Any book on oak tree identification will list many oak hybrids. My older copy of “Trees of Missouri” lists fifteen. Yatskievych’s “Flora of Missouri” lists forty.
This is an identification nightmare. But it’s not my primary problem.
Fall is a great time to go out looking at oak trees. Their leaves are still there to aid in identification. They are starting to make their winter buds. They have acorns on them.
One way to do oak tree identification is to lug the “Trees of Missouri” around through the woods. Each oak leaf is checked against the pictures. Each bud is compared. Each acorn is compared. And the tree is hopefully identified.
I hate to do my oak tree identification this way. I set the book down to grab a branch. It gets scuffed and dirty.
My favorite way is to take the camera out. I take the tree set of pictures: tree (if possible, those in the woods aren’t), bark, top and bottom of leaf, bud and acorn. Back at the house I bring up my pictures and go through my books.
Once I have an oak identified, I can go out again and label it.
This is supposed to be the way it works. I have a problem.
I am five feet tall. I have a walking staff eight feet tall with a hook on the tip. That means I can reach a branch ten feet up and pull it within reach, maybe.
In the woods the oaks have their first branches over ten feet up. The trees tower over me. At most I can see the leaves well enough to tell an oak from a hickory.
Acorns are no help. When an acorn falls on the hillside, it bounces and rolls. Which tree did it come from?
My oak tree identification problem is getting to the leaves, buds and acorns. My only hope is to find young trees still within my reach.