AUSTINBURG TOWNSHIP —
“It is always advisable” said Mrs. Studer, “that we double check.”
Tree ID can be a lengthy process. The field manual, while capable of being carried in a pants pocket, expands more than 80 pages with hundreds of classifications for trees. Identifying one tree can take anywhere from a few minutes, providing the identifier has a few characteristics memorized, to 20 depending on the complexity of a leaf. As it was soon discovered by Grand River Academy’s two student teams, identifying 30 trees in the allotted two hour time limit, proved to be a challenging task.
To say that the pressure was not on would be a bold lie. Grand River Academy has competed previously in the Ashtabula Tree ID Competition, last year taking first place in the overall competition. Several trees, such as the Sugar Maple and the Sassafras, were easily classified by students for their exclusive traits. Sassafras leaves, when crushed, are recognizable for their aroma that reminds one of the citrus smell of Lemon Pledge. Other trees proved to be real stumpers (no pun intended).
Simon Hong’s team respectably placed second, followed closely by Justin Evan’s team, which placed third.
Hong is from South Korea and is a third-year student at Grand River Academy, which prides itself for its variety of international students. When asked why the Tree ID Competition was important for him, Hong said, “It was very helpful to my academics and it looks good on a college application, but students should do it for their own benefits.” This is Hong’s first year competing in the Ashtabula Tree ID Competition. While Grand River Academy must wait until next year to reclaim its first place title in the Ashtabula Tree ID Competition, hope still looms for the upcoming Botany Competition in spring.