Forage Friday #99 My Best Hardwood ID Tip.

Just a few decades ago I was given some good advice on identifying plants and animals and it came in the form of a question. “Do you need a reference manual to remember your friends faces?” The question was intended to provoke a new attitude in learning all the wildlife in my area.  It’s important to learn the name of a plant and to be able to connect the common names with the scientific name in order to learn the plant’s attributes and how it can be used etc but that’s just data retrieval. If you’re going to know the plant when you see it you’re going to want to know it’s face. 
Social media is an awesome opportunity to network with other enthusiasts and share information about almost everything. And one of the greatest benefits is the ability to post a photo of a plant and crowd source the identity. But there’s something that I’ve noticed around the general public that’s different from the scientific community and that’s that almost nobody looks at the leaf scars when trying to get an ID on a tree or bush. So tonight I’m going to try and introduce you to a couple of easy ones. We’re going to try and keep it simple. No long and complicated scientific names or complex methods of breaking down the more “geeky stuff”. I just want to share a few basic patterns to give you a start in the right direction.

So just like when we first meet our friends we’re going to try and memorize their faces. And when I was first learning how to identity trees by the leaf scar I subconsciously made the scars into a face in my mind. No two species of woody plants have the same “face” but we will see a family resemblance within the same families.

From left to right. Flame Azalea, Mountain Magnolia and Buckeye.

To the right of the page we see three different twigs from my yard. I’ve zoomed in and cropped down the images to isolate the scars from last year’s leaves. What I want you notice is the overall shape of the “face” made by the scars and the pattern of “freckles” on the face.  The freckles are actually what’s left behind by the vascular vessels when the leaves drop off in the Fall. It’s these 2 patterns that are unique to each species of woody plant.

Most people recognize the leaves themselves and that’s a great start but because most of the trees in Appalachia lose their leaves once a year we may not have the leaves to work with when we’re trying to make maple syrup for the first time or collecting the inner bark of a specific bush to treat an infection in a survival situation. But the leaf scar is there all year and is a very reliable marker.

The pattern of distribution is also a great clue in learning the identity of a tree. Mountain Magnolia Twigs in Early Spring

Here is a Mountain Magnolia from my special spot where I like to be still. Notice how the leaf scar seem to spiral around the tree in whorls? Even with leaves gone its easy to envision what the twigs will look like in a few weeks when they’re green again.  The size of the leaf scar also gives a little clue that this tree has some very big leaves. ( Over 12 inches! ) And of course the size of the buds are another clue as seen in the next photo. The Mountain Magnolia Leaf Buds.

I haven’t actually measured the length of the buds but the terminal buds (The ones on the end of a twig.) are about length of my ring finger give or take a knuckle. But the buds just above the leaf scar are absolutely tiny.

Another tree with a huge bud is the Buckeye growing just a few feet away.
You’ll notice from the collage above that the Buckeye has a longer “face” than the  Magnolia. Like the azaleas it’s almost heart shaped the “freckles” tend to follow the margins. In the azaleas the freckles are in the center of the leaf scar and the azaleas have much smaller scars.

The terminal buds of a young Buckeye.

The end buds of the Buckeye are fatter than the Magnolia and almost as long. They’re also pink this time of year but throughout the winter they are brown.

Now let’s compare these two with something much smaller. 

Sugar Maple Buds and scars.

Here’s a sugar maple that popped up a few years ago. The faces are small and kinda hard to see in this photo but they are Crescent shaped and there are 3 freckles. One in the center and one on each end.  We can also see the distribution pattern here is “opposite”. The leaves and twigs occur in pairs on opposite sides and the twigs terminate the three buds.  Now the sugar maples have a cousin on my place and that’s the Box Elder.A young Box Elder showing it’s family resemblance to the Maples.

Now the faces on this twig are difficult to see because of the age of the twigs but they are also Crescent shaped. The buds are also in the opposite pattern and would have three buds on the end of the twigs however the local deer population has decided to sample them.

Willow Leaf Scar


The last example I have for you tonight is a willow twig.  The scar doesn’t really resemble a whole face as much as it does a single large eye. However it is an example of how individual species can have a unique face so that when the leaves are off we can still have a way to identify the tree.

So in closing tonight’s Forage Friday let me plant the idea of taking advantage of the summer by creating a journal and writing your own guide book. Either take a decent photo of both the leaf and last year’s leaf scar or if you’re artistically inclined sketch them. Another good way to preserve the image is a charcoal rubbing of the features. Once you have them you put them in a binder along with details about how to use the different plants.

I’ve only shared the method for learning the identity because once you have that the internet is full of guides that will give you the names of each plant.  You’ll want to take note of where it was growing and in what kind of environment to aid in the ID. Once you know the name and face you can fill in everything else and using a good binder lets you add pages as you learn more. 

Good night friends and be blessed throughout your days.

Wind And Shadows In Late Fall.

Hello Friends! Tonight’s Feature Image is titled “Wind and Shadows 110420” and is available for purchase by clicking the thumbnail and reaching out to me on the contact page.

Old Sol closes his sleepy eyes a little sooner each day and the shadows grow longer. Angry winds shake the forest releasing a blizzard of drying leaves throughout my mountains. The days of the sun are well behind me now and every day the splendor of fall is washed away in the cold rain. And yet here in the shelter of my little home between two mountains a few colorful leaves still cling to branches. They flutter like triumphant little flags waving in defiance of the coming changes. The beech leaves have faded from a rich golden tone to light tan and that is sign for me to prepare my hearth for quiet days by the fire. The season always makes me reminisce of my childhood when the soft purple light fell across the land and a heavy Appalachian quilt was a fine winter cocoon for a day of laying on the couch and watching old reruns on TV. Old black and white westerns provided a connection that spanned the decades between myself and the boy my father was on those days that we watched together. I think about how much things have changed. In those days the fireplace was a heavy iron stove fueled by oak and hickory. In the mornings the first person awake would rekindle the fire from the leftover coals. It wasn’t so odd for a pre-teen to have that responsibility. I remember carefully placing the smaller pieces of wood into place with old newspapers and junk mail and soon the heat from the coals would catch them on fire. As the fire grew we could add a few big pieces of wood. Late fall weekends were special because we could put a pot of stew on that old wood stove and let it slowly simmer all day. The whole house smelled wonderful and by dinner time we just couldn’t wait to dip out a bowl.

Today, my gas fed ceramic log fireplace comes on by itself and the stews are made in 45 minutes in a computerized crock but that feeling of shelter is still the same. I can even broadcast old black and white shows to my smart TV from my smartphone while I lay back in my recliner with my pup on my lap as the wind and shadows shake the leaves outside my window.

Good night friends and be blessed throughout your days.

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Forage Friday #45 Moss

Hello friends! Tonight’s feature image was taken specifically for this article as were all the photos in the post. All of the photos are my original work and are available for purchase by the instructions at the bottom of the article.

Last night I mentioned that the moss was starting to show a bright green of new growth. And that was a little bit of a foreshadowing of tonight’s Forage Friday post.

While not really thought of as a wild edible plant moss is considered to be a medicinal herb.

Some of my first reading on medicinal herbs came from Tom Brown Jr is survival books. He mentions that Stalking Wolf ( his Apache teacher) taught him to bandage wounds with sphagnum Moss. I was pretty intrigued with the idea that A clump of “dirty old moss” could be applied to a wound as a sterile dressing. But it is a historical fact that simple moss has been used to heal wounds since the caveman days. Moss was a major resource for wounded soldiers in World War I and is credited with saving “thousands” of lives. The Cotton had been allocated for uniforms and explosives ( nitrocellulose is made with cotton ) leading a shortage of cotton bandages. So the go to became viles of dried sphagnum moss. The secret it seems, was in the low PH factor of the moss making it impossible for pathogenic bacteria to flourish in the wound. ( I have found conflicting information about the PH of different types of moss. Some sources say that Sphagnum is neutral PH and peat is acidic. I have not taken the time to test this out for myself)

Further reading over the years has revealed that sphagnum was also used for diapers and feminine napkins with the same effect of limiting bacterial growth.

Image Titled “Star Shaped Sphagnum Moss 2120”

There are 12,000 different species of moss! But generally we think about either Sphagnum or Peat. There’s a granite moss in North America that’s red instead of green and it doesn’t seem to mentioned in the medicinal context.

Sphagnum is also said to help a sore throat and again it is probably due to the antimicrobial properties. In fact peat moss has been known to produce mummies in the lands of Celts and we occasionally hear that an anthropologist has been called in to deal with a body that was discovered in a bog.

Image Titled “Moss In Bloom” due to the sporophyte structures.

In the early Spring moss goes into spore and takes on the look of an alien jungle from a 1950s black and white science fiction movie. I always thought that it reminded me of a tiny alien jungle. When I was a kid I would look at the moss and imagine that crew of the Enterprise wading through those funny shaped pods.

Living walls have become popular. While not as effective as a tree, moss along with algae and lichens absorb 14 billion tons of carbon and fix 50 million tons of nitrogen per year. So in urban areas where a person might have nowhere to plant a tree the living wall fills the niche. The simple way this is being done is from mix buttermilk, moss and water retention gel in a blender and paint it on an outside wall. I would suggest that you make it shady spot since the moss doesn’t do well in direct sunlight.

Image Titled “Finding North”.

With the moss preferring to be in the shade and old saying is that it point a North. Well, yes and no. Moss likes shade and the shadiest side of a tree is going to be on the north side of the tree. The truth is that moss can grow on the south side of a tree if it’s shaded enough so the old trick is best used by sampling a number of trees and going with the average and even then it only going to give you a general idea of North.

Finally, the last resource that moss can provide is as a cash crop. In the final image below is only about 3 years worth of growth of moss on my property. When I was housebreaking my pup I leaned that I could train him to go to a large plastic tray like a cat would go to a litter box if I filled the tray with moss. I have since replaced the moss with sawdust for easy clean-up but the point is that moss is a renewable resource and Now that I know that it can be propagated using the buttermilk paint techniques I can seed it in places where I have harvested for a quicker turnaround time. As a child, I had neighbors who would collect and bale dried moss to sell to a buyer for use in potting soil mixes. They never made a living from it but the moss along with other herbs gathered in the forest provided a little extra money for Christmas funds, vacation or just to splurge on the latest desire. What they accomplished by searching the mountains could conceivably be done by seeding the moss in a designated area that’s a little easier for harvest. One might even use the idea to create ready made terrariums for decor.

The Moss I harvested just a few years ago it’s almost ready to harvest again.

Moss in general is a commonly overlooked resource that provides a variety of benefits and I’m certain that I’ve left out a lot but perhaps you have some knowledge that you’d like to share in the comments.

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A Bright Spot In My Day

Hello friends! Tonight’s feature image is titled “A Bright Spot In My Day 82519” and is available for purchase by the instructions at the bottom of the article.

She floats in on the warm breeze as I stand on the edge of my forest just enjoying a few minutes of peace and quiet. Like a living stained glass window her beautiful wings are the color of a summer sunset. The light breeze gently shakes the the purple flowers spreading the sweet scent into the air. The monarch butterfly patiently explores each of the little floretas she searches for a sweet meal. The sun seems to smile with joy at the fluttering wings as she stirs up the sweet smell while is feeding. She’s only there for a moment before the breeze carries her on to her next stop. But a moment is all it takes to make a day better.

Hello Friends and thank you for your support of my page. If you have enjoyed the photos or the writings please let me know by commenting and sharing my work on your social media. I also want to invite you to Follow Lloyds Lens Photography on Facebook

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Did you know that I also do portraits by appointment? If you’re interested in a portrait session either message me on Facebook or Use the Contact form. The YouTube link below takes you one of my slideshows.

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I’m now using Zazzle to fulfil orders. What this means for you is a secure way to place an order, discount codes & a broader product selection! Simplymessage me on Facebookoruse the contact form on my websiteand tell me which image you want and I’ll reply with a direct link to where you can place the order.

Clicking on the photo takes you tohttps://www.zazzle.com/lloydslensphotos?rf=238248269630914251Lastly, all of the photos and writings are my original work unless otherwise specified and are not to be copied or reproduced without expressed written permission from the photographer.

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A Trip To The Lake At Winter Pool

Hello friends! Tonight’s feature image is titled “Summersville Lake 12819” and is available for purchase by the instructions at the bottom of the article.

The empty lake waits longingly for days of warm sun and noisy laughter echoing from its canyon walls. Today, only a few dedicated kayaks tread it’s waters. Some are taking advantage of the the better fishing opportunity that comes with winter pool and others just seek the peaceful solitude of the open water and rocky shores.

Somewhere beyond the bridge a whitetail deer leaves hoofprints in a place where a catfish once laid on the bottom waiting for nightfall.

Image Titled “Lake Sirens 1”

Tree stumps gather on the rocks and fire the imagination with thoughts of sirens calling out for Odysseus to come just a little closer.

Image Titled “Lake Dragon With Long Tail “

Just below the sirens a dragon with a long tail sleeps on a rock shelf guarding a treasure that washed away in ages past.

I sat there in my big blue truck for several minutes wondering how many more stories could be found on the empty lake bottom but the road calls for me to move beyond the murky world of the lake bottom and finish my errands. Perhaps on the next trip I’ll find the answer.

Hello Friends and thank you for your support of my page. If you have enjoyed the photos or the writings please let me know by commenting and sharing my work on your social media. I also want to invite you to Follow Lloyds Lens Photography on Facebook

If you would like to Follow me on Facebook the web address is

https://www.facebook.com/aviewfromthelens/

If you’re enjoying my blog and don’t want to miss a post then you can sign up for email alerts on my website.

https://lloydslensphotographyllc.com/

Did you know that I also do portraits by appointment? If you’re interested in a portrait session either message me on Facebook or Use the Contact form. The YouTube link below takes you one of my slideshows.

https://youtu.be/FDcrY6w8oY8

Have you checked out the Zazzle Store?

I’m now using Zazzle to fulfil orders. What this means for you is a secure way to place an order, discount codes & a broader product selection! Simplymessage me on Facebookoruse the contact form on my websiteand tell me which image you want and I’ll reply with a direct link to where you can place the order.

Clicking on the photo takes you tohttps://www.zazzle.com/lloydslensphotos?rf=238248269630914251Lastly, all of the photos and writings are my original work unless otherwise specified and are not to be copied or reproduced without expressed written permission from the photographer.

Thank you again for your support of my page!❤