Description of This Study


As I worked making trails through our 25 acres of wooded property, in beautiful rural South West Virginia, I noticed the patterns of bark around branches of trees seemed to vary with the species of trees. It occurred to me that fact may help in Winter identification. I undertook a study of the trees on our property to determine if there was a chance the bark patterns would help narrow down the possibilities in identifying trees in Winter.

So far I have recorded data for a number of species, assigning a code to indicate the characteristics of those species and sorting by that code in a spread sheet I found adding the bark pattern around branches helped narrow down the possibilities. That was enough to encourage me to expand the study.

I have gone to the books on Winter Identification and pulled many of the elements currently used in Winter identification together into a worksheet for an expanded study.

From my observations, so far, I have arrived at seven patterns of bark around tree branches (six destinctive patterns and the seventh - no discernible pattern) to describe the patterns around branches.

The Study

This is where you come into the picture. There are geographic limits for species of trees. Obviously I will not be able to travel the country to locate and study each species.

I need your help!

My objective is to organize this enormous world of interested people into an army of observers working on the project with the goal of adding what I believe will be an important feature to the Winter Tree Identification kit. Anyone who is interested in trees and can be a careful observer qualifies to work on the project. To open the PDF file for the data collection forms click the below links.

PDF copy of the Data Collection Form and the Illustrated Guides to Terms

PDF copy of the Data Collection Form only


For my own work with the trees I include measurements and sampling that have no real bearing on the main objective of this study. My own worksheet allows for all of the observations I use. For your work the worksheet provided for this study includes only the data essential to this study. If you would like the challenge of doing the expanded study including recording data not included on the regular data collection form click on the below links for the PDF versions of the expanded form:

Front of Expanded Data Collection Form
Back of Expanded Data Collection form


The reference to height by sextant refers to one of my methods for measuring the height of trees. I modified a sextant to have a bubble level sighting tube which allows me to measure the angle from level up to the top of the tree and from level down to the ground. With the distance to the point of observation (baseline) I am able to solve for the vertical distance up from level to the top of the tree and down from level to the ground to obtain the height of the tree. I use several methods for determing the distance to the tree from the point of observation (the baseline). I use a small laser ranger (most accurate) , pacing off the distance and / or using the sextant as a Stadimeter. For more information on the sextand method click on this link for a detailed explanation then click the back arrow to return to this page: The Sextand Method


Measuring tree height from a photo

There is an another method for arriving at the height of the tree. Using a photo of the tree with something in the image to provide scale allows measuring the height from the photo. I, more often than not, use a piece of rope tied around the trunk at 4 feet above the ground to provide a scale to the photograph. I use rope since I also use it when taking tree cores and it is light and easy to carry in the field. A tape measure is needed to place it properly on the trunk (or to measure the height of some distinctive feature from the gound or whatever is used as a scale) . The tape measure also is used for measuring the circumference of the trunk at chest level.

Click on this link - Measuring tree height from a photo - for an illustration of the process. Click the back arrow to return to this page.

It is very important for your study to include photographs of the tree as a whole (with a scale included and identified) as well as photos of the tree bark patterns around branches and, when possible, of branches illustrating details of the branches and leaves.

I am retired and do not have backing from any institution so my funds are very much limited. Therefore, I am asking you to please make copies of the worksheets according to your needs. I realize this places a financial burden on you but I simply don't have the thousands of dollars needed to produce the materials needed across the country. All I can offer is my heartfelt thanks for whatever you can do to assist in this project and credit on this website for your contribution. I will not be using the material or information submitted for personal gain. I simply want to add to the Winter Identification tool box. Your assistance will be greatly appreciated. Everyone who contributes material will be recognized on the pages for species for which they have submitted data.

I can accept material and photographs via email which should hold the expenses down. Photos of bark patterns around branches, twigs, buds, leaf scars, leaves, the tree with a scale in the photo etc can all be sent via email. The specimen number which, you provide, must be included with all material for each tree you study and include the tree number with each image of item submitted. Use "Tree Study" in the subject line of any emails.

Assigning a specimen number:

I suggest using your initials followed by a three digit number, RJ 058 for example, and each item sent by mail or email must contain the specimen number. For example, RJ 058 01, RJ 058 02 etc. which identifies which tree it is associated with and which item it is of those specimens from that tree.

This system will accommodate up to 999 trees for any one individual to study. If you expect to exceed that number use a four digit specimen number i.e. RJ 0058 etc. I doubt anyone will need more than three digits but if you dream big... go for it!

One reason you may want to go to four digits, or more, is if you will be working a number of areas and want to organize your work according to area. What you use as your specimen (tree) number is entirely up to you. I will be able to cull what I need from your reports and work your results into the "Big Picture" of my system. If you have any doubts or questions please do not hesitate to call or email me with your questions. Just please remember to include "Tree Study" on the subject line for any emails.

I will keep track of the specimen numbers and convert them into my numbering system. My numbering system will allow me to keep records together by region but for your work I only need for you to assign a unique number to each tree you study and a unique number for each item sent to me (photo, twigs, leaves etc.) so that I can analyze the data correctly.


My email addre is:

Please use "Tree Study" on the subject line of all email

I assume this study will continue for a number of years. For me, it will probably continue through the remainder of my life. I am now only 79 so I expect to add a number of years for my part (longivity runs in my family).

I believe those of you interested in the study of trees will find this an enjoyable addition to your time with trees. I can't pass a tree without noticing the many characteristics that can be observed.

Trees along the sidewalks in town, around parking lots, in yards, in the woods, along the roadways and in parks all draw my attention and add to my enjoyment of my environment wherever I happen to be.

I wish, for each of you, many years of enjoyment of the wonders of the trees around you.

Leroy Jones
LCDR USN (retired)
PO Box 140
Woolwine, VA 24185

276-930-4571(land line)
276-229-9386 (cell phone)

hit counter