Nature Notes: Sticks, Branches, and Trees, Oh My!
Trying to figure out if it was a pine or fir tree that dropped a branch on your house? Heading out with your saw to do some cleanup and gather firewood for next year? Wondering what to do with all of those sticks? Here are a few tips to identifying some of the native conifers and deciduous trees as well as ways to use all of the debris. Because they don’t have leaves at this time of year, the deciduous trees may be a little more difficult to identify this time of year, but hopefully you were paying attention to them during the summer and fall.
White Alder – smooth, whitish to gray bark; riparian zones; alternating egg shaped leaves with serrated edges that are not rolled under; small cones about 1″ long
Blue Elderberry – light grayish brown bark; elliptical shaped dark green leaves with short hairs and sharply serrated edges; flat topped white flower clusters that become blue berries in the fall
Paper Birch – bright white peeling bark; disintegrating cylindrical cone about 1″ long; small, alternating, triangular leaves with serrated edges
Vine Maple – bark is thin and greenish becoming reddish brown; leaves have 5-9 lobes, 2″-4″ in diameter, and opposite; the samaras, a.k.a. airplanes, a.k.a. twirly birds, a.k.a. helicopters, grow at 180 degrees from one another and do not have fuzzy heads
Ponderosa Pine – cinnamon colored bark; dry conditions; long, narrow needles in bundles of three; egg shaped cone 3″-5″ long with stiff prickles that stick out
Western Red Cedar – stringy fibrous bark; drooping branches that turn up at their tips; flat fern like leaves; small oval cones about 3/4″ long
Western Hemlock – distinctive droopy branches and tops; very short needles; needles are yellow green on top with two white bands on bottom; cones are egg shaped and about 1″ long
Douglas Fir – corky textured bark; needles are about 1″ long with a blunt tip; needles are green on top with two white bands on bottom; cones have pitchfork shaped bracts and are 3″-4″ long