Which Tree is That?

I hope everyone had a nice Memorial Day weekend. Pete and I went to visit some relatives and other than seeing my family, the highlight of the trip was going to the MAPS Air Museum near Akron/Canton Airport. We had the honor of going on a guided tour with Ralph, who was a B-24 bomber pilot in WWII, flying missions over Germany. Pete and I so enjoyed his many stories. A belated thanks to all our servicemen and women who have done so much for our country.

With the nicer weather, I’ve been able to walk to work again. As I walk along, with all the new trees in our neighborhood, I am struggling to figure out which tree is which. Now I can spot an oak tree from a mile away as those are my favorites. Maples are pretty easy, as are the shag bark hickories. But ask me which kind of oak a tree is, and I’m pretty much at a loss unless it’s a pin oak. And I only know silver maples because they are everywhere and their leaves look, well, silver. The shag bark hickory is one that I know more by its bark (strangely enough, rather shaggy looking!) than its leaves. But I struggle to identify many of the trees in our neighborhood that are new to me, especially the oaks. So I went on line to look to see if there is some sort of guide to use. I found a great one online at Arbor.org. It’s especially helpful because it walks you through the identification with a series of questions about the tree itself. I think that Pete uses such a thing, called a key, to identify insects. I still need to work on being able to better identify trees by looking at them. And I am thankful for the maps at our kiosk on Weber, too, as they will help me learn about our trees. Has anyone taken one of the walks yet? I’ve gone by once to replace the maps, and they are almost gone again. So if you have used one, please let me know how it went!

Today, Pete and I went for a walk to Weiland’s for some groceries, and we took the scenic route along Wahalla Ravine. We were commenting on the diversity of plants that were in the ravine (apart from the invasives). It’s nice to see the native plants within the ravine. As we walked along the stream, I saw some insects that turned out to be damsel flies. Pete was pleasantly surprised to see them as they require a somewhat clean water source. (Ironically, there is a sign warning people to stay out of the water as it can contain raw sewage.) For those of you who are interested, damsel flies differ from dragonflies in how they hold their wings. Dragonflies hold their wings horizontal to their bodies while damsel flies hold them vertically above their bodies. (Don’t get me started on how to identify insects: I can tell you about true bugs being the only ones with sucking mouth parts and flies having compound eyes…ah, the joys of living with an entomologist!)

But back to the diversity: Pete has been seeing insects around our yard that he hasn’t seen before and the same hold true with birds. I really believe that the native trees as well as the cleanup in Glen Echo has made a huge difference in how our little part of the planet is working. It’s nice to see.

Until next time!

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