Identifying trees is thought as a difficult and tedious process to many people. But, you can turn the dull process of identifying trees as another way to connect with your kids and join the beautiful nature. This is an easy hobby that does not cost a lot of money, and can be a lifetime enjoyment for times to come. As with any hobby, it is important to learn the proper way of doing it so that you can maximize the fun of it.
Learn the Basics
Before you can take anyone out and explore the wilderness, you need to learn the basics first. Many of the dichotomous tree identification keys or booklets use common terms. One good website to use is Botanical Online, which defines terms for structures like petiole (which connects leaf and the stem), and shapes such as ovate (which means that the leaf is broader at the bottom; also known as egg-shape).
There are also numerous websites available on internet. I highly recommend website with photos or drawings. In many cases, it is very difficult to understand the descriptions without actually seeing the images. After all, “a picture is worth a thousand words.”
Search for Location and Books
Once you have mastered the fundamental terms, it is now time to buy dichotomous keys or books. Usually, you can find books that are general enough to cover most regions in United States. The prices vary and depend on the content. For instance, I personally used Tree Finder: A Manual for the Identification of Trees by Their Leaves (Nature Study Guides) by May T. Watts (ISBN: 0912550015), and on Amazon, you can purchase this guide for less than four dollars (excluding shipping). Now, this book is cheap because it just contains drawings.
With websites, you need to make sure that the website displays trees in your local area. You have to make sure that whatever trees you choose to identify can be found in the areas you plan to explore. Now, regarding location, I recommend you to pick out a close location, preferably state or national park.
Checking and Practicing
Think of this as a teacher preparing her lesson plan to her students the next day. You should go to the place during the daylight in advance (safe and bright to be able to see leaves) and identify trees on your own. You want to be thorough as possible with this process. If you have a question about certain trees, feel free to ask the park rangers for help or possible booklets with information about species in the park. This will help you to make sure that you have identified the right trees with your keys.
This will also let you to determine how far and long you need to take your kids and family to identify the trees. You do not want to impulsively take them without just knowing how long it will take. Careful checking and practicing will also ensure that the place is safe.
Many people often wonder how they can spend quality times with their family. Everyone can take the family members to the parks, but only some can transform the time to unforgettable memories. Holding hands with your kids and pointing to the trees is one of such ways to develop memories and connect with your kids. I hope that you can take this advice and plan it carefully to try out with your family.