Ozark Outdoors

MSU professor explains how to identify native Ozarks trees

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SPRINGFIELD — The Ozarks are well-known for their lush forests and beautiful landscapes. But, have you ever wondered the names of certain trees? There are several easy identifying marks you can use to figure it out.

Dr. Michelle Bowe, Ph.D.

Dr. Michelle Bowe, Ph.D.

“Once you have a leaf, the next step is figuring out if it is simple or compound,” said Dr. Michelle Bowe, Ph.D., senior instructor of biology at Missouri State University. “If they’re simple, that means they have only one blade, but if they’re compound they have more than one blade.”

From there, you’ll look at the shape of the leaf. Is it heart-shaped? Does it have teeth around the edges? Questions like these can help you identify the type of tree.

What about fruit and nuts from trees?

“I always say it’s better to be safe than sorry,” says Bowe. “Most of the locals trees bear nuts, and are edible. With fleshy fruit like holly berries, you need to be more careful. If you aren’t absolutely certain what a fruit or nut is, avoid it.”

Some fleshy fruits can be poisonous, so it is better be safe than sorry when deciding whether or not to eat a wild plant.

For more information, contact Bowe at 417-836-6189.

George Freeman is a veteran journalist and photographer. An award-winning writer, editor and columnist in Springfield, Mo., with more than 50 years experience. His preference is for positive and uplifting stories about people, places, traditions and trends that make the Ozarks one of the most livable regions anywhere. A member of the Garden Writers Association of America, he is a past-president of the Society of Professional Journalists of Southwest Missouri, the Kansas and Ohio AP societies; a board member of Friends of the Garden and a member of the Rotary Club of Springfield. In 1976, he traveled to India as a member of a Rotary Foundation Group Study Exchange Team.

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