Don’t judge a tree by it’s bark.
Winter months can be difficult when trying to identify trees, many of us rely on leaves to figure out the species. When you get really good you can tell by the bark, buds and branching. I will be the first to admit, and I have been doing this for some time, I am not always 100% confident. Relying on bark alone in the dormant periods of deciduous trees can be deceiving; depending on their site conditions they can sometimes have varying bark. Aspen on a nutrient rich site can be a bit different than an aspen on a wet or poor site.
I was out on a site visit hoping not to freeze or get stuck in the snow!! I know this landowner well so it was an enjoyable game of who can stump who the most! We would find trees that didn’t look like their typical format and quiz each other. Seeing how it was his property and he was very knowledgeable of trees he did most the quizzing.
A couple hours into our stroll we came across this grey, smooth, hard bark of a tree…I said hey what’s this (thinking I know exactly what it is) he hadn’t a clue so I said ironwood. Immediately, he disagreed and began to correct me! We then came across his idea of and ironwood tree in had to laugh not actually knowing get the species he was pointing out! Mine being smooth tight grey bark and his light brown shaggy bark, one of us was terribly wrong! We analyzed both put trees up and down, taking photos, noting the catkins on the one, the branching…all bets are on!!! We finished out stroll, hugging trees of beauty and made it back to truck. This was not over, after carefully looking our trees up in the several books in my car we discovered we were both correct!! What?! Both trees part of the birch family are considered ironwood- American Hornbeam with smooth bark and Easter Hophornbeam with the shaggy bark!