Sunday, November 28, 2010

Christmas Science for Kids - Identifying the Tree

We brought our Christmas tree into the house, after church today, but will have to wait for all of the snow, and ice to melt off, before we can begin decorating. So, it seemed like a good time to put on our detective caps, and practice our tree identification skills, for Sunday Science.

We identified our Christmas tree last year, too. Just for curiosities sake, even though I was pretty sure they were similar trees, we decided not to look back at lasts years post, until we had walked through the Arbor Day Foundation's Tree Identification Guide, with this tree.

The first question asks if it's a conifer, or not, and if it has scaly, or needle like leaves. Our tree is a cone bearer, and has needle like leaves.

Next, we had to choose between trees that were deciduous, or evergreen, with single needles, or clusters of needles. Our tree is evergreen (not like the larch, below, that we snapped a quick shot of in early October), with single needles.

Then, we hit a question about the needles, and whether they were four sided, and easy to roll between our fingers, or flat. The needles on our tree are four sided, and roll easily between our fingers.

Finally, there was a series of questions about the cones, which we could not answer. Our tree does not have any mature cones. In fact, it's possible, the little cones on it, are not cones at all, but galls, left behind (at least I hope they're left behind, I have to do some more research into that) by some sort of woolly aphid (like the fairy bugs we saw around our Box Elder, earlier in the fall).

If they are galls, that could be a clue as to the type of tree it is. From as far as we could go with the Arbor Day guide, we know we have a spruce. It actually looks a lot like a Blue Spruce, or and Engelmann Spruce. The two trees look a lot alike. But, Engelmann Spruces are susceptible to the aphids.

In fact, after peeking back at last years post, we were beginning to suspect it is an Engelmann Spruce. But, then we read, here, that if you find a tree that looks a lot like an Engelmann, but has sharp enough needles to make it painful to grab, it could be a Blue Spruce/Engelmann hybrid. Judging from the scraps, and scratches the Man of the House received when bringing it in - I'd say we could have a hybrid on our hands.

Now that it's dry, we'll be spending our evening decorating it, with great care. On the upside, a sharp needled tree will probably reduce the chance of the children wanting to play with the ornaments, once they're hung.

For more fun with science, check out this week's Sunday Science link-up, at Adventures in Mommydom.

It's great to be a homeschooler.


Unknown said...

O.K you are definetly encouraging me to do more unschooling types of lessons. We just went and picked out our tree this weekend. We decorated it, but we missed this opportunity, darn! I so love your blog!! Thank you for sharing.

Joyful Learner said...

This is fabulous! Now, I wish we got a real tree. :)

Annette W. said...

Cool! We are artificial...if we had our own forest we wouldn't...but it's right for us.

You can also teach your kids about Spikey Spruces and Friendly Firs...Spruce tend to have sharp points...Firs don't hurt. A little way to remember when no field guide is around.

Natalie PlanetSmarty said...

We are also artificial, but I am thinking of trying this lesson with some of the giant trees that grow in our park. I actually want to know too what they might be.

Unknown said...

Yes, I do believe we would classify our tree as "Homedepotiferous", since that's where we purchased it in all its fake, pre-lit glory...

Christy Killoran said...

Very cool lesson. We are planning on picking out a tree this week so I'll have to follow your lead with the kiddos. Thanks!

Ticia said...

With much sadness we chose to do an artificial tree this year because Jeff couldn't help with the getting it in and up.

But, I love how you did this, we get ours from a lot and so miss out on being able to find out what type it is. Maybe next year we'll go to the local Christmas tree farm.

Phyllis said...

Fun lesson!

Tracy said...

Nice job making the holiday educational!! We always take a walk in the woods to look for the perfect tree and work on identifying those we hike past that still have a few leaves to help us figure it out.