Unless otherwise noted, information contained in each edition of the Kansas School Naturalist reflects the knowledge of the subject as of the original date of publication.

KSN - Vol 16, No 3 - Fun with Winter TwigsVolume 16, Number 3 - February 1970

Fun with Winter Twigs


Published by: The Kansas State Teachers College of Emporia

Prepared and Issued by: The Department of Biology,
with the cooperation of the Division of Education

Editor: Robert J. Boles

Editorial Committee: Ina M. Borman, Robert F. Clarke, Gilbert A. Leisman, David F. Parmelee, Carl W. Prophet

Exofficio: Dr. Edwin B. Kurtz, Head, Dept. of Biology

Online edition by: Terri Weast

The Kansas School Naturalist is sent upon request, free of charge, to Kansas teachers, school board members and administrators, librarians, conservationists, youth leaders, and other adults interested in nature education. Back numbers are sent free as long as supply lasts, except Vol. 5, No.3, Poisonous Snakes of Kansas. Copies of this issue may be obtained for 25 cents each postpaid. Send orders to The Kansas School Naturalist, Department of Biology, Kansas State Teachers College, Emporia, Kansas, 66801.

The Kansas School Naturalist is published in October, December, February, and April of each year by The Kansas State Teachers College, 1200 Commercial Street, Emporia, Kansas, 66801. Second-class postage paid at Emporia, Kansas.

"Statement required by the Act of October, 1962: Section 4369, Title 39, United States Code, showing Ownership, Management and Circulation." The Kansas School Naturalist is published in October, December, February, andApril. Editorial Office and Publication Office at 1200 Commercial Street, Emporia, Kansas, 66801. The Naturalist is edited and published by the Kansas State Teachers College, Emporia, Kansas. Editor, John Breukelman, Department of Biology.

Permission is granted to reproduce any or all parts of this booklet for classroom use, so that as many copies as are needed may be made available for student use.

Fun with Winter Twigs

by Robert J. Boles

Everyone has at sometime enjoyed sitting in the cool shade of a leafy tree on a hot summer day. Most people recognize many of the common trees and shrubs when they are in leaf, or when they show the beautiful fall colors before the leaves are lost. Cut a bare twig from one these trees in winter and hand it to someone, with the request that they tell you the tree or shrub from which it was cut. Most people will be unable to do so.

This issue of The Kansas School Naturalist has been prepared to help you identify some common Kansas trees and shrubs by means of their winter twigs. Identification is done by means of a " key, " or a series of clues arranged in such a way that you may arrive at the correct name of the tree or shrub in question. Students will enjoy the chance to play detective. Sketches of each of the twigs are included to help in making a correct identification.

Suggestions for Use

Seventeen common Kansas trees and shrubs may be identified by means of the key and sketches. Some suggestions are given here for use of the key in the classroom.

1. Take students to the field or delegate students to bring back several twigs of each of the plants included in the key. It is probably a good idea to tag each twig as it is cut from the tree. By having more than one twig of each kind as many "study kits" of the twigs can be made up as will be needed.

2. Upon returning to the laboratory attach a tag with an identification number to each twig, if this has not alrady been done so. Prepare a check list containing the number of each of the tagged twigs and its correct name. The student may then refer to this check list when he wishes to verify the identification of a twig being studied.

3. Make up as many study kits of twigs as will be needed. The teacher may wish to have the students work with one twig at a time. or may want to issue several twigs to a student at the same time. Be sure the list of correct answers for the study twigs is available for the student's reference.

4. Prepare a separate "quiz" set of twigs. Inform the student that he may take the quiz as soon as he thinks he is ready. This will permit a student to work at his own pace. Do not penalize a student for a mistake in identification. Help him trace his twig through the key so that he may find out where he is making his mistake. Let him know that he will be permitted to retake the quiz until he can correctly trace every twig through the key. However, when he makes an error in identification on his quiz require him to work some more on the study twigs before retaking it. Such a procedure has the advantage of not only helping the student to recognize his errors, but of letting him know that if he will stick to the assigned task he will eventually get it right and receive credit. The frustration of failure is replaced by a feeling of accomplishment.


A. Twigs with green leaves (needles); evergreen......................................Red cedar (Juniperus)

KSN - Vol 16, No 3 - Fun with Winter Twigs

AA. Twigs with no leaves attached (they may be present as in oaks, but will then be brown, not green).

B. The scars where the old leaves were attached show that two or more leaves were borne at the same place, or node.

C. Twigs not slender; leafscars large, hollowed out, and standing out from the side of the stem; long slender seed pods may be hanging from the tree.................. Catalpa (Catalpa)

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CC. Leafscars are opposite each other, showing that there were two leaves at a node.

D. Bud tips rounded or with blunt points, protruding somewhat from the stem; twigs circular in cross-section; a ·bud is usually present at the end of the twig; no thorns.......... Ash (Fraxinus)

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DD. Three or sometimes five bundle scars present in the leafscar. but not in an oval or ring arrangement; terminal buds small; several buds often present above a leafscar; waxy twigs; a strong odor when the bark is crushed; small narrow leafscars meeting around twig............. Soft or silver maple (Acer)

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BB. Only one leafscar at a node-that is, they alternate up the stem.

C. A little ring (stipular ridge) is present around thestem where the leaf was attached at the node; the leafscar surrounds or nearly surrounds the new bud........Sycamore (Platanus)

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CC. No ring around the stem where the old leafscar is.

D. Twigs with thorns or spur-like branches ending in thorns; thorns occur only at or very close to the nodes; thorns project from the sides of the twig, but none occur at the end of the twig.

E. Conspicuous silvery scales cover the buds and young twigs ; older twigs are green or greenish-brown; smooth; thorn sticks out from the side of the old leaf scar..........Russian olive (Eleeaganus)

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EE. No conspicuous silver scales on the buds or young twigs.

F. Thorns are usually branched; twigs are shiny as if polished, and often zigzag....... Honey locust (Gleditsia)

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FF. Thorns are straight and unbranched; small buds; normally one spine at a node, with the spines generally becoming gradually smaller towards the tip of the twig........... Osage orange (Maclura)

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DD. No thorns, prickles, or spines present on the the twigs (some branches may be stunted and thornlike).

E. Leafscars two-ranked-that is, with the third scar over the first; more than three bundle scars visible in the old leafscar.

F. Pith fills all of the space in the center of the twig when the twig is split; the new bud covered with modified leaves, or scales.

G. One to three bud scales can be seen covering each bud; bright-red , lopsided buds; brownish or reddish, usually zigzag, twigs................Basswood (Tilia)

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GG. More than three bud scales visible surrounding each bud.

H. A relatively large white pith runs through the center of the twig. buds brownish. symmetrical; twigs straight..................Mulberry (Morus)

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HH . A relatively small pith runs through the center or the twig ; twigs brown, not very slender; buds pointed..........................Elm (Ulmus)

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FF. Pith with partitions and cavities (seen when the twig is split lengthwise); bark of the tree trunk is quite rough; three bundle scars visible in the leafscar: twigs may be slightly hairy ......... ................ Hackberry (Celtis)

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EE. One leaf scar at a node, with the nodes in a somewhat spiral arrangement up the stem.

F. When the twig is split the pith may be seen to be divided into partitions. with air spaces between the partitions; pith coffee-colored; twigs thick with large leafscars: three conspicuous bundle scars may be seen in each leafscar Black walnut (Juglans)

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FF. Pith not in partitions when the twig is split.

G. Leafscars surround or nearly surround the new bud. which is usually somewhat hidden below a tuft of hairs; twigs hairy; a shrub . . .. Sumac (Rhus)

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GG. Leafscars do not surround the new bud.

H. One bundle scar in a leafscar; young twigs and buds are covered with silvery scales; thorns are usually present on the branches (may not be on twigs).............Russian olive (Elaeagnus)

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HH. More than one bundle scar in a leafscar.

I. Pith appear to be five-sided in cross-section of the twig.

J. Many scattered bundle scars; a cluster of buds at the tip of the twig; twigs shiny; branches with pin-like projections; bud scales smooth; tips of terminal buds pointed; pith angular in cross-section Pin oak (Quercus)

KSN - Vol 16, No 3 - Fun with Winter Twigs

JJ . Three bundle scars, but buds not clustered at the tip of the twig: terminal bud usually much larger than axillary or side buds Cottonwood (Populus)

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II. Pith appears cylindrical (round) or nearly so when looking at the end of the twig.

J. Pith very large; light brown bark ; about nine bundle scars along the lower edge of the very large, triangular, leafscar Tree-of-Heaven (Ailanthus)

KSN - Vol 16, No 3 - Fun with Winter Twigs

JJ. Pitch small ; leafscars not very large ; bark with a sticky sap; stipule scars present; leafscars just below the bud Mulberry (Morus)

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KSN - Vol 16, No 3 - Fun with Winter Twigs


Brockman, C. Frank. A Guide to Field Identification-Trees of North America. Golden Press. New York, New York.

Stephens, H. A. Trees, Shrubs, and Woody Vines in Kansas. The UNIVERSITY Press of Kansas. Lawrence, Kansas.


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The seventeen trees and shrubs mentioned in the key have been photographed in their winter condition . A short description of the tree or shrub and some of its uses are also given. Can you name the tree or shrub from the description? Can you match the photograph with the correct name? Can you match the photograph with the description? The correct answers are given on page 14.

Now take your class to the field and see if you can locate each of the trees and shrubs described and pictured in this issue of the Naturalist.

A. This was the only native evergreen to be found in Kansas when the early pioneers came into the territory. Its fruit is relished by various types of migrating birds. Because of its hardiness, it is one of the trees used when planting windbreaks about farm homes and farm buildings. It should not be planted in the vicinity messy droppings of birds which have fed heavily upon the fruits may sometime cause people to forget that this is one of our finest shade trees.

F. A tree which is dispersed by seeds which pass undigested through the alimentary tract of birds which have eaten the reddish or purplish fruit. Because of this method of dispersal, they are often found along fence rows. Pioneers used to make pies and jelly from the fruit, but of apple trees, as it is one of the hosts for a form of fungus that does serious damage to apple trees.

B. A tree that grows along the creeks and rivers of Kansas. and is becoming increasingly popular as a shade tree in lawns and parks. The bark peels off continuously, so that the trunk and branches may appear white against the skyline. The wood is suitable for making plywood and boxing. Great blue herons often build their nesting colonies high in the branches of these trees.

G. Only a few years ago these stately trees reared their leafy heads over the streets and homes of many of the towns and cities of the state. Today, their dead and leafless trunks stand as mute evidence of what happens when an exotic disease breaks out in a population of organisms which has not evolved a means of defense against it.

D. Though Kansas is not often thought of as a lumber-producing state. this tree is the source of one of the most valuable kinds of wood in the United States. Because of the great demand and the limited supply, most of the trees are now processed into veneer, as this permits the production of much more furniture from a single tree than when the wood is not used in conjunction with cheaper and more plentiful kinds. The hard-shelled fruit is relished by both humans and squirrels.

E. The numerous little brown fruits of this tree are relished by migrating birds in the fall and early winter. The disgust provoked by the there is little demand for the fruit by humans today.

G. A beautiful tree that may reach a height of nearly 150 feet. Though its natural range included only the north-eastern part of Kansas, it is becoming more common over the state due to its increasing popularity as a shade tree. The long fibers from the inner bark was used by the Indians and pioneers to make cords, fish nets, mats, and similar articles. The light-colored wood is widely used for making wooden boxes. paper pulp, veneer. and many small articles.

H. This beautiful shade tree belongs to a genus which contains several valuable species. One of these species produces a sugary sap used in the making of candy and syrup, while another produces a wood prized for the making of furniture and flooring.

I. Though this tree may grow quite tall and is well-adapted to Kansas conditions, the long, sharp thorns and the hard. deep-brown. elongated seed pods limit its desirability as a shade tree. Botanists have now developed a strain that lacks the thorns and seed pods. and the tree is becoming more popular for yard planting.

J. A tree that provides a dense hard wood suitable for making axe handles and baseball bats. The interesting fruit has a little sail that helps in the dispersal of the seed by the wind.

K. The early pioneers often could not afford to purchase wire for fence. Instead, they planted this tree in rows, each tree only a short distance from the next. The hard wood, the dense growth, and the sharp thorns formed an almost impenetrable barrier about a field. The trunks of the trees could also be cut for fence posts, as the hard, heavy, yellow wood is very resistant to decay. The wood may also be used to make bows for archery. The fruit is sometimes jokingly called "Kansas grapefruit."

L. This is one of our most desirable shade trees. Growing tall and straight, with a beautiful symmetrical shape, it is being widely planted to replace the disappearing American elm. It and its many relatives growing in Kansas produce a fine hard wood much in demand as flooring and for furniture, and the hard-shelled fruits are relished by squirrels, deer, and wild turkeys.

M. A shrub related to the undesirable poison ivy, this plant grows to a height of four or five feet. The reddish-brown fruits are not only relished by birds, but can be used to make a tea-like drink by campers.

N. Pioneers often planted this tree in dense groves to provide fence posts, which were often difficult to get on the plains of Kansas. The closeness of the trees caused the trunk to grown straight for a sufficient height to provide a post upon which barbed wire could be strung. The wood is relatively resistant to decay and insect damage.

O. A tree that is often confused with the walnut, as both have similar-shaped leaves and growth pattern. However, it never produces a hard-shelled fruit. The seeds, which are produced in great numbers and readily dispersed by the wind, germinate in yards and gardens like weeds. The wood is of poor quality, and the tree rates low on the scale of desirable trees.

P. Many farms in Kansas, especially in the western part, have windbreaks for slowing down the velocity of the wind and reducing wind erosion. This tree is usually included among those planted in the windbreak, as it is able to withstand intense heat and periods of drought. In the spring the tree may be covered with myriads of tiny golden flowers that have an attractive odor. It is not native to the state.

Q. Some years ago this tree was legally designated as the state tree of Kansas. It is most often found along rivers and streams, often growing to many feet in height. The wood may be used for making veneer, and boxes for shipping machinery and other heavy manufactured products.


7-N-catalpa, 16-J-ash, 1-H-maple, 12-B-sycamore, 3-P-Russian olive, 9-I-honey locust, 13-K-osage orange, 4-G-basswood, 17-F-mulberry, 10-C-American elm, 8-E-hackberry, 15-D-walnut, 11-O-tree-of-heaven, 14-M-sumac, 6-L-pin oak, 5-Q-cottonwood, 2-A-red cedar.

The National Science Foundation will be supporting an eight week summer institute in Environmental Biology and Human Ecology at the Kansas State Teachers College, June 15 to August 7, 1970. Forty participants will be selected from junior and high school life science teachers. Participants will receive eight semester hours of graduate credit upon salisfactory completion of the courses. Because the ultimate criterion of the success of the institute will be the impact it has upon high school students, emphasis will be given to the development of teaching and learning materials for the use of participants in local settings.

If you failed to do this last issue/please!

In the over fifteen years The Kansas School Naturalist has been published the mailing list has grown to over 7000 mailings per issue. Undoubtedly a considerable number of the names can now be removed from the moiling list due to changes in occupation, interest, retirement, etc. To update our moiling list and cord files to include only those currently interested in receiving the publication, we are asking you 10 fill out and moil us the blank below. As of issue No. I, Vol. 17, October 1970, the moiling list will be composed of those who have returned the information requested.

Brochure for Prospective Students

A booklet designed rust for prospective students is now available on request from the Department of Biology, K.S.T.C. It has been wr illen especially for high school seniors and junior college transfers w ho are considering biology os a career. The faculty, laboratories, equipment, Ross Natural History Reservation, and other special facilities are described and pictured. There is al so information about course offerings, degree requirements, transfer of credits, and other facts of interest to prospective students.

Audubon Screen Tour

The Department of Biology will present the last of the twelfth Audubon Screen Tour Series on April 6, 1970. Albert J. Wool, an excellent naturalist and photographer, will personally supply the narration as he shows his all-color motion picture entitled Coastline California. The program will be given in Albert Taylor Hall on the KSTC Campus at 7:30 p.m. Both group and single admission tickets are available. For further information write Dr. John D. Ransom, Department of Biology, KSTC, Emporia, Kansas 66801.

Make plans now 10 be part of the 1970 Summer Session at KSTC. A full and varied program is available in Biology and related fields. and many of the courses are especially for K-12 and junior college instructors. For more particulars write for a 1970 Summer Session Catalog or write directly to the Department of Biology, KSTC.

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