A beguiling tree and Mama Nature’s Index

Posted on May 5, 2012


Most of my greatest pleasures have something to do with wandering around in the woods and fields of Antrim County, dipping down to the creeks and the riverbanks, peering into the depths of the lakes, walking the shores of Grand Traverse Bay. I keep an eye out for wildflowers, clouds, birds, furry critters, salamanders, trees, rocks . . . you get the idea. I like to take their pictures, and I like to compare, say, the first Trillium Sighting of 2012 with the first of 2011 and 2010 and so on.

I thought it would be nice to have an index page for easy reference. Where was that Indian Pipe anyway, and when was it in bloom? Don’t we have a picture of a funny little orchid around here somewhere? And then there are the Mystery Plants – and the ones that are no mystery but that I can’t seem to capture. I can ask you about those. You might have answers, or you might have photos that you’d like to contribute to the cause. You can check out Mama Nature’s Index Page here. Feedback will be most welcome, as I’d like to make it useful for all of us.

And now for a Mystery Tree.  [Update:  I think it’s a European White Birch, Betula pendula.]

When I was in Elk Rapids the other day playing around with a borrowed little camera (thanks, Babs!) I happened upon this beguiling specimen.

Not a gray birch but probably a European white birch (a/k/a European weeping birch – Betula pendula

I thought it was a very attractive tree, sort of a cross between a weeping willow and a paper birch. The markings on the bark were striking.

The leaves were just beginning to emerge. Apparently the catkins bud as upright little candles.  [Update: wrong again.  The upright catkins are female flowers, the drooping ones male.]

When they grow heavy enough they form dangling flowers.  [Update: wrong.  See above.]

Everything I think I know about this tree I learned by using a Tree Identification Key from Michigan State University’s Forestry Department. When I arrived at the Gray Birch there was a link to the USDA Plants database where there were several useful images and more information on Betula populifolia Marsh. That’s my semi-educated guess. I will be pleased to hear if you have a better one.  [Update: I clearly should have worked harder on this before pressing Publish.  The story of my life.  I have now added two new sources and am reasonably sure the tree is a European White Birch, a/k/a European weeping birch, Betula pendula.  Sigh.  I should go back to posting “Tiny pink flower” and “Large brown bird” identifications.]

Useful tree identification sites: