Saturday, January 31, 2009

Identify a tree

I was walking down my Georgia driveway the other day and noticed these strange leaf's on the ground. They fell from our trees in our front woods and I wanted to know what type tree we have. I collected several specimens then headed to the house. I have two small books about trees that I refer to for Identifying my trees. Both books are totally different and you will see more of that later. I also have many different books about birds and find no two of them the same. I prefer the book which shows the bird in Male, Female as well as Juvenile Plumage because they are so different.
I need a tree book that is much better then the two I have as they are not so great with descriptions. Like my favorite bird book, I would like a tree book that would show the tree's Bark, Shape, as well as close up of Spring, Summer and Fall foliage. Then I may have a better chance at identifying it correctly.
I open up the book and look at the leaf shapes and sizes. As you can see there is a big difference in the shape of each of the leaf's I have collected. This is the best I can come to matching these to a picture. They don't really look like this leaf to me so lets take a look at the second book shall we....
Ah, now this book shows the leaf looking a bit more like one of the leaf's that I have. What do you think? See how differently this book represents the leaf compared to the first book?
Once finding the pictured leaf which mostly resembles my leaf, I then move on to geographic location. As you can see this leaf is found in Georgia so I think we are on to something here. Next, I read the description. I don't agree with the bark color as none of my trees bark appear black. Hum, but the remainder is right on the money. Especially the part I underlined for you with the leaf's being variable in shape. So I do believe I have Blackjack Oak tree's in my front woods.
This is how I IDENTIFY A TREE, In the Garden...

Janet over at Queen of Seafood sent me to this sight to see that I may have a Water Oak instead of Blackjack. Strange thing though, this sight says: The tree should be in Full Sun, my trees are in full Shade. Should be in moist area, we don't see much rain fall throughout the year. Will NOT find them in Sandy Soil, my trees are in Sandy Soil. Hum, this is why I have trouble identifying trees in my yard.

of Defining your Home hubby has a Forestry degree and agrees this is a Water Oak....

Thanks for the corrections ladies, this is a wonderful thing about blogging! I have now truly identified my tree. I am off to the book store for a new book!


  1. yes, my firtht thinking was, an oak, it s right, we have the same at germany, I will show you at ruhezone...besth wishes for your and better weather for the USA, I m sorry, I saw at TV the cold stormy weather, sorry....kathrin

  2. I first thought of oak and that was right! YIPPIE!!!
    That cinde we dont have here.

  3. Ohhhhhh thanks for Translator (-;, it's great!! Now I can read AND understand :))!! I never seen this "Blatt" from a tree before. And I haven't seen a Oak before. It's a beautiful exotic "Blatt".
    Have a nice weekend, best wishes and SUNSHINE :)!! Kessi

  4. I got this one right too! The thick surface of the leaf is very similar to other oaks. It's amazing how many different oak leaf shapes there are!

  5. queenofseaford said...
    Good morning Skeeter,
    I did a little looking at my references and I don't think it is a Blackjack Oak mainly because it is lacking the spiny tips on the lobes. I have one book (a local one) called Hampton Roads Urban Field Guide that I found what I believe your tree to be. It is a Quercus nigra, Water Oak. Here is a good link to see the leaves. If you google it you will find a few more web pages that have your leaves on it.

    ps- deleted the first one because of a spelling error. sorry

  6. The first thing I thought of was oak, too. There are many times when I wish my father was still around to tell me the names of plants, esp. natives, that I see around here. He grew up in the country and knew all kinds of plant names. I guess we have lost that living in more urban areas. It is a shame he didn't pass more of his knowledge on to his children. I'd rather get my info from a knowledgeable person than look it up in a book.

    Always Growing

  7. That's cool and a lot of work! I feel the same with gardening books, it's much easiear to ID a flower if you can see the entire plant, leaves are most helpful. It drives me crazy when only blooms are posted for an ID. I have been guilty of this as well but have tried to include leaves when I have a question.

  8. My husband (forestry degree) saw the photo and said Quercus Nigra -- as Janet said, too.


  9. Skeeter, I spent a lot of time late last summer trying to identify all the trees in my yard, too. As you say, the books don't always help--they don't show a variety of leaves or the bark clearly. I was trying to identify the old oak in the front yard and after looking at several books still wasn't sure, so I took in a few leaves and some acorns to an "expert"--my friend the biology teacher:) In this case, the acorns were the part that clinched its identification as a bur oak.

    If you find a really helpful book, let me know! I'm still trying to identify a mystery tree near the house.

  10. No matter the kind it is a interesting leaf shape, nothing like that up here. Although the book has oak it has it with the beech family?
    I like a good id book too, your tree book is very close to the bird book I have.

  11. There you have it Skeeter! Aren't these guys wonderful? I am awful with tree ID, simply because I really don't take the time. It is true you need to look at the bark, growth from, leaf, buds, form-everything-and I've yet to find a good book that has it all. Keys are not the easiest thing in the world to use. But it is important to know the tree type-and an oak is the best!

  12. Good Morning everyone! Looks like I have this oak tree identified incorrectly. I must get to typing and make a correction...

    Kathrin, You got it, an Oak. Although, I do believe I have the wrong oak identified. Some commenter’s believe this oak to be a water oak instead of a blackjack oak. I had the oak part correct. Weather is not so bad here in Georgia today. Sunny and warmer...

    Linda, Yep, an oak although Water Oak and not Blackjack. I like the name Blackjack better though tee hee....

    Kessi, Glad you enjoyed the oak tree! We have a lot of different types of oak trees in the south of USA. Not so exotic to us with so many but we do love our oaks…

    Dave, It is indeed an Oak but not the Blackjack I had thought. Seems we have Water Oak instead....

    Queenofseafood, I went to the sight to check it out. I must go back and correct the Post now. argggg. I was looking at the Water oak also but my pictures were not as similar as the Blackjack so I went with Blackjack. That is why a good book is necessary to ID something such as this.
    Your sight says; Full Sun-my trees are in full shade!
    Moist area-We dont receive much rain around here!
    Dont grow in Sandy Soil-We have tons of sandy soil in our yard!
    So I would not have guessed this to be a Water Oak by that. Hum, Nature does like to contradict the books....

  13. Jan, you are so right! As you can see I have identified the trees incorrectly! Arggg. Oh well, thank goodness Janet and Cameron spoke up this morning to correct me. My dad knows his trees but only the ones in Tennessee that he grew up with. When he came down here he asked what this and that tree was and I had no idea as they were not my native TN trees. I must learn them on my own with books and internet but as you can see, that is not so easy….

    Darla, Yep, books are only so good. I am guilty also as I mainly show only the bloom of a plant and not the foliage. A good reference book is an asset but finding that perfect book is the problem for me...

    Cameron, thanks for the heads up with Janet! I went in and corrected the Blog! This is another good thing about blogging, as it sets us on the right path. I must get to the book store for a better reference guide!

    Rose, Ah, so I am not the only one that finds the books not so helpful. I have just small books so I can grab one and go to the tree but I think it may be time to find a large encyclopedia type tree book. It would be so helpful. I need to get back to the book store...

    Dawn, After looking at the description of the Water Oak, I dont think this is a good tree to have in my yard! It will die soon as they dont live long due to quick growth. Arggg, I dont need to replace another fence so not happy with my discovery today. I know in time they will rot and fall. On the positive side, they make good firewood....

    Tina, Isn't this blogging thing wonderful? I kind of have mud on my face this morning but quickly wiped it off as I am glad to know the true identity of the tree. Not happy with it as I just mentioned to Dawn they will soon die in life. More wood to cut. Argggg. Blogging is grand!!!

    The sun is out so we need to get out of the house and in the yard…
    Everyone have a good day!!!

  14. Good Morning All,
    Great post Skeeter. Love the info on the leaf. We have a lot of water oaks around here & they aren't near water & are in sandy soil. Go figure. I need to get a better book on trees in my area.

  15. I'm not very good at tree identification either but sounds like you've gotten your answer. I agree it's difficult to use the guides from time to time because of that little phrase "variable." It's true with birds, flowers, etc. but I can't be without them all the same.

  16. Skeeter, Funny thing about plants is that they don't always read the book. No need for egg on your face. I learned a new one today too. Fun to learn at least one new plant each day.

  17. Books are a wonderful place to get started on learning about trees, but like you I've found you usually have to do more investigation on your own before you can be reasonably sure you know the species. Bloggers and their expert spouses/friends especially gardeners/nature lovers) are probably the best, most reliable information resources on earth. According to one book I have, Trees of Illinois by Linda Kershaw, published in 2007, "water oak (Q. nigra) has recently been reported in Illinois." It sounds like some southerner has unwittingly been bringing acorns up north (back of the pickup/in the wheel-wells/under the hood) and changing the landscape. Or maybe there is a modern-day Johnny Appleseed (Joni Acorn?) spreading about some Southern-style nature.

  18. Oh dear, I was gonna say that any oak is a good thing and then I read the rest of the comments. All I can say now is, sorry Skeeter but just enjoy it while it is there. And anyway, a lot of oaks can live for hundreds of years so who knows, maybe a short life in the water oak is still longer than a humans.

  19. Thanks for this post. I had been meaning to write something similar--about plant, tree, and bird IDing--but I wouldn't have done such a nice job with the photos as you did. You hit upon something that I have trouble with as well. Individuals always vary a little, and books show things really differently. I'm dying to know what bird book you recommend, as I've not found one that shows male and female and juvenile plumage, Frankly, I'd also like to have breeding versus non-breeding plumage, but now I'm really being greedy! Just the other day I was trying to ID a Carolina wren and in one one book I thought for sure it was a Philadelphia vireo, even though they only migrate through my area and it's too late for that. The ONE drawing of the Carolina wren int hat book looked both too thin and too stripey to match the bird I saw. Only after Googling did I find a better match, plus the vireo ended up having a green tint that the book didn't show!!!

  20. Oh, I forgot to add something about oaks, which I learned from a naturist, not a book. This applies more to oak varieties with more lobed leaves... the leaves from ONE single oak can look very different depending on whether they are at the top of the tree or down lower. The tops generally get more sun so the leaves are more acutely lobed, and that's likely how they would be shown in a book. The leaves farther down can be shaded (especially in woods) and so they are less lobed, needing more surface area for photosynthesis. They look quite dissimilar! I wish I'd collected samples in the fall. Well, there's always this year!

  21. Great post and pics. Loved the way you clicked at book/leaf together. And blogging IS a wonderful way of identifying---there's always someone out there who knows exactly what's what.

  22. I love a mystery! My simple guess would have been an oak, with no idea of which one in particular. The Blackjack Oak looks pretty close to my eyes. This was interesting the way you shared how you figured out your mystery.

  23. Hi Skeeter --Sidekick would love your tree guide books. I can't tell one tree from the next --I do try but find it a bit difficult. He is a guide book lil fella --Much nicer today --still have our guests --no power for them still. Went to do taxes today --blah! Missing a paper so we have to go back --hey we tried, right? Hi Tina --hope you are warming up as good as this side of town. No more snow or ice for us, yeah!

  24. Years ago in a botany course we had to use 'keys' to try to identify native plants. If it has hairy leaves, go to #20. If it has smooth leaves, go to #21. And so on. It was most difficult, especially because so many plants have so many variations! I think that makes your identification most impressive.
    Regards, VW

  25. I wouldn't have been any help. I'm glad you got the ID. I just remember that I have a book store coupon that expires soon.

  26. Lola, That is exactly my point with this Post today. No two books are the same plus the trees do not always act as the books say they should. Oh well, fun to try and ID them anyway. Can you believe I spotted buds on my daffodils today? I think spring is just around the corner for us down here in the Deep South! Yeah, I am tired of the cold stuff…

    Kathleen, I am the same. I have books on birds, trees, reptiles, mammals, butterflies and no two of them are the same. But I enjoy trying to ID through those books and will not part with them. Even if I find the grandest book of all, I will still keep my little books as they are a great quick reference tool. Love them....

    Janet, It was entertaining to me even though I was a bit red in the face. Tee hee, As long as I am learning while blogging, I will continue to blog. With all the unknown trees in my woods, it looks like I will be blogging for a long time! :-)

    W2W, I like your analogy about the acorns and Joni Acorn! I am guessing the squirrels keep hiding them and another squirrel finding them and moving them to new place. With so many squirrels finding and moving them, they are bound to make it North! lol... Redneck pick up trucks most likely. tee hee... I can say that as I live in the county surrounded by them. Hey, maybe I am one and just dont know it, ya think? Personal identifying is so much better then a book but I don’t have anyone around me that can help me ID them. Sigh, so many in my yard that I do not know. Hey, maybe I could post about one each month. By December, I would know at least 12 of my trees!

    Jean, I am thinking they are maybe like the Bradford Pear tree in life. I too thought that all oaks were good strong trees. I have learned several things on this blog today about oaks. Love this informative blogging! Are you keeping warm up there? I had on a tee shirt while in the yard today. I spotted a buttercup bud about to open! Ah, spring is around the corner....

    Monica, I just looked at Wrens in my book and they show 4 different types. Carolina, House, Winter and Bewick’s. We have the Carolina year round and I have seen the Winter during the winter. Yep, called Winter and I have seen it only during the winter. My favorite book is a Peterson Field Guide called “FEEDER BIRDS of Eastern North America”. There may publish one for your area. Even with this great book, I still am not sure if we have the House or Purple Finches in our yard. I use mostly Peterson Guides but also have National Audubon Society bird books as well.

    The leaves being fully grown on the branch tips makes perfect sense to me! I did at least pick up several leaves to show the difference in them. All from the same tree and really no two the same. Kind of like humans and snowflakes I guess. Stay warm!

    Kanak, I found it interesting how the leaves were all different plus not exactly like the pictures. This was fun with all the info I learned today. I have many more trees which I have no idea about so should post on one a month. By years end, I may know them all!

    MnGarden, Oh my goodness, there are 17 different Oaks! I did not know that! I have the willow also for sure. So I know I have 2 different oaks in my yard. Now I will have to see if I have more. Thanks for the sight, i will keep in on file!

    Karrita, Glad you enjoyed the mystery series today! Yep, it was a mystery to me for sure. And I was wrong in my guessing from two books! I am happy to know the true identity being a Water Oak...

    Anonymous, Sidekick will just have to make that Road Trip to see me! He will get a kick out of my reptile and mammal books! Lots of fun creepy crawly slimy things! lol. There are so many different frogs in this country. I was shocked at them. I saw on TV where they are getting electric back on in some parts of KY. My niece is going to school at Murray State and I am not sure if they lost power or not but Paducah was on the National news and they are there so I am assuming she has been stuck in dorm with no heat since she is dorm mom. Enjoy the visit with family while you have them! Sorry the kiddos did not have enough snow for snowman building. I was hoping to see a snow frog! Daffodils popping open down here!

    VW, The word Variation is a bad word when trying to ID a tree or plant. They can be so different then the picture shown plus not so correct in habitat! My Water oak is in shade and sandy soil and the books say they should not be. Strange I tell you. I think some books are more a guide them anything. They get you close then it is up to you to do further investigating my problem is, I dont have all day to learn about one tree. But then today I have learned a lot about one tree! lol...

    Sue, I dont really know my trees. As you can see, I need to get to the book store also! Cash in on that coupon before it expires! Have a good evening...

  27. We had a few black jack oaks in our yard and my husband had them cut down a few weeks ago. He said he hated the mess they made. I think it was black jack oak that the man in the book Tobacco Road was always trying to sell for firewood but no one would buy it.

  28. Dot, Did you keep your oak for firewood? Oak is great smelling while burning in the fireplace. Our Blackjacks ops, I mean Water Oaks, dont cause a mess for us because they are in our front woods. We allow the woods to stay all natural except for getting up fallen limbs and trees by Mother Nature. So they will remain in place until MN takes them down one by one. I have never heard of a Blackjack or Water oak until this ID'ing of the trees. Spring is on the way to GA…

  29. Hi Skeeter, sorry to alwasy be so late commenting on your Saturday posts, we always go to Knoxville to visit Semi on that day. :-) This is a great post on how to use those books to ID trees. It is good to have several, it looks like. I have none, but might look into getting a couple. I like the bird books that show the male and female and juvies too!

  30. Frances, you get here when you get here. Family is always a priority! I have to restrain myself from going to other blogs on the weekends. My hubby gets that time from me. I just comment to others at In the Garden those days. I sometime get on here during the weekends but only if we are not doing something together. Blogging is so addicting and I must be careful with my addictive personality, it can consume a life. Books do help but as you see, not always accurate. I just don’t know my trees and need to learn so a book is a start but then I must go from there. Blogging, as you see, is an asset in ID’ing trees…