wpe5.jpg (2127 bytes)U.P. TREE  IDENTIFICATION  KEY
from Michigan State University Extension


This website was developed to answer a need expressed by several elementary and middle school teachers and the many members of the general public who seek a specific source to help them learn the many tree species of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  This site should be useful to anyone who has a desire to identify tree species in the U.P. and learn more about those trees.  It is my sincere hope that this website will go a long way to answer that need.  Teachers, please let me know if you use this site in the classroom.  That information will help justify the creation of sites such as this and improvements to this site in particular. 

A "dichotomous key" will not be an easy tool for 4th, 5th and 6th grade students to use without some coaching, as evidenced when I have taken the prototype website into these classrooms.  Teachers will have to become familiar with the website and teach the kids to READ THE DIRECTIONS and HOW the website works (i.e. the glossary links).   Some kids pick up the idea quite quickly and become proficient at identifying trees from samples.  Many kids are tempted to take the "shortcuts" and skip the keys.  This "trial and error" method will sometimes work but is not as effective as learning to use the keys.

I have tried to use non-technical words whenever possible but some features are better described by using an unfamiliar word linked to the interactive glossary.  One difficulty with using the glossary is the browser "back" key to return to the previous page.  The browser will return the user to the TOP of the previous page and not to where the user entered the glossary from.   This can be confusing. 

At the 6th grade level, it appears kids can more easily grasp the ideas of a plant key.  HOWEVER, I believe this will be an excellent tool to help the younger kids learn to observe, read carefully, and figure things out by themselves, even if their identification success rate is less than hoped for.  I wouldn't recommend the use these keys for children younger than 10 years old.  In fact, I have reservations about 4th graders being able to use this website without substantial coaching.  Nevertheless, the pictures might be of some value, especially as the teacher becomes more familiar with the site.

Book References for Tree Identification

"Trees of Michigan." 2006. Linda Kershaw. Lone Pine Publishing. 272 pp.
ISBN: 978-976-8200-07-5
Perhaps the most useful guide for beginners and casual observers, yet contains good amounts of information about the trees. Very well illustrated and organized, including range maps.

"Michigan Trees: A Guide to the Trees of the Great Lakes Region." 2004. Burton V. Barnes &, Warren H. Wagner. 456 p.
ISBN: 047-208-9218
The classic reference for experienced and professional users. Technical and comprehensive. Line drawings.

"Trees of Michigan and the Upper Great Lakes." 1995. Norman Foster Smith. Thunder Bay Press. 184 pp.
ISBN: 188-237-6080
An excellent and colorful guide with concise descriptions and narrative.

"Identifying Trees of Michigan." 2003. Mel Koelling & Georgia Peterson. 24 pp.
MSU Extension Bulletin E-2332, available through local Extension offices.
An inexpensive guide that includes the most common trees of Michigan. Line drawings. An often-used classic that was reprinted in 2003.

The conifer key is the shortest and easiest to use.  Samples can be collected year-round.  The hardest key is for the winter deciduous trees.  That key requires observations and terminology more advanced than the other two keys.  All the keys are linked to the glossary . . . but kids need to know about the glossary, what blue "hotlinks" or "hyperlinks" are, and how to return to the key using the browser back button. 

Leaf collections are done by many 7th grade classes across the U.P.    Identification, of course, is just the first step to understanding our forests, forest management, and the importance of the forests in our northern economy.   Contact me if you would like to explore our forests in greater detail. 

Please note that this website is more than just a tree identification tool, although that is its main function.  There are several other pages linked to the tree ID portions of the key, such as identification characteristics, taxonomical relationships, species distributions, and range maps.  In the future, additional information will be added, especially if this site becomes popular with the schools and the public.  For a comprehensive forestry website, take a whirl through the Michigan Forests Forever Teacher's Guide at:  https://mff.forest.mtu.edu/  

This website has been critiqued by a number of natural resource professionals and, perhaps my best critics, the students of Wells and Jefferson Schools in Escanaba, the Gros Cap School near St. Ignace, and several other kids who are free with their compliments and criticisms.  There are certainly bound to be errors in a website of this complexity.  So, as you find them, please let me know (see below).  If you find this site useful, I would appreciate knowing how you used it.  I can use your comments to help make design improvements. 

Most of the images on this page are "thumbnails" with files sizes in the 2 to 3 kb range (small).  To see the full size image, simply click on the thumbnail, then click on the "back button" of your browser to return to the page you were on. 

Have fun!

Click HERE to return to the home page.

This site created and maintained by Bill Cook, retired Extension Forester in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.   Editing and modification is ongoing.  Submit suggestions, questions, and corrections to cookwi@msu.edu