A Walk in the Woods
by Mary Morton Cowan
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.
Beech trees of all ages have smooth, light-gray bark. Forest animals find beechnuts tasty.
Photography Credit: © allOver photography/Alamy.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- leaflet: A small or young leaf.
- In this chapter, you will learn about the different parts of plants. What parts of the trees mentioned in this article do people use? What kinds of products do people make from the trees today and in the past? Write a few sentences explaining what people use and what they make.
[anno: Answers will vary but could include that we use the wood, bark, and sap from these trees. We use the wood to make baseball bats. In the past, people made masts and tools from the wood. We use the sap to make syrup. In the past, Indians used the bark to make canoes.]