Tree Huggers Unite: Michigan’s Broad Range of Trees
Michigan is well known for its expansive beaches, Great Lakes, and gorgeous views. Wildlife flourishes in the vast woodlands that spread across the Mitten State, scurrying through the majestic trees that rise above them. Often times, while we are focusing on the wildlife running through the forests, we miss the forest itself. Michigan is home to over 100 different species of trees, and has over 20 million acres of forest. As a top ten largest forested area in the United States, Michigan is a tree hugger’s dream.
Eastern White Pine (Pinus Strobus)
The Eastern Pine is the official state tree. As a conifer, it boasts flexible bundles of 5 or so blue-green needles ranging from 3 to 5 inches in length. These giants can grow to over 20 feet tall and hold the title for the tallest trees in eastern North America. A little known fact about the needles of the Eastern Pine; they are packed with vitamin c and are fantastic for herbal teas. Right now, the tallest eastern white pines call Grayling home.
Red Maple (Acer Rubrum)
The red maple is one of Michigan’s quintessential trees. The leaves turn bright red and orange during the fall, giving the state that illustrious glow of color that brings tourists from all over the world to see. These trees grow to a medium height, usually between 50 and 90 feet tall. White tailed deer, which are the state deer, love to eat red maple, so keep your eyes out for them if you are near. You may recognize the fruit of a red maple. Called samaras, the little seeds fall off the branches and spin like a helicopter on the way to the earth, earning the nick-name “helicopters”.
Sugar Maple (Acer Saccharum)
Another maple tree that is indigenous to Michigan, is the sugar maple. This relatively common tree found all over the state, thrives because of its tolerance for shade. The sugar maple also produces maple syrup. This delicious addition to any breakfast makes Michigan a go-to state for the syrup industry looking for high quality products. This tree has the samaras, or “helicopters”, just like the red maple. The leaves start out dark green, and turn bright red and orange in the fall, adding to the gorgeous views that make Michigan so picturesque.
White Oak (Quercus Alba)
The white oak is another tree found commonly in Michigan. While it is quite common in the lower peninsula, white oaks are relatively rare in the upper peninsula. While it is a hearty tree, soils that do not drain well and are predominantly wet do not make a good home. These trees produce acorns that protect seeds, and you can definitely see them strewn across the grass in the fall. The largest difference in the leaves between this oak and the red oak, is the rounded edges. The red oak has pointed edges on it’s leaves.
Northern Red Oak (Quercus Rubra)
Another common oak tree found in Michigan is the northern red oak. Very similarly to the white oak, this tree’s leaves have dark green leaves. The main difference between this and the white oak’s leaves are the pointed edges. The acorns produced by the northern red oak are usually between three quarters and one inch in length. These trees grow best in rich and well drained soils, and can grow magnificent high value trunks. Red oak trees grow most commonly in the central Upper Peninsula, and Keweenaw Peninsula.
Eastern Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis)
The eastern hemlock is a common conifer found in Michigan. Unlike the eastern white pine, the needles on the hemlock are attached singly. As you can expect, these pine trees have a seed cone. They are relatively small in size comparison with other conifers. The identifying color of this plant can be found in the reddish-brown bark. The eastern hemlock grows to be between 70 and 100 feet tall, with a triangular shape. Most commonly, they are found in groups on small hills, or ravines.
Paper Birch (Betula papyrifera)
This Michigan native tree grows nearly everywhere in the state. While they are young, the paper birch tree grows very quickly until they are between 60-100 feet tall. The birch’s leaves alternate in arrangement, and have a double toothed look. Michigan has a generally cool and moist climate, which is perfect for the paper birch, which is also known as canoe birch, silver birch, white birch, and others.
Beech (Fagus Grandifolia)
Beech trees grow naturally in forests all over the state. In the lower peninsula, beech trees grow in beech-maple forests. As you move further north, beeches grow increasingly in hemlock groves. The bark of the American beech has a grayish hue to it, with think bark. The oval leaves have a jagged, toothed edge, and meet in a tip. During the spring and summer, the leaves have a green color to them, but turn yellow in the fall.