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My Norcross co-blogger and I coach a Massachusetts Envirothon team – a statewide, hands-on, environmental “Olympics” challenge for high-school aged students.   One of the topics they must master is tree identification.  With the diversity of habitats in Massachusetts, it’s not surprising that upwards of eighty native tree species have been observed in Forest Service inventory plots.  So how does one begin to know the trees?

MADCapHorse, of course!

MADCapHorse is an easy way to remember trees that have an OPPOSITE branching pattern: Maple, Ash, Dogwood, Caprifoliacae (honeysuckles and viburnums, mostly shrubs) and Horse Chestnut.  Think of it like your arms- they are opposite of each other.  If you are looking at a twig and the buds are directly across from each other it has to be one of the MADCapHorse species.

The alternative is alternate.  This is when the buds take turns on each side as they emerge from the stem.  An example from our woods would be the oaks. If you’re looking at tree, not sure what it could be, MADCapHorse whittles down your choices quite a bit!  There is one other alternative and that is whorled – think pine trees.

Be aware: Mother Nature likes to play tricks.  Never trust just one branch or bud, look at a few.

If you are interested in learning about the alternate oaks- Quirky Quercus- join us Saturday January 30th at 1:30 for Tom Smith’s presentation on these mighty trees.  Please RSVP to 413-267-9654 or via email.  More information can be found on Leslie’s blog.

[lightbox link=”” thumb=”×240.jpg” width=”300″ align=”left” title=”Oaks have alternate branching” frame=”true” icon=”image” caption=”Oaks have alternate branching”][lightbox link=”” thumb=”×189.jpg” width=”300″ align=”right” title=”Maples have opposite branching” frame=”true” icon=”image” caption=”Maples have opposite branching”]



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