International Day of Forests

“The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

There are so many quotes I could start off this post with; so I chose one that was simple and too the point but is also complex.  With just 10 words and a deeper thought a bigger picture arises.  With one acorn we get a tree- which produces thousands more acorns to produce more trees and the cycle lives on into thousands of forests. In 10 words- we have the world; we have clean air, clean fresh water, carbon sequestration, recreation, wildlife habitat, a friend to hug, timber, food, clothing -“we have everything”- all from an acorn.

Now, I could go on and on about the benefits of forests and the importance of them but we should all know by now how they provide us with the essentials of life… 75% freshwater, oxygen, heat… but I won’t.  Instead I just wanted to say thank you to all the trees and thank you to those who appreciate the forests/trees/and vegetation not only today but everyday because without them humanity would not exist.

The picture below was taken a couple days ago- sometimes we run into areas where regeneration like this just does not happen and we have to plant- but I wanted to showcase mother nature at her finest- volunteer baby trees! The landowner told me he talks to his trees- which I think plays a huge roll in the amount of white oaks we are seeing here 🙂

Get outside…Plant a Tree…you will be planting for the future.

IMG_8858.JPG
Baby Oak Volunteers! 

 

 

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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…

Bats…Trees…Bats

I am so sick of all these mosquito’s!

This is a common line I hear from many landowners as well as my friends.  I often walk through landowners woodlots and they start complaining or mentioning areas they do not go to because the mosquitoes are unbearable.  My response is a laugh and then I say “well there is a tree, go buy a bat house”! Often I get a puzzled thought and then response of “really”?! Yes, bat houses are not a cure all but they do help reduce the amount of mosquitoes in an area, least a bit.  On average one bat can eat up to 7,000 maybe more mosquitoes in a night!!! ONE NIGHT!!! A tiny little bat consumes thousands of mosquitoes for din din in a night!!! That means get a few bats in there and your problem will be reduced.

Put it up and they will come- I say!

Bats are a hot topic right now in the Midwest and probably other areas, as well.  I have been doing research on the Northern Long-Eared bat, Myotis septentrionalis, because it has become an issue here and relates to forestry.  It could impact the amount of harvesting done during the summer months.  The Northern Long-Eared bat is being affected by the white nose syndrome.  It is a fungus that affects the nose, ears and wings of a bat during hibernation.  The fungus is cold loving fungus so it attacks them during the cold months; hibernation.  The fungus hurts their hydration “processes” and they burn more fat then they should therefore when they wake after a long cold winter they often are dehydrated and die. This fungus is killing thousands of bats.

I have been watching webinars and such on the topic of listing the bat on the endangered species list.  There is a lot of controversy because of summer harvesting.  Bats roost or sleep upside down in hollow trees and if unknown when a tree harvesting takes place the bats well sadly they die.  I believe, correct me if I am wrong, the last I heard was that the bats were listed as threatened.

Awareness needs to be addressed with the subject. We as an economy cannot stop harvesting in the summer months, it would cause crashes in production mills with summer wood and cause more to close. But the bats are also important therefore awareness is key here.  So when I tell landowners not to just put up a bat house for their benefits of reduction in mosquitoes and other insects but also so they have a safe place to roost where we are able to tell where they are.  Bats get a bad wrap, but really they are harmless and like everything else need to be see as a fluffy little creature so we CARE!

See that tree…put up a bat house….or two or three! Build it and they will come!!

Check out my Ears!
Check out my Ears! I am cute too! Save me!

Wonders of the TREES

Ever walk through the forest and see something, stop, and go hmm?

Yesterday I was out on a 120 forested property with a landowner.  We were just cruising along, when we stopped and both looked up and went hmm.

Often when I go to properties with a lot of acreage to cover the landowners drive me around on 4-wheelers or gators so we can cover all ground and see EVERYTHING! So here we are vroom vrooming along when we had to hit the breaks.  Up above us was unlike something I have never seen before.  The tree branch was literally curling around making a doughnut shape! I thought perfect placement for a bird or squirrel nest.  Now, I have seen a lot of trees that grow around things, like a sign or nail or something like that. Trees have incredible strength to grow around inanimate objects in order to survive.  I have also seen trees that grow slanted to try and catch as much sunlight as they can, but never in all my days of hugging trees have I seen one curl around like this.  It is quite odd to me actually; what in the world  this tree branch thinking to grow like this?!

All Natural Curl Tree

To my next wonder of trees…the other day I was sent an article about trees and communication.  Whether or not trees communicate in ways underground through their root systems.  Now part of me is like yeah okay makes sense what she is saying and part of me is thinking no, competition and Darwin’s theory of “survival of the fittest”.  Survival of the fittest is not saying the strongest always survives. It is often misinterpreted or maybe I am the one who misinterprets it but I believe it means the ones willing to change or adapt and the ones that are “smarter” are the  ones who survive. I am no expert on this!  So when I was listening to this forester talk about the communication with trees I obviously got to thinking about her theory.  When I was at this site visit he had a lot of regeneration. BABY TREES!!!! EEEE!!! Anyways, so I looked around at these baby trees and her theory did not sit right with me..if a “mom” tree is supposed to reach out and provide for the baby trees by giving nutrients then why are there a bunch of baby spruce trees growing under oaks? Does the “mom” not have to be the same species of tree?  Are the mature oaks providing for these white spruce trees?  Now I know, seeds travel by all sorts of ways but it was just a thought I had.  I like the concept of trees working together to survive…but I also believe in competition and space with trees all the trees are out to get the amount of sun they need, water, nutrients–why would it compromise its livelihood for a baby tree that may not make it? Her theory is valid and she has much more experience and knowledge then me, but I love the passion others have about trees and learning new things…its all a learning curve for the constant change and new discoveries people uncover!

It is all just so crazy to me, but I love the constant wonder…

Baby Balsam Fir Tree
Baby Balsam Fir Tree
White Cedar
White Cedar Horizon line 🙂

Two Brothers – One Property

Have you ever shared something with a sibling and it turned out good??

On one of my first site visits I went out to a property that two brothers shared and it was quite the talk. The front half ones one brothers (We will call him Ned) and the back half was the others (we will call him Fred).  So Ned and Fred!  Ned’s half was this gorgeous red pine plantation mostly.   Perfect placement of trees for optimum growth, tall, no major die back or disease.  Then we walked back to Fred’s part…Uffda! He also had a red pine plantation but the rows were all funny, there was too much competition due to poor planting and not enough pre-commercial thinning and he had all these straggly choke cherry trees taking over large parts of the canopy cover.  Then it tapered off into a maple oak stand where there was little to no regeneration and all the trees were past their prime.  Now here in Clare county pretty much all the soil is SAND (Yuck!) so when you get a tree as large as an oak can get growing there it begins to uproot itself because the soil cannot support the root system.  I explained to them that they need to open up this stand to allow for sunlight to promote regeneration and this is their response.  “Can we bring in hogs to rut up the land”?  I looked at the landowners–pondered a minute to try and grasp what exactly he was asking.  Hogs?! You wanna bring in hogs?!  Well yes, they will rut up the land and open up the soil.  But I advised them that this was not a good idea.  They had already expressed that they wanted regeneration of the oaks for deer management…well folks hogs will take away that regeneration.  Let me tell you why.  Hogs are kind of lets say destructive, they will rut up the soil and eat the organic materials, eat up the little acorn seeds in their area then when they are moved they will eat and rut up all that.  And if they destroy too much and take away too much seed source and your oaks are already not producing enough seed, there is no room for regeneration.  The forest will eventually decline and be left with nothing.

In hardwood stands the best thing to do where there is a lack of regeneration is to open up the canopy to allow for ample sun and water for regrowth.  To do this a crop tree is chosen.  A crop tree is one that is relatively straight and still productive and can be promoted to keep growing.  Then around the crop tree you take out any other competitors, take out those competing above (canopy space) and below to open up the ground.  Then you move on to another crop tree and do the same.  Eventually you have marked your crop trees and cleared all around them and regeneration can happen.  Now this might scare a lot of folks but its the best management for hardwoods, it might look bare at first but after a few years, that regrowth will begin and you can have the pride of being a good steward and forest owner.  Who knows maybe those crop trees will grow to be veneer logs!

Although the brothers had two very different plans for their “parcels” of the property- the fact they were trying to be proactive in their management is the key here.  Not just being reactive, when things get bad!

Learning experience from this site visit- no to hogs!!!

Red Pine Canopy Red Pine Plantation

Not from this site visit–but still beautiful Red Pine

“Normal Hike”

Is it possible for a forester to just hike like an everyday person on a hike???  Now don’t go taking that in any other way, basically when I go out walking with someone else, who is not a forester, I feel like a weirdo!  Just like if I took a walk with someone who knows rocks or who knows clouds or something along those lines, I wouldn’t know anything!

Regardless– is it possible?  “I don’t think so, Tim”- Al Borland (Home Improvement).  When I go on a hike through the woods with a friend I am still in the mindset of looking at every tree, looking at the bark, identifying the species, if it has any decay, disease or other issues.  I often find myself falling behind and looking up at the trees rather than engaging in conversation, or I become that annoying person that quizzes you at every tree! I mean if I see a beech tree and I ask my friends what it is and they get it wrong, you can bet your last dollar that the next beech tree will be quizzed!

So I challenge you the next time you go on a nature walk or walk down to your mailbox to get the mail, or walk your dog around the block to take a book, grab a leaf or take picture and Google the tree to know exactly what it is!

I think it is incredibly important for everyone, regardless if they have trees in the yard or not to be able to identify at least the basics.  Whether that just be the difference between a conifer tree or a deciduous tree.  It surprises me how many folks don’t know the difference. There are so many diseases and insects infecting trees, seems like a new one is always just around the corner; making headlines.  Awareness is key–so knowing what you have is the key to unlock the safety of that tree, and keep it healthy.

So the next time you’re hiking–think like me–What is that tree??

Answer to the post is…no; there is no such thing as a normal hike. And just because every hike with me is educational, does not mean it is not relaxing or enjoyable 🙂

Scotch PineRiver

What Tree Would You Be?!?

“What tree would you be”?  “Really, are you really asking me that”?

Way back at the beginning of October I was interviewed for my current position.  I had been through so many interviews and after so many I never thought I would actually be asked the one question I always hoped would be asked- what is your favorite tree and why.  Well at the interview for this job it was a little bit different, if you could be any tree what would it be and why.  I think my jaw literally dropped, I looked at the gentleman asking me the question and said “really, are you really asking me that”? He smiled and said yes and repeated the question.  I smiled so big and with great confidence said the Ginkgo tree, because I feel that I am a unique, strong and independent women just like the Ginkgo tree is all of these attributes.  Needless to say I think that one answer got me the position!

Ginkgo biloba trees are a very unique tree.  They are considered a living fossil tree that can date us back into the Dinosaur age. They are the oldest living species and are rare now to find in wild but thrive in Michigan given the right sun, soil and water requirements.  They are dated back to some 280 million years ago with fossil records; Now that is old!! They are one of a kind- the only one in their family.

Ginkgo’s are not susceptible to diseases; they are actually used by humans for medicinal purposes! I mean yeah there is leaf spot that can affect the tree- but it does no real damage.  All other trees are threatened due to all the different bugs and diseases spreading so quickly–but the Ginkgo stands tall and lives long.  The leaves on a Ginkgo tree are unlike any other tree with their smooth fan-shaped leaf.  In the fall the leaves turn a stunning bright yellow color.  They are amazing trees for university/school lawns, streets, or building green spaces because they are low maintenance and great shade trees.  Low maintenance meaning they require little to no pruning and they drop their leaves all at once- so one rake and done–Sweet Deal!!! Okay-there is one draw back here- the female tree! Yes, I know I said I would be a Ginkgo but ignore that for this next moment.  Ginkgo trees are dioecious meaning they have a female tree and a male tree.  The females are planted less often because their fruit–it stinks!!! But other than that minor detail–amazing tree!

If you could be a tree, what tree would YOU be?

Ginkgo Leaf
Ginkgo Leaf

International Forest Day

Happy International Forest Day!  One of my favorite days…

I had a site visit today- yeah on a Saturday, but that was okay since it was forest day.  I was walking along with the landowners and their dog enjoying the warmer Michigan weather looking at trees, enjoying the diversity and some wildlife that was there, A hawk and some chickadees. They had some beautiful diversity on their 40 acres of property.  It ranged from mature scotch pine, mature white pine to some younger oaks and white pine.  They even had some baby spruce trees and balsams!  Not to mention some oddly placed blue spruce and cedar trees.  I enjoy walking properties with landowners because it reminds me that there are people out there who still value the forest purely for the forest.  These landowners wanted my advice on how to just be good stewards to their property.  They weren’t just looking to make a bang for their buck on harvesting it (which is a good thing; harvesting) but they really just wanted to know what they had out there and how to best manage it to keep it thriving for years and years.  They wanted to know about all the possible diseases to keep their eyes out for based on what they had and wanted to know what exactly they had out there.  They did not claim to be “know it alls” and that they knew what they had.  It was more of a walk through teaching experience.  It was a nice humble site visit.

So as we were walking…to my surprise I nearly started running! My eyes widen and I started going off the trail towards what appeared to be a hemlock…IT WAS!!!! Now, I get excited when I see certain trees but even more to my surprise the landowners were right behind me just as excited and not even knowing why they were to be excited! I told them they have HEMLOCKS! I started freaking out and she started freaking out pointing out the little adorable pine cones.  She was a sucker for pine cones, and I was able to find a fallen cone for her.  Now its normal for me to leave a site with samples of different things and a pocket full of acorns or other things but to have some one with me collecting neat things was mind blowing!  As we continued on I mentioned to them that it was International Forest day and we should probably hug some trees.  Now usually when I mention to a landowner about hugging trees I get a chuckle, but not today.  Today the landowners and I hugged trees together.  The gentleman said he would hug his favorite tree on the property, a large white pine probably 30-35dbh, in which he called “Big Bertha”!  So I hugged a white pine near his and he referred to it as Big Bertha’s sister!  Today I not only hugged many trees but I got to do it with some other forest lovers and it was amazing.

If you didn’t get the chance to hug a tree on International Forest Day–its okay, there is always tomorrow and the next day and the next.

“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.”
John Muir

Scotch Pine

Embrace

There is something magical about hugging a tree.  I often get funny looks or people thinking I am down right crazy…but in reality, they are the ones that are crazy.  Hugging a tree for a forester is beyond just hugging it because I can.  Its respecting the one renewable resource that we can use for multiple different products, its about respecting the life of the tree that gives us cleaner air, cleaner water, reducing humidity and heat, and protects us against soil erosion and flooding!  When I hug a tree I am thanking it for lining and shadowing our streets and making the neighborhood a better safer place for children and for the economy.  Trees are proven to reduce crime in neighborhoods and they reduce electric bills, energy costs and stormwater run off in yards.  Trees are just looked at like a large inconvenience sometimes and tree huggers are stereotypical people who don’t want trees to be cut down.  But this isn’t always the case.  Just because I hug trees- doesn’t mean I don’t see the value in cutting them down.  We just have to be smart..cut a tree plant 2 more.

So, if your tree is feeling blue from this cold winter…hug it real tight!!!

Hug a Tree Today!
Hug a Tree Today!