ANDERSON — Did you know that Indiana’s state tree is the tulip tree? Would you know one if you saw it? Learn to spot one of those and plenty more next weekend when Mounds State Park offers a fun primer in tree identification. There will be four hikes to choose from during their Tree ID Days when folks can learn how to name a few trees by looking at their leaves.
“They will learn how to identify a tree based on the shape of the leaf and looking at characteristics like veins and lobes,” said Jessica Rosier, interpretive naturalist at the park.
Participants will meet up at the Visitor Center porch before heading out into the park with seasonal naturalist Steve Thompson. The hike will be offered at four different times during the weekend. Choose from an 11 a.m. or 1 p.m. hike either Saturday or Sunday, Oct. 12 and 13.
Thompson said that hikers will learn about 20 trees during the hike. Hikers will learn how to use a tree identification key, and will take one home with them.
“Sometimes it even goes down to how the leaves are arranged on the stem,” said Thompson. He also noted that some of the leaves present a challenge. “Sassafras and mulberry are both trick leaves — each tree produces three different shapes.”
“Sassafras trees tell a really neat story,” said Rosier of her favorite tree. The various shapes of their leaves are described as football, mitten and ghost. Rosier noted that if sassafras leaves are crushed, the oils emit a “Fruit Loops” scent.“The roots are used to make sarsaparilla drink,” said Rosier. “It’s just a really cool tree.”
Thompson noted, “I also like the sweet gum. I like it when you crush the leaf, the smell is wonderful.”
Thompson said that knowing your trees can be a basic survival skill. Some are edible, some are not and some have medicinal properties.
The Tree ID outings are educational, but they’re also a nice opportunity to look at fall colors.
“We’re starting to see the bright red Virginia creeper,” said Rosier. “It’s most easily noticed in a vine climbing up a tree.” She said people often mistake the vine for poison ivy with its leaves of three, but the creeper has five leaves with jagged edges.
“Walnuts are starting to turn,” said Thompson, pointing to the yellow starting to show. He said that once there’s a cold snap, things happen fast. “Our first frost, they start going.” At Mounds, that’s generally going to be the end of October to mid-November. “It just depends how cold it gets how fast,” he said.
Those participating in the Tree ID hikes for a school project are permitted to collect leaves. Thompson encourages participants to bring along an old phone book so leaves can be pressed as you go.
The state has a two-page informational brochure describing 22 trees of central Indiana at http://www.in.gov/dnr/parklake/files/22_trees.pdf.
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If you go: What: Tree ID Days Where: Mounds State Park, 4306 Mounds Rd., Anderson. Meet at the Visitor Center porch. When: Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 12 and 13. Hikes commence at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. both days. More info: The outings are free, but the park entrance fees are $5 per in-state vehicle and $7 out-of-state. Call 649-8128 for more info.