Tree Identification of Life
We all know trees provide oxygen, food and shelter for many different species including us. But if we look a little deeper into those relationships, we find that if you can identify the tree, stand or forest, you can identify what other plants and animals you will find around and vice versa.
Your basic tree has one woody trunk, roots, branches, and leaves and usually very tall (>3 metres).
The Red Osier Dog Wood, commonly called a tree, for example, is not actually a tree because it has more than one woody "trunk" and shorter (1-3 metres) so it is actually a shrub.
There are two main kinds of these big magnificent plants:
- conifers (produce cones and have needles as leaves
- deciduous (leaves fall off seasonally).
Spruce trees have needles that are square, sharp, and grow singly off the branch.
Fir needles also grow singly off the branch but are flat and soft.
Pine needles come off the branch in pairs or more, and are pie shaped.
Spruce cones have thin flexible scales, whereas a pine cone has rigid scales.
Evergreens are trees that stay green all year (most conifers).
The Larch is a deciduous conifer which means its needles actually turn yellow and fall off seasonally. In fall, you can hike in Banff National Park and see the gorgeous view of gold along Larch Valley.
Also known as hardwoods, there are many types of deciduous trees... poplars, ash, birch, oak, maple, etc.
Aspen poplar trees have small leaves that shake with any flicker of wind. That is why they are also known as "trembling" aspens.
Some trees, such as the aspen, have a white powder on their bark which protects them from the sun (like sunscreen).
... Of Life
Identified a tree? Great! What kind of life will it support?
Spruce trees? You are bound to find red squirrels nearby, they love to eat the seeds of spruce cones.
Beavers prefer to chew aspen trees. They will pass trees closer to their home to get to aspen stands further away.
Pileated woodpeckers will peck big holes in the bottom of trees to go after carpenter ants.
One of the coolest things about trees is they keep on supporting life after they die!
Plants will grow on old tree trunks. Many bugs will feed starting the decomposition process, returning nutrients to the soil. Other animals will feed on these insects. Plus dead trees provide excellent homes and dens for all sorts of animals.
For these reasons, a perfectly healthy forest has dead trees in it. Even the forestry industry has recognized this importance and leaves behind "snags", piles of dead wood, after cutting.
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