What’s That Tree?

Dear Liza,

The Mystery Tree by Sunnyside School

Since I am retired, I have time to wander around, notice things, ask questions, and actually find out the answers!

Monkey Puzzle Tree

One of the things I have been asking more of lately is “What tree is that?” Your Great Grandma Billie, my Momma, knew the names of just about every tree she ever met. She had thick books on her shelf to help identify trees, flowers, and birds. She and nature were on a first-name basis.

Chestnut tree

I am not that studious, but I am learning. Momma taught me (and I have taught you) how to identify maples by their hand-shaped leaves and helicopter seeds, and magnolias by their shiny hard leaves and bristly seed pods. I had learned the names of most of trees in Salinas… and then we moved to Portland and have a whole new bunch to learn.

Birch, Rhododendron, and tiny Japanese Maples

There are lots of maples here, as well as different kinds of firs, pines, redwoods, and even Monkey Puzzle Trees. I have met the Dawn Redwood, which was known only by fossils here in North America but still alive in Asia. Seeds were sent from China to America after World War II, and it is now living happily in the Hoyt Arboretum and Laurelhurst Park.

Willie, the baby Dawn Redwood

The other day, Auntie Bridgett and I noticed a tall tree by Sunnyside School, and wondered about it. It had leaves almost like a maple, but not quite…and it had FLOWERS. Orange, tulip-like flowers. I was curious, so took some pictures and looked on a few tree identification websites, but got frustrated with the tiny print and confusing questions.

This afternoon, Grandpa Nelson and I took to fold up chairs to the park and sat under a tree by the dog park area to read and watch the dog drama. And guess what tree we sat under? The same tree, with the orange flowers!

So I got out my phone and took some more pictures, and tried again to find a site that would help. I found “Common Trees of the Pacific Northwest” (on the oregonstate.edu website) was easy to use, with pictures of leaf-shapes and short descriptions.

A fallen Yellow-Poplar blossom

Ta-Da! My mystery tree is a Yellow-Poplar tree. Notice, there is a hyphen, which means it is not a true poplar, but a sort of off-shoot. I know what it is called. I know something I didn’t yesterday.

Keep learning, kiddo.

Love, Grandma Judy

Author: Judy

I am a new transplant to Portland from Salinas, a small city in Central California. This is a blog about my new city.

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