New Extension Publication – Taking Photos of Trees

Taking Photos of Trees for Expert Identification and Urban Forest Inventories

Extension personnel often receive questions regarding the identification of a particular tree.  The current accessibility of digital photography, email, and text messaging provides the easiest means to submitting specimens for identification.

Digital Photography

Take close-up photos of the specimen with a digital camera.  Please consider the following:

  • Select a specimen that shows as many distinguishing characteristics of a species as possible.
  • If there is a dramatic variation in leaf shape on a single plant, include photographs of all leaf shapes.
  • Unique characteristics are particularly important to include such as thorns, twigs and branching pattern, or fruits/nuts if available.
  • Include a photograph of the bark showing its characteristics.
  • Finally, send a photograph of the tree in the landscape showing its form.
  • If necessary, crop the photos to reduce their size for easier downloading.
  • When sending your photographs to Extension personnel, include your contact information and any description you would like to provide about the plant, such as its size, history, or habitat.  If you like, you may use the Tree Identification Request Form on the back.   Send photographs via e-mail to your inventory facilitator/coordinator/team leader.

Tree Identification Request Form

  1. 1.       Specimen Description

 Specimen includes leaves:                       twigs:              fruit:                stem:                other:

Plant origin          naturally occurring:                 planted:                       unknown:

Plant size (approx.)          height:             diameter (at breast height):

Form                    single stem:                 multi-stem:

2.       Specialist’s Response     

 Common name:

Scientific name:

Normal range:


Primary uses:




Name This Tree

This tree can be found in the tropical climate of south Florida. It is known for aerial prop roots that grow into thick woody trunks. In some species, the props can develop into a forest with every trunk connected directly or indirectly to the central trunk. This natural characteristic inspired computer design theory known as Banyan VINES. As well, the tree is dependent on a symbiotic relationship with a wasp for pollination. Leaves are large, leathery, glossy green that are a bright red when young. This stately, beautiful tree contributes a unique sense of place in Florida parks and communities.


Burl on oak. Sturgis, MS
Burl on oak. Sturgis, MS

A burl is a deformed tree growth. It is commonly found in the form of a rounded outgrowth on the trunk or branch and is filled with knots from dormant buds. It is often formed by some kind of stress, such as a mechanical injury, virus, or fungus.

2015 PAAM Annual Meeting

2015 PAAM Annual Meeting
2015 PAAM Annual Meeting

We had a  great meeting of the Professional Arborist Association of Mississippi (PAAM) in Meridian, MS. Mr. Guy Meilleur of Better Tree Care Associates based in Mt. Airy, NC provided the key note lectures. Mr. Meilleur is a practicing arborist, aerial consultant, and author of over 30 Detective Dendro articles featured in ISA’s Arbor News. Guy was an Instructor at Duke University and serves as the US contact for the Veteran Tree Network and the Ancient Tree Forum. We had over 90 arborists, foresters, and tree surgeons attend the conference. We learned a lot and look forward to a great 2016 annual meeting. For more information on PAAM, please contact MSU Urban and Community Forestry Extension.

Tree Campus

Mississippi State University is now a Tree Campus USA as designated by the National Arbor Day Foundation. For the state’s Land Grant University, this is a special recognition. To be a tree campus, a university must meet five standards:

Standard 1 – Campus Tree Advisory Committee

Standard 2 – Campus Tree Care Plan

Standard 3 – Campus Tree Program with Dedicated Annual Expenditures

Standard 4 – Arbor Day Observance

Standard 5 – Service Learning Project (MSU’s service learning project is a campus tree inventory)

MSU was recognized as a Tree Campus at the Mississippi Urban Forest Council annual meeting in October, 2014. We will have an official celebration with students and university officials on February 13, 2016, which is Arbor Day for the state of Mississippi.

Name This Tree

This tree is widely planted in U.S. cities due to its hardiness and fall foliage, but is native to China. It can reach a height of over 50 ft. and is a living fossil with some specimens more than 2,500 years old. It is extremely resistant to disease and insects. This tree is dioecious and fertilization occurs similar to ferns, mosses, and algae. The tree has been used for medicinal purposes, particularly as a dietary supplement to enhance cognitive functions, to treat Alzheimer’s disease, and to treat high blood pressure. What is this tree?

Why Urban and Community Forestry in Mississippi?

Forestry by all definitions – as a science, an industry, an ecological resource, a cultural artifact – is inherently linked to human communities. It is important that forestry be addressed as it pertains to communities in addition to individual landowners because individual decisions impact, as Pinchot noted, the Greater Good. In turn, community agency is critical to the sustainable, long-term management of our forest resources. Community agency is the act of multiple, diverse interests in a given place coming together towards the goal of addressing common needs. An entire community rallying behind the preservation of a park is an example of community agency. Residents joining forces to help disaster victims is another example.

Addressing natural resource issues from a community agency perspective is very important in an increasingly urbanizing world. Dr. David Nowak has noted that urban land use expanded 3.6% (67.8 million acres) between 1990 and 2010. This growth is expected to increase by over 2 million acres per year, or 8.7%, during the next 45 years, greater than the size of Montana. Most of Mississippi’s urban growth is taking place south of Memphis, northeast of Jackson, and along the Gulf Coast.

Despite this trend, Nowak states the percent of urban tree cover is actually greater than the percent rural tree cover in the United States. Nationally, there are 23.7 million acres of urban tree cover constituting 35% tree cover versus 34.1% rural tree cover, a difference of 2.37 million acres.

Difference - Urban vs. Rural Tree Cover
Difference – Urban vs. Rural Tree Cover

It is important to keep in mind that on average, about 20% of the projected forestland subsumed by urbanization will remain as forest within the urban boundary, although it will be parcelized and fragmented. This forest must be managed even if it is not managed for timber production.

Rural forest subsumed
Rural forest subsumed

Urban tree canopy is critical to community well-being. Nowak has estimated there are around 4.9 billion trees, or 15 trees per U.S. resident. Together, these trees provide approximately $4.1 trillion dollars in structural value ($12,900 per person). The national urban tree canopy stores and sequesters $52.5 billion of carbon per year (7.4 million tons in Mississippi). In addition, U.S. urban forests have important health benefits, removing an estimated $4.7 billion of contaminants from the air each year. Finally, in an age of energy consumption consciousness, Nowak noted urban forests help avoid $7.2 billion per year in energy usage.

Dr. Nowak’s statistics make a compelling case for urban and community forest management. Urban and peri-urban places will continue to grow – even in Mississippi. Not only does urban growth have implications for urban forests, it has serious implications for rural forests as well.


Around 100 years ago when people like Gifford Pinchot, John Muir, and Aldo Leopold argued that society needed to start thinking about preserving and utilizing rural forests sustainably using scientific management. It’s time for a similar sea change in thinking about urban forests. We have to stop ignoring our urban natural resources and start giving them the credit they deserve if we are to continue to enjoy their benefits.


January 15-16, 2015,  Professional Arborist Association of Mississippi

2015 Annual Convention: “Diagnosing with Detective Dendro”

Featured speaker: Guy Meilleur,
Practicing Arborist, Aerial Consultant, and author of over 30 Detective Dendro articles. Guy was an Instructor at Duke University and serves as the US contact for the
Veteran Tree Network and the Ancient Tree Forum.

Click on this LINK for to view the brochure with full details of this two-day event.