Here in the San Bernardino Mountains there are so many trees…sometimes it can be hard to tell them apart. But have no fear…I have your tree guide here!
First, let’s take a closer look at our tree and the parts that we can use to help with our identification. Trees have bark that cover and protect the outside of the tree. Bark can come in a variety of colors and textures so it can be a useful tool when identifying trees. The leaves on a tree can also be very telling. There shape, size, and color can help us decipher our trees. Finally, we can use the fruits or seeds the trees produce to identify them. Acorns, pine cones, and seeds oh my!
Let’s start with the leaves, the trees we have here on the mountain are going to have either broad leaves or needles. Broad leaves are most commonly found on deciduous trees, or trees that lose their leaves seasonally. While trees with needles are most commonly evergreen trees. Trees that lose their leaves throughout the year instead of all at once. Here on the mountain the majority of our trees are evergreen and we have quite a few so lets start out simple…with our deciduous trees.
We have two native deciduous trees here and we can easily tell them apart by taking a closer look at their leaves! The shape of the leaf can tell us what tree we are looking at. The broadleaf deciduous trees you will run into up here will either have hand shaped leaves or lobed leaves. Hand shaped leaves originate from our California Black Oaks, while the lobe shaped leaves originate from our Pacific Dogwoods. Our dogwoods produce a glorious show for us each spring as they flower! On the other hand our black oaks shine in the fall as they drop their golden leaves everywhere.
Now onto the evergreens! First, let’s take a look at the needles and how they grow. Needles can grow in bundles of three or five. These bundles are also called fascicles. Trees with five needles are a part of the White Pine family. Here in our neck of the woods the only White Pines we have are Sugar Pines. Sugar Pine trees produce some of the longest pinecones I have ever seen! While trees with five needles are a part of the Yellow Pine family. We have three yellow pines in our forest. One that is easy to pick out is the Coulter Pine, because it has massive, heavy pinecones, the largest of any other pine tree! The Jeffrey Pine and Ponderosa Pine can be a little trickier to distinguish. They both have bark that looks very similar to puzzle pieces. Your best bet is to find a pinecone and roll it between your palms. If the pinecone is very prickly, it most likely came from a Ponderosa. However, if the pinecone is fairly gentle then it most likely came from a Jeffrey.
Many of our trees have leaves that do not grow in fascicles, some even have needles that grow directly off the branch! These trees are fir trees, more specifically White Fir. White Fir needles can even provide a tasty little snack…the contain vitamin C, so if you chew one up it like your eating an orange! Additionally, some of the trees in our glorious forest have flat, scale like needles. These segmented and continually branching needles belong to an Incense Cedar Tree. Just as its name suggests, if you crumple up the leaves a bit you get a wonderful scent!
You are the only exception(not really)…here in the San Bernardino mountains we have a tree called a Canyon Live Oak, which is an evergreen tree with broad leaves. These can be found along steep slopes and regenerate very fast after forest fires! If we just use our brain we can identify all of these trees with not one bit of pain!
Needles- from nat handbook