Winter Tree Identification Walk Provides Different Perspective at Sylvan Solace

Saturday, February 28 dawned clear and cold, at about 8 below zero. But by the 10 a.m. start time, a hardy group was raring to explore the reaches of Sylvan Solace Preserve to practice tree identification. Central Michigan University student intern Jonathan Breithaupt took the group around the preserve to look at and identify many of the coniferous and deciduous species found there. Armed with his conifer handout, the group began by looking at conifers, paying attention to such details as length and number of needles in a cluster. Bark color and relative smoothness also helped to reveal identities. While most of the deciduous trees had long ago dropped their leaves, some of the younger ones still retained a few. Do you know the medicinal benefits provided by some trees and shrubs?

It has been a particularly cold couple of weeks and it was surprising to discover that much of the Chippewa River along the southern boundary of the preserve is frozen all the way across. A recent snowfall left ample evidence of the wildlife activity throughout the preserve. Large areas under the red oaks had been scraped out by wintering deer to get at the acorns lying beneath the leaves. Tracks of squirrels, rabbits, mice, voles, and what appeared to be river otters were easy to observe.

Conifer trees are the first encountered on the walk

Conifer trees are the first encountered on the walk

Jon promotes the conifer identification key sheet

Jon promotes the conifer identification key sheet

Many kinds of conifers may be found at Sylvan Solace

Many kinds of conifers may be found at Sylvan Solace

Cathy Murray checks "Michigan Trees," one of the recommended books to help with an identification

Cathy Murray checks “Michigan Trees,” one of the recommended books to help with an identification

Jon discusses why many of the young oak trees retain their leaves well into the winter season

Jon discusses why many of the young oak trees retain their leaves well into the winter season

Which conifer is this?

Which conifer is this?

Gary Kramer examines the short, flat needles characteristic of Eastern Hemlock

Gary Kramer examines the short, flat needles characteristic of Eastern Hemlock

Looking to see what critters had been out and about

Looking to see what critters had been out and about

A recent snow cover and bright blue skies made for a nice walk at Sylvan Solace Preserve

A recent snow cover and bright blue skies made for a nice walk at Sylvan Solace Preserve

February 28, 2015 was a nice day for walk at Sylvan Solace

February 28, 2015 was a nice day for walk at Sylvan Solace

One of the scenic overlooks at Sylvan Solace with a winter view of the river

One of the scenic overlooks at Sylvan Solace with a winter view of the river

Looking NW at the frozen Chippewa River along the Sylvan Solace border

Looking NW at the frozen Chippewa River along the Sylvan Solace border

Much of the Chippewa River bordering Sylvan Solace is completely frozen this winter

Much of the Chippewa River bordering Sylvan Solace is completely frozen this winter

The Chippewa River is frozen solid looking SE from the border of Sylvan Solace

The Chippewa River is frozen solid looking SE from the border of Sylvan Solace

One of the few open spots along this portion of the Chippewa River

One of the few open spots along this portion of the Chippewa River

One might walk all the way across the river, but then, how thick is the ice really?

One might walk all the way across the river, but then, how thick is the ice really?