My search for wild trees to identify took me to the Olentangy Trail. This is where I found all but one of the trees listed on this page.  The Olentangy trail has no shortage of biodiversity and finding some good trees took very little time. Being along the bank of a river likely both protects the trees from the city developing right over them and provides them with water and nutrients that drier areas might not be able to provide. All of the trees here were found on the river side of the Olentangy trail except for the first tree, which was actually found in Pennsylvania and was my favorite tree near my home, even though I did not even know what it was!

Red Oak (Quercus rubra)

Although this tree was found in the hilly suburbs of Pennsylvania, it is very common in Ohio so I am not completely rebelling against the intent of this class. The leaves are alternately arranged and simple.  They have a lobed shape that ends in a pointed bristle, and one main vein that smaller veins branch off of. The leaves also have no hair, which distinguishes the tree from a black oak. The tree itself is very large and good for climbing. It is incredible, given I used to play on this tree how “tree-blind” I really was.  I simply never bothered to identify this tree I liked. I am glad that has been amended.  According to Gribko and Jones (1995), the “float method” is a common way that people check the quality of acorns and determine if the acorn has an insect infestation or other problems.  When acorns are put in water, those that sink are considered good to plant and the ones that float are not.  Gribko and Jones tested this idea and found that it was in fact a reliable method!

White Mulberry (Morus alba)

The leaves on this tree are alternately arranged, simple, and serrated.  Identification of this tree was tricky for me because I did not originally realize the leaves are also fan-veined meaning multiple large veins come from the base of the leaf.  The white mulberry can be distinguished from the red because its leaves are not hairy. I was very unaware of how many mulberry trees there were on the trail, and how variable their leaves can look.  I thought for sure a mulberry tree with lobed leaves would be a different species but it wasn’t! According to WebMD, White mulberry is a common food of silkworms, and it was very common for those wanting to sell silk to plant white mulberry, it was even the reason the tree was first brought to America!

Honey Locust (Gleditsia triacanthos)

Honey locusts have alternately arranged pinnately compound leaves.  The leaflets are then also pinnately compound. The branches have large, branching thorns. I have always thought of the insect when I hear the name locust, not the tree, even though the tree is the species that actually lives in this region. Honey locusts do not actually do anything to help honey bees with the production of.. honey according to  Pretty disrespectful if you ask me.  The sweet snack they do supply comes in the form of the pulp of their seed pods.

Horn Beam (Ostrya virginiana)

Horn beam leaves are alternately arranged, simple, serrated, and feather-veined.  The twigs have singular end buds.  The bark is rough and “shreddy” which distinguishes this tree from an ironwood. says the leaves can be used as compresses to stop bleeding, and that the bark can be used to make yellow dye.

Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis)

The clearest way to identify a sycamore is by looking at its unique bark, it will be patchy with a white base and darker brown layers.  It will also be huge.  The leaves are alternately arranged, simple, and shallowly lobed, and pointy at the edges. The veins in the leaves are fanned. Sycamores are a tree species that I have not been blind to.  This is mainly because of the amount of hassle owning a couple caused my family because of the amount of bark and leaves they would drop. The saying in the household was “sycamores will do everything but throw up on your lawn.” A commonly told Bible story tells of Zacchaeus climbing a sycamore tree to try to see Jesus and being given salvation for his faith.  Apparently, this sycamore tree is believed to still be standing (though not alive), according to, it has become a popular tourist attraction.

White Oak (Quercus lyrata)

White oaks have the alternately arranged, simple, lobed leaves that other oaks share.  The edges of the leaves are not pointy and do not end in a bristle. There is no hair on either the leaves or the twigs.  The lobes should also be even on both sides. According to WebMD, the tannins in white oak bark tea can help treat inflammation!

Sandbar Willow (Salix interior)

This shrub is a willow, but a more specific classification is tricky and less certain.  Willows are identified by their long, thin leaves that are alternately arranged and simple. This is likely a sandbar because the plant is upright, the leaves are hairless, clearly alternate, and have very subtle teeth on the edge. I was not aware that willows could be shrubs like this, generally, the image that comes to mind when thinking of a willow is the big weeping willow tree and not much else. According to, the flowers can be used by bees to make high-grade honey and the plant itself is useful for maintaining riverbanks

Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua)

The sweetgum has very distinctive star-shaped leaves that make classification pretty easy. The leaves are also alternately arranged, simple and lobed. They should have a nice smell when crushed. These leaves were very recognizable to me, I was able to remember seeing these trees everywhere, but would never have been able to identify them as sweetgums until now. mentions this tree used to be made into soaps and adhesives and the wood is currently good for furniture.