Course Information and FAQ:

Questions? For registration and lodging questions, please contact registration coordinator Kayla Rankin at 937-365-1935 or email For all other questions, please contact Appalachian Forest School Host, Brent Charette, at 513-535-3042, or email .

Cancellation Policy. You may cancel your reservation for full refund any time prior to 30 days before the course begins. After that time, cancellations are not permitted. Please try to find someone else to fill your place.

What background do I need to enjoy this course? It would be beneficial to have completed the Tree Course – Level I. Trees of the Eastern Forest – Field Recognition Level II will include a review of the 43 species covered in that initial course, but primarily focuses on another 40+ species of trees and shrubs that will round out your knowledge and recognition of the trees of the eastern temperate forest. However, anyone with a desire to make acquaintances of these anchors in our forest ecosystems will enjoy this course. We will be going beyond identification alone, exploring many facets of forest ecology and humankind’s relationship with the largest living neighbors sharing our homes, parks, and preserves.

How do I know if I need Level 1 or if I can jump to Level 2?  You can peruse the list of trees we will be learning in the Level 1 and Level 2 course – click here. If you already know most of the trees listed in Level 1, you can move right on to Level 2. Another way is to sign up  for Sunday only (see cost on home page) and pursue Level 2 certification. If you have Level 2 mastered, your score will reflect your experience.

What does Tree ID Certification accomplish? Level Two Tree Identification is a testing of knowledge by a private unbiased party (in this case the Arc) that the applicant has demonstrated the capacity to identify with competency the specific list of trees being tested for, by leaf or in some cases, by bark. To be certified, applicant must demonstrate nearly 100% correct identification. Anyone taking the course can take the certification at no cost. The charge is only for folks coming in just for the certification, such as people who have either studied on their own and wish to test their mastery, or participants from previous courses who wish to test for their skill improvement. The Arc of Appalachia will supply a hard copy and digital acknowledgement of the certification, including date of testing, confirmation of mastery, and the list of trees being tested. We will keep certification records on file and digital re-acknowledgement of the certification can be requested at any time at no charge. This certification has no association with any government licensing or permitting program. Level Two Tree Coursework and Certification opportunities are planned for the future.

Cell phone coverage and internet: Please note that the Sanctuary is in a rural location in the foothills of the Appalachians. Cell phone coverage is spotty and connectivity depends on your phone service company. However, Wi-Fi is available at the Museum headquarters where we will be spending a lot of time, and a short drive to Highway 50 connects to nearly every service provider. Sprint is the only carrier that works on Cave Road.

Comfort in the Out-of-Doors: We will be spending most of our time in the field, so please pack clothing that will allow you to be comfortable for a variety of weather conditions. The program will go on rain or shine. In southern Ohio, the low to mid-nineties are common daytime highs. Our schedule for tree identification takes us out in the cooler mornings and in the hot afternoons.  Regardless, it will be hot. If you work daily in an air-conditioned environment, you might be wise to prepare for the course by taking mid-day walks so you can begin adjusting to midsummer outdoor temperatures.

Physical Capacity: Because the course is focused on outdoor activities, participants should be able to hike up to four miles a day sustainably without injury or severe discomfort, although in this course it is unlikely we will be hiking more than 2-3 miles a day. Off-trail hiking will be an occasional component of the course, and we may find ourselves in streams and creeks, with water above our ankles. You will have advance notice when that is the case so you can wear the appropriate foot gear. But, for the most part we will be following established trails. Trails may be narrow and uneven in nature at times. Our hikes will be dependably slow.

 Location. This course will be held in the tranquility of the beautiful 2600-acre nature preserve known as the Highlands Nature Sanctuary with possible field trips out to other preserves in the Arc of Appalachia Preserve System in south-central Ohio. The weekend hub will be at the Appalachian Forest Museum.

 Accommodations. Lodging is available in one of the Sanctuary’s beautiful overnight facilities, most of which are historic and all of which are tastefully and uniquely decorated. Lodging is optional but highly encouraged since you will be studying into the evening and will probably want to get a solid night’s rest. Lodges are anywhere from 1-5 miles from the workshop hub but are still much closer than private lodges nearby. All lodges have kitchens or kitchenettes and one or more bathrooms on the hall. If you are coming with a partner, you may request one of our rooms with a double bed. We have limited double bed offerings; first come first served. Most rooms have two twin beds; or a single bed and a double bed, the choice of which is also first come first served. If you are not coming with a partner but want to take advantage of the reduced rate of shared rooms, we will link you up with another registrant of the same gender. If we can’t find you a roommate, so long as you remain willing to share, even at the last minute, we will honor your shared rate. Click here to familiarize yourself with the Sanctuary’s lodges.

 What if I want a private room? We have a very limited number of solo rooms and we encourage you to only go solo if you feel you would not make a good roommate due to heavy snoring or other technical difficulties (smiles), so that we can save those private rooms for people who need them the most. You can also choose to upgrade to the Zen or Eyrie Suites which are private facilities for 1-2 people perched on the rim of the Rocky Fork Gorge, or Leatherwood Cabin which has two bedrooms. We will simply charge you the difference. We also have 1-2 private room offerings at Ash Ayden, our volunteer headquarters. If you want to go solo, please inquire and we will share prices and availability.

 Meals: All meals are provided from Wednesday dinner through Sunday lunch – twelve meals altogether. The Arc of Appalachia is well recognized for its fabulous meals that are often based on local organic produce. Meat and eggs are local and pasture-raised whenever available. All meals are provided with vegetarian, gluten-free and vegan options. Meat is available for at least one meal a day. Eggs and cheese are frequent accompaniments. If you have other food restrictions, please make a note on the registration form and we will let you know how well we can accommodate your needs. All lodges have kitchen facilities if you need to supplement your diet.

 Flying in? Participants may fly into either Cincinnati or Columbus. Both airports are 1 hour and forty-five minutes away from the Sanctuary. Shuttles are not available so participants may need to rent a car. If you wish to car-share from your home or airport, please let us know and we will get you in contact with any other interested participants.

 Additional Expenses: Registrants will supply their own transportation to the Highlands Nature Sanctuary and to other field trip locations in south central Ohio. Carpooling can usually be arranged with other participants for day trips, and such carpooling is often necessary since some of our locations have limited parking. We recommend you offer a modest gas cost contribution if you link up with another.

 Emergency Messages: Emergency messages for course participants can be left at the main line of the Highlands Nature Sanctuary (937) 365-1935 during daytime hours.

Should I prepare for insects?  We experience very few to no mosquitoes and no black flies. You may encounter ticks in the open fields, and chiggers in tall grass if you choose to wander off trail (which is a good reason not to), and a few deer flies in low moist areas. If any of these challenges are new for you, let us know and we will do our best to orient you. No exposure to at least some insects in southern Ohio is not a realistic expectation for outdoor field work. During every field trip there will inevitably be a few ticks found crawling up some of our registrants’ legs. If you see them, they are not a problem. Just brush them off. It’s the ones you don’t see that might pose a problem. Since we DO have deer ticks in southern Ohio, please read below.

A Special Note on Ticks. We will be orienting everyone to ticks in order to minimize exposure to disease which can be carried to you by deer ticks, an exposure which is unlikely but possible. WE HIGHLY RECOMMEND THE USE OF ROSE GERANIUM OIL ON YOUR LEGS AND PANTS which has proved to be a good deterrent. We also recommend a good tick check at night before or after showering. If you have a partner, use him or her to do the ‘primate thing.” If you don’t, employ a mirror and don’t forget to check your hairline.

The key to addressing Lyme’s disease risk is to be aware of symptoms and  demanding proper diagnostic tests if you suspect the disease. You may know more than your doctor so being empowered is important. Lyme’s is treatable if detected in a reasonable time, but because deer ticks have not been in Ohio for very long, many doctors are slow to recognize the symptoms. Being informed and proactive provides you with the highest level of safety.  Here are some symptoms to remember, which tend to be flu-like:

  • Pain areas: in the joints or muscles
  • Whole body: fatigue, fever, or malaise
  • Joints: stiffness or swelling
  • Also common: appearance of large red blotches, sometimes with bulls-eye pattern,
  • Headache
  • Palsy

A Special Note on Chiggers. Chigger bites are very annoying if numerous, and are itchy but not dangerous. The best way to minimize or better yet, completely avoid, chigger exposure is to stay on the trail. Perhaps ironically, we have found that open-toed sandals attract less chiggers than socks and shoes. Chiggers love to bury into tight places between skin and clothing. Bare legs can also deter ticks because you can easily feel the more common dog tick crawling up your legs, as well as visually see them and easily send them on their way. We are not necessarily recommending shorts and sandals during the day, but if you enjoy wearing them, do so. You may fare better than your less scantily dressed colleagues.

Poison Ivy. We will limit going off-trail, attempting to minimize exposure to poison ivy. In any case, the leaders know the plant well and will help you avoid exposure. If you do touch the leaves, washing vigorously with soap within an hour avoids reactivity in most people.

What to bring to this course:

  • Your personal copy of a field guide to trees of the temperate forest (possibilities described below).
  • Binoculars that have a good range of focus, both close and at a distance.
  • Refillable water bottle
  • Comfortable shoes for hiking and outdoor wear, as well as foot gear for creeks and streams.
  • A small day pack for field trips
  • Flashlight – VERY important. It’s dark here at night as we keep night lights to a minimum.
  • Rain gear
  • A notebook or clipboard, pen, pencils, and paper (for sketching and field notes).
  • Personal care items; soap, shampoo, etc. (towels, linens, and tissue are provided in the lodges)
  • Sunscreen if you use it (there are also environmental reasons not to- check it out)
  • A light-weight wide-brimmed hat for sun protection
  • Sunglasses if you are sensitive to bright sunlight.
  • Insect repellent for ticks is recommended, see details above.
  • Optional: Your own first aid kit appropriate to your needs.
  • Pocket money for snacks and small purchases.

What preparation do I need before the program? A good field guide to the trees common to the eastern temperate forest is an important first step. Taking the time to become familiar with the guide you choose before you arrive will enhance your learning experience. There are many to choose from. When Nancy Stranahan, Director of the Arc of Appalachia, led this course in 2015 this was her advice, “There is no greater companion for tree lovers than a good identification book. We hope that this upcoming event will inspire you to a lifetime of study, and we want you to have the opportunity to have a good book at your side in the years ahead. Here’s our recommendations:

Native Trees of the Southeast, L. Katherine Kirkman, Claud L.Brown, and Donald J. Leopold. This is a fantastic book. Only a very few of northern trees species are missing, and it includes all trees species from the Florida panhandle to Ohio. Good maps show most of the Eastern United States right next to the tree’s description and thus gives good lessons in biogeography. Excellent photographs include leaves, fruit, buds and bark. I wish they had just kept going and covered all of the Eastern United States. If they had, this would be the ultimate tree book ever published. As it is, it picks up all of those confusing southern oaks, doing great justice to the oak family, which few other books do. This book makes a great traveling companion.

Sibley’s Book of Trees. If you are an avid tree student, and you enjoy a world perspective, this is an awesome book. It is too heavy to carry easily in the field, and may be too comprehensive for the fresh beginner, but it is an excellent reference for someone who wants to study trees throughout his or her entire life. This book is a joy to own, especially if you do a lot of traveling across North America.

101 Trees of Indiana, A Field Guide; Marion T. Jackson, and Katherine Harrington. Another winning book. If you want a good Midwestern guide and don’t want to be confused with all of the northern or southern species, this guide is about as good as it gets. Fabulous photography, good maps, and excellent descriptions. If you live in the Midwest, you can’t go wrong with this guide. Even if you don’t live in the Midwest, you’ll find this book pretty impressive!

Trees of the Eastern Central United States and Canada. William Harlow. A small fat paperback with great pictures and helpful descriptions; organized by families which is a nice teaching tool in itself.

The Woody Plants of Ohio, (in print) E. Lucy Braun. Lucy is the matriarch of Ohio botany! This book is a bit of an Ohio botanical Bible. Each tree is carefully drawn, described, and accompanied by a map showing which counties have recorded its existence. Originally issued 1961. It is now in print after many years of unavailability but is very expensive. Don’t feel the need to buy this one if you are tight on funds. For Ohio residents, however, it is a compelling purchase.

Ohio Trees, R.W. Dean, L.C. Chadwick, William F. Cowen. This is a lovely spiral bound book authored by three gentlemen, all of which were associated with the Ohio State University. It is still one of the best. Very user-friendly with much descriptive text, illustrations, and photographs. A good friend in the field and great for beginners. Can still be found among used books on the internet.

The Tree Identification Book, George W.D. Symonds, A Companion volume to the Shrub Identification Book. Both books are great additions to a tree library. It is not as user-friendly as the books above but much more thorough in illustration and overall pictorial detail—with individual chapters solely on photographic comparisons of bark, winter buds, flowers and leaves. It is a wonderful book to go to when you are stumped. Virtually lacking in text, it fails to bring forward the “essence” of a tree that helps its name become memorable. Original copyright is 1958. I recommend this book but as a supplement to a more basic guide but it should not be your only book.

Eastern Trees, George A. Petrides. Peterson Field Guides. Really, this is a very fine book and has phenomenal range maps if you are attracted to plant distribution and geography. It has evolved over the years to be an excellent guide with great color illustrations — a good selection for someone who wants a one-book-does-all.  Don’t buy an older version, they had terrible illustrations.  Unfortunately, like most of the Peterson Guides, it is not the most user-friendly book—since the illustrations are separated from the text. It is probably more useful to someone with an introductory knowledge of the trees –not the very best beginner guide. On the other hand, it contains many obscure tree species of the East that most books don’t bother to include.

The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees, Eastern Region. If you like photographs for identification, you will like this guide. If you aren’t sure you like photos, avoid this one. Most people learn more quickly from graphic drawings. Like the Petrides book above, the Audubon guide separates the pictures from the descriptive text.”

Tree Course FAQ
Ohio Buckeye Nuts
Euonymus Fruit
Pignut Hickory Bark
American Chestnut Fruit
Paw Paw Blossom
Tree Course Clipboard
Kingnut Hickory Fruit and Leaves
Tall Sycamore Trunk
Witch Hazel Flowers by John Howard
Tree Course Study
Fall Leaves
Whit Oak Acorns by John Howard
Bitternut Hickory Leaf