Tag: plant id

Suburban Weeds: Heber City

Weeds are funny things. By definition, they are “plants out of place”. But it is you – the gardener, the farmer, the recreationist, the observer – who decides whether it is “out of place” or not. One man’s weed is another’s wildflower. 

Sometimes enough people (land managers, weed scientists, etc.)  have decided that a certain plant poses enough of a problem that it gets extra designations such as “invasive” or “noxious”. If you want to learn more about the nitty-gritty of that, go check out my post on that by clicking here.

When I taught the weed identification and management lab at Utah State University I often told the students that they would be changed forever by taking the class. Only half-jokingly would I tell them that they wouldn’t be able to go anywhere again without seeing the weeds. I don’t know if that has actually happened with any of the students I taught, but I can say that it is 100% true of myself. Whether I’m hiking in the mountains or taking a walk around the neighborhood I notice the weeds. (I notice the other plants, too, but we’re just talking about weeds today.)

I’m not the only one who likes identifying plants though. There was a recent article in The Guardian about “rebel botanists” identifying the urban plants with chalk graffiti. Seeing the chalked names connects others with the plants that they might otherwise overlook.

And, really, that’s what this new “Suburban Weeds” project of mine is all about: connecting with this place I currently call home. As I’m out on walks around town I’ll take note of the weeds, sometimes photos, and then share those with you here. As I notice more weeds in the future, I’ll update those posts, but you can always refer back to this page for the links to the places I’ve been and the weeds I’ve seen.

Suburban Weeds: the Jump-Off

Thanks to Daniel Murphy of AwkwardBotany.com for the inspiration for this project.

Tree ID Books: A Review

I used a dichotomous key for the first time way back in elementary school. Way, way back. Which means my memory of the details is fuzzy, but I do remember this: going out near the playground where there were some large trees (ash, willow, maybe cottonwood?) and some not quite as large trees (crabapples, I think) and we learned how to identify a tree using a key. Obviously, it must have been quite a simplified key, and probably just for the trees we would encounter out there. Regardless of how simplified or not the keys may have been, the lesson stuck with me; you can identify a tree (or any other plant) by paying close attention to its parts.

In the third installment of my reviews and recommendations for plant identification guides, we’ll take a look at a couple books about trees, one of which has a lovely dichotomous key to help you along.

(I took some photos of the books, but didn’t realize I had the lens cap on my camera. *face palm* So, if you click on the title of the book, you’ll be taken to the description of the book on the Logan Library website. I’m a big advocate of libraries, so check to see if yours has the books!)

The first book is Trees of Utah and the Intermountain West: a Guide to Identification and Use by Michael Kuhns. This book gives well-written descriptions about both native and introduced trees that you will encounter in Utah and the surrounding states. There’s not really a good dichotomous key, so you have to have a pretty good idea of what you’re looking at before you thumb through the book to check and see if you are right.

However, one of the highlights of the book is the section on use in the back. There are extensive tables listing all of the trees in the book and their stats – mature size, aspect needs, whether it has specific ornamental qualities like flowering or fall color, general shape, and overall home landscape suitability. For that reason alone I would recommend this book.

The second book is the National Geographic Field Guide to the Trees of North America by Keith Rushforth. This book is one that I would recommend if you want an easy-to-use general guide of trees of North America. Obviously not all trees within the country can be contained in one, packable field guide, but the most common ones  are included. The dichotomous key at the front of the book doesn’t have too many technical terms, so you won’t have to have a botanical dictionary on hand to use it, but it does help to have some familiarity with plant terms. If you need some brushing up on the difference between simple and compound leaves or the different fruit types, there are some nice illustrations also included.

The key itself only gets you to the tree family, and then you have to thumb through the pages dedicated to that family to find your particular tree of question. That being said, having a reduced key makes for an easier to use (and carry with you) book.

 

Do you have any favorite tree id books?