Can’t See the Trees for Wood

Last week, a wildlife agency said that 80% people in Britain couldn’t recognise ash trees from the leaves and only half could identify oaks.

What chance, then, does Elisabeth Wheeler have for recognition of species from her database of thin sections of timber? See the whole database of more than 35,000 images from 200 plant Families at

Magnolia flowers are more familiar –

549814_10151337276056398_1218015499_n   th-3

And maybe Van Gogh had a better chance with his olive trees being recognised:

58520_10151346763456398_100182938_n   th-6  th-5

The second and third pictures above (the black and white ones) show thin sections of olive timber magnified about x100 under a microscope.

577157_10151325661071398_418011321_n   th-4

Here, the second picture shows cells of pine timber, a transverse section across one whole year’s growth, the third picture is a longitudinal section showing the length of the cells. Their size reflects the rate of growth, itself dependent on the weather. This is why the study of tree rings, dendrochronology, can help reconstruct past climates.

One comment on “Can’t See the Trees for Wood

  1. weggieboy says:

    I live in Nebraska, the home of Arbor Day. There are more trees here now than when people migrated here in the 1800s. Nebraska National Forest, Bessey District, near the hamlet of Halsey in the Nebraska Sandhills, is the world’s largest hand-planted forest, the legacy of Charles E. Bessey of the University of Nebraska who, in 1902, planted the forest as an experiment to see if trees could grow on the treeless areas of Great Plains. It is the site of great birdsing/twitching because Eastern and Western members of many birds species overlap distributions there, sometime hybridizing, which adds to the thrill of discovery because the appearance and songs of these hybrids are neither one nor the other, but tantalizingly similar to both! There is a nursery there that supplies seedlings to the US Forest Service for planting around the country. Hunting, camping, canoeing, hiking, and other outdoor activities are allowed at the forest, which is on the south bank of the Middle Loup River, a spring-fed Sandhills stream. Need I say, by now, that I am very enthusiastic for trees! The database you provide a link for is a wonderful idea and resource!

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