Flora and fauna of the Athens County area, and occasionally habitats outside Ohio. Subject matter will consist of both interpretive material and taxonomic issues in plant and animal identification.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Winter Twigs

Thanks to Mike Whittemore over at Flora and Fauna of Appalachia for a great idea. Why not post some twigs and buds of plants before the winter is gone. Of course I won't repeat anything he has done, but I have plenty of other species to choose from. Try to figure them out before checking the answers.

In my other post on bark, I showed a red and silver maple. Twig and bud colors change in the winter, but the maples are not the only red colored species. They are opposite branched, this one is alternate. The twigs are quite zig-zag, and the bud is large and two-scaled. From the top down it looks like a pillow, from the other side, a bullet. From the top across it resembles a beetles butt. From a side profile it looks like a birds beak. From the tip it looks like Shamu. From your perspective you must wonder who would spend so much time coming up with such descriptions? Why someone who teaches this stuff of course. *smile*

Another red species in our area has small scaled buds that appear to be half sunken into the twig. The leaf scar contains a bundle scar in the shape of a horseshoe. If you scratch the twig it smells like lightning bugs.

Here is both the lower and upper portions of the twig. It's an opposite, the buds are naked, soft, somewhat similar to Pawpaw. This is found in swamps.

Okay, the first was Basswood, the second, Sourwood, and the third is Silky Dogwood.

Here are some easy ones. The dark scales fall off these buds in winter, leaving light colored scales in the shape of a Hershey Kiss candy, or the Taj Mahal. The twigs are thick, dark brown, and hairy.

There is only one tree that has sulphur yellow naked buds.

This tree has short, stout, paired thorns. The buds are small and nondescript. The fruit is a brown pea pod.

Sporting some of the thickest of all twigs, they range from green when small to a pinkish orange upon maturity. These arrowhead shaped leaf scars are the largest of any species. It is an unwelcome exotic invasive. In the growing season a broken twig has one of the worst smells imaginable.

And the winner is...  Mockernut Hickory, Bitternut Hickory, Black Locust, and Tree-of-Heaven.

Alright, let's get out of elementary school and into junior high. This plant has red to purple multi-branched thorns growing on the twigs and foot long thorn clusters on the bark.

This small tree has long 'single' thorns. The blood red buds in winter are a reminder of what your finger tips will resemble if you handle this plant carelessly.

These don't look too inviting either, but what appear as thorns are simply short stiff twigs.

Another thick brown hairy twig. The bud scales are dark at the bottom and light on top.

Similar to the above, the twigs are dark brown, BUT they are smooth or glabrous. The dark and light scales cover half the bud each.

I've got freckles! Actually all parts of the new growth are covered in orange speckles like this. Another unwelcome shrub in our landscape. At least the fruits are edible.

Big trees with big orange scaled buds, and opposite leaf scars.

Answer time:  Honey Locust, Hawthorn, Crabapple, Shagbark Hickory, Pignut Hickory, Autumn Olive, and Yellow Buckeye.

Okay, ready for high school?

The terminal buds of all these species consist of 4 soft scales arranged like a Phillips screwdriver. On this one the lateral bud sits inside the leaf scar.

The terminal bud is the same as above, but the lateral bud sits on top of the leaf scar. I know what you're thinking, but try again. Notice the whitish bloom on the upper portion. It feels like peach fuzz to the touch, and this is found only on high slopes and ridgetops.

A green opposite branched twig. Box-elder? Nope, look at the white lines going up and down the twig.

Opposite, very bumpy with lots of lenticels. Orange scaled buds protrude outward not up. Pith very styrofoam like. Leaf scars reach around and touch each other. Makes a good wine.

Purple and green colored. Leaf buds pointy and claw like. Twigs grow upward and look like a pitchfork or trident. Twig segmented like a radio antenna or rabbit ears. This appearance sometimes reminds me of the alien from Close Encounters, but then again, I have an imagination.

Leaf scars in winter bright orange with three bundle scars. I'm making you use the leaf scar here. Otherwise the buds usually tri-colored and striped.

Buds always darker than the twig, both of which are hairy. Flower buds red and black. Terminal bud slightly bent. These flower buds are ready to burst open.

And here we go again=White Ash, Biltmore Ash (not green ash haha), Wahoo, Elderberry, young Flowering Dogwood (without onion head flower buds), Blackgum, Red Elm.

Ready for college?  Dark vine, climbs by wrapping around, leaf scar round, but often with a vertical slit at the top.

Twigs shiny brown, buds two scaled but appearing naked, fuzzy to the touch. Color silvery green.

Upright plant with various sized thorns throughout, often white colored, sometimes paired. A "berry-like" fruit, round, red, either with one or two at end of each twig. Plant 1-3 feet in height, occurring in dry uplands.  Not a greenbrier.

Buds dark, highly scaled, pointed. Twig opposite and light gray.

New growth twigs heavily mottled or salt and peppered. Buds opposite, round or fist like, in pairs.

Buds angled, or pyramid shaped in cross section. Scales often stacked in neat rows.

Getting more difficult?  Answers are; Canada Moonseed, Cucumber Magnolia, Carolina Rose, Black Maple (considered by some as just a sugar maple variety), Bladdernut, Musclewood.

Ready to Graduate???  Try these

Short paired thorns, sharp prickles (like thorns) on the leaf rachis. Buds distinct between thorns and bright fuzzy red. Bark slivers in the mouth can reduce the pain of a toothache.

False end buds sit to the side of the leaf scar. Scales brown to green in color. Leaves sandpapery on some, smooth on others, fruit edible.

A shrub, lateral buds small. Fruit red, poisonous, plant of wetlands. Leaf scar with a single bump raised in the middle. Leaf scar bordered by two pointy stipules.

Plant of wetlands, large shrub. Buds purple, sometimes with a whitish coating. Buds stalked.

Okay, these last two are totally unfair. But you can see why we don't teach dendrology in the springtime.
Flower buds round, brown and fuzzy, opening up to a dark purple-brown flower with three petals.

Alright, those last two don't count. Final group= Northern Prickly-ash, Mulberry (probably red), Winterberry Holly, Smooth Alder, Yellow Buckeye opening, Pawpaw opening.


  1. Thoroughly enjoyed the post. I've spent all winter collecting twigs of Ohio's woody plants to have as a resource to keep the mind fresh. So far I'm at just over 130 species. Always fun to read your ways of remembering names.

  2. I agree with Andrew, good stuff in both posts! I saw a lot of aralia during the summer while working at tar hallow - ginsing and devil's walking stick. I was surprised to see it growing so abundantly.

    Good stuff, I learned a lot from these. It's always fun to see other perspectives.

  3. The only ones I didn't know right off the top of my head was the Carolina Rose and Winterberry. I knew the one was a Rosa immediately but down to species I need blooms, guess that's an area to work on now! The Winterberry I'm familiar with in leaf and flower but not twig. There is a ton of Mulberry back at home so I'm used to that one on a regular basis, I never see it down here. Other than that your pictures and descriptions helped me get the right answers :)

  4. Where are the answers?