Nature Study

Homeschool Nature Study- Seasonal Tree

We are are a week into October and the trees are just magnificent in their autumn colour! I thought it the perfect time to pull a post from our homeschool nature study archives. This post was from 2012 and is as relevant now as it was then.

At the start of each new month, I look forward to receiving Barb’s new homeschool nature study Outdoor Hour Challenge newsletter. I was thrilled to see that trees are on the OHC agenda for October. And let’s face it, how can they not be? After all, there is a riot of colour going on around this time of the year. The trees positively demand your attention – you cannot ignore them – this is their moment

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I thought today we would launch a year-long seasonal tree study. We have chosen to focus our attention for this exercise on the trees that line our street. They are a burst of colour at the moment and with them being within plain view of the conservatory, we cannot help but notice them every day of the year.

OHC Seasonal Tree Study

Today we collected some vital statistics of our chosen tree. First, we gathered our scientific materials…

OHC Seasonal Tree Study

Notebooking page from this months newsletter, tree field guide, a home-made yardstick (vacuum cleaner pipes plus a bit of rolled-up paper to make up the yard), a long piece of string and a ruler – as we could not find our tape measure, and our handy Nature Smart book which is full of topical information and fun related crafts.

Just a note on the improvised yardstick and string. I am the type of person who could potentially allow a lesson not to happen because I don’t have the right tools!

So when I was reading up in Nature Smart last night on how to measure the height of a tree using a yardstick, my initial reaction was, ‘I need to order a yardstick in order to complete this activity.’ I had actually half put this lesson aside for another day – that perfect day when I had an actual yardstick.

However – knowing that this is one of my weaknesses as a teacher – I had a last-minute think and realised (perhaps it would be obvious to some) that a yardstick only really needed to be something that measured a yard – and not necessarily a stick! Hence the vacuum cleaner pipes. Same thing with the string. The whole tape measure thing had the potential to derail the plan. however, a piece of string and a ruler to measure the marked off measurements with would do the trick.

Today we wanted to establish a few things. Firstly what tree this is, then how wide the trunk is, how tall the tree is and to measure the spread.

We dressed up warmly and headed out into the blustery weather to measure our tree. To measure how big the trunk was, we first had to find breast height – that is around 4.5 ft up the trunk from the ground.

OHC Seasonal Tree Study

Then using our string we wrapped it around the trunk and measured the width of our tree trunk.

OHC Seasonal Tree Study

Next, we wanted to find out how tall our tree was, that is the distance from the bottom of the trunk to the highest twig. Here’s where the yardstick comes in.

  • First, you hold your hand straight out in front of you, at arm’s length and in line with your eye.
  • Measure the distance from your fist to your eye.
  • Now hold your arm out and level with your eye again, but this time hold the yardstick in that hand – pointing straight up and down in line with the tree.
  • move your yardstick in your hand so that the part showing above your hand is as long as the distance from your hand to your eye.
  • Now line up the top of your hand with the bottom of the tree’s trunk, staying on level ground, move backwards away from your tree. Stop when the top of your yardstick is level with the top of the tree. You should be able to see over your hand to the tree’s base and, without moving anything but your eyes, over the top of the stick to the top of the tree.
  • Measure the distance between you and the tree. That’s the height of the tree – roughly.
OHC Seasonal Tree Study

Once we had worked out the height of our tree, we moved on to measuring its spread.

  • Make an outline on the ground of the tree’s crown by pushing stakes/sticks into the ground beneath the outer tips of the branches.
  • Then, using the tree’s trunk as a middle point, measure the distance between the two stakes farthest apart on opposite sides, and the two closest together.
  • Add the two measurements, and divide by two.
  • That’s the average crown spread.
OHC Seasonal Tree Study

Once we had taken all our measurements, we dashed indoors to complete our identification and notebooking pages.

OHC Seasonal Tree Study

Now, this part we found the most difficult, for just when we thought we had found the correct leaf shape, we noticed that the tree shape did not quite measure up. We cannot find any fruit, seeds or flowers to help us in our identification so although we have a rough idea of what it COULD be, we are not absolutely certain.

OHC Seasonal Tree Study
OHC Seasonal Tree Study

I have to say that our field guide was more of a hindrance and caused a bit of confusion for us. I popped up onto the Woodland Trusts Trees For Schools (formerly Nature Detectives) website, which provides quite a few good downloads for identification etc – aimed at children and novices like me :o), and found a rather helpful autumn leaf identification page.

Our leaf looks identical to the Lime tree family (aka Lindens or Basswoods) – one of my initial ‘suspects’. Apparently, these trees are often seen in parks and city streets, so it is quite possible that I actually have my identification correct. Wouldn’t that be nice? I followed up with a look on the Woodlands website (and here) and the shape of the leaf and the bark certainly seems to look right.

OHC Seasonal Tree Study

So please don’t quote me and do feel free to jump in and correct me if you know otherwise, but I am going to call this a Lime tree. There are three native types in Britain, the small-leaved lime, the large-leaved Lime and the common Lime. 

Apparently, the small-leaved Lime is now relatively unusual in Britain nowadays, so it is either the large-leaved or the common (I’m tending towards common here). I’m sure as we watch our tree through the seasons, it will reveal more of its secrets to us, and help us to be certain of its identification.

My Recommended Nature Essentials

Additional Books Used For This Study

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(3) Comments

  1. Unknown says:

    What a thorough and informative post about your Lime tree! I loved seeing all the steps you took to get to know which tree this was and how it measured up.

    Thank you so much for sharing your study with the OHC!

  2. Jamie {See Jamie blog} says:

    We've done that tree measuring before. Actually did it before we cut a big one down one time just to see how accurate it was. (And it was very accurate!)

  3. juggling_ginny says:

    I'm sure it is a lime tree Shirley as I think I can see the remains of the fruit in your photo, not that I'm much of an expert. Have you come across for identifying British trees?

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