Recognising Winter Trees

Bare branches

Winter trees can be difficult to recognized
Winter trees can be difficult to recognized | Source

Notes from a Lancashire Countryman

To many people recognising trees is difficult enough during spring and summer, but in winter when branches are devoid of foliage the task becomes much more difficult. In this article six common species will be under review in their winter garb. Clues to the trees identity may be procured from the bark, winter buds, outline of the tree and any fruit that may still cling to the branches.

Trees that lose their foliage during winter are deciduous. This means that parts of the tree {in this case the leaves} drop off when their purpose is finished, which is part of the natural process. The process is named buy botanists as abscission. It is after this process has occurred that trees become more difficult to identify. However, with the aid of images the six species to be reviewed should be more readily recognised as the article concludes. Their key identification components will become evident.

The first under review is the beech tree Fagus sylvatica. Even in the depths of winter there are two key identity features. The first is the bark of this beautiful tree which is pale grey and smooth especially when young. Although the bark may break into small square scale like parts as it matures. The trunks of the beech tree may well attain substantial girths and my grow to the height of 30m with a 20m spread.



Beech trunk

The Beech has pale bark
The Beech has pale bark | Source

Another key feature in recognising the beech tree is the bullet shaped buds that tenant every twig, they are also recognised by the fact that they stand clear of the twig  at acute angles. During the winter months the buds remain linear and only swell when responding to the light and relative warm of spring. Some times the ruff surfaced husks of the fruits remain on the tree confirming the species. Even if this is not the case many empty husks are often encountered under the bare branches on the ground.

The bullet shaped buds of beech stand out from the twig.
The bullet shaped buds of beech stand out from the twig. | Source
The naked boughs of a winter beech
The naked boughs of a winter beech | Source

The next under review is probably one of the easiest of winter trees to recognise by its bark alone . The silver birch Betula pendula takes its common name from its bright papery bark which draws the eye to it among the dark gloomy trunks of other winter trees. The trunk can attain the height of 30M and produces pendulous branches. The base of the trunk has black diamond shaped patches. Small catkins form during the late autumn and remain on the tree throughout the winter. These along with the bark are the key features which identify the tree in winter.

The other species of birch here in the U.K. is the downy birch which tends to grow on damper soils and especially in the upland regions. The base of the trunk of this species remains white near the base . The branches are not pendulous. Key features the white silvery bark and the small catkins.

Silver Birch

The small catkins on the birch first appear in winter.
The small catkins on the birch first appear in winter. | Source

Now we come to the common ash tree,Fraxinus excelsior. This tall handsome tree which is a common feature of the countryside,parks,and large gardens, is recognised by its grey bark which becomes very fissured with age. It is the buds that adorn the tree that are key to identifying the species, during its winter sleep.

The distinctive winter buds of the common ash
The distinctive winter buds of the common ash | Source

There is a large black velvet like bud,triangular in outline which terminates the twig, just below are two more smaller buds of the same colour, one one each side of the twig. The large terminal bud holds the leaf while the two smaller ones hold the flowers that appear in April or May before the leaves.

On many trees the twigs are adorned with the seeds known as ash keys that are as the name suggests hanging in large bunches. They become tawny then brown in winter as opposed to the vibrant green of summer. KEY FEATURES The buds and the ash keys.

Ash tree

The fissured bark of the common ash.
The fissured bark of the common ash. | Source
The green 'keys 'will turn brown and remain on the tree for most of the winter.
The green 'keys 'will turn brown and remain on the tree for most of the winter. | Source

Next we are to review the oak tree of the genus Quercus. the buds on the winter twigs are arranged in small clusters. They are small, hard and rough to touch. The buds may be accompanied { for part of the winter at least} by the odd brown withered leaves. Some trees may have marble oak galls which are the size of a marble and of a brown colour. Key features are buds, galls.

Oak

Marble galls can remain on the oak tree for many years.
Marble galls can remain on the oak tree for many years. | Source
Oak buds and a withered leaf
Oak buds and a withered leaf | Source

The elder tree is famous for its flowers and red autumn berries which make it unmistakeable when either adorn the tree. However, during the winters slumber, it is the distinctive bark which signifies the species. On some older trees the jelly like fungus of the ' jews ear ' often occur along with moss.

Elder

The distinctive pale bark of the elder remains the same colour throughout the year
The distinctive pale bark of the elder remains the same colour throughout the year | Source
The ' jelly-like ' fungi  known as the 'Jew's ear' may be encountered throughout the year.
The ' jelly-like ' fungi known as the 'Jew's ear' may be encountered throughout the year.

Like us many trees change in their appearance and character as they get older and the cherry is a good example of this phenomena.  When the young bark is of a reddish brown colour, shiny and often the bark peels in horizontal strips. This is particularly true of ornamental  species so commonly planted along street, parks and gardens. 

The shiny bark of the ornamental cherry.
The shiny bark of the ornamental cherry. | Source
The bark of a mature cherry tree.
The bark of a mature cherry tree. | Source
The buds of cherry are arranged in clusters of three or six.
The buds of cherry are arranged in clusters of three or six. | Source

When young cherry tree tend to columnar however they spread out much more when mature and the bark of the trunk becomes darker a very much fissured. The buds sit upon the twigs in small clusters of 3-6. key features--buds, Bark especially on younger trees. 


Another familiar tree and again often planted in hedgerows is the hazel Corylus avellana. It is often coppiced, or as in the case of hedgerow tenants regularly cut, such trees tend to produce several stems from low down, which may cause confusion to those not familiar with the growing habits of this species. The bark is grey brown ,glossy and is another bark that tends to peel in strips . It is also another species that produces catkins during the winter. Small and grey green at first, becoming elongated during February and March when they brighten the bare branches with their cascading yellow tassels.

Hazel

Hazel catkins in mid-winter.
Hazel catkins in mid-winter. | Source
By March they have greatly elongated
By March they have greatly elongated | Source

Although the text is limited on each subject they are dealt with in greater detail via the highlighted links. Below is another two easily identified types of buds the sycamore and the horse chestnut.

Winter buds

Winter-Horse chestnut bud
Winter-Horse chestnut bud | Source
Winter sycamore buds
Winter sycamore buds | Source

More by this Author


Comments 14 comments

D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 5 years ago from Lancashire north west England Author

Thank you every one who have taken the time to comment on Recognising Winter Trees.


D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 5 years ago from Lancashire north west England Author

cwarden, you are very welcome it is a pleasure to share. Best wishes to you.


cwarden profile image

cwarden 5 years ago from USA

I always love your hubs and all of the pictures of nature that I am not able to see in my neck of the woods! Thanks for sharing.


D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 5 years ago from Lancashire north west England Author

CountryCityWoman glad to have been of help. Thank you so much for your warm and appreciated comments. Best wishes to you.


CountryCityWoman profile image

CountryCityWoman 5 years ago from From New York City to North Carolina

Wow! - what an outstanding hub. I love all the catkins and the special features you pointed out.

There are so many trees here in my neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York City but I admit now that it's winter I tend to look through them and not at them. But now I am more aware. The bark of the ornamental cherry tree is quite beautiful.

Thanks a million and rated up!


D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 5 years ago from Lancashire north west England Author

suziecat7, thank you for your visit and for leaving your kind comments.Merry Christmas and best wishes to you.

munirahmadmughal. nice to meet you, thank you so much for your kind and encouraging comments they are appreciated. Merry Christmas to you.

Hi Darski, thank you once again for visiting and for leaving your usual warm comments, happy Christmas to you and yours, love and best wishes.

thoughforce, thank you for your kind comments and for reading my hubs, Merry Christmas to you. Best wishes

Hi Carol, thank you Merry Christmas and best wishes to you.

dallas93444, thank you your kind comments are appreciated. Best wishes to you.


D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 5 years ago from Lancashire north west England Author

suziecat7, thank you for your visit and for leaving your kind comments.Merry Christmas and best wishes to you.

munirahmadmughal. nice to meet you, thank you so much for your kind and encouraging comments they are appreciated. Merry Christmas to you.

Hi Darski, thank you once again for visiting and for leaving your usual warm comments, happy Christmas to you and yours, love and best wishes.

thoughforce, thank you for your kind comments and for reading my hubs, Merry Christmas to you. Best wishes

Hi Carol, thank you Merry Christmas and best wishes to you.

dallas93444, thank you your kind comments are appreciated. Best wishes to you.


dallas93444 profile image

dallas93444 5 years ago from Bakersfield, CA

Great article. Lots of well research and great photos. Flag up..


reddog1027 profile image

reddog1027 5 years ago from Atlanta, GA

A well written hub on tree identification. The pictures were really helpful.


thougtforce profile image

thougtforce 5 years ago from Sweden

Such a lovely hub! You have managed to bring a winter garden to life! Personally I do not like the winter, it is more like a long waiting för the spring. But I do like to look at trees, and their beautiful twigs, buds and tree trunks! Your photos is as always so wonderful and the cherry tree is fantastic! Voted up!


Darlene Sabella profile image

Darlene Sabella 5 years ago from Hello, my name is Toast and Jam, I live in the forest with my dog named Sam ...

This is a fantastic hub, oh how I love trees, your photos are excellent by the way it really helps. A great way to look for what kind of tree is a winter tree, the bark is the answer to the winter mystery. I wish you and your all the best for the holiday's, enjoy your time and be sure to take your daily walk. rate up, peace & love darski


Darlene Sabella profile image

Darlene Sabella 5 years ago from Hello, my name is Toast and Jam, I live in the forest with my dog named Sam ...

This is a fantastic hub, oh how I love trees, your photos are excellent by the way it really helps. A great way to look for what kind of tree is a winter tree, the bark is the answer to the winter mystery. I wish you and your all the best for the holiday's, enjoy your time and be sure to take your daily walk. rate up, peace & love darski


munirahmadmughal profile image

munirahmadmughal 5 years ago from Lahore, Pakistan.

" recognizing Winter Trees"

The hub is full of information and highly educative, and speaks of the keen interest the author has in learing and teaching about the winter trees. Really a wonderful hub.

The hub also provides food for thought that the glory of God Almighty, the Creator of man and all things besides man, is visible every where. It is present spread in all dimensions. many and multiple, similar and diverse, of various sizes and colours, statutres and heights are all silent singing of the praise and glory of God Almighty. A book of knowledge is made open every where.

Conservation of trees of all kinds proves a bliss for the mankind and it saves mankind from many calamities and disasters. The very presence of trees besides making the atmosphere green and healthy adds to the grace and beauty of the place.

May God bless all!


suziecat7 profile image

suziecat7 5 years ago from Asheville, NC

What a wonderful Hub. I will look at the trees differently this winter. Thanks.

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