Ohio is home to a diverse population of trees, ranging from evergreen conifers to shrub-like species that lose their leaves very year. This range of tree species means that you will have to focus your attention to specific parts of a tree in the Buckeye State to identify it. Many facets of a tree come into play in this scenario. The more you are able to observe meticulously on a particular tree, the better your chances of recognizing its species.
Scrutinize range maps of field guides to Ohio trees. This will allow you to learn where in Ohio certain species exist and where they do not grow. A case in point is the white swamp oak, which is much more likely to exist in all but the southeastern counties.
Estimate heights of trees as accurately as you can when looking at them. Ohio has some trees, such as the tuliptree, that can grow to heights that exceed 100 feet, while other types, like the sassafras tree, average around 40 feet high. Knowing the height of an Ohio tree can lead to eliminating certain species from the list of possibilities.
Inspect the leaves of Ohio’s trees to determine if they are simple leaves or compound leaves. Those with a single blade, like oaks and maples, have simple leaves and differ greatly from those compound leaves composed of many leaflets on a central axis, such as the leaves of hickories and ash trees.
Measure the leaves on Ohio trees for length and width and ascertain their shapes. Using leaf shape and size is one of the best ways to identify a tree. If you know that mulberry leaves have the shape of a child’s mitten or that silver maple leaves possess deeply indented sinuses between their lobes, you then have a huge piece of the identification puzzle.
Look at the flowers that grow on many of Ohio’s trees. Species such as flowering dogwood, tuliptree, American plum and wild cherry all have distinctive flowers unique to that type of tree. Distinguish the color, size and such things as the number of petals on these flowers, which typically blossom in the spring.
Examine the bark of an Ohio tree, looking for information on its color and texture. Trees like an Eastern red cedar have bark that peels off in large strips and is aromatic. Others, like American beech, are steel-gray and very smooth, even on older specimens.
Analyze any other features of an Ohio tree that seem unique enough to give you a clue to its identity. Some examples are the long seedpods that hang from the northern catalpa well into the Ohio winter, or the brown buckeye nuts of the buckeye tree, Ohio’s state tree.