Trees Every Child Should Know: Easy Tree Studies for All Seasons of the Year

Trees Every Child Should Know: Easy Tree Studies for All Seasons of the Year

Julia Ellen Rogers
Julia Ellen Rogers

Author: Rogers, Julia Ellen, 1866-
Trees — United States
Trees Every Child Should Know: Easy Tree Studies for All Seasons of the Year
The Glory of Autumn Trees









How to Know the Trees 3
The Nut Trees:
The Shagbark Hickories 9
The Disappointing Hickories 12
The Black Walnut 16
The Butternut 18
The English Walnut 19
The Chestnut and Chinquapin 22
The Beech 26
The Witch Hazel 29
The Oak Family 33
The White Oak Group:
The White Oak 37
The Bur or Mossy-cup Oak 39
The Live Oak 41
The Post Oak 44
The Swamp White Oak 45
The Chestnut Oak 46
The Black Oak Group:
The Black Oak 47
The Red Oak 50
The Scarlet Oak 51
The Pin Oak 52
The Willow Oak 54
Trees with Winged Seeds 55
Tree Seeds that have Parachutes 62
The Autumn Berries in the Woods 64
The Changing Colour of the Autumn Woods 74
Trees We Know by Their Bark 83
Trees We Know by Their Shapes 93
Trees We Know by Their Thorns 98
The Needle-leaved Evergreens 101
The Five-leaved Soft Pines 108
The White Pine 109
The Great Sugar Pine 112
The Nut Pines 114
The Hard Pines 118
The Southern Pitch Pines 119
The Longleaf Pine 119
The Shortleaf Pine 121
The Cuban Pine 123
The Loblolly Pine 124
The Northern Pitch Pines 125
The Cedars, White and Red 127
Two Conifers Not Evergreen 131
The Larches 131
The Bald Cypress 134
The Hollies 136
The Burning Bush 139
The Awakening of the Trees 143
Trees that Bloom in Early Spring 146
The American Elm and Its Kin 150
The Maple Family 154
The Willow Family 163
Why Trees Need Leaves 169
Leaves of All Shapes and Sizes 173
Trees with the Largest Flowers 183
Trees Most Showy in Bloom 189
Trees that Bloom in Midsummer 192
The Early Berries in the Woods 197
The Sassafras 200
The Ash Family 203
The Horse-chestnut and the Buckeyes 208
The Buckeyes 211
The Locusts and Other Pod-bearers 214
Wild Apple Trees and Their Kin 221
The Cherries 226
The Plums 229
The Serviceberries 232
Valuable Sap of Trees 233
The Uses of Trees 237
Identification Keys to Tree Groups and Families 251
Index 261


The Glory of Autumn Trees Frontispiece
Three Pignuts, Three Shagbarks, and Two Pecans; Flowering Twig of the Shagbark Hickory 16
Black Walnut and Butternut; Twig of Butternut 17
Buds and Flowers of the Beech Tree 32
Catkins of a Hornbeam and a Birch; Catkins and Acorn Flowers of an Oak 33
Leaves, Acorns, and Twigs of the Bur Oak 48
The Horizontal Limbs of the Pin Oak Form a Regular Pyramidal Head 49
Cone Fruits of a Birch, a Pine, a Magnolia, and a Fir 64
Clusters of the Winged Seeds of Hornbeam and White Ash 65
The Flowering Dogwood Covers Its Bare Branches with Blossoms in May 76
Flowering Dogwood, in Flower and Fruit, the Winter Flower Buds, and Alligator Skin Bark 77
We Recognise Birches by their Silky, Tattered Bark 84
The Beech Trunk Is Clothed in Smooth, Pale Grey Bark 85
The Loose, Stripping Bark Gives Its Name to the Shagbark Hickory 86
Bark of Hackberry, Black Birch and Hornbeam 87
Warty, Ridged Bark of the Sweet Gum, the Swinging Seed Balls, and Winged Seeds 90
Bark and Seed Balls of the Sycamore 91
The Lombardy Poplar 92
The Live Oak of the South 93
Fruiting Branch of a Cockspur Thorn 96
Clustered Thorns on Trunk of Honey Locust Tree; Flowers and Foliage of the Black Locust 97
Cones of Hemlock and Norway Spruce 112
Pine Twig with Cones, and Clustered Staminate Flowers 113
Thousands of Little Balsam Firs Supply the Market with Christmas Trees 114
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Outdoor Study 115
The Spiny-leaved, Red-berried Holly 126
What Would Christmas Be Without Holly Branches and Wreaths for Decoration! 127
“The Grizzly Giant,” a Sequoia Over Three Hundred Feet High 128
Scaly-leaved Evergreens 129
The Opening Buds of the Shagbark Hickory 144
Catkins and Leaves of the Trembling Aspen 145
Flower Buds, Blossoms, Seeds, and Leaf of the American Elm 148
Elm Tree in Bloom 149
Buds and Flowers of the Red Maple 156
Seeds of the Red Maple 157
The Sugar Maple 176
Leaves of the Black Willow; Pussy Willow Twigs 177
Leaves and Flowers of the Ear-leaved Cucumber Tree 192
The Orange-yellow Flower Cups and Squared Leaves of the Tulip Tree 193
Flowers, Fruit, and the Three Different Leaf Patterns of the Sassafras Tree 194
Waxy Flowers of the Evergreen Magnolia 195
Fruits, Leaves, and Flowers of the Basswood Tree 206
The Chestnut Tree 207
An Old Apple Orchard 224
Nothing Tastes as Good as Ripe Apples Picked Right off the Tree! 225
Flowers and Fruit of the Wild Black Cherry 240
The Delicate, White Flower Clusters of the Serviceberry Tree 241


The best time to begin to study the trees is to-day! The place to begin is right where you are, provided there is a tree near enough, for a lesson about trees will be very dull unless there is a tree to look at, to ask questions of, and to get answers from. But suppose it is winter time, and the tree is bare. Then you have a chance to see the wonderful framework of trunk and branches, the way the twigs spread apart on the outer limbs, while the great boughs near the trunk are almost bare. Each branch is trying to hold its twigs out into the sunshine, and each twig is set with buds. When these buds open, and most of them send out leafy shoots, the tree will be a shady summerhouse with a thick, leafy roof that the sun cannot look through. Among the big branches near the trunk very few leaves will be found compared with the number the outer twigs bear.
How can we tell whether the tree is alive or dead in winter? Break off a twig. Is there a layer of green just inside the brown bark? This is the sign that the tree is alive. Dead twigs are withered, and their buds are not plump and bright. The green is gone from under the bark of these twigs.
Under each bud is the scar of last year’s leaf, and if you look on the ground you are pretty sure to find a dead leaf whose stem fits exactly into that scar. If there are a number of these leaves under the tree, you may feel sure that they fell from the tree last autumn. Look carefully among the leaves, and on the branches for the seeds of this tree. If there is an acorn left on the tree, you may be sure that you have the tree’s name!
The name is the thing we wish first to know when we meet a stranger. If an acorn is found growing on a tree, that tree has given us its name, for trees that bear acorns are all oaks. An acorn is a kind of nut, and there are many kinds of oaks, each with its own acorn pattern, unlike that of other oaks. Yet all acorns sit in their little acorn cups, and we do not confuse them with nuts of other trees. So we know the family name of all trees whose fruits are acorns. They are all oaks, and there are fifty kinds in our own country, growing wild in American forests. But if those of all countries are counted, there are in all more than three hundred kinds.
If, instead of acorns, pods hang on the twigs, the tree belongs to the locust family, related to our garden peas and beans. The signs by which we learn to know trees are not many. The bark of the white birch is so silky white that everybody knows that tree. The sycamore sheds its bark in thin, irregular sheets, leaving patches of dirty white streaking the trunk and limbs, as if the tree had been daubed and spattered with whitewash. This tree is so strikingly different from others that nearly everybody knows it by name. Or they call it “buttonwood.” The seed-balls hang on slender stems, swinging in the winter wind.
The winter signs to notice are the bark, the buds, and the leaf scars, the shape of the tree, and the way it branches. The fruit it bears may be seen in summer, autumn, or winter. The flowers come in warm weather, some kinds early, some later, and the leaves are new in spring, and most trees shed them in autumn. There is no time of year when there are not three or four of the important signs hung out on every tree to guide those who are trying to find out its name, and learn the story of its interesting life. And the finding out of tree names is not dreary and hard, but a good game to be played out-of-doors.



The best hickory nut tree that grows wild in our American forests is the shagbark, or shellbark. Who says that the pecan is better than the nut of the little shagbark? Southern people insist upon this, as the pecan is the pride of the Southern states. As a compromise we may place side by side the pecan of the South, and the little shagbark of the North, and challenge the world to produce a nut that is worthy to rank with these two in quality.
The shagbark takes its name from the tree’s habit of shedding the bark in long, narrow strips or flakes, that curl away from the point of attachment, but cling for months, perhaps, giving the trunk a shaggy appearance, and making very easy the discovery of these trees in a stretch of mixed woodland. And how it does cut and slash the stoutest of overalls to scramble up and down one of these trees? Only boys and their despairing mothers can know just how costly a Saturday afternoon nutting expedition can be, and why many a boy finds it expedient to come back with his bag of nuts in the late dusk. Otherwise he might be mistaken for a tramp, so tattered are his clothes.
The smooth little nuts are angled and pointed, and when they are ripe, the thick, corky, green husks part into four equal divisions, and the nuts fall out. So much less trouble than walnuts, in their spongy husks, that never part regularly, but wait until they are torn off by impatient boys or squirrels, or until they dry and gradually crumble away.
The shagbark hickory is a beautiful tree when covered with its shining foliage in summer. Each leaf is made of five leaflets on a wiry leaf stem. The three outer leaflets are larger than the pair set nearest the base of the stem. The whole leaf is often more than a foot long, and sometimes there are seven leaflets on each.
The most wonderful shagbark hickory tree I ever saw was one I met once at sundown, after a long walk across country. It stood in a field, alone, and so near my home that I had noticed it almost every day through a long winter. I had gathered a quantity of nuts as they fell in the frosty autumn days, and it was a race between me and the squirrels, often, to see who should get the bigger share. I think they beat me, which is perfectly right. I remember now how rich the foliage looked as it slowly turned from green to golden brown, and fell in a great windrow all about the shaggy trunk, as the nuts ripened.
All winter I noticed how strong the lithe limbs were, and how flexible, as the wind twisted them about in storms, and how much of promise there was in the great, scaly buds that tipped the twigs.
It was late April when I came by. As I looked up into that tree top the sunlight was shining through, and at first I thought I must be dreaming. Instead of buds, I saw what seemed like lighted candles, each with a silken frill, like the recurved petals of an iris, below the tip of flame! I had never seen a tree thus illuminated, and the sight was enchanting. The warm spring air had brought out the hickory buds, with those of other trees, and while I was looking for flowers on the ground, the buds above had swollen, cast off the winter covers, revealing the silky inner wrappings of the young shoots. The rich downward-curving “petals” were only the inner scales of the great buds, grown long and wide, their vivid orange setting off the compact yellow buds that still stood erect. These concealed the tender, velvety leaves that were soon to be revealed with the falling of the leaf scales. I had never seen a hickory tree opening its iris-like buds before, but I have never missed it since.
The big shellbark, or shagbark, hickory is the sturdy “big brother” of the little shagbark. In every particular it exaggerates the characteristics of the favourite among our nut trees. The bark is more shaggy, the tree grows larger, the nuts are bigger. Are they better? No. But they are much the same in flavour, and being so good and so big, they have the market name of “king nuts.” The best of them are gathered in the woods of Missouri and Arkansas. The tree is found from Pennsylvania westward to Oklahoma, but the lumber is valuable for the making of vehicles and tool handles, and so the trees are now scarce in the states that are oldest.
In winter the big shagbark trees show their orange-coloured twigs. They are peculiar to this one hickory. The leaf stems stay on the twigs after the leaves fall, and give the tree top in winter a ragged, hairy appearance, that matches its shaggy trunk.


The pignut has been given this ugly name because farmers, in the early days, turned their pigs into woodland pastures to fatten on the thin-shelled nuts that dropped from this kind of hickory tree. They are not bitter, but merely tasteless, and it is only a “greenhorn” from town or city who will spend time to gather these poor hickory nuts, mistaking them for shellbarks. They are not usually angled, but smoothly rounded, often pear-shaped, and the husks are thin. The shagbarks are in husks nearly one-half inch thick, which split in four divisions, and fall apart to release the ripe nuts. The husks of pignuts divide but part way down, and so the nuts are not freed from them promptly. The kernels are yellowish white.
A look at the bark of a shagbark hickory, and then at a pignut fixes in mind one of the chief differences between these trees. The pignut has clean, smooth, grey bark, becoming coarser and rougher with increasing age, but never shedding its bark in ragged strips as the shagbark begins to do when the trees are still young. Smoother foliage and twigs, smaller buds in winter, and a more regular round head make the pignut a fine tree to plant on the lawn, where the shagbark would be out of place, on account of its shaggy, untidy trunk.
Another handsome hickory tree with nuts that are very disappointing to the members of a nutting party is the mockernut, called also the big bud hickory, and the white heart hickory. The last name is wrong because the heart wood is brown, and it is the wood near the bark that is white. The tree has the largest buds and the stoutest, clumsiest twigs and branches in the whole hickory family. The leaves are correspondingly large, sometimes nearly two feet long, of seven to nine leaflets, on downy, swollen stalks. The catkins of the staminate flowers are like thick, chenille fringes, six inches long, often longer, hanging in May below the new leaves.
The nuts are large and look most promising at first. The big, four-parted husk is as thick as a shagbark’s, but it does not split all the way down. So the first difficulty is to get the nut out of the husk. The bony shell is the next. It is astonishingly thick and hard to crack. Last disappointment of all, the kernel is at best very small, and not worth the trouble of getting it out, though there is no denying that it is better-tasting than a pignut, and almost as sweet as a little shagbark. Very often the shell contains a spongy substance that is tasteless, instead of the kernel the patient nutter has a right to expect.
Crumple leaflets of this tree in your hand, and they smell fruity, like an apple. They turn to yellow and russet in autumn.
The bitternut is a hickory nut whose kernel no squirrel eats. It is as bitter as gall. Thin-shelled as a pignut, and usually less than an inch in length, the nuts are enclosed in thin husks, that differ from others in having thin ridges that rise along the four lines where they split at the time the nuts are ripe. Two of these clefts run farther down than the other pair. The nut shell is thin, slightly flattened sometimes, and marked with dark lines. The kernel is white, and you will never taste a second one.
The sure sign by which to tell the bitternut hickory is the tapering, flattened, yellow bud. At any time of year a few, at least, of these buds are to be found. They are numerous from midsummer till May; after that, a few dormant winter buds remain to tell the tree’s name until the new buds are showing in the angles between leaf and twig No other hickory has little, yellow buds.
In winter the slimness of the twigs, and in summer the small size of the leaflets make this the most delicately built of the hickories. The buds are the smallest to be found on a hickory tree. Yet it is the quickest to grow, and one of the handsomest trees in the family. Because it loves best to grow with its roots in wet soil, it is called the swamp hickory.


No boy or girl who has ever gone nutting “in brown October’s woods” can forget the fruits of the black walnut trees that hang like green oranges, high up on the ends of the branches, and have to be climbed for and shaken down. And each fellow on the ground looks out for his own head, as the shower of nuts comes down. Oh! the rich, walnut smell of those juicy husks, as we bruised them on the nearest stone, tore them off, wiping our damp fingers on the grass, before cracking the rough-shelled nuts. The brown stains stayed until they wore off, but the memory of the sweet kernels lasts longer, and the pungent odour of those nut husks is in every twig, bud, and leaf of every walnut tree. Bruise any young shoot, and by the odour of its sap the tree’s name may be guessed.
There is another test for a walnut tree, for those who do not know the odour of the sap. Cut a twig, and split it. The pith of walnut trees is not solid, but is in thin plates, separated by air spaces. This is a sure sign.

Three pignuts, with husks, three shagbarks, and two pecans; Flowering twig of the little shagbark hickory

Black walnut and butternut. Twig of butternut, in winter and in spring

Walnut trees grow rapidly, and are a valuable tree crop to plant. Nuts for seed are packed in gravel, and left outdoors over winter. The stubborn shells are cracked by Jack Frost in such a way as not to injure the seed, which is the meat of the nut. The nuts are planted in spring just w

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Trees Every Child Should Know: Easy Tree Studies for All Seasons of the Year
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