Investigative tree labs

David R. Hershey dh321 at PGSTUMAIL.PG.CC.MD.US
Thu May 15 13:19:43 EST 1997

The morphological features are usually covered in woody plant materials 
courses taught through a horticulture dept. which usually involve 
being able to identify 100+ trees/shrubs on campus or nearby. This would be 
a useful addition to a botany course as tree ID is a very useful skill 
and students generally love it because they get to walk around campus and 
hear stories about the trees. The standard text is Dirr, Michael A. 1983. 
Manual of Woody Landscape Plants. Champaign, IL: Stipes Publishing. More 
recent editions are available.

There have been some exercises in plant physiology manuals dealng with
trees, most about water relations or stomata, but woody plants have been
poorly represented as experimental subjects. There are many fascinating
possibilities for exercises such as overcoming tree seed dormancy,
grafting, pruning, and wound healing. I like to take horticulture classes
out and evaluate the woody plants on campus for pruning, problems,
placement, diseases, etc. 

Foulger, A.N. 1969. Classroom demonstrations of wood properties. USDA
Forest Service, Forest Products Lab, PA-900. Wash. DC: Superintendent of
Documents (41 pages) is the best single source I know of. It has 20
exercises ranging from examining growth patterns in a discarded Xmas tree,
dye movement, measurement of wood fiber strength and specific gravity, and
measuring the strength of nailed and glued wood beams. 

David R. Hershey

Snail mail: 6700 Belcrest Road #112, Hyattsville, MD 20782-1340

Adjunct Professor, Biology/Horticulture Dept.
Prince George's Community College, Largo, MD 20772-2199

Email: dh321 at


On 15 May 1997 CMAXWELL at wrote:

> Dear Plant edders,
> For several years I have been thinking that it would be useful to develop 
> an investigative exercise for first or second year university level 
> students using morphological characteristics of trees in their winter  
> condition.  The aim of such an exercise would be
> 1. To familiarize students with basic morphological  features buds, branching 
> patterns, nodes,etc.
> 2.To incorporate collection of data...measurements, angles of branches etc.
> 3.To analyse the data, either on their own or in a classroom setting.
> 4 To interpret what they have found.
> I would also be interested in incorporating some mechanical or strength 
> component into such an exercise.
> My question is.. Am I trying to re-invent this particular wheel? Does 
> anyone know of any similar exercises out there already ..if so, can you 
> tell me where?
> Thanks
> Chris Maxwell

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