Why Identify trees by their Bark
Bark is the least used identifying factor of a tree, but is no less important. Tree identification is most easily done in the months of spring, summer, and fall, when trees have the clearly identifying factors of leaves, buds, and flowers. In the winter, it becomes much more difficult to identify species, and this is where the truly skilled botanist can put his skills to the test.
Identification by bark is also important in the case that buds and leaves don’t provide conclusive information. If a tree seems to be on the border between two possible species based on its greenery, bark identification could be the final factor needed to distinguish the tree.
Knowing the difference between even just two species when identifying a tree is of the utmost importance. For example, if a carpenter was attempting to find the right tree to purchase for a project, it would be detrimental to his work if he identified the wrong tree, brought it home, and cut into it to find the completely wrong color or grain of wood.
Tree identification is equally important during the months when there is no growth by which to identify them. Trees still retain their value in the winter, medicinally and otherwise, and the ability to identify them is still useful and often necessary. During these times, it becomes essential to understand how to identify trees by their bark.
How to Identify Trees by Bark
Identifying bark visually is challenging and takes practice. The use of more than one sense while learning is known to aid in retention, and tactile learning is a way to better learn to identify tree bark. This means touching the bark to feel, as well as seeing, the various patterns in the bark.
Visualizing bark patterns becomes easier when also using fingertips to understand the textures and growth patterns of the bark because a more detailed mental image and memory is built. It’s helpful to remember that saplings (baby trees) have underdeveloped bark; it is too smooth to have any identifying factors. When identifying trees by bark, it is best to attempt to do so with fully grown trees.
Often, the value of a tree is in its wood and bark. For example, willow bark has long been celebrated for its medicinal use as a pain killer and fever reducer, and is in fact the predecessor to our modern go-to ibuprofen. Other trees have wood that is valuable for woodworking and crafting, and there is an entire system for determining the value of the figure of the wood (the overall value of its grain, appearance, and other characteristics.)
Tree bark is valuable in other cases for its aesthetic appeal. For example, the sequoia tree is famous for its bark. The red-brown color and fluted, column-like pattern are a few savored characteristics of this famous tree. In fact, the tree has become a sort-of mascot for the National Park Service, and a standing symbol that is worth preserving and taking pride in.
Learn to Identify Trees by Bark
Learning to identify trees by their bark requires practice and instruction. It is difficult to find reputable resources for the learning of any kind of plant identification, let alone by bark. For people who don’t live near access to a field botany course (which is most people), options are limited and the individual is left to his own devices for learning this valuable and interesting information.
Luckily, there is good way to learn identification independently of the resources that may or may not be located near one’s home. Metis LLC offers excellent cognitive learning tools that make the learning process very effective and easy for field study and in the home office, laboratory or class room.
Metis provides accelerated learning software that functions on the principles of applied cognitive psychology. This software teaches plant identification in a way that is both effective and frugal with your time. The course is dual-functioning, as a compliment to an already-existing plant identification or field botany course, and/or as an introductory-level course perfect for any individual interested in learning plant identification independently.
The software is so effective because it employs methods of active learning, meaning that the brain is building connections and associations, rather than simply memorizing information. Active learning is well known in the academic world to be the most effective means for learning, in the speed of grasping new material but and in the ability to retain the information learned. It is a valuable investment for the budding field botanist. For those who prefer a more visceral reading experience, Metis offers several books on plant identification that also include specific focus on barks and bark textures.