Monday, February 4, 2013

Early Spring???

This winter has been schizophrenic.  Bouts of snow followed by brief warm-ups.  Last Tuesday, January 29th, it was well over 60 degrees here in Washington County, MD.  We have had Snow Drops, Galanthus nevalis, blooming since Christmas day but I had seen no signs of pollinators.  That is until the 29th when the little flowers were being swarmed by honey bees.

How many bees do you see here?  I counted 6.

Can someone ID these bees for me?
I assume these are European Honey bees from a local hive, but to be honest I don't know that much about bee ID.  I was surprised to see so many bees out this time of year.  I only hope they have someplace warm to return to as the temperatures dipped back below freezing two days later.

"Buds naked, rusty-brown-tomentose; bundle scars 5-7"

While I was out photographing the Snow Drops I decided to see if there were any other early signs of spring.  Walking through the woods I found no early blooms, but I did see some swelling leaf buds.  I noticed that the terminal buds of the PawPaw Trees, Asimina triloba, were getting pliable.  While I remembered their location from the fall, I just wanted to double check the ID using a plant manual.  I needed to do the ID based on the twigs and bark.  On Google Books I found a very nice resource for identifying trees in the Northeast US: Trees of New York State .  It has several identification keys based on leaves, flowers and fruits, as well as one that focuses on the appearance of twigs and leaf scars.  There are also detailed descriptions of each of the tree species.  The description in the key confirmed that this was one of the PawPaw trees.

This image close-up shows the 5 bundle
scars where a leaf had been attached.

Looking at things like bundle scars can be very useful in identifying trees, especially in winter when there not much else to go on.  The bundle scars are left over from where the vascular bundles of the twig and leaf meet.

Encouraged by my success with the PawPaw I found another tree with distinctive leaf and bundle scars.  On this tree the leaf scars were large and 3-lobed, almost like a stylized human skull.  The bundle scars were clustered in arcs, one cluster in each lobe.  Using the key I was able to narrow it down to a Hickory (Carya) of some sort.  I needed to go to the detailed descriptions and accompanying botanical drawings to finally settle on Mockernut Hickory, Carya alba (formerly C. tomentosa).

"Twigs very stout pale lenticellate pubescent reddish brown turning gray the second season.
Leaf scars inversely 3 lobed, the bundle scars in marginal clusters.
Terminal bud reddish brown or yellowish usually tomentose 1/3 to 3/4 of an inch long."  [from "Trees of New York"] 

There are plenty more trees to identify in the woods here, so I should put on my boots and get out there to see what I can learn before the leaves start popping out.

1 comment:

Mike Whittemore said...

Might check out black walnut (Juglans niggra) for this tree - hickories are in the same family as the walnuts, which often throws people for a loop.