Are all trees alike?
Although trees are big, woody plants,
they fall into two very different categories: coniferous
Conifer means cone-bearing. Conifers are
all Gymnosperms and their leaves resemble needles (spruce)
or scales (junipers). The vast majority of conifers
retain their needles in winter and remain green all
year-round. This is the origin of the term evergreen.
There is one exception to this cycle: the tamarack,
also known as larch, loses its needles every fall. Coniferous
trees are also referred to as softwoods and their sap
is generally resinous and aromatic.
In Canada, the deciduous trees shed their
leaves in the fall, often after having passed through
a typical colored phase . Deciduous means falling off
or shedding seasonally. In the fall, as days become
shorter, photosynthesis gradually stops and the chlorophyll
moves from the leaves to other parts of the trees. The
leaves then display the other colors, hidden by the
green color during summertime. In Canada, the only exception
to this is the arbutus tree of the Pacific coast which
keeps its leaves all year. Deciduous trees are also
referred to as hardwoods and, as in the case of the
maple, their sap is often sweet and tasty.
Trees are most easily identified by their
leaves. Everyone recognizes the difference between conifer
needles and deciduous leaves. With a little observation
of leaf shapes and structures, everyone can also easily
identify most Canadian trees species.
Simply gathering leaves can be an interesting
activity. If you plan an excursion in a wooded area,
bring along two books: an identification guide for plants
and trees, and an unused hard-covered book. This will
serve as a protection for the leaves which you will
place individually between the pages. Be sure to have
a big elastic band or some other means of closing the
book while you carry it.
In the summertime, the leaves you gather
will help identify the trees once you are back at home
if you haven't been able to do so on the spot. You can
start a herbarium
by delicately placing them on blotter or any other kind
of absorbent paper. Collect different plants specimens
and note the date, location of harvest, general surroundings
information and, of course, the common and Latin name
of the species, all of which can be found in an identification
Sometimes it is forbidden to engage in
gathering activities. An interesting alternative is
to sketch the leaves, bark and branch pattern of the
trees you have observed in a logbook or sketchbook.
In the fall, it is a lot of fun to collect
beautiful colored leaves just for their magnificent
range of colors. Choose those that are still soft and
supple. Squeeze them between blotter paper, stack under
heavy books or bricks and store in a warm, dry place
for two weeks. You will then have beautifully pressed
leaves with which you can do whatever you want.
Did you know that you can plant some
tree seeds inside and they will become beautiful house
plants? For example, grapefruit, orange and lemon seeds
will grow to become beautiful house plants. Sow the
seeds in clean, rich soil about 3cm deep and in 3 to
five weeks, the small plants will emerge. You can even
try your luck with exotic seeds like papayas, litchis
and passion fruit.