Eyes on the Forest

Did you know February 21st-27th is Invasive Species Awareness week?

This means it is time to talk about the pests ailing our forests. The Michigan Eyes on the Forest program is headed by Michigan State University Extension.  District Foresters, like myself, in conservation districts have jumped on board to encourage landowners to be proactive in checking their trees for signs of invasive pests.  Michigan Eyes on the Forest is focusing on Asian Longhorn Beetle, hemlock woolly adelgid and thousand cankers of black walnut.  By educating and involving the public the hope is for early detection and rapid response to eliminate these and other invasive pests.  The three aforementioned pests are not established in Michigan at the time, but have the potential to be due to the close proximity of existing infestations.  With this involvement we hope to not have another outbreak like Emerald Ash Borer in Michigan.

Asian Longhorn beetle (ALB) attacks many species of trees- maples, birch, elm, poplar, and even willow trees by burrowing into the bark and laying eggs. The larva hatches and begins to feed on the live wood killing the tree.  It can be identified by a pencil size hole in trunk of tree, by its larva, or by a very large black and white beetle.  ALB has already caused major devastation in Canada, Massachusetts, New York, and Ohio.  There has been successful eradications of ALB but is very difficult and costly if not caught early.

Hemlock woolly adelgid, native in Japan, has the potential to attack and kill the over 100 million mature hemlock trees in Michigan!  Currently it has caused major infestations in many states along the east coast and the UP and northern lower peninsula have large amounts of hemlock.  A tiny insect, called an adelgid, feeds on the sap of hemlock branches releasing a white wax that gives a “snowy” look to branches, but this is very hard to see until a major break out occurs.

The final pest is thousand cankers disease of black walnut, a tree which provides economic, wildlife and aesthetic value to Michigan’s landscape.  Thousand canker disease is caused by a twig beetle that introduces a fungus in the living tissues of the tree causing cankers that eventually kill the tree.

Please do your part to keep your “Eyes on the Forest”, do not move firewood, clean off your boots from park to park.

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The Big Debate

Don’t judge a tree by it’s bark.

Winter months can be difficult when trying to identify trees, many of us rely on leaves to figure out the species.  When you get really good you can tell by the bark, buds and branching.  I will be the first to admit, and I have been doing this for some time, I am not always 100% confident.  Relying on bark alone in the dormant periods of deciduous trees can be deceiving; depending on their site conditions they can sometimes have varying bark.  Aspen on a nutrient rich site can be a bit different than an aspen on a wet or poor site.

I was out on a site visit hoping not to freeze or get stuck in the snow!! I know this landowner well so it was an enjoyable game of who can stump who the most! We would find trees that didn’t look like their typical format and quiz each other.  Seeing how it was his property and he was very knowledgeable of trees he did most the quizzing.

A couple hours into our stroll we came across this grey, smooth, hard bark of a tree…I said hey what’s this (thinking I know exactly what it is) he hadn’t a clue so I said ironwood.  Immediately, he disagreed and began to correct me! We then came across his idea of and ironwood tree  in had to laugh not actually knowing get the species he was pointing out! Mine being smooth tight grey bark and his light brown shaggy bark, one of us was terribly wrong!  We analyzed both put trees up and down, taking photos, noting the catkins on the one, the branching…all bets are on!!! We finished out stroll, hugging trees of beauty and made it back to truck.  This was not over, after carefully looking our trees up in the several books in my car we discovered we were both correct!! What?!  Both trees part of the birch family are considered ironwood- American Hornbeam with smooth bark and Easter Hophornbeam with the shaggy bark!