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Mr. Smarty Plants - Photographing and Identifying trees of Long Island

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Saturday - June 01, 2013

From: Wantagh, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: Plant Identification, Trees
Title: Photographing and Identifying trees of Long Island
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

After being in a car accident I got into photography as sports are a distant memory due to my injuries. As a new hobby I thought of taking pictures of trees and then finding out their species name. Approximately how many different trees are home to LI? Also, can this be done as far as my previous statement of naming my pictures of trees around LI. I thought this was a Long Island site but your help would be appreciated. I do not see any sites that ID trees of the Northeast.

ANSWER:

There is a way to get a list of all the trees on Long Island searching the USDA Plants Database by counties.  According to Wikipedia, there are four counties on Long Island—Kings (Brooklyn), Queens, Nassau and Suffolk.

Go to the USDA Plants Database.  Select "Advanced Search" from the Search menu on the left side of the Home page.  On the "Advanced Search and Download" page under Part A:  PLANTS Core Data choose "New York:Bronx" under "County Distribution"  and scroll down and, using the "Control" key, choose "Nassau", "Queens" and "Suffolk" in 1.  Distribution.  In 2.  Taxonomy under "Scientific Name" to the right of "Rank", leave a check in "Genus" and "Species" only and remove the check beside "Subspecies", "Variety", "Subvariety" and "Forma."   Also, put a check in the "Display" box beside "National Common Name".  Next, under 3.  Ecology select "Tree" under "Growth Habit" and put a check mark in the "Display" box.  Next, you can leave it set at "Any" under "Native Status" to get all trees that are recognized as growing on Long Island or you can choose "North American Native" under "Native Status" to get only North American native trees.  Either way you should put a check mark in the "Display" box next to the "Native Status" box.  Scroll down to the end of Part A (just before the beginning of Part B:  Characteristics Data) and click on the yellow box that says "Display Results".

If you search for all trees, both native and introduced, this will give you a list of 219 trees.  If you limit the search to only native North American species, the list has 152 trees.

Here are some website tree identification databases:

Arbor Day Foundation "What Tree is That?"   This site separates the trees into two groups: western species and a combined eastern and central species.  You can view all the trees in either category by either their common or scientific names or you can use their dichotomous key that begins with leaf type.  They have line drawings of leaves, seeds and other important features of each.   This organization also sells pocket field guides, What Tree is That?  The site certainly doesn't show all possible species that are on the list above nor do they give a distribution map or indicate if the tree is native or introduced, but it is a place to start.

Cornell University has a downloadable:  Know Your Trees.   it has keys to common eastern trees.

RealTimeRendering has an online Tree Identification program using leaf shapes of Northeastern and Central North America.   It also has suggestions for books and other online identification sources.

What Tree Is It?  from Ohio Public Library information Network uses leaf type, fruit or ID by name–common or scientific.

You can find more websites by googling "tree identification."

Here are some books that are available:

Williams, Michael.  2007.  Identifying Trees: An All-Season Guide to Eastern North America.  Stackpole Books.

Symonds, George.  1973.  Tree Identification Book : A New Method for the Practical Identification and Recognition of Trees.  William Morrow Paperbacks.

Sibley, David.  2009.  The Sibley Guide to Trees.  Knopf Doubleday.

DeGraaf, Richard and Paul Sendak.  2006.  Native and Naturalized Trees of New England and Adjacent Canada: A Field Guide.   University Press of New England.

Kershner, Bruce et al.  2008.  National Wildlife Federation Field Guide to Trees of North America.  Sterling.

Little, Elbert.  1987.  National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees: Eastern Region.  Knopf.

Usher, Carol et al.  2005.  Trees (Eyewitness Companions Series).  DK Publishing.

You can find many more available at Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

Photographing all 219 trees (or even the 152 native trees) that occur on Long Island is a formidable task.   Plus, none of the guidebooks will have all of the species in them.  However, you can begin with the common ones and work your way to the less common ones.  it is a challenging project but should be very satisfying.

Best of luck with it!

 

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