How to tell what is wrong with my Oak

I wouldn’t be me if I went a summer without talking oak wilt…..

If you look back or have been following me- you realize I talk a lot about oak trees and oak wilt.  Well that is because it is important-enough said!  I was asked to write a “How to” article for a newsletter here in Minnesota.  I was given many suggestions that were good, but not up to Kylee quality.  There were ideas like how to bud cap, hot to prune, how to develop a sugar-bush….while all good topics, it just didn’t get that fire going in my mind.  So after careful consideration, I decided let’s talk OAKS!  I decided the article was very informational, so I am going to just paste it here for some good light reading 😉  This is applicable to the Midwest region.

Standing tall with branches reaching out wide and high in the sky stands a strong oak tree in the landscape. Like most things in life there comes a time where this oak no longer looks healthy, and in Minnesota we have a few things that affect our oaks besides old age.

In Minnesota we have a number of different oak species: taxonomically we split them into the red oak family and the white oak family. Red oaks are bristle-tipped leaves and white oaks lack bristle-tips and are rounded. There are many pests and diseases that produce similar symptoms in oaks, so how do we determine what is happening to our oaks?

The first disease to show in the growing season is anthracnose. Anthracnose affects both read and white oaks as well as other tree species. It is caused by a group of fungal pathogens that all cause similar leaf symptoms. Anthracnose occurs when there is a very wet spring. Oaks with anthracnose will have leaves that develop brown spots and blotches, and many times these brown blotches greatly distort leaf shape. Oaks with anthracnose will usually display the most severe symptoms at the bottom and inner parts of the tree canopy. The fungal pathogen will over-winter on leaves and twigs. This disease is not typically the cause of death of oaks, but depending on the percent defoliation and stress caused, other problems such as twolined chestnut borer and Armillaria root disease may attack the trees.

Bur oak blight (BOB) is very similar to anthracnose in that it is caused by a fungal leaf pathogen and symptoms start in the lower and inner canopy. It differ from anthracnose in that it only infects bur oaks, symptoms first appear in mid-summer rather than spring, and it seemingly is causing significant stress amongst some bur oaks in certain parts of the state. Leaf symptoms on BOB-infected bur oaks are first visible as brown flecking along leaf veins, typically seen in July. Later in the summer, abundant leaf drop can occur, starting in the inner canopy, as well as leaves that develop wedge-shaped brown areas. Some dead leaves persist in the canopy throughout the winter, and these serve as the infection source in the following spring. Many citizens mistakenly cut down their bur oaks that had severe BOB because they think they will die: bur oaks with BOB typically re-leaf the following spring, and they look healthy until mid-summer, when BOB symptoms start to develop. Bur oaks can tolerate many consecutive years of moderate BOB before they become susceptible to other problems.

Oak wilt is a xylem blocking fungal disease that shows signs and symptoms throughout the growing season. Oak wilt starts to show symptoms of browning wilting leaves at the top of the crown and moves down the tree from the outside in. Oak wilt affects both red and white oaks. It will kill a red oak in about one month, a bur oak in 1-7 years, and a white oak in 1-20 yeas. Another indicator of oak wilt is the discolored streaking of the sapwood by the fungus. This can be seen by slicing away the bark on an actively wilting branch. Streaking is more readily seen on white and bur oaks than on red oaks. Come spring, if red oaks are not leafing out, examine the tree for subtle cracks in the bark and peel back the bark to reveal any spore pad/ spore mats that the oak wilt fungus sometimes produces. Bur oaks rarely form spore pads, and white oaks do not form them. In order to really determine oak wilt, lab tests of branches are needed, unless a pressure pad is located. Oak wilt is creeping northward in Minnesota and is a highly preventable, yet devastating disease. Please contact your local DNR forest health specialist if you see oak wilt symptoms in northern Minnesota.

Finally, there are other stress-related problems that occur to oaks. When any tree, including oaks, becomes stressed by weather or defoliating diseases/insects it weakens the trees, sometimes allowing for opportunistic fungi or insects to invade. Twolined chestnut borer and Armillaria root disease are examples of these opportunistic pests. Twolined chestnut borer tunnels in the cambium and outer sapwood, eventually cutting off nutrients and water flow through the tree. Armillaria also kills cambium and outer sapwood. When twolined chestnut borer infests an oak, leaves develop a red-brown scorched look from mid – late summer on the top half, or so, of the tree. Twolined chestnut borer typically kill a stressed oak in 1-3 years. The beetle creates small D- shaped holes in the trunk of the tree. When Armillaria is infecting an oak’s root system, leaves in the outer canopy may be stunted and yellow, and branches die back. Over the course of several years, Armillaria root infection will kill a stressed oak. These stressed-related problems are not treatable, but increasing tree vigor with careful harvesting and removal of poor trees can minimize these problems. Harvesting in stressed oak stands should only occur after at least two consecutive growing seasons with near-normal precipitation and no defoliation.

All these insect and diseases are unique in their own ways but have a common target of oak trees and cause somewhat similar symptoms. With a few key distinctions you can narrow down the search! The U.S.F.S. publication How to Recognize Common Diseases of Oaks may help you in diagnosing what is wrong with your oak: http://www.na.fs.fed.us/pubs/howtos/HowToRecognizeCommonDiseasesOaks.pdf.

Leaf drop and branch death from top-down is typically oak wilt, Armillaria, or twolined chestnut borer; leaf death from the bottom up in the spring is typically anthracnose; and leaf death from the bottom-up in bur oaks in later summer is typically bur oak blight!

Oak anthracnose _UMN
Oak Anthracnose (UMN.edu)
DSC02523
oak wilt leaves (MNDNR)
DSC02044
Crack from pressure pad forming under the bark (MNDNR)
DSC02140
Bur Oak Blight Leaf (BOB) (MNDNR)

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

MAEAP…MAEAP

 

Every-time I use the acronym MAEAP…I think of the roadrunner cartoon “MAEAP MAEAP”!

The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) has had a Michigan’s Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program- MAEAP program in place for many years to honor farmers who are environmentally friendly; recently in the past year they have added a forestry component.  Forest, Wetland & Habitat- geared towards farmers and private landowners who have one, two, or all three of these components on their property.  Many farmers have woodlots and can add it to their list of verified components.  Farmers and landowners go through risk assessments at their own pace and when they meet all the high risk (erosion, chemicals, ect.) they can become verified.  It is a voluntary program, and is confidential. I was given permission by my landowner to talk about it.  Being a forester under the MDARD umbrella, we took on the forestry part, while the MAEAP technicians focused on the agriculture parts.

When first learning of this new program, I immediately knew who fit the bill for it.  To be apart of it, you really have to be “one” with your land and active on it, and willing to keep up with it.

Norm, young at heart, has been following the words and wisdom of Aldo Leopold.  When he was younger he read Aldo Leopold’s, Sand County Almanac and was inspired and it has never left him. He spent two weeks in Baraboo, Wisconsin at the family shack, learning the ways and Aldo’s legacy. When I first met Norm, back shortly after I started here, he was just looking for direction to update his management plan.  I figured it would be another typical walk through the woods, chatting about deer management, and a quick referral.  To my surprise, I was wrong! We sat down that first day and he showed me the plans he had written for the last 20 years, his records of his control for invasive species (Autumn olive) and other activities he had done.  He has records for putting his property into a conservation easement and the real kicker is his mission statement.  While reading his mission statement, again inspired by Leopold, I was brought to tears. It is not often I meet someone with the same values as I. I was humbled and overwhelmed by what he had written YEARS ago. A holistic approach for sustainability of all parts of the land. I collected myself and we took a tour of the property….

As we toured the property, Norm pointed out the some 60,000 trees he planted- most by hand and some by machinery. He took an old abandoned farm and turned it into a nature paradise. He put up signs with species and dates, not only for him to remember the date but for his grand kids when they inherit the property. He has his hardwoods stands marked by color for easier tree ID for them as well.  Norm is an organic farmer with fruit trees and bees and provides ample habitat with 10 wood duck houses, buffer zones along his wetlands and has even restored his section of the Cedar River back to a blue ribbon stream for great trout fishing! That first tour, I left feeling a sense of calm and happiness.

Now, trying to get a hold of Norm is not always the easiest- because he spends 7 days a week out at the property managing it, so either I have to drop by or wait for a call- but the wait is always worth it! Because, I was so inspired by Norm, I knew I had to take everyone and anyone out there whenever I could. He was always ready to share his story with anyone who would listen.  I took a group out there to verify his property with MAEAP, and just recently took a group of landowners out there for a field tour on managing your woodlot. EVERY SINGLE PERSON, left there thanking him and thanking me for allowing them to experience such beauty.

He has even been Conservationist of the Year and Tree Farmer of the year! Norms.jpg

Let Mother Nature Take Her Course

“The incommunicable trees begin to persuade us to live with them, and quit our life of solemn trifles”  – Ralph Waldo Emerson

I have been waiting quite some time to be able to start with this quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson.  I have finally been inspired by a landowner where it fit- on top of his bucket list was being able to escape the trifles of life and live surrounded by nature and being within the trees.  Recently retired he was able to finally escape the hustle and bustles of work and live out his life long dream of trees and wildlife! There is pure comfort in being able to know what you do to positively impacts the land.  This landowner was searching for all the right education to better sustain his property for the future all all wildlife that lives among it; even the families of squirrels!  Not many landowners I meet care for the squirrels!! Go Squirrels!

This landowner had just purchased the property and called me up a couple weeks prior to our visit very concerned about what previous landowners had done with logging it.  He is not against logging, but was very concerned with how it looked “butchered”.  I pulled up curious of why he was concerned…I saw no immediate concerns.  We began to talk about the property, a bit of history, and I simple said “I think it looks great”.  He took a stutter step backwards and had a huge smile on his face! He told me I made his day, I said great my work is done and jokingly acted like I was going to leave! He began to explain how this is his life’s dream, his top of the bucket list adventure, his true passion.  He was so incredibly worried about the forest and purely wanted to know everything he could do to make it better, was geared up to learn and do everything in his power to make it sustainable. We chatted about the basics- he has oaks so I filled him in on oak wilt and Asian- longhorn beetle for his maples.

We began our trek through the forest, well the sprouting of a new forest! I began to explain to him about how great it looked, you could see the baby red and white oaks covering the ground and the maples sprouting like crazy! He asked what he needed to do with everything and my answer for everything was “just let nature takes its course”.  Forests have been doing their thing for many years before us so they know what best to do naturally.  Now, if he did not have the ample regeneration he had, we would have been compiling a planting plan! Instead, we discussed adding fruit trees, hazelnut trees and some pines around the property lines for edge to enhance for wildlife and biodiversity. Forest land is so fragmented, split into parcels and one way to help wildlife feel safe in an area is to have forest edge and enclosure.

Just let Mother Nature do her thing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

 

Oak Wilt Scare…to Wow

Oak Wilt Scare to Good Conversation

Vroom, Vroom… I was driving along down all the dirt roads and finally pulled up to my destination.  I got out of the car and the gentleman laughed and said so you’re a packer fan! I smiled and said you bet!  Then the landowners wife came out to greet me, both so ecstatic to meet me, so gosh darn excited to look at their dying trees.  My original reason for the visit was to look at a few oaks they suspected were dead from oak wilt.

First we looked at a white pine, infected with weevil-displaying signs of whats called a shepherds crook.  The shepherds crook refers to the previous terminal lateral leader on top the tree dies because a new one is growing and taking over.  The weevil larvae are laid just below terminal causing it to die and a new one takes over.  This is why we see white pines that are not growing straight up but a rather zig-zag formation.

Then we moved on to to some other trees they were worried were going to get diseased like the others on their property…I say other trees because they were calling them spruce trees-I got closer and I said these are not spruces but are balsam fir trees.  MINDS BLOWN!!  The joy that exuded from the couple put a smile on my face.  They asked how I could tell, I explained to them that the needles are softer than a spruce and are flat and cannot be rolled in their fingers as well as pointed out the smoother bark.  They were so excited and I responded with “I have never had anyone more excited to hear they had balsams on their property”! I come from a place where balsam fir trees get a bad wrap–on going joke is set the balsam on fire!  Not these two!  As they are jumping for joy about the balsams they asked me what was growing inside the tree!  They pointed out a lovely case of “witches broom” a fungus that grows often on balsam fir trees and blueberry bushes.  Its not just a Halloween prop!

Finally we made it back to the oak trees.  They walked up to the oaks, expecting devastation.  I looked up the tree and browsed the branches and told them its not dead; I see buds! I explained to them that its a red oak and if it was really oak wilt that “killed” their tree last year it would have died no doubt, but this tree and the ones around it were in fact budding.  They looked at each other and shared a smile.  They said it was the best news they could have gotten.  A few thousand dollar problem may have just been resolved by education.  They had read my recent article in the paper and took the right steps in talking about it first before spending the money to trench the tree and remove it.  Sometimes oaks die due to bugs killing the leaves and causing them to drop-seeming like oak wilt but the next year the tree often comes back.

We then hopped on their golf cart and started speeding through the woods.  Now I may have shocked them with the balsam fir, witches broom, and a living oak tree but rarely am I shocked.  He began showing me all the trees he had planted. Red pines, white pines, spruces…all with BUD CAPS!!!!! Bud Capping is something I have been trying to explain to folks here in Michigan to help prevent deer from eating off the terminal bud of young saplings, but No one, until now, has heard of it!  It is a University of Minnesota thing and that is exactly where he learned it from.  I was in complete awe looking around his property seeing white paper stapled on top of all his young trees! Finally we got to our final destination- A HUGE WHITE PINE!!!!! From afar it looked like any other white pine but up close- Oh goodness I was standing under the mother of white pines! The couple hugged the tree trying to see if they could reach each other-they could not!

Needless to say I wowed them and they wowed me!

Off the beaten path
Off the beaten path
Beyond...
Beyond…

Children + Earth Day

“We have such a brief opportunity to pass on to our children our love for this Earth, and to tell our stories. These are the moments when the world is made whole. In my children’s memories, the adventures we’ve had together in nature will always exist.”   -Richard Louv

That quote is from the author of the book “Last Child in the Woods”.  The book was given to be by another nature lover and educator. Although I have not finished the book, it is an inspirational.  It is a book to remind us that our children are the future and education and nature for them is vital.  I do not have children of my own yet, but in my position as a forester for the Conservation District…education is key!  This past Saturday, I was asked to host an educational table for 4-H children.  I will also in the next week be at two more educational “Earth Day” events for young children to teach them about trees, the importance of trees, and to love this Earth for everything it can give us.

When planning what I was going to do, I picked the brains of folks around me and decided to go with a way children can connect everyday things they see with trees.  I also learned through the experience and sharing this project with those around me that even adults do not understand the basics of trees, I was not shocked! We see trees on a daily basis, but we do not know the basic functions of a tree.  I’ve blogged about the benefits of yard trees (clean air, reduction in stormwater runoff, energy savings) but today I am going to blog about what I told and will tell lots of children this month in honor of Earth Day!

Trees are a renewable resource that give us basic essentials; to those materialist products we enjoy.  They literally give us everything we use.  Do you know how difficult it is to find something not made from a tree??!  I am telling you right now, my friends, it is not an easy task!!  I wanted to make a fun quiz for the children, so I started filling a box with products made from a tree and products not made from a tree.  It was super easy finding those items made from a tree, I could have put my whole darn office in that box, but I did not!! Instead I researched and researched and researched for things not made from trees.  This is what I came up with…a magnet and a plastic bottle.  I am not even 100% sure if I am correct on these items!!! Here I thought Crayons were tree free–NOPE!!!  Gum extracted from trees helps make crayons! Mind BLOWN! 

When I asked an 11 year old boy to pick out an item from the box that he thought was not made from trees, his first choice was a sheet of paper that said “Ice Cream” on it.  This one was my curve ball!  Yes, ice cream contains cellulose from trees to give it texture.  He dug around some more, looked at the tooth paste, the band aid and finally grabbed the magnet! I yelled Yahtzee! With a little extra thought he was able to find the rare item not made from a tree.

It is important not only for adults to be educated on trees but to connect our children in unique ways to the earth, I primarily focus on trees, because it is my job but I try to tie it all in together in the end.  After going over the tree parts, deciduous vs. coniferous trees, and tree harvesting the children were able to connect themselves to trees and find what is and is not made from a tree.  We need to keep making these connections and getting children outside and educating them, they are the future stewards of this Earth and they need to learn now to love it and respect it.  I know, when folks ask me why I became a forester…I tell them about my childhood.  Growing up with a woods in my backyard I was never inside (yes I know times have changed) but I still was outside more then I was inside.  At a young age I created that bond with nature that carried into my career.

Get outside, bond and love the Earth!  Earth Day April 22nd.

Tree Cookies!!!
Tree Cookies!!!
White Pine Stand...
White Pine Stand…