The Pines: genus Pinus
Pines as a group are quickly recognized. I find it hard to keep the different species straight, but they are not in fact hard to identify by leaf, bark and cone. Unlike almost every other tree in this book, pines do not produce fruit, but bear their seeds naked on scales in cones. They belong to a group called Gymnosperms (naked seed), as opposed to Angiosperms (vessel-seed). Although it is trivial to do so, you must differentiate between pines and other conifers in the region: firs, Douglas firs, spruces, yews, junipers, tamaracks, Metasequoia, cedars, and even bald cypresses in Mt. Auburn Cemetary. Local pines have tough needle-shaped leaves, that grow in bunches of two to five. Their cones are woody, their leaves evergreen.

Scientific Name: Pinus rigida (PIE·nus rigid·uh) "stiff pine"
Common Name: Pitch Pine.
Family: Pinaceae (pin-NAY-see-ee)
Bark: Exfoliating dark brown plates.
Buds:
Distinctive Characteristics:
Distribution: Native to this area. Not normally cultivated.
Flowers:
Cone: Sessile, woody, 6 cm long and 4.5 cm wide when scales open. The seeds, borne in pairs on scales, are 15 mm long including wing.
Habit: In woods, d.b.h. rarely more than eight inches. Tall, somewhat scraggly. In open places, more compact, but still much scragglier than White Pine.
Habitat: Dry woods, mixed with oak.
Leaves: Needles in fascicles of three, 5 to 10 cm. long, somewhat twisted. Lightish green.
Similar trees
Twigs: Stoutish, very rough from leaf scars.
Pinus rubra
Scientific Name: Pinus strobus (PIE·nuss STROE·bus)
Common Name: (Eastern) white pine.
Family: Pinaceae (pin-NAY-see-ee)
Bark: Smooth, thinnish, green-brown when young. In flat exfoliating red-brown blocks when mature.
Buds:
Distinctive Characteristics: Foliage, cones.
Distribution: All over the area. Native.
Flowers: Cone: Long, more papery than other trees', and more loosely constructed.
Habit: Long trunk, smallish branches in whorls. A symmetrical tree when not injured or pruned by the phone company. Grows as tall or taller than any other tree in the Northeast.
Habitat: Dryish woods, although occasionally in wet sections of woods. Widely cultivated, but not a city tree.
Leaves: Blue-green to green, 3"-5" long, slender, in fascicles of five. The foliage of this tree is finer textured than that of most pines, even from a distance.
Similar trees The most easily identified pine of this area.
Twigs:
Scientific Name: Pinus sylvestris (PIE·nuss sill·VEST·ris) "woodland pine"
Common Name: Scotch Pine.
Family: Pinaceae (pin-NAY-see-ee)
Bark: Orange on upper branches.
Buds:
Distinctive Characteristics: Bark.
Distribution: Introduced from Europe. May appear in woods, but mostly in cultivation, which is not that often.
Flowers:
Fruit:
Cones:
Habitat: Tolerates sandy soil quite well.
Leaves:
Similar trees
Twigs:
The Plane Trees: genus Platanus
Scientific Name: Platanus occidentalis (PLAT·uh·nus OCCident·AY·lis) "Western Plane Tree"
Common Name: Eastern Sycamore. (Yes, this does conflict oddly with scientific name.)
Family:
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Twigs:
The Poplars: genus Populus
Populus provides only a few species in our area. Only the aspens--trembling and bigtoothed--will be at all difficult to identify. These are rapid growing trees, that invade disturbed areas, tend to grow in groups, and have short lives. The exception is Populus deltoides, much more common in the Connecticut River valley than in the east, which grows to considerable size. All of the species of Populus in this area have laterally flattened petioles, which make the leaves flutter very easily in the wind. Chewing the twigs, especially if you taste them on the rear portion of the tongue, is amazingly like chewing aspirin, and just as pleasant. The young trees have smooth, whitish or greenish bark that is quite distinctive. From a distance aspens look rather like birches.

Scientific name Populus alba
Common Name: White Poplar, Abele
Family: Salicaceae. (sal-ick-AY-see-ee)
Bark:
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Distribution: Weedy tree from the Old World. Rare.
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Leaves: White wooly beneath, glossy green above.
Similar trees
Twigs:
Scientific Name: Populus grandidentata
Common Name: Bigtooth Aspen, Bigtooth Poplar
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Scientific Name: Populus deltoides
Common Name: Cottonwood. So named because of the profusion of windborne cotton-winged seeds released in June.
Family: Salicaceae. (sal-ick-AY-see-ee) The Willow Family.
Bark: Light to medium grey-brown. Ridged.
Buds: Brown, pointed, 2 cm. long.
Distinctive Characteristics: Leaf.
Distribution: Native. Not a common tree, except locally.
Flowers:
Fruit: A raceme (3 inches long) of capsules, ripening in the spring, releasing airborne seeds with silky hairs.
Habit: In river valleys (Connecticut River, for example) grows into a large tree. Generally has branches further down trunk (when small) than any other Populus.
Habitat: In waste places, rarely cultivated. Most common near water, especially along large rivers.
Leaves: Alternate, serrate (blunt teeth), cordate to triangular, with attenuate tip. Flattened petiole.
Similar trees Other poplar leaves are much rounder.
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Scientific Name: Populus nigra
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Scientific Name: Populus tremuloides
Common Name: quaking aspen, trembling aspen
Family: Populaceae
Bark:
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Habit: Upright, fairly slender, with small slender branches.
Habitat:
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Similar trees P. grandidentata is quite similar. It can be distinguished by the coarse teeth on the leaves: the bigtooth aspen has fewer than one tooth per centimeter of leaf margin, while the trembling aspen has more than one tooth per centimeter.
Twigs:
Copyright © 1989, 1997, 2005 Brian Laurence Hughes
Last modified: 2005 Mar 19 at 20:31 EST

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