As you walk through The Woods, how many trees can you identify?

Remember “Leaves of three, let them be”. Yes, poison ivy is common in The Woods. Poison Ivy grows as a woody vine that climbs up the tree trunks, so be very careful not to touch any parts of the climbing vines. Another climbing vine is sometimes confused with poison ivy, but Virginia creeper usually has five leaflets.

Probably the easiest trees for you to recognize are the ones with thorns. The trees with the clusters of large, stout branched thorns are called honey locust. Be careful not to confuse them with the smaller trees with the sharp needle-like thorns (called hawthorn).

Sometimes the bark is the most useful identification characteristic. Look around you. Do you see any trees with unusual bark?

The trees that have the smooth whitish patches in the upper bark are American sycamores. Once you learn to recognize it, you’ll be able to recognize sycamores growing near rivers, lakes, and streams throughout Ohio. The large trees closer to the water that have the deeply furrowed bark are eastern cottonwoods. You’ll also notice that cottonwood leaves wave back and forth in the slightest breeze because of their narrow ribbon-like connection to the stem.

Two other common trees in this area are most easily recognized by their bark. The trees with the raised warts and ridges that run up and down the trunk are called hackberry. The leaves of a hackberry are somewhat similar to those of an elm, but the most common elm in this area (slippery elm) doesn’t have raised ridges on the bark. Also, the leaves of a slippery elm are rough and sandpapery to the touch.

Another tree that is easy to recognize from the bark is black cherry. Look for the thin, curled flakes in the outer bark.

A more complete list of the woody plants and trees in The Woods follows. You can click on the name of a plant to see a picture and a more complete description of each plant. Some of these plants are paired with similar plants so you can see the differences between them. How many of these can you tell apart?

American Sycamore vs. Eastern Cottonwood
Sugar Maple vs. Black Maple
Poison Ivy vs. Virginia Creeper vs. Riverbank Grape
Honey Locust vs. Black Locust vs. Hawthorn
Hackberry vs. Slippery Elm
Black Walnut vs. Green Ash
Flowering Dogwood vs. Eastern Redbud
American Basswood vs. White Mulberry
Black Cherry vs. Black Willow
Box Elder vs. Pignut Hickory
Wild Blackberry vs. Black Raspberry vs. Multiflora Rose

Students in the Field Botany class at Mount Vernon Nazarene University prepared short reports on each of these species during the fall of 2016. Tree names are linked to the student reports.


LEARN MORE  about the Woods on the Ariel-Foundation Park main site!


A special thanks to the students of the Field Botany class at Mount Vernon Nazarene University who wrote the reports on the various kinds of trees found in The Woods. These students include Chandler Cook, Grace Hall, Emily Kauble, Keith Kitchen, Madison Lotz, Kevin Maurer, Christina Norcross, Caroline Phillips, Dakoda Ramsey, Jacob Schott, Emily Smith, and Katelyn Stone.

All photos linked in this Learning Station courtesy of D. Mosher, Mount Vernon Nazarene University.

Appendix I

Plant surveys were done by the Field Botany class at Mount Vernon Nazarene University during the fall semester of 2016.  A summary of the class surveys for woody plants and herbaceous plants is available.