The Maryland Envirothon Forestry 2010 Resource Site Tree Identification
This is an online study guide for advisors and students participating in the Maryland State Envirothon competition. It is not inclusive of all content you may need to know for the state competition. Web sites provided are for reference only and may not be exactly what students are tested on.
Because Maryland has five distinct physiographic provinces from the Coastal Plain to the Allegheny Plateau, our state features a great diversity of tree species, which makes the tree identification station of the Envirothon a challenge!
During the competition, your team must identify 10 or 15 species of trees by their correct common name. Professional foresters have completed college courses in dendrology, or the science of tree identification, and have to identify literally hundreds of species of trees and shrubs by both their common and scientific names.
When identifying trees, nearly all of your senses may be utilized (except hearing!), to examine the entire tree. Here are several characteristics to look for when identifying tree species:
- Leaf shape – Are they simple or compound? Are the margins (edges) of the leaf smooth or toothed? Are the undersides of the leaves fuzzy? If the tree has needles, how many of them are in a bundle? Are the leaves scales like?
- Bark – Is the bark smooth or scaly? Does the bark peel off or change texture further up the stem of the tree?
- Branching structure – Are the tree’s branches alternate or opposite? (Remember in Maryland, only maple, ash, and dogwood are the most common opposite-branched tree)
- Twigs and buds – Are the twigs stout or thin? Does the tree have clusters of buds or single buds? What do the bud scales look like?
There are many other tree identification tips, often used to distinguish one species of tree from another (for example: red oaks have pointed lobes, while white oaks have rounded lobes), and these are learned through experience and training from your teacher or forestry resource professional.
To the Virginia Tech Forestry Department for the use of their excellent Tree Identification Fact Sheets. The following species are trees you should be familiar with for the tree identification station of the Envirothon Forestry competition. Trees marked with an asterisk (*) are species commonly found in Frederick County, Maryland, site of the 2003 Canon Envirothon, but may also be found throughout the state.
LINK TO FACT SHEET
Eastern red cedar*
Southern red oak
Northern red oak*
Table mountain pine*
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