Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Tree ID in Muskoka

It's that time of year again! The Nature Quest Stewardship Series is in full swing. Join us every Tuesday in July as we learn about tree identification, species at risk, bats, and forest management.

Participants look in their field guides and they identify a tree as part of the first Nature Quest workshop of the summer.

This week, the topic for the workshop was "Hike up your tree ID IQ". You might remember a workshop with the same title from last year. The new Stewardship Coordinator at the Parry Sound Muskoka Stewardship Council, Chris Near, refreshed the program this year and enthralled the audience in an afternoon hike at the Bracebridge Resource Management Centre.

Chris helped to give us the tools we need to become tree ID experts. Here he helps a young participant identify some needles from a coniferous tree.

Chris helps some of the participants note the differences between the leaves of hard and soft maples.

We started off with a list of ways that trees can be identified:

Coniferous or Deciduous

Coniferous are cone-bearing and have needles. Deciduous have leaves.


What colour is it? Is it rough or smooth? Does it peel? Is it hard or soft? Each tree has a distinctive bark. This is a good way to identify deciduous trees in the winter.

Leaf Pattern and Structure

Are the leaves compound or are they simple?

Do the leaves grow opposite on each side of the stem or do they alternate?
Along the edges, is each leaf lobed, single toothed, or double toothed?

What is the shape of the leaf?

When there are no leaves on the trees, it can also be helpful to look at the pattern of the buds on the branch.

Needle Pattern

Are the needles clustered together? if so, in groups of how many? Or, are the needles single shoots off the stem?


What is the silhouette of the tree when you stand back a little but and look at it? Round, pointy, bushy? This can offer a hint as to the species of the tree.


Is the tree bearing any fruit? What does it look like? What shape is it?

My list above is very brief and uses only words. It's a good idea to find a field guide to help you with your tree ID. There are also some good websites to help you along. Some suggestions are at the end of the blog. It's also a good idea to go for hikes to practice your tree ID. After all, practice makes perfect! Good Luck!

Participants walk along the trail and the Bracebridge Resource Management Centre. It was a beautiful day for a hike as we identified trees.

Suggested Resources

What tree is it? : an interactive tree ID website

Flemming College website

Highly recommended book: Trees in Canada by John Laird Farrar

For a sneak peek at the same book try this link

Another highly recommended book: Forest Plants of Central Ontario

Join us next Tuesday at Torrence Barrens as we discover Species at Risk in Muskoka!

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