Detective work

Center offers tree identification workshop

Matt Watkeys, the forester for Marquette and Alger counties conservation districts, shows participants on snowshoes how to identify trees at Presque Isle Park. (Journal photo by Corey Kelly)

MARQUETTE — Do you have a hard time telling the trees apart after they lose their leaves? The Moosewood Nature Center invited families to their facility Saturday at Presque Isle Park in Marquette to learn about tree identification during the educational event Winter Tree Detectives, led by Matt Watkeys, forester for the Marquette and Alger counties conservation districts.

“I think it’s a good opportunity to get people to be excited to get outside, too,” Watkeys said. “Not just coming out here to just see the park, but actually do something when you are in the woods, observe a few things and learn a lot about your woods.”

Watkeys gave a brief presentation inside the center before leading participants outside where they strapped on snowshoes and headed around the center to look for different types of trees.

“Since the deciduous trees lose their leaves, it’s hard to tell what they are when they don’t have leaves on them,” Watkeys said.

He gave participants many tips and tricks to help them identify trees. Besides leaves, trees leave clues to their identity in their twigs, cones, seeds, bark, location and shape. Owning a field guide is a great resource if you are just getting started. It can help you narrow down all the possibilities.

“You can use the site that the tree is growing to help identify it,” Watkeys said. “Is the wetland site very wet, or is the upland very dry? Is it rich soil, or very sandy soil? That will definitely help you identify trees.”

For example, sugar maples like somewhat dry areas, whereas red maples like to grow in somewhat wet areas.

Watkeys also helped participants identify different types of evergreens, or conifers, by looking at the differences in their needles, bark and cones. A tip that can help tell the difference between a red pine and a white pine is to look at the number of needles in a bundle. Red pine will have three needles and white will have five, just like the amount of letters in the trees’ names.

“Tree types that are growing here can tell you a lot about the ecosystem and environment around, and also what kind of habitat it provides for local animals,” Watkeys said.

Tiffany Rantanen, board member for Moosewood, hopes to have another session about tree identification in the fall. Moosewood is open Friday through Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. or by appointment. For more information about the Moosewood Nature Center, visit or call 906-228-6250.

Corey Kelly can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 243.