The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has announced that invasive pest emerald ash borer (EAB) has been found and confirmed for the first time in Franklin and St. Lawrence counties. DEC captured the insects in monitoring traps at the two locations.
DEC confirmed the specimens as adult EABs on August 25. The invasive pest was found within a few miles of the Canadian border and may represent an expansion of Canadian infestations into New York. » Continue Reading.
In springtime, driving around on weekends makes me sad. Invariably I’ll pass someone out in their yard, shovel in hand, maybe with their kids or spouse, and they have a cute little tree from the garden center on one side of them, and a wicked deep hole in the ground on the other. If I wasn’t so shy, I’d stop and offer my condolences, because clearly they are having a funeral for the tree.
Here’s an arborist joke: What do you call a three-foot deep planting hole for a tree? Its grave. Tree root systems are broad — three times the branch length, barring an impediment — and shallow. Ninety percent of tree roots are in the top ten inches of soil, and 98% are in the top eighteen inches. Tree roots are shallow because they like to breathe on a regular basis. I think we can all relate to that. » Continue Reading.
Kermit the Frog may have lamented “It’s not easy bein’ green,” but these days, everyone wants to market themselves as “green.” It seems to make us feel good. You might recall how in the early ’90s, lawn-care giant ChemLawn became (unfairly, to be honest) a magnet for public criticism as risks related to pesticide use became more widely known. With the help of some green paint for their trucks, and a pile of trademark lawyers, ChemLawn morphed into TruGreen, and just like that people started to like them better.
If “green” is a hot brand, then “emerald” must be tops. Who doesn’t like the Emerald Isle or the Emerald City, and now the 750lb. Bahia Emerald is on sale for around $400mil if you’re looking for a bargain. So right out of the box, the emerald ash borer (EAB) is ahead in the PR department. Plus, it’s gorgeous: a tiny streamlined beetle sporting a metallic green paint job with copper highlights. This, coupled with the fact that they’re not at the moment raining from the sky like a plague of locusts, may be why it’s hard to take the EAB threat seriously. But I’m betting a little “tea” will let the air out of EAB’s greenwash balloon. » Continue Reading.
My earliest memory of St. Patrick’s Day is how angry it made my mother, who holds dual Irish-American citizenship and strongly identifies with her Celtic roots. It was not the day itself which got her Irish up, so to speak, but rather the way it was depicted in popular American culture: Green-beer drink specials at the bars and St. Patrick’s Day sales in every store, all endorsed by grinning, green-clad, marginally sober leprechauns.
Although Mom stuck to the facts about Ireland; its poets, playwrights, and history, my aunts and uncles would sometimes regale us kids with stories of the fairy-folk, including leprechauns. It gave me nightmares. According to my relatives, you did not want these little guys endorsing your breakfast cereal. They might look cute, but if you pissed them off they were likely to kidnap you, steal your baby out of the crib, or worse. And one of the surest ways to incur their wrath was to cut down their favorite tree, the hawthorn. » Continue Reading.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has announced that more than 50 species of trees and shrubs from the DEC’s Saratoga Tree Nursery are now available to public and private landowners and schools.
Spruces, pines, shrub willows, dogwoods, high bush cranberry, winged sumac, white cedar, and wetland rose are among the 50 species available. » Continue Reading.
It’s winter. Hardwood trees are bare. But that doesn’t mean the woods are bereft of interest. Winter, when sunlight slants in, is the time when bark comes into its own. Pause to take in the aged-brass bark of a yellow birch, or the hand-sized bark plates on a big white pine.
Bark is beautiful. And practical. A protective tissue, a defense against insects, fungi, fire, and deer, it has a lot in common with human skin. » Continue Reading.
Given that maple producers have to boil down roughly 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup, you would think that dry weather might improve things. Obviously if drought could get rid of a bunch of water for free, the sap would become concentrated and you wouldn’t need to boil as much. Heck, in an extremely dry year maybe we could just drill into a maple and have granular sugar come dribbling out.
If only it worked that way. In general, a shortage of water during the growing season hampers the production of sugar and leads to lower sap sugar concentrations the following spring. Green plants have a magic formula for turning sunlight into sugar, and it calls for a few simple ingredients: water, carbon dioxide, sunlight and chlorophyll. If one item is missing, the transformation won’t work. I’m told most spells fail for want of a newt’s eye or some such, but if a thing as basic and usually commonplace as water is in short supply, the miracle of photosynthesis slows to a snail’s pace (which is likely used for some other spell). » Continue Reading.
You picked it out, maybe cut it down, brought it home, watered it, and decorated it. But do you know what species of tree that is surrounded by presents in your living room?
If you purchased your Christmas tree rather than cutting it out of the woods, chances are it’s either a balsam fir (Abies balsamea) or a fraser fir (Abies fraseri) – these are the two species most commonly grown on Christmas tree farms in northern New England. Balsam fir is found naturally everywhere, from Alberta to Pennsylvania, and has the largest range of any North American fir species. It’s perhaps best known for its aroma – when people say they want a tree that smells like Christmas, they’re talking about a balsam. Fraser fir, native to the Appalachian Mountains, doesn’t have the same trademark scent, but it does have a little more visual flourish in the form of elegant blue-green needles with silvery-white undersides. » Continue Reading.
Speaking as a guy who can hide his own Easter eggs and still not find them, I marvel how Father Christmas, who is at least several years older than I, still manages to keep track of all those kids and their presents. Lucky for us that the most enduring memories are associated with smell. If it was not for the fragrant evergreen wreaths, trees and garlands (and possibly a hint of reindeer dung), Santa probably would have long ago forgotten his holiday duties.
Of all the memorable aromas of the holiday season, nothing evokes its spirit quite like the smell of fresh-cut pine, spruce or fir. Although most American households which observe Christmas have switched to artificial trees, about eleven million families still bring home a real tree. » Continue Reading.
Tamarack is a tree with a number of aliases – hackmatack, eastern larch, or if you’re from Northern Maine and feeling contrary, juniper. Whatever you call it, this scraggly tree, easy to overlook for most of the year, lights up the November forest. Weeks after leaf season has passed us by, the tamarack turns brilliant yellow and then orange, blazing like a torch amid the evergreens and fading, broad-leaf browns.
It’s an oddball tree, the only deciduous conifer native to our region, and I’ve often wondered how it manages to make a living. Deciduous trees are big spenders, investing in foliage that they use quickly and discard. This approach may seem wasteful, but in certain scenarios it’s a good strategy. Big leaves enable a tree to collect and bank a lot of carbon dioxide all summer; the tree then drops the leaves and takes the winter off. » Continue Reading.
You can pretty much count on a tree to stay in one place, at least in the real world. Not so in fiction. Remember the walking, talking Ents in the Lord of the Rings movies? Or Groot, the tree-like alien in the science fiction film Guardians of the Galaxy?
Roots anchor a tree, of course, allowing it to stand up to much of what nature can throw at it; they also provide life-giving nutrients. Tree roots are a marvel of evolution: part of a whole-tree plumbing system that makes the one in your house seem primitive. » Continue Reading.
It turns out that, in terms of fall foliage, the color of too dry is officially known as “blah.” This would undoubtedly be the least popular color selection if it was included in a jumbo pack of Crayolas. Basically, it is a jumble of faded hues with a mottled brown patina throughout. This year’s dry summer could mean that “blah” may feature prominently in Mother Nature’s fall hardwood forest palette.
Why would a prolonged lack of moisture affect autumn color? Let’s look at what makes leaves colorful in the first place. Among the things we learned — and probably forgot right away — in Junior High Biology is that leaves are green because of chlorophyll, the amazing molecule that converts light, water and carbon dioxide into sugar and oxygen. Its intense green tends to mask colors such as orange and yellow that are present in leaves in lower concentrations. When chlorophyll dies off in the fall, those “weaker” colors are revealed. » Continue Reading.
One of the drawbacks of being an arborist is the language barrier. Routinely I spout off about trees such as Corylus, Carpinus, and Crataegus before noticing a glazed look on the faces of my victims, I mean audience. Once I engage my Nerd Translator, though, such offensive words are corrected to hazelnut, ironwood, and hawthorn, and everyone breathes a sigh of relief. Sadly, this works in reverse, too.
Fairly often someone calls up wanting to know what caused the unexpected and untimely death of their well-established landscape tree that “suddenly” died over the spring or summer. As a result of my arborist-ailment this sounds to me as absurd as if they said the tree shot up from a sapling to fifty feet tall with no warning at all while they were on vacation. » Continue Reading.
During National Invasive Species Awareness Week, I had the good fortune to teach Indian Lake Central School’s 9th graders how to become beetle busters. On February 22, they discovered how invasive insects can cause economic, ecologic, and societal harm. For this lesson, we zeroed in on emerald ash borer and Asian longhorned beetle.
The class already had a solid understanding of what invasive species are because their teacher Sandra Bureau had been incorporating invasive species curriculum into their studies since September. Hands shot up when I asked for a definition. I detailed that Asian longhorned beetle and emerald ash borer probably hitched a ride from Asia to the United States in wood packing crates. Without the ecological checks and balances found on their home turf, they reproduce rapidly. » Continue Reading.
The old saw “money doesn’t grow on trees” will remain valid unless bartering ever becomes the norm, in which case fruit and nut growers will be awash in tree-grown currency. Figuring exchange rates would be quite a headache, I imagine. Our eastern white pine isn’t considered a crop-bearing tree and it certainly doesn’t sprout cash, but it has borne priceless ‘fruit’ all the same.
The tallest trees this side of the Rockies, white pines of up to 230 feet were recorded by early loggers. The current US champion stands at 188 feet tall, and in New York State we have several over 150 feet. In terms of identification, white pine makes it easy. It’s the only native pine out east that bears needles in bundles of five, one for each letter in ‘white.’ (To be clear, the letters are not actually written on the needles.) It produces attractive, six-inch long cones with resin-tipped scales, perfect for fire starting and for wreaths and other holiday decorations (might want to keep those away from open flames). » Continue Reading.