Norris Whiston Guides

Extract from Norris’s  Fruit, Seeds and Animals

Norris is a member of the NS Wild Flora Society. A retired science teacher, he was very involved in the creation of the Cobequid Eco -Trails Society. “Norris has written over 50 books and brought that passion to the landscapes of Colchester County, to the forests and to the pathways.” – view Hike Nova Scotia post for more about him.

One of Norris’s passions is compiling user-friendly guides to the local flora, which he generously shares with all of us on this page.

Norris Whiston’s Fruit, Seeds, and Animals (2022-05-02; PDF, 1.4 MB)
A 4 page document, 3 columns with 4 items per column, each illustrated with a colour photo by Norris and divided into categories (e.g., Conical or Upright Drupes Clusters, Hanging Drupe / Berry Chains) to facilitate quick ID. The text provides info on the use of fruits and seeds by animals. May be downloaded for individual use.

Norris Whiston’s Index & Keys for Trees & Shrubs of the Maritimes by Todd Boland (2012) (PDF, <1 MB)
Norris has prepared a detailed index and a variety of keys to aid in use of Todd Boland’s illustrated guide to over 230 native and introduced species of trees and shrubs in the Maritimes. (View Review of Trees & Shrubs of the Maritimes) Norris suggests attaching the 6 pages to the inside of the front cover. The index provides a quick reference to distinguishing different species within a taxon, e.g., under “hawthorne” he cites: hawthorn: 132 (6 or 8 lobes with large teeth); English hawthorn 134 (3-7 deep lobes); heather: woolly 40 (yellow); Scottish 41; pine barren golden 34;. His keys group species by Leaf Types, Flower Types, Seeds, Fragrance, Fall Colours, Bark and Twigs. NS Wild Flower folk who gave it a test-run found it very user-friendly.

Hardwood, Shrubs, and Nature’s Dynamics of the Maritimes and Northern New England (June 25, 2020 Version; PDF, 12 MB)
32 page well illustrated document. Pages 1-22 highlight diagnostic features of common hardwood and shrubs. Pages 22 ff are on “Nature’s Dynamics”.
May be downloaded for individual use.

Some further comments by Norris about bark ID and bark – Norris’s  “Bark Guide” is in the first 8 pages of the doc above (Hardwood, Shrubs, and Nature’s Dynamics of the Maritimes and Northern New England):

One part of identifying bark is to consider certain trees, like the green-barked aspens, use bark to convert more CO2 and H2O to carbos and oxygen. IDing most bark requires understanding each tree’s need to respire, to protect its internal moisture, and to prevent predators access to internal parts. One needs to understand each tree’s particular defense to pathogens and predators (sabinene, betulin, cyanide, salicin, tannin, thicker bark, etc.), and each tree’s version of how it expands its girth, utilizing old bark or disposing of it. Our own skin expands and flakes as we get larger and wrinkles in places where we get smaller. Dust mites are grateful for our disposed of flakes.

The Plane tree flakes off big chunks of pollution-filled bark, leaving beautiful abstract patches. The plane group is one of Earth’s earlier trees and is now becoming more necessary as air pollution expands. There are some in Spring Garden Park in Halifax, at Alumni Gardens in Truro, but it is also planted along urban streets such as in Halifax’s south end.

For most of a beech’s life and expansion, it dusts old bark off like humans do their skin. Most birches, mountain ash, and older cherries peel off old bark in a variety of amounts. The birch’s old skin and old dead trees fall and layer on the ground where on the oldest free nitrogen-fixing bacteria will live and so help out the community with its nitrogen needs.

Other tree barks stretch until the bark cracks into either scales or strips. For some species one can see those stretch marks. The bark then seals old layers with resins etc. and bark gets harder for herbivores to eat through or more horrible tasting. Hard to chew or yucky tasting! Sounds like my meals.

Resorting Michael Wojtech’s book via the types, widen my process of understanding ecosystems. Used were Wojtech’s trees that corresponded to the Northern New England and the Maritime forests, and, cut out, were those of southern New England. Reshuffling trees by their common idiosyncrasies exposed the betulin, cyanide, salicin, and tannin’s grouping traits. Seeing barks with similar barks beside each other, also makes it more obvious as to how they are different.

The bark guide is in the first 8 pages of Trees and Shrubs of the Maritimes, but I’ve thought more about the ecosystem thing since writing it.

In the guide, above the barks, there is placed a confirming leaf ID. Underneath are pictures of bark first in a younger stage or nearer the top of an older tree. A walk around a town or city would show up most of these traits and trees. In the end it is fun to confirm the decision on the bark by looking at the leaves on the tree or on the ground nearby. Those with lots of tannin, like the oak, its leaves decompose slowly and give one a longer existing confirming ID.

– NW, May 4, 2022