I know, I know, I stooped to such a base level to get your attention, but it’s worked hasn’t it? The title isn’t that far off from what this month’s challenge is. In the verdant seasons, tree identification is much easier. After all, deciduous trees are covered with their solar panels, namely leaves. In these northern climes, those trees undress and bask nakedly from November through March.
So, how does one identify skeletal trees? Well, the easy way is to ID them during the growing season, but that doesn’t help in February, now does it? The first step I would suggest is to just walk around. Carefully observe bark patterns and texture. For instance, some say sugar maples have “peanut butter valleys.” These would be light brown vertical striations between plates of bark. Black cherry trees appear to have “burnt-potato-chip bark.”
Notice the shape the branches form: is it roundish? tall and narrow? irregular? Simply looking with intent at trees is going to acclimate your eyes to patterns that exist all around your neighborhood.
The second way (and for full disclosure I use it all the time) is to use a guide much like this one. A guide like this one moves you to attend to branches and bark, since the easiest identifier has gone missing.
It does take more effort to ID trees in the winter, especially mature trees which don’t have branches close to your level for examination. Still, with some effort it can be done.