Friday, November 5, 2010

Giant Oak Leaves

Down beneath the cedar canopy, you can find a few oaks that have been sheltered from the cold nights and frosts that we’ve had recently. The leaves look as those on the exposed trees looked two weeks ago. Walking through this tiny shadowed woods is like taking a short trip back through time. This will be my last seasonally colorful foliage this fall. It’s a shame the overcast sky and towering cedars make it so dark here. I’d love to see these leaves have one more sparkle in the sunlight.

The really neat thing about these leaves is their huge size. Leaves growing in shaded areas tend to grow larger in order to make better use of the filtered sunlight they receive. These are the types of leaves I used to collect for elementary school leaf collection projects. The teacher would give us mimeographed sheets with an outlined block in which we were to attach our leaves. Other kids would turn in their projects as a neat little book of pages displaying their leaves. I would turn in a stack of paper with leaves sticking out the edges all the way around. I lost points for neatness and then more points for arguing and finally, a trip to the office.

This looks like the leaf of a Red Oak, Quercus rubra. Most oak species display a wide range of leaf shapes, sometimes on the same tree. This makes leaves unreliable as a sole means of identification.

Buds can help you narrow the possibilities and these buds are pretty Red Oakish. Bud characteristics can also blend between species, so once again they cannot be used as the sole identifier. If you can get some acorns, the identification becomes much easier, but these young trees don’t have any acorns. Bark can also be used to fix an identification, if you’re dealing with an older tree.

Well, I can live without being 100 percent sure on my identifications. I once watched two professional botanists argue over the identification of a tree in the red oak group. I would have believed either one of them without question, but in this case everyone walked away confused. Anyway, I can still admire the beauty of the leaves.


  1. Hi Steve,

    I love the memories that your trips into your nature land. :) I also love the memories of attaching Fall leaves to pieces of paper to take to school.


  2. Hi Steve...sorry that your experiences with the oaks have not all been the principal office visit!!!!!
    We used to put them between to pieces of waxpaper and put the iron to them leaving (no pun intended there) giving them a waxed coat that preserved them for awhile!!
    I bet you did that to!!

  3. Hi, Lois. It seems that most of my school memories are more fun than was the actual experience.

    Hi, grammie g. I remember trying to iron leaves between two pieces of wax paper, but things never seemed to work out the right way.