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I photographed this group of trees a couple of years ago at the northern tip of Prudence Island in Narragansett Bay. Any idea what species these are?

Trees on Prudence Island

Tree closeup

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    $\begingroup$ Do you have any better pictures (i.e., close-ups of leaves or bark)? Also, what would you estimate their height to be? Any interesting characteristics to note? Did you see any seeds or flowers? $\endgroup$ – theforestecologist Dec 13 '15 at 5:42
  • $\begingroup$ @theforestecologist These are the best photos I have, I'm afraid. Height maybe 15-20 feet. I was hoping someone could identify at least down to the family based on the location and overall growth form. $\endgroup$ – augurar Dec 13 '15 at 23:14
  • $\begingroup$ I'll try to give it a closer look then. Orient me real quick - are those flowers or young leaves at the end of the branches? Is oppositely arranged, which should reduce our options $\endgroup$ – theforestecologist Dec 14 '15 at 5:23
  • $\begingroup$ @theforestecologist Those are young leaves. The photos were taken in May 2014. $\endgroup$ – augurar Dec 19 '15 at 20:20
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Although it can't be said definitively because of the picture quality, these are actually very likely maple trees. It's possible that they are either Red Maple (Acer rubrum) or sycamore maple (Acer pseudoplatanus) trees in spring leafout.

enter image description here

Source

Evidence:

  • The branches have an opposite arrangement. Very few tree are opposite (see MADHORSE)

  • The Rhode Island Wild Plant Society claims that red maple is abundant on the northern part of the island.

  • The Virginia Cooperative Extension provides an incomplete but detailed list of trees that can tolerate salt spray.

    • Two maples, Acer psudoplatanus and Acer campestre, (which are tolerant of salt spray) are both present as an exotic plant in that region of the country (see BONAP range map 1 and 2)

    • The Prudence Island flora mentions that A. pseudoplatanus is a common escaped cultivar on the island.

  • I'm leaning toward Red maple because of the red leaves appearing -- this is more typical of A. rubrum compared to the often more yellowish spring leaves of A. pseudoplatanus.

Note: The salt spray and windy environment will cause these trees (and most vegetation along a coastline) to develop "strange" (often gnarly) tree shapes.

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