We spent this week's Outdoor Hour studying a tree in our backyard. When we first moved here 11 years ago, we actually considered removing this tree. It was so scrawny and sickly, we didn't think it would make it through the first winter.
I'm so glad we kept it! It's a wonderful shade tree now, and a lovely place to sit. We have never known what type of tree it is...so we decided to find out!
The leaves are dark green, simple, and toothed. They alternate on the twig and have small veins coming out of a central vein. The tree makes fluffy yellow-green catkins in the spring, and these long "fruits" in fall.
The bark is rough and papery. This made me wonder if the tree was in the birch family, but our tree book only listed "white birch," and the trunk is definitely not white. This photo isn't the best (standing under a shade tree on an overcast day) but the trunk is reddish-gold with some black spots.
We were surprised to see that our tree already has a few yellow leaves. Our nighttime temps haven't been cool enough to change the leaves...I suspect the yellow ones are just an anomaly.
We also observed some strange-looking leaves. We pulled them off for further inspection. We couldn't find any insects on these leaves, so we don't know what caused the bumps and discoloring.
We did find insects other places, however. Hi, little guy!
This mosquito hawk was so well-camoflaged, it actually startled me!
We brought some leaves and bark inside to look at them under the microscope. The bark was sparkly, bumpy and whitish under magnification. The leaves were interesting--under 10X they were shiny and we could just make out the cell walls. Under 20X we could see individual cell walls!
The kids did leaf rubbings but weren't happy with how they turned out, so they glued leaves and bark to their notebook pages. Then we visited the Arbor Day Foundation and tried to identify our tree. Based on all the identifiers, we have a water birch (red birch.)
I'm not convinced...our tree is very tall and according to Wikipedia, the red birch is a "shrub or small tree." Also, our tree doesn't match any of the red birch photos that I found.
Oh, well, we'll just have to keep trying to identify our "mystery tree." In the meantime, the rose bush next to it is getting ready for a fall bloom. Dude fashioned a flower press from two heavy books and pressed a rose for his nature notebook.
We'll revisit our tree in September and see how it has changed. Hope you are finding time to enjoy nature, too!