Tree Blindness is Real and Affects Millions Every Year
No, tree blindness is not a real disease and you are most likely fine. I was never a tree or plant person growing up, but I was always able to recognize a buckeye tree. This was solely because I grew up an Ohio State football fan. Tree blindness is a term used by botanists to describe the way people see all trees as the same or cannot tell them apart and let me tell you, I’m about as tree blind as it comes.
Gabriel Popkin wrote an article in the NY Times in 2017 titled “Cure Yourself of Tree Blindness” which is about how easy and simple it is for people to overlook trees and see them all the same. This is not a life threatening issue, unless you are stuck in the wild and the information is life or death. Each species of tree has their own beauty and is truly a treasure that tree blindness prohibits many people from seeing.
My tree journey was around Ohio State’s West Campus. The majority of this area is concrete and parking lots, but there is a decent section where there are a variety of trees.
#1 Sawtooth Oak – Quercus acutissima
The leaves of the Sawtooth Oak are alternately pinnately compound leaves. The leaf margins are also not lobed like typical oak trees which threw me off while observing the tree. These leaves are toothed (as the name obviously implies) and are not super sharp but do have a little prick to them. This was seen in the west campus lot where there is an area for trees to grow freely. A fun fact about this oak, is that they are not native to the U.S. but rather native to Asian countries and is used to make charcoal for certain Japanese tea ceremonies. (https://www.picturethisai.com/wiki/Quercus_acutissima.html#Uses)
#2 Black Walnut – Juglans nigra
The black walnut was a species of tree that was gone over in class but this goes to show how common it really is in nature. This was found near the wooded areas near the rest of the trees on this page. The black walnut’s leaves are alternate in arrangement and pinnately compound. A fun and very important fact about the black walnut is that the walnuts are high in antioxidants and other healthy compounds which can reduce the chance of diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer. (https://www.webmd.com/diet/health-benefits-black-walnuts)
#3 White Mulberry – Morus alba
The white mulberry tree is a tree with pinnately compounded leaves. The leaves are also alternate. The leaves were hard to gauge at first because of how they were twisted up. There are many leaves and all of them are folded in some way and not completely flat like most of the leaves identified here. It is shown in records that the white mulberry was used to treat mouth diseases and lung diseases going all the way back to the roman times. There is also some mythology that the Greeks had that established that the tree’s roots polished the devil’s boots and due to this, the trees were associated with being evil. (https://gardenerdy.com/mulberry-tree-facts/)
#4 Bur Oak – Quercus macrocarpa
The leaves of the bur oak have the more traditional oak leaf margins as they are lobed. The leaves are also alternate and pinnately compound. The bur oak was found next to the sawtoothed oak and was a fascinating sight to see how some trees in the same genus. The bur oak is a truly amazing tree as it is the most flame resistant of any in the oak genus. It is able to withstand droughts and the bark is so thick it protects it from fires. The bur oak is also able to live upwards of a thousand years. (https://www.museum.state.il.us/muslink/forest/htmls/trees/Q-macrocarpa.html)
#5 Silver Maple – Acer saccharum
After viewing the silver maple, It dawned of me that it was what I thought of when I thought of any tree as a child (the realization of the tree blindness really set in.) This silver maple was found in a row to look nice on west campus. The leaves are pinnately compounded and oppositely arranged. These leaves are lobed and similar in leaf margins as the oak tree (which also added to my tree blindness realization.) The sap of silver maples is sweet but less sweet than that of the sugar maple which is known for making maple syrup. The branches also do not smell good when broken and to add insult to injury, the branches break fairly easily. (https://www.museum.state.il.us/muslink/forest/htmls/trees/A-saccharinum.html)
#6 Cockspur Hawthorn – Crataegus crus-galli
This tree was found near the disk golf course on west campus. The cockspur hawthorn has pinnately compounded leaves that are oppositely arranged. These leaves showed many markings indicting that life was eating on this tree frequently. The young leaves of this tree are edible and it is known for its white and scented blossoms. It is said that this tree is a pagan sign of fertility but if you bring it inside, you will be followed by illness and sickness and even death because it supposedly smelled of the Great Plague. (https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/trees-woods-and-wildlife/british-trees/a-z-of-british-trees/hawthorn/)
#7 Staghorn Sumac – Rhus typhina
The staghorn sumac is a tree that was found over on west campus next to the honeysuckle plant. The leaves are arranged oppositely and pinnately compound. This sumac was not very tall which at first made me question if it was truly a tree. The staghorn has many fun facts such as; the Native Americans used it as a medicine, the leaves and fruits can be used to make cigarettes (which seems silly considering it was also used as medicine), and goats are released to strip the bark of the trees when people want these trees removed. (https://wp.towson.edu/glenarboretum/home/staghorn-sumac/)
#8 Ohio Buckeye – Aesculus glabra
Now here we go. The moment we have all been waiting for, the state tree of Ohio and… mascot for THE Ohio State University, THE Ohio Buckeye! This tree was one of the only trees I could identify as a kid and only because my family would collect buckeyes every year to make buckeye necklaces for Ohio State football games. The Ohio buckeye trees have oppositely arranged leaves that are palmately compounded. The leaves are compounded in leaves of five. This buckeye was found in Buckeye Grove on campus (I know, how unoriginal, but it is one of my favorite places to go.) As many know, the buckeyes that fall are used to make necklaces, but the buckeyes can also be blanched and the tannic acid used to make leather. (https://kidadl.com/facts/buckeye-tree-facts-here-s-everything-you-need-to-know)