very flaky.




DECIDUOUS - OPPOSITE BRANCHING

Sugar Maple
Leaves: The leaf sinuses (the space between the leaf lobes) of Sugar Maple are "U" shaped and the leaf edges have few small teeth.

Twigs are usually gray or brown and buds are pointy.

The bark of sugar maple is variable, though it often has light green lichen growing on it. On some sugar maple trees, the vertical cracks in the bark are the color of maple syrup.


Red Maple
Leaves: The leaf sinuses (the space between the leaf lobes) of Red Maple are "V" shaped and the leaf edges have many small teeth.

Twigs usually have reddish color at the tips, and buds are rounded and often red.

The bark of Red Maple is extremely variable. On some trees, it's very smooth and gray and can be confused with the bark of American Beech. Other individuals have very flaky bark and can be confused with Shagbark Hickory. Some Red Maple trees have cracks that make concentric circle patterns, like the picture on the Red Maple Page. If you see a tree on campus with cracks making a similar pattern, it's almost certainly Red Maple.


White Ash
Leaves: White Ash is the only tree covered in this guide that makes compound leaves. The compound leaves of White Ash usually have 5, 7, or 9 "eye-shaped" leaflets attached to a central leaf stem called a rachis. All of the leaflets along with the rachis fall off in autumn; that's why the rachis is part of the leaf and not a twig.

Because White Ash trees make compound leaves that weigh more than typical simple leaves, White Ash twigs must be strong; as a result, twigs are fairly thick. During late Fall, Winter, and early Spring, it's easy to identify White Ash trees even from a distance because of the thickness of their twigs.

The bark of White Ash has tall ridges that leave 1 to 2 cm grooves in the bark. The ridges often form diamond shaped patterns - these patterns can be seen on the White Ash Page.




DECIDUOUS - ALTERNATE BRANCHING

Northern Red Oak
The only oak species that occurs in forests on the Franklin Pierce campus. Lobes of leaves are pointy rather than rounded. The bark is gray to dark gray. On some individuals, vertical cracks in bark are dark gray; on other individuals, vertical cracks have a reddish color.

Buds on the tips of twigs are very distinctive as they appear in a dense cluster of three or more. This is the only tree covered by this guide with these clusters of terminal buds.


American Beech
The leaves of American Beech are very distinctive: they are "eye-shaped"; smooth; "papery" (not soft and easy to tear); their prominent side-veins branching from the mid-vein are parallel to each other, evenly spaced, and each side-vein ends with a leaf tooth.

Buds of this species are also very distinctive as they are long (1 to 2 cms) and pointy. Some describe them as "cigar-shaped."

The bark of healthy beech trees is smooth and light gray in color. On large individuals it can have a wrinkled look that can be reminiscent of the skin of an elephant.

Many beech on campus show evidence of beech bark disease which can result in black cracks in the bark, raised or depressed circular cankers 2 to 4 cms in diameter, and fungal spores that can be red or white.


American Chestnut
Similar leaf characteristics to American Beech ("eye-shaped," smooth, "papery" (not soft and easy to tear), prominent side-veins that branch from the mid-vein and are parallel to each other, evenly spaced, and each vein ends with a leaf tooth.), BUT, leaves are generally longer, proportionally narrower, and teeth are more prominent than in American Beech.
Buds: Another difference between the two species is that American Chestnut has rounded rather than pointy buds.

Though American Chestnut used to be one of the most common large canopy trees in the eastern US, almost all large individuals have been killed by the Chestnut Blight. Small trees continue to sprout from the remaining roots, and individuals on campus tend to have multiple small trunks all less than 10 cm in diameter.

On many of our chestnuts it's possible to see evidence of the fungus damaging the bark of the tree. The light brown vertical cracks on this tree are likely the result of the Chestnut Blight.


Black Cherry
Leaves are "eye-shaped", are smooth with a waxy coating, and leaf margins have many very small teeth. By the end of the growing season, many small orange or rust colored hairs can be seen along the mid-vein on the under side of the leaf.

Twigs are thin and buds are not very distinctive.

Bark is gray or dark gray. Once trees reach about 10 cm in diameter, they usually have very distinctive plates that peel off the tree - if you use your imagination, trees look like they're covered with burnt potato chips.


Paper Birch
Leaves are "eye-shaped" to roughly triangular in shape. There are many teeth along leaf margins that are variable in size.

Twigs are thin, and twigs and buds are not very distinctive. When the bark is scraped of off twigs, no wintergreen scent is present.

Bark on small trees is reddish brown, but by the time trees reach 10 cm in diameter, the bark typically turns white or light gray. As in all birch species on campus, bark has distinctive horizontal lines. Unlike gray birch, the bark of paper birch peels off of the tree in horizontal strips, and peels are often curly. Some individuals can be difficult to identify as gray birch or paper birch based on bark alone; leaves may be necessary for conclusive identification.


Gray Birch
Leaves are triangular in shape and usually have long pointy tips. There are many teeth along leaf margins that are variable in size.

Twigs are thin, and twigs and buds are not very distinctive. When the bark is scraped of off twigs, no wintergreen scent is present.

Bark on small trees is reddish brown, but by the time trees reach 10 cm in diameter, the bark typically turns white or light gray. As in all birch species on campus, bark has distinctive horizontal lines. Unlike paper birch, the bark of gray birch is not very peely; peels if present are small and typically don't curl. Some individuals can be difficult to identify as gray birch or paper birch based on bark alone; leaves may be necessary for conclusive identification.


Black Birch
Leaves are "eye-shaped". There are many teeth along leaf margins that are variable in size.

Twigs are thin, and spur-like side twigs like those seen on this picture are common. Buds are not very distinctive. When the bark is scraped of off twigs, wintergreen scent is present.

Bark on small trees is dark gray and smooth and like all birch species on campus, has distinctive horizontal lines. By the time trees reach 10 to 20 cm in diameter, the bark often starts to break into large plates. Unlike yellow birch, the bark of black birch is not very peely; peels if present are small and typically don't curl. Small individuals can be difficult to identify as black birch or yellow birch; distinctive differences in bark between the two species don't appear until trees reach about 10 cm in diameter.


Yellow Birch
Leaves are "eye-shaped". There are many teeth along leaf margins that are variable in size.

Twigs are thin, and spur-like side twigs like those seen on this picture are common. Buds are not very distinctive. When the bark is scraped of off twigs, wintergreen scent is present.

Bark on small trees is dark gray and smooth and like all birch species on campus, has distinctive horizontal lines. By the time trees reach 10 to 20 cm in diameter, the bark becomes lighter and variable in color. Color can be gray, copper, golden, and yellow. As trees get larger, bark becomes very peely (in horizontal strips), and peels tend to be very curly. A good place to look for the yellow-golden color distinctive of this species is under freshly peeled bark. Small individuals can be difficult to identify as black birch or yellow birch; distinctive differences in bark between the two species don't appear until trees reach about 10 cm in diameter.


Quaking Aspen
Leaves are very distinctive in shape and like Bigtooth Aspen, have flattened petioles (leaf stems). Leaves are smaller with smaller teeth than Bigtooth Aspen.

Twigs tend to be shiny; tips of buds often curve inwards towards twig. Bark is gray-green in color, often with black lines or black patches that can be "eye-shaped".


Bigtooth Aspen
Leaves are very distinctive in shape and like Quaking Aspen, have flattened petioles (leaf stems). Leaves are larger with larger teeth than Quaking Aspen.

Twigs tend to be pale and not shiny. Bark is gray-green in color and usually rougher (especially on larger trees) than Quaking Aspen.


American Basswood
Leaves are large and asymmetrical. Buds are rounded and often spread away from twig.

Bark has long vertical cracks. The long flat vertical ridges tend to break; when sections break off, the bark underneath often has a reddish color. Trees commonly have horizontal rows of holes made by the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (woodpecker).




FOREST UNDERSTORY TREES

Striped Maple
Leaves are large with three lobes and are vaguely reminiscent of duck feet.

Twigs are green, yellow-green, or reddish-green in color. Bark is green with vertical white and/or black stripes.


Witchhazel
Leaves are asymmetrical with "scalloped" rounded leaf margins. Twigs often have alternate bumps that correspond to old leaf scars. Buds are naked; they have no bud scales.

Bark often covered with white or light green lichen. Growth form is often "umbrella-like" with many branches spreading out horizontally.


Hop Hornbeam
Leaves are very fuzzy and are "eye-shaped" with many teeth along leaf margins. Buds are pointy and tend to point out from twigs.

Bark is brown or light brown in color, very flaky, and peels off in long narrow rectangular vertical strips.


Hazelnut
Leaves are very fuzzy and are "eye-shaped" with many teeth along leaf margins. Leaves are "doubly-toothed" meaning some teeth are large, some are small, and the large teeth have small teeth along their edges. Buds are rounded.

Bark is gray, brown or light brown in color and usually has many small white lenticels (pores in the bark) that give the appearance of white spots.


Glossy Buckthorn
Leaves are smooth and shiny without any teeth. Side-veins are prominent, straight and parallel to each other. Buds are naked (no bud scales) and are usually "sickle-shaped".

Bark is gray or dark gray in color and usually has many small white lenticels (pores in the bark) that give the appearance of white spots.






This site created and maintained by
Dr. Rhine Singleton
Associate Professor of Biology & Environmental Science
Franklin Pierce University, Rindge, NH 03461
You can contact me at: singler at franklinpierce dot edu