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Test Exchange: 2012

2011 Preliminary
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Forestry is an ID event for both divisions which will rotate in for the 2011-2012 season. The event consists of identifying trees on the Official Tree List and answering general questions about them. It is on a 2-year rotation with three other events: entomology, herpetology, and ornithology. The last time it was an event was in 2005.

If you are interested in improving pages about forestry on the wiki, join Operation Wikifire!

Event overview

Forestry is an event in which participants learn about a variety of North American trees. The competition is usually 1/2 identification and 1/2 knowledge-based questions. There may also be questions about trees and forestry in general. Guides to identification and studying will be included below.

Most competitions will likely be run in stations, with a specimen or photograph to identify at each station and several questions about the tree. Typically 1-3 minutes are given for each station. The event may also be run as a powerpoint if it is allowed in the rules.

Certain resources will be allowed. This will probably include one field guide, maybe two, and one to two sheets of notes. There is always the possibility that binders will be re-added into the event; however, this is unlikely based on recent trends.

Old rules - these may change significantly.

Tree lists

The tree list may vary from state to state, so that local trees can be tested rather than trees from another region of the country. At the national level, all trees may be asked from the national tree list.

Old Lists


For more detailed information about field guides and other resources, see the Forestry Resources Page.

A team may bring in resources to the test to aid them in identification and answering questions. A combination of student developed notes and professional guides tend to have the best results. Participants should be familiar with their resources and be able to quickly find what they are looking for in order to take advantage of them. A good resource page about a specific tree should contain:

  • Scientific name of specimen
  • Common name of specimen
  • Picture of specimen leaves, bark, wood, fruit, seeds, etc.
  • Page number in a specific guide
  • Habitat of specimen
  • Commercial uses of specimen
  • Any other facts about the specimen deemed important by the team

The most common professional guides to use are the National Audubon Society Field Guides and field guides specific to an area (such as a state).

Introduction to Forestry

What is a tree?

Trees aren't a formally defined taxonomic group like birds or insects. Trees are just very large plants, and can be found in families and genera which also contain smaller plants and shrubs. There is a sort of continuum between shrubs and trees – even within a species, plants can range from a mere few feet tall to hundreds of feet tall. However, for the purposes of field guides, there are some general characteristics that most trees share which allow classification to be facilitated.

  • Trees are perennial.
  • Trees have a single woody stem which branches into a crown of foliage.
  • Trees reach a height of at least 10-20 feet.

Don't think of this definition as the ultimatum for deciding what a tree is. There are many exceptions to the above, and many people have debated over the definition of a tree throughout history.

Tree Identification

For ID tips and information about specific trees, see the Forestry Tree List.

There are several methods for quick identification of a specimen. There are two things to be considered before identifying: What sort of sample (leaf, bark, wood, fruit, or seed) do you have? What is the easiest way to identify using this sample?

If The Sample is a Leaf

If the sample is a leaf, the easiest catchall method of identification is leaf shape. Leaf shape can be broken down into a few, distinct families:


  • Needle-Like
  • Scale-Like


  • Compound Leaves
    • Pinnate
    • Palmate
  • Oak Shape
  • Maple Shape
  • Elm Shape
  • Other Shapes (Heart-shaped, circular, lance-shaped, triangular, obovate, ovate, etc.)

If the Sample is a Fruit

Fruits are unique to the species they come from. There may be similarities between fruits, but all are easily differentiated (for example, the Black Cherry, Prunus serotina, has fruits similar to the Chokecherry, Prunus virginiana, except that they are black when ripe). Most fruits come from trees with elm-shaped leaves.

If the Sample is Not a Leaf or Fruit

Many other samples are given alongside leaves, and few are given alone. If bark, wood, or seeds are given, there is probably something significant about that particular tree (for example, the Paper Birch, Betula papyrifera, has unique bark and a buckeye is a seed unique to the Ohio Buckeye, Aesculus glabra, so they may be given for identification)


Science Olympiad Coaches Workshop; Hammond, IN

Example of a Test Question


Attach: Link to Image

Identify this specimen.

  1. What is the common name of this specimen?
  2. What time of year does this species flower?
  3. What is the main commercial use of this tree?


Cercis canadensis

  1. (Eastern) Redbud
  2. Spring
  3. Ornamental
Biological ID Events
Herpetology · Ornithology · Forestry · Entomology · Invasive Species