Almanack Contributor Paul Hetzler

Paul Hetzler

Paul Hetzler has been an ISA Certified Arborist since 1996. His work has appeared in the medical journal The Lancet, as well as Highlights for Children Magazine.

You can read more of his work at PaulHetzlerNature.org or by picking up a copy of his book Shady Characters: Plant Vampires, Caterpillar Soup, Leprechaun Trees and Other Hilarities of the Natural World


Monday, October 19, 2015

Asian Lady Bugs: Unwelcome Halloween Decorations

Asian lady bettleWhat’s round to oval-shaped, mostly orange, and is a common sight leading up to Halloween? Everyone knows the answer to that: Harmonia axyridis, obviously. Better known as the multicolored Asian lady beetle, this insect, while beneficial to gardens, is no treat when it masses by the hundreds on, and inside, homes in the fall.

Lady beetles, or lady bugs, are the darlings of small children everywhere. There are a number of native lady beetle species, which tend to be more reddish than orange, and they aren’t known to be nuisances in homes. Multicolored Asian lady beetles, however, are not as polite. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Great Pumpkins: Storing Garden Squash

Traugers-farm-bucks-county-largeLinus, the precocious, blanket-toting “Peanuts” character, waited faithfully for The Great Pumpkin all night on Halloween in spite of being disappointed every year. Perhaps his unwavering belief in the mythical pumpkin was spurred on by the fact that almost every year brings the world a bigger “great pumpkin” of the sort one can measure and – at least potentially – eat. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, September 23, 2015

When Caring For Trees Avoid Topping

tree toppedTree topping is a subject I can really get worked up about. It’s unprofessional, unsightly, outrageous, unethical, dangerous, and I even suspect it causes more frequent rainy weekends and bad-hair days. It’s unthinkable, horrible, bad, yucko, blecch! That should be pretty clear—any questions? Oh, exactly what is tree topping? Hang on. Mmmph—there, that’s better. Had to wipe the foam off my mouth.

Tree topping is the removal of limbs and or/ trunks to an arbitrary length, leaving stubs. Variably known as heading, hat-racking or tipping, it is denounced by the Tree Care Industry of America, The International Society of Arboriculture and other professional tree-care organizations. » Continue Reading.


Friday, September 18, 2015

That Old Line About Why Leaves Change Color

in this leaf the veins are still green while the other tissue is turning redAs a wee lad I was told a story wherein the bright summer sun would bleach pigment from clothes hung on the line, and save up the colors to paint on autumn leaves. Thinking back on that yarn it occurs to me that solar dryers (a.k.a. laundry lines) and fall leaf color change are similar in how they operate. They’re both elegant and cost-free, but their performance depends on the weather. » Continue Reading.


Monday, September 7, 2015

Distressing Colors: Early Leaf Change An Unhealthy Sign

Early leaf colorIf trees held a race to see which would be among the first to have their leaves turn color, the winners would be losers. Premature leaf color change is a reliable indicator of failing health, and the worse a tree’s condition, the sooner it begins to turn.

Precious few places in the world have a fall color show like ours, and the display that northern hardwoods produce each autumn never fails to fill me with awe and appreciation. But when it starts in July, as was the case again this year on some roadside maples, I know those trees aren’t long for this world. In early August even some forest hardwoods growing on thin rocky soils began to show color, which is also unusual. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, August 27, 2015

Afflictions Of Late Summer Tree Leaves Only Skin Deep

330px-RhytismaAcerinumDetailUBeing an arborist, I’m of course very mindful of complexion. Things like bruises and blemishes catch my eye, in addition to scabs, cuts, and even those out-of-place whiskers that appear out of nowhere. It sounds like a description of my aging skin, but I’m talking about blotches, warts and cuts that accumulate on tree leaves over the summer.

I suppose if we had to stand outside day and night all season, our skin would develop issues too. Those who work or play much outdoors need to be concerned about skin spots that suddenly show up. With tree leaves, that’s not the case – even the ugliest “skin” condition is generally no cause for concern. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Woodlot Management: Losing Money By High-Grading

100_1149What do you call a dairy farmer who spends decades improving the genetics of a herd, then abruptly sells all the best animals to start a new herd from scraggly, unproven stock? Crazy, perhaps, or foolish at the very least.

Under normal circumstances, no livestock farmer culls their best animals to start over with random ones. Yet it’s common for woodlot owners to sell all the large, well-formed trees during a timber sale and leave nothing but small and defective trees to regenerate the next forest. » Continue Reading.


Monday, July 27, 2015

Jewelweed: Definitely Not A Weed

JewelweedBy definition, a weed is any plant growing where you don’t want it. To clarify, this holds true only in the garden beds or acreage under your cultivation. “Weeding” flowers in a park planter because they offend your sense of aesthetics is frowned upon.

To a plant, having “weed” embedded right in its name is probably akin to having a “Kick Me” sign on your back. Right out of the box there is bound to be a bit of prejudice against you, fair or unfair. Spotted knapweed, goutweed and Japanese knotweed are all pernicious invasive species, and deserve all the bad press they get. But occasionally an innocent bystander suffers from this name game. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Treat Your Trees Right: Avoid Mulch Volcanoes

mulch-volcanoWhen you think about it, trees in our landscape have it pretty rough. They don’t get to choose their neighborhood; good, bad or indifferent. Depending where they’re planted they may have to contend with “visits” from territorial dogs, “materials testing” by late-night fraternity mobs, entanglements with errant kites, and other issues. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, July 12, 2015

Cattails: A Culinary Tale of Nine Lives

cattailsThe two cats at my place have survived many life-threatening traumas such as falls, fights and even the compulsory “devotions” of small children. It’s amazing the hazards they can evade. I think if pets could drive, only dogs would get speeding tickets – cats would always find ways to wriggle out of a citation. Sadly, my contacts in the veterinary field continue to assert that cats have but a single life, and that the whole “nine lives” thing is just a cat tale.

However, the story about cattails having (at least) nine lives is no yarn. An obligate wetland plant, the common cattail (Typha latifolia) is native to the Americas as well as to Europe, Africa and most of Asia – basically the planet minus Australia, all Pacific Islands and most Polar regions. It can be found growing along wetland margins and into water up to 30 inches deep, from hot climates to Canada’s Yukon Territory. » Continue Reading.


Monday, July 6, 2015

Carry Firewood Now, Boil Less Water Later

Fire Wood by John WarrenHow much are you willing to pay to boil water? I don’t mean to make coffee or cook pasta, but for the heck of it. Would you spend $200 to $600 annually just to let off some steam?

Probably not, right? But if you heat with wood, you already shell out hard-earned money each year to boil water for no practical reason. » Continue Reading.


Monday, June 22, 2015

Avoiding Ticks In The Adirondack Region

#3 - HarringtonSummer should be a carefree season full of picnics and swimming, a time for hikes and barbeques on the deck, not a time to fret about tick-borne illnesses.  As few as ten years ago it was unusual to find even one brown dog tick or lone star tick on your person after a weekend of camping in northern NY state. Now in many places all you have to do is set foot in the brush to get several black-legged ticks, commonly known as deer ticks, which are harder to see than other ticks.

The deer tick is known to transmit Lyme disease as well as Babesiosis, anaplasmosis, Powassan virus and other serious illnesses. In fact it’s possible for two or more diseases to be transferred to a host, human or otherwise, by a single tick bite. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, June 9, 2015

A Windshield Survey of Back-Country Bugs

Dragonfly SplatterNext time you arrive at your cottage, camp or favorite fishing spot and the car’s grille is bristling with wings and other insect body parts, its windshield greased with bug guts, you should be happy. Those insects develop underwater, and they are an indication that the water quality thereabouts is very good. And that you should bring paper towels and glass cleaner next time.

Flying fish excepted, it seems odd to call an airborne creature aquatic. But these insects spend the vast majority of their lives in an aquatic life stage called a naiad, or nymph. They breathe through gills that, while well-developed, are readily damaged by sediment and other kinds of water pollution. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, May 28, 2015

Crazy Worms: Fish Bait And Forest Pest

Crazy WormRaise your hand if you’re tired of hearing about new invasive species. Yeah – right there with you. Aside from the fact that there’s too much bad news around as it is, we’re still working on a solution for those good old-fashioned pests that rival the common cold in terms of eluding conquest. Japanese beetles, European chafers, buckthorn, wild parsnip, Japanese knotweed – enough already. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Trees: Understanding Roots And Root Care

PaulHetzlerTreeRootAngelaPerry4002.5April showers bring May flowers, the calls of spring peeper frogs, and of course, backhoes. Yes, it’s construction season, which for arborists and trees is also root-damage season.

As far as trees are concerned, root injury is the source of all evil. Well, most of it, anyway; chainsaws and forest fires aren’t so kind to trees, either. But regardless of the worrisome signs a tree may develop, whether early fall leaf color, tip dieback, slow growth, or even some diseases and insect infestations, the problem is below ground in the majority of cases. » Continue Reading.



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