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A Walk in the Woods

Where I live, in the northeastern United States, more than 70 kinds of trees are native to our forests. Let's take a walk and identify a few common trees of the northeastern woods.

there is a picture of a beech tree

Beech trees of all ages have smooth, light-gray bark. Forest animals find beechnuts tasty.

Photography Credit: © allOver photography/Alamy.

there is a picture of red maple leaves

You can recognize the sugar maple by the deep U-shaped notches on its large leaves. Its sap is collected every spring to make maple syrup.

Photography Credit: © imagebroker/Alamy.

there is a picture of white pine trees

Eastern white pines are the tallest evergreen trees in the Northeast: 100 feet tall or more. The branches are high, where they can get sunlight. As the tree grows, its lower branches die and fall off. Pine “leaves” are called needles, and they grow in clusters. White pines have five needles in each cluster. In Colonial times, many white pines were chopped down to make masts for sailing ships. Can you guess why?

Photography Credit: © Richard Hamilton Smith/CORBIS.

there is a picture of a gree oak leaf

Trees in the oak family are divided into two groups: white oaks and red oaks (strangely, red oaks are sometimes called black oaks). You can tell them apart by looking at their leaves: White-oak leaves have rounded tips. Red-oak leaves have pointed tips.

Photography Credit: © Martin B. Withers; Frank Lane Picture Agency/CORBIS.

there is a picture of shag hickory bark

Can you guess why this tree is called a shagbark hickory? Underneath that shaggy bark is tough wood. Hickory was once used to make skis, wagon wheels, and tool handles.

Photography Credit: © Dr. Gilbert Twiest/Visuals Unlimited.

there is a picture of green ash leaves

Each leaf of an ash tree is about a foot long. It is called a compound leaf, because it is made up of seven to nine leaflets, all on one stem. Ash wood is used to make baseball bats.

Photography Credit: © Eric and David Hosking/CORBIS.

there is a picture of birch trees

The paper birch is sometimes called white or canoe birch. Its beautiful white bark grows in paper-thin layers. Woodland Indians stripped off large sheets to make canoes. Many birds peel off little strips for their nests.

Photography Credit: © Layne Kennedy/CORBIS.

there is a picture of yellow birch leaves

Birch leaves turn a beautiful yellow in the fall.

Photography Credit: © Pavel Filatov/Alamy.

There are many other trees to see. Discover some yourself the next time you go for a walk in the woods.

Vocabulary

  • leaflet: A small or young leaf.

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Activity

  1. What is the climate like in the northeastern United States?
    [anno: The northeastern United States usually has warm summers and cold, snowy winters.]
  2. Do you think the trees in this article have prop roots? Why or why not? Write a sentence explaining your answer.
    [anno: The trees do not have prop roots because the northeastern United States is not a warm, moist climate all year round.]
  3. What kinds of things would a tree need to adapt to in a northeastern environment? Write a sentence or two explaining your answer.
    [anno: Answers may vary but could include the change of seasons with warm summers and cold winters. Trees would need to store food for the winter when there is less sunlight.]