In winter, the beautifully shaped foliage we rely on in the warmer months for identification of trees is gone. So what happens in the winter months? Do we lose sight of which tree is which? A fun way to ID a handful of trees in winter is to scratch and sniff! Scratch off a bit of the outer bark to reveal the fragrance of the inner branch.
If it is a birch you are struggling with, and it smells like wintergreen, then it is a black or yellow birch. Young black cherry trees give off an almond scent that will make you want to take a deep breath in. Pin cherry (an early successional species) also have an almond like smell. When you take a whiff of the inner bark of a sassafras tree in deep winter, the smell of root beer will overwhelm your senses and for a moment you may think it is summertime. Spicebush has, take a guess… a spicy, citrusy smell; it’s similar to sassafras but its twig is more robust and often green colored.
As we patiently wait for the buds to break open and the leaves to emerge, have fun honing your tree ID skills with memorable scents!