Today I went on a walk in Glen Oak Park (and its surrounding areas) and when I stepped on the trail I was greeted by so many TREES! In this forest within a suburb is where I decided, right now was the best time, more than ever, to start making new friends. So, I decided to introduce myself to them and saw what characteristics they brought to our new friendship.
Now I would like to introduce you to the first buddy I met Chionanthus virginicus (White Fringetree). Historically, this old man was used to treat inflammation or facial ulcers and spongy gums. Today, it can help treat certain liver and gall bladder disorders pretty reliably.
How did I figure that out you ask? Well, the best way to a trees heart is through its leaves! Fringe over here (yea we even have nicknames for eachother) has a simple, non toothed (entire), elliptical, oppositely arranged leaves with side veins not parallel to the margins.
So buddy number one turned out great but all meetings have to come to an end and I waved goodbye and stumbled upon my next buddy Quercus rubra (Red Oak). This guy’s “fruit” is an acorn that can be used as a *drumroll* COFFEE SUBSTITUTE! Also, the seed itself is slightly bitter but with methods of taking the bitter tannins out of it, it can also be a source of food. So who wants to go on a Red Oak diet with me- coffee and nuts every dayyyyy.
Just like Fringe I looked at Red’s leaves to figure out what he’s all about. I needed to know if I can vibe with Red and it needed to figure out if it can vibe with me.
Somewhat different from Fringe, Red has simple, lobed, alternately arranged leaves with each lobe of the leaves having a bristle/hair tip.
Knowing who Red was really kindled our friendship. It said the next time we met it’ll provide me with food so im pretty excited!
Dont tell the other two but I was somewhat getting tired of seeing just simple leaved plants. DOES OHIO NOT HAVE ANY COMPLEX PLANTS?! Then I saw it Gleditsia triacanthos (Honeylocust).
HL (it asked me to call it that) has smaller, compounded (pinnate), alternatively arranged leaves. Also, although not important in identifying it, HL had thorns on its branches and it kind of hurt my feelings so I am warning you guys “Don’t get too vulnerable too fast!!”
With HL’s seeds, just like Red, you can make coffee. So we can put Red and HL against each other to see who has better if we want to start drama *ahem* but we’re nice people(and HL will obviously win because its seed pods, as a pulp, is sweet and can be made to sugar. I’ll take sweet coffee over bitter coffee anyday.)
Now that’s enough of throwing shade to Red’s ability to produce coffee substitutes and lets move onto my next new friend Quercus bicolor (Swamp white oak)! Similar to the Red Oak, this tree contains tannins and when the chemical is released (mulch form etc) it works as a snail/slug repellent.
This alternately arranged leaves are simple, lobed, doesn’t have bristles on its lobes and is broadest above the middle.
This tree told me to forget about the oaks and start thinking about maples, especially Acer rubrum (Red Maple). Keeping on the topic of food, maple trees have to reach minimum 40 years old before you can tap into them for sap. Imagine starting a maple syrup company from ~nothing~. You would have to wait at least 40 years for your big break!
Maples are easy to identify because of their simple and palmate leaves that are arranged opposite or in 3s from each other.
Maple wasn’t as interesting as I hoped so I moved onto my sixth new friend Gymnocladus dioica (Kentucky Coffee Tree). Obviously since this is a coffee tree, I expected the seedpods to be able to become coffee substitute. That is true but the coffee substitute is actually caffeine-free! Another cool thing about this tree is that the pulp of the seedpod tastes like caramel (YUM!). On the other hand, the seed itself contains toxic substances, although not toxic enough for humans.
To identify a KCT the leaves would be arranged alternatively, large (1-3 feet), simple and compounded.
My next friend I made was this Beech, Fagus grandifolia.
The sharp, teethed simple leaves without bristles are alternately arranged and the buds were long and lance-shaped.
I wasn’t expecting to see a Beech on my walk today so it was a fun encounter. But, at the same time, it does not surprise me because Beeches can live up to 400 years so it must have been waiting for me for a long time!
After meeting all 7 friends, I was swamped but I was destined to meet more friends in this forest of mine. This American hackberry tree (sorry I couldnt get a good looking photo of him) Celtis occidentalis was the last friend I met for the day.
The alternatively arranged leaves have coarse serrations and are long, pointy and nowhere closed to simple. The bark of the hackberry was also very bumpy and looking into the Peterson’s Field Guide, it was described as “light gray” which i could see, with “dark warty knobs” which I did not see as but it did look warty so I am giving it the name hackberry!