A winter hike can be an artful activity as you take time to identify different tree species

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Deciduous trees have lost their glory and appear naked in the late fall and early winter. Even though their leaves are gone, the limbs form sculpture-like crowns when observed from a distance. As you get closer the colors and bark patterns will vary between species.

The Missouri Department of Conservation suggests observation and tree identification can add an artful activity to a winter hike.

There are other advantages to winter hikes like, cooler temperatures, no pesky insects. Rock outcrops, hills, valleys, and creeks are more easily seen with the leaves gone from the trees.  In a sense, nature does a big reveal each autumn.

It takes a keen eye to enjoy winter trees.  An old bur oak’s large and sprawling limbs can be quite impressive, if you take the time to study them. White and light-brown bark of a sycamore stands against the canvas of the winter blue sky. 

The red skies at dusk and the moonlight can be great times to view the crown patterns of the trees as they stand out in a beautiful way. Not only can the overall shape be seen, but you can also see the intricate structure of the limbs and twigs that are hidden all summer by the foliage. 

The MDC offers some winter tree identification tips:

  • Leaves are gone, but alternate or opposite branching can be an identification key
  • Large stem scars may indicate compound leaves and the stem-like structures that hold compound leaves often lay on the ground beneath the canopy
  • Zigzag twigs may indicate a group of species.
  • Twigs on some trees have a distinctive odor or taste.  For example, sassafras twigs smell like root beer.
  • The textures, patterns, and colors of bark are identification traits.
  • Shapes of crowns can give identity hints

For more information about tree identification, visit https://mdcnatureshop.com.

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