Here is a log of some of the trees I found out in the world and how I identified them! While searching for these trees and trying to identify them, I found myself thinking back to Popkin’s article on tree blindness quite frequently. I spent the majority of my life in the same way Popkin himself did, unaware of the wide variety of plants around me (Popkin). After becoming interested in foraging and native biodiversity, I have taken steps to reduce my tree blindness, and I saw more parts of my surroundings start to elucidate themselves while identifying these trees. I learned more about magnolias and their representation throughout a wide variety of climates. I also learned about the fruit of hackberry and mulberry trees, and I plan to forage for these next season. I further found that many trees around campus were non-native or cultivated. Overall, I feel that even though I have already taken steps in the past to combat my tree-blindness, this assignment helped me continue that effort.
Ohio Buckeye (Aesculus glabra)
Ohio buckeyes have opposite, palmately compounded leaves with entire margins. When broken, the branches give off a strong unpleasant odor. This tree was found behind Jennings hall in an urban grove environment. Twigs and seeds of Ohio buckeyes are toxic and have been used to kill fish in ponds before (Petrides).
Common Catalpa (Catalpa bignonioides)
The common catalpa tree has opposite, simple leaves with entire margins and hairy undersides that give off an odor when crushed. It also bears bean-like fruits. This tree was found on the Olentangy trail in a forest environment. The common catalpa was historically used to make fenceposts, and now is used to grow catawba worms for fish bait (Petrides).
Sweetbay Magnolia (Magnolia virginiana)
Sweetbay magnolia trees have alternate, simple leaves with entire margins. These leaves are thick and leathery with a white underside, and they give off a spicy smell when crushed. This tree was found behind Jennings Hall in an urban grove environment. Interestingly, the sweetbay magnolia is the only species in this region with leathery leaves and a chambered pith (Petrides).
American Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis)
The American hackberry tree has alternate, simple leaves with serrate margins, the bases of which are usually uneven. Its leaves are usually hairy on top and its bark is smooth. This tree was found on the Olentangy trail in a forest environment. The fruits of the American hackberry are eaten by a wide variety of birds, proving the tree to be a vital part of local ecosystems (Petrides).
Tall Pawpaw (Asimina triloba)
The tall pawpaw tree has opposite, simple leaves with entire margins. Leaves are very broad and branches are usually thin and smooth, giving the tree a distinctive appearance. This tree was found on the Olentangy trail in a forest environment. The pawpaw is a northern representative of the custard apple family, and its fruits are sweet and banana-like when fully ripe (Petrides).
Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis)
The sycamore tree has alternate, simple leaves with lobed margins. Its leaves are also fan-veined and hairless, resembling maple leaves. The outer bark of the sycamore often flakes off, revealing the white or yellow inner bark. This tree was found on the Olentangy trail in a forest environment. Sycamore wood is very hard and coarse grained, making it ideal for building boxes and furniture (Petrides).
Black Locust (Robinia pseudo-acacia)
Black locust trees have alternate, pinnately compounded leaves with entire margins. These leaves are composed of many small, egg-shaped leaflets. Small paired thorns surround leaf scars on the tree’s branches. This tree was found on the Olentangy trail in a forest environment. Black locust trees are commonly used to make fenceposts due to their strong and durable wood. Its shoots are also somewhat toxic to animals (Petrides).
Black Walnut (Juglans nigra)
Black walnut trees have alternate, pinnately compound leaves with serrate margins. Leaflets are narrow and pointy, emitting a spicy odor when crushed. The black walnut fruit is a large, round nut with a 1-piece husk. This tree was found on the Olentangy trail in a forest environment. Black walnuts are eaten by many animals including humans, and their husks can be used to make a yellow dye (Petrides).
Petrides, George A. A Field Guide to Trees and Shrubs: Northeastern and North-Central United States and
Southeastern and South-Central Canada. Houghton Mifflin, 1998.
Popkin, Gabriel. “Cure Yourself of Tree Blindness.” New York Times, 26 Aug. 2017.