Winter Woody Plant Botany


Explorations of Winter Botany: Handouts

with Conrad and Claudia Vispo
Hawthorne Valley Farmscape Ecology Program

This is a set of handouts we have put together over the years. They are meant to help you ID the common woody plants in our area (Columbia County, NY). Questions, corrections or suggestions are welcome via email or by phone (518 672 7994). Also feel free to send us photos or even real twigs for ID. Good-luck!

Descriptive Outline - provides a summary of the most common types of woody plants we have in the neighborhood together with some ID tips.

Dichotomous Key (use at your own risk) - This is a couplet key to some of our most common woody plants. Despite trying to revise it each year, it still succeeds in confusing. It may be a helpful resource, but don't get stuck on it.

Cheat Sheet - This table is meant to summarize some key characteristics of common trees in winter twigs.

Buds in Winter Images - Few things work better than matching pictures. This is a collection of winter bud images for your perusing enjoyment.

Tree Shapes in Winter - Claudia's blog on identifying trees by their winter profiles.

Woody Plants in Winter: A Self-guided Course (15 Jan. - 20 March 2022) - Combine on-line learning with field visits to Crellin Park and PS21 in Chatham


Additional Resources:

Core & Ammons is my primary winter twigs resources and is free on-line. It has basic but functional diagrams of buds.

However, we’ll be working on ‘whole tree ID’, so the best guide is one that combines information not only on winter buds, but also on twigs, seeds/fruit, bark, leaves and shape.

Our favorite tree ID book remains Trees of the Northern United States and Canada by Farrer, but it can be pricey even when used. 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 good workhouse, but doesn’t have the photos of Farrer.

That said, there are many field guides out there, we’ve not reviewed them all, and each of us has our own way of learning, so, if you’ve already got a favorite tree/woody plant guide, go with it.

Roger McVaugh’s Flora of Columbia County is a great flora and is free on-line – it probably won’t help you much with ID, but it gives you an idea of which plants have been found where in the County; Claudia has been updating this flora and her files are available elsewhere on our web site. For other regions in NY, the New York Flora Atlas provides lists of documented occurences by county.

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.

As an on-line source, gobotany has lots of good information.

A more extended list of local plant references can be found on our plant web page.