frozen canalThe weather was once again kind to us, this time for our first field trip in winter woody plant ID (trees mostly, and some shrubs). We worked a short bit of the towpath of the (still iced-over) C&O Canal and the B section of the Billy Goat Trail in the Carderock Recreation Area, on the Maryland side of the Potomac just outside of the Beltway. Elizabeth Rives is teaching the class, and she’s started us out with the opposite-branching trees. So we spent time with various maples, ashes, and Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida) today. I found that ID’ing one particular dogwood that wasn’t showing many buds to be a particular stumbling block.

We also looked at a Bitternut Hickory (Carya cardiformis) example, with its strongly yellow buds; the many-synonymed Musclewood (Carpinus caroliniana); Eastern Hophornbeam (Ostrya virginiana), a shaggy-barked catkin-bearing member of the birch family; Hackberry (Celitis occidentalis) with a corky bark that isn’t spongy like an elm. One more opposite-branching shrub was Black Haw Virburnum (Vibirnum prunifolia). Black Walnut (Juglans nigra) is allelopathic, but colonies of PawPaw (Asimina triloba) can tolerate it as a neighbor; the walnuts we saw didn’t look very purplish in the bark to me. The easy-fun tree for everyone was the shrubby Bladdernut (Staphylea trifolia), with its seeds rattling around in capsules that look like a fat man’s pants.

lunch breakWe previewed the oaks, on which we will spend a lot more time later. Bonus tree for the trip was a huge American Linden (Tilia americana). Bonus birds for the trip were a couple of Bald Eagles making their way down the river, seen fairly easily from our lunch break spot up on the rocks.