Unity Farm has over 12 acres of forest, which I manage using my Stihl 290 Farm Boss chainsaw and my Scandinavian Forest Axes
I've written previously about managing firewood and logs for mushroom farming
Recently, as we've worked with Tree Specialists on a land management plan that includes an expanded orchard, bees, wildflowers, meadow, and wetland, I've learned more about tree identification.
As a mushroom expert doing toxicology consultation on the 2500 species of mushrooms in North America, I've become quite comfortable with identification keys. Recently Barbara Keene of Tree Specialists walked the forests of Unity Farm and taught me how to distinguish white/red oak, red/norway maple, black/sweet birch, cedar, poplar, hickory, ash, dogwood, and elm.
What's the technique?
First, look at the branching pattern of limbs and twigs.
Maples, Ash, Dogwoods, and Horse Chestnut have opposite branching. Oaks, birches, poplars, hickory, and elm have alternating branch patterns.
Next, look at the bark
Ash has a diamond-like raised bark pattern. Birches have paper-like peeling bark. Poplar has a distinctive fissured and ridged bark. Hickory bark forms ridges in a vertical pattern. Dogwood is "square plated". Elm bark is rough and coarse, with intersecting ridges. Cedar is "string-like".
Finally, look at the buds and nuts.
Maples have distinctive large buds in the spring . Hickories have a distinctive nut (a favorite of Euell Gibbons)
Thus, once I've found an opposite branching pattern the presence of a raised diamond or square bark pattern is sufficient to distinguish maples, ash, and dogwoods.
For alternating branch patterns, the presence of paper-like, fissured, vertical ridges, or rough intersecting ridges is enough to distinguish oaks, birches, poplars, hickory, and elm.
The texture and silhouette of cedars (and aroma) are unmistakable.
Buds and nuts help confirm the identification.
Armed with this knowledge, I can harvest fallen branches or dying trees for firewood, mushroom cultivation, or projects that require wood on the farm. Over time, with help, I'll become a competent forest manager.