How can you tell it’s a dogwood tree? By it’s bark, of course.
Long before dogwoods sprout their tell-tale blossoms in spring, wanderers in the barren woods identify these small understory trees by the distinctive rough bark on the dogwood’s trunk.
Hike, Bike the Back 40
Directions to trailheads:
• Buckingham trailhead: Trafalgar Road and Buckingham Drive, 1.2 miles east of U.S. 71.
• Lake Ann trailhead: Castleford Drive and Wem Lane, 0.3 miles west of Trafalgar Road.
• Bear Hollow trailhead: Lancashire Boulevard and Gainsford Drive, 3.2 miles east of U.S. 71.
• Tower trailhead: Lancashire Boulevard and Bethnal Road, 4.3 miles east of U.S. 71, then right on Kirton Lake. Parking between cellular and water towers.
• Blowing Springs Park: 948 Blowing Springs Road, 0.6 miles east of U.S. 71 and Mercy Way.
Source: City of Bella Vista.
Likewise, redbud trees that sprout purplish petals in spring can be identified by their bark and branch pattern before their purplish flowers and green leaves appear. The coarseness and pattern of bark, plus straight or angled branches, are clues that tree sleuths use once most species drop their leaves.
Some 30 hikers learned how to identify trees during leaf-off from Cris and Eleanor Jones, Northwest Arkansas master naturalists from Pea Ridge. The couple led a tree identification hike in February along the Back 40 trail system in Bella Vista.
Hikers followed the couple on a two-mile trek through the woods near Lake Ann.
“We won’t be stopping at every tree,” Cris said, “but we’ll stop enough to look and see what some of these trees are.”
It’s easier to name the trees once leaves sprout. Before then, bark and branches are the big clues. Tiny buds are easy to overlook, but they’re e another piece of the puzzle for those who yearn to know what species they see.
Getting to know the trees starts with a good field guide. Cris and Eleanor recommend “Trees of Arkansas,” published by the Arkansas Forestry Commission. The guide has photos and tips for identifying trees during any season of the year.
Cris and Eleanor Jones carried a copy during the Back 40 tree safari. They know their trees, but flipped through the guide’s pages now and then if stumped by a particular tree.
Dogwoods are easy to tell by their rough bark that appears as tiny, diamond-shaped wood blocks with a dark gray hue.
Serviceberry trees get confused with dogwoods when spring arrives. They’re among the first trees to flower in spring, sporting white blossoms. Dogwoods generally bloom later in the spring, after the serviceberries.
Older serviceberry trees sport bark with long, shallow fissures, different from the dogwood’s rough diamond-patterned bark.
Sycamore trees may be the easiest to identify. Tall sycamores sport white bark from the top of the trunk into the crown of the tree. Hikes usually see sycamore trees around water, but not always.
The tree hike was one in a series of monthly treks on the Back 40 trail system. Each hike has a different focus, such as trees, wildflowers or archaeology. Guides that are experts in their fields lead the trips.
The Back 40 loop meanders 21.4 miles through Bella Vista’s woodlands east of U.S. 71. Most miles are of moderate difficulty for hiking and mountain biking. Some spur trails are rated difficult for biking or hiking and are marked with a diamond symbol, like the expert runs on a ski slope. With spur trails off the main loop, the Back 40 takes in close to 40 miles.
Back 40 trails are open to the public, with trailheads located at road intersections. Trail maps are posted at kiosks at most trailheads.
Flip Putthoff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sports on 03/20/2018