Woody Plants in Winter - A Self-guided Course

at Crellin Park (Chatham), Dec. 2020 - Feb. 2021

snow covered tree branch

Starting in December 2020 and continuing through February 2021, you will be able to learn to identify common trees and shrubs in winter by visiting our self-guided tour at Crellin Park (Chatham). The course will be given in three installments. Each segment will have an introductory video and learning materials. Crellin Park is a public town park open to all.


This is a course to help you identify woody plants in Winter. It has an on-line, digital component and a set of field materials for you to visit in person. So, download or view the below course materials and then head out to Crellin Park (directions here) and start visiting the trees!


Course Materials

Note that you can do the installments one at a time or all at once. Just because you didn't do the December installment in December doesn't mean you can't do it now. The first flags (pink) are still out there, they have now just been joined by the yellow flags of the next batch.


Installment #1 (December 2020):

(If you have any problems with downloads, please let me know)

  • Watch this video introducing our general approach and the first trees we will learn (our "First Friends"); this video, filmed at Crellin Park, will walk you through each tree, providing identification tips and sometimes a little bit of history.
  • Download the first deck of ID cards (.pdf; see below, this set only contains cards for the first nine trees; these cards are not in the same order as the flagged trees, in case you want to use all flagged trees as a self-quiz).
  • Download this map (.pdf) showing the location of the flagged trees at Crellin Park.
  • Visit Crellin Park and start looking for those pink, numbered flags. There are 15 flagged trees in the first set - these include nine study trees (labelled #1-9) whose identifications are on the backside of the map plus six additional flagged trees (labelled as Q #10-15) which are meant for self-quizzing. Quiz answers are below; these are all species included in your study trees.
  • Identifications of the December quiz trees (.pdf); don't open until you've done the field quiz!


Installment #2 (January 2021)

  • Watch this video. As with the first video, this one will walk you through the next batch of flagged trees at the Park, now bedecked in yellow.
  • Download the second batch of ID cards (.pdf, this contains the ID cards for both the first and second installments, however the page numbers are not in the same order as the flag numbers, in case you want to do all flagged trees as a self-quiz.) If you have already printed out the first set of ID cards and want only the second batch, those can be downloaded here.
  • Download this map (.pdf), it shows the locations of all flagged trees at the Park (including those of the first installment). It also provides the identifications of all flagged study trees, including those of the first batch.
  • Visit Crellin Park and start looking for those yellow, numbered flags. There are 16 flagged trees in the second batch - these include 10 study trees (labelled #16-25) whose identifications are on the second page of the map plus six additional flagged trees (labelled as Q #26-31) which are meant for self-quizzing. Quiz answers are downloadable below.
  • Identifications of all the quiz trees to date (.pdf), don't peak! These are all species included in your study trees, but the second set of quiz trees includes some species from the first batch (we don't want you forgetting those).



General Schedule:

Two weeks or so after the first installment goes 'live' in pink, the second installment of yellow flags will go up and the accompanying materials will be posted. The first flags will, however, not be removed, so late comers are welcome to do installments 1 and 2 at the same time. Two or three weeks after the second installment, the green flags and the materials for the third and final installment will become available. Each installment will be marked with a different color of flagging. These flags, together with those of installments one and two, will stay up until the end of February, when all flagging is finally removed.


A Note on the ID Cards:

Notice that the virtual stack of ID cards is cumulative. In other words, the deck for installment #1, includes only the first nine trees. But the deck for installment #2 includes those nine trees plus the ten additional trees for installment #2. Finally, the deck for installment #3 will include the cards for all three installments. This is done so that you are not overwhelmed with unfamiliar trees from the get go, but, at the same time, you have a single source for your growing knowledge bank.

In the sad spirit of the moment, we are presenting this all virtually. Our goal is that you will be able to complete this course on your own with the help of a smart phone or tablet. Of course, you can also download and print out materials at home. We also have a few of ye olde hard copies of the ID cards. These are plasticized and available on loan or for purchase (at cost for $20). Contact me if you would like to arrange for the well-distanced Chatham pick up of a set.


Questions and Problems:

I AM GLAD TO HELP! Email me with questions or problems. If you're struggling with an unknown tree, please send a close-up photograph of its buds.

I NEED YOUR HELP! I will try to visit the route regularly to make sure all flags are still in place. However, if you are convinced a flag is missing, please email me and let me know which number has gotten lost. Wind, ice, squirrels, etc. can all work to remove flagging. Also, if you notice the inevitable mistake(s?) in the materials or just have questions or comments, please don't hesitate to get in touch.


Additional Resources:

We have offered various versions of this course over the years (but never in a self-guided mode), and so we have a general resources page that provides some additional cheat sheets and images that we have created. Below is a listing of some of our favorite resources created by others. We each have our own way of learning, so take a look at several field guides and find what works best for you.

  • Core & Ammons is what I used when first trying to learn winter buds and is free on-line. It has basic but functional diagrams of buds, but it doesn't give you such a good idea of the whole tree.
  • Unless you already know your summer trees well, it's probably best to start out with a book that has information not only on winter buds, but also on twigs, seeds/fruit, bark, leaves and form. A little ecology and use information would be great too. Our favorite all-around tree ID book remains Trees of the Northern United States and Canada by Farrer, but it can be expensive even when used.
  • Trees of the Eastern and Central United States and Canada by Harlow is an oldie but a goodie. It doesn't have the range maps and color images of Farrar, but the B&W images are functional, and it contains much good information; it's also cheaper. It was my first general tree guide.
  • The Peterson Field Guide to Trees and Shrubs: Northeastern and north-central United States and southeastern and south-central Canada by Petrides is also a fine workhouse; the older edition with trees AND shrubs seems more useful to me, because it includes those shrubs, unlike the previous two books.
  • We would highly recommend that if you use a smart phone or ipad, you download the free VTree app for apple or android; it can be used off-line and has plenty of good images and ID info.
  • The Northern Forest Altas project provides tremendous, free on-line resources. Their web site is worth some dedicated browsing. Most immediately applicable to this course is probably their free downloadable bud poster. You'll recognize some of those images from our bud cards, since they graciously permitted us to use them.


Thanks, I hope you have fun - Conrad (conrad@hawthornevalleyfarm.org).