Got Nature? Blog

The Purdue Rainscaping Education Program’s ultimate goal is to increase rainscaping in residential and small-scale public spaces. With this two day workshop on August 30th and 31st, the Rainscaping Education Program aims to teach master gardeners, landscape professionals, and agency staff how to promote community awareness and education for bioretention/rain garden planning, installation, and maintenance. The sessions include flipped classroom instruction through online learning modules, experiential training activities, field techniques, and field trips to view rainscaping projects.Purdue Extension, Rainscaping Program

Check out the flyer for more information or register here. The deadline to register is August 9th.

Rainscaping Education, Purdue Extension-Forestry and Natural Resources
Rainscaping Education – Program Impacts, Purdue Extension-Forestry and Natural Resources
Rainscaping Podcast: Managing Water Around Our Homes, Purdue Extension-Forestry and Natural Resources
How ‘rainscaping’ benefits water quality, WLFI TV-video

Lyndsay Ploehn, Extension Educator, Porter County
Purdue University Extension Agriculture & Natural Resources

Kara Salazar, Sustainable Communities Extension Specialist
Purdue Department of Forestry and Natural Resources

John Orick, Horticulture and Landscape Architecture
Purdue Department of Horticulture & Landscape Architecture

Costs and Returns of Producing Hops in Established Tree PlantationsRapid growth in the craft brewing industry has created an opportunity for Hoosier farmers to start growing hops. Hops are the female flowers (also called cones) from the hop plant (Humulus lupulus). This high-value, perennial crop is used to flavor and stabilize beer. Now available in a free download is a new publication with a study focusing on growing hops along the fence lines of newly established forest stands. This publication titled Costs and Returns of Producing Hops in Established Tree Plantations is the first of two publications that analyzes the economic opportunities in forest farming for Indiana forest plantation owners. The economic analysis presented in this article is developed for two hops varieties, ‘Cascade’ and ‘Comet’, based on marketability and presumed adaption to low sunlight, respectively.

Additional Resources:
Costs and Returns of Producing Wild-Simulated Ginseng in Established Tree Plantations, The Education Store, Purdue Extension
Forest Improvement Handbook, The Education Store
The Nature of Teaching, Lesson Plans K-12, Purdue Extension
Hardwood Ecosystem Experiment – Sustaining Our Oak-Hickory Forests, The Education Store
Tree Pruning: What Do Trees Think?, The Education Store

Kim Ha, Research Assistant
Purdue Agricultural Economics

Other contributing authors: Dr. Shadi Atallah, Tamara Benjamin, Dr. Lori Hoagland, Lenny Farlee and Dr. Keith Woeste.

Bagworm caterpillar.The evergreen bagworm, as its name implies, is well known for its ability to defoliate evergreen trees and shrubs like spruce, arborvitae, fir, junipers and pine. When given a chance, it will also feed on deciduous trees like maples, honeylocust, and crabapples. In late May and early June bagworms hatch from eggs that overwinter in the bag of their mother. When young bagworms begin feeding on broadleaved plants the caterpillars are too small to feed all the way through, so they leave circular patterns of skeletonization. Bagworms can be easily controlled with a spray application of spinosad (Conserve, or Fertilome borer and bagworm killer), or Bacillus thuringiensis (Dipel). More control options are available on the Purdue Tree Doctor App,

View this video located on the Purdue Plant Doctor App Suite Facebook page to watch a young bagworm caterpillar poke its head out of its silken bag to feed on a maple leaf. The young caterpillar scrapes the leaf surface to feed, and cuts bits of green tissue and glues it on its back. At the end of the video it sticks out its legs and flips the entire bag over to hide from the lights.

Purdue Plant Doctor App Suite, Purdue Extension-Entomology
Landscape & Oranmentals-Bagworms, The Education Store
Upcoming Workshops, Purdue Extension-Forestry & Natural Resources
Ask An Expert, Purdue Extension-Forestry & Natural Resources

FNR contacts:
Lindsey Purcell, Urban Forestry Specialist
Purdue University, Department of Forestry and Natural Resources

Lenny D Farlee, Sustaining Hardwood Extension Specialist
Purdue University Department of Forestry and Natural Resources

Cliff Sadof, Professor
Purdue University Department of Entomology

Students in Forestry and Natural Resources (FNR) continue to volunteer for Hands of the Future, Inc., a non-profit program whose mission is to help educate children about the outdoors and natural resources. As this program continues to grow, one of their dreams has been to find woods to create a children’s forest. To have a natural site that has been embellished upon with children’s needs in mind and to encourage outdoor play and adventures.

The students plan on transforming 18.8 acres of idle woods into Zonda’s Children’s Forest. The children’s forest will be composed of six main areas:

  1. A children’s garden, equipped with a greenhouse and kitchen, thHands of the Futureat’ll allow children to learn how to properly grow and cook food.
  2. An enclosed area dedicated to allowing children having fun and safe adventures.
  3. A viewing area for butterflies, birds and other organisms of the wild, allowing children to easily enjoy the life of the forest.
  4. A maze designed by sunflowers, where children can have fun and do problem-solving, while close to nature.
  5. A walk dedicated to viewing the owls and other organisms composing the forest.
  6. Another enclosed area of the woods for adventures; However, it’ll also contain tree houses, bridges and other fun additions for the children.

Donations to help make Zonda’s Children’s Forest a reality can be made here. They have six months to raise $235,000 in order to purchase the woods.

Volunteers & Interns:
Older students and adults can apply to be a volunteer. Volunteers are always appreciated, no past experience necessary. If you love nature and kids you will enjoy this program. Internships are available for college students, contact Zonda Bryant.

Hands of the Future, Inc.
Junior Nature Club

Zonda Bryant, Director


Money doesn’t grow on trees, or so the saying goes. I don’t believe those folks were talking about the cotton and linen currency of today when that phrase was first uttered. Since that period of history, many parents have edited the statement to include: shoes, clothes, toys, and a host of other items that ‘don’t grow on trees’. In the past my mother told me repeatedly that electricity didn’t grow on trees and until this past January, she was correct. Now, things have changed.

Researchers at Iowa State have designed a device that not only mimics the way tree leaves sway in the wind but generates electricity when in happens. Not meant to replace wind turbines, these inconspicuous machines are much smaller and more compact while turning wind energy into electricity. Because of their smaller footprint, these biometric (use of artificial means to mimic natural processes) trees could, with further development, be the start of a new market in electric generation.

At present the prototype resembles a wire antenna from which plastic leaves dangle that allows them all to be connected to a storage battery. Leaves on the prototype are clear but have been depicted here as green for easier viewing. The Iowa scientists envision that a scaled up model, with tens of thousands of leaves all producing electricity, would allow for a considerable amount of off-grid energy harvesting. Ensuring uncompromised efficiency remains a primary goal of the group.

The device ‘leaves’ were modeled after cottonwood (Populus deltoides) trees because the petioles (leaf stalks) are flat thus allowing the leaves greater movement in the wind. Inside the leaf stalks of the device are specialized plastic strips that release a charge when flexed. The regular fluttering of the leaves maximizes this piezoelectric effect in the model.

Future uses for such technology are variable from powering household electric devices (i.e. a tree-powered vacuum cleaner or coffee maker) to charging various modes of transportation. However, as with most new technology, efficiency remains a challenge and must be maximized to be competitive in the marketplace. New approaches are required before biometric trees and similar devices are ready to be marketed to the public. This research has already influenced new design approaches in computer science, manufacturing, and nanotechnology.

Journal Reference:
McCloskey M, Mosher CL, Henderson ER. 2017. Wind Energy conversion by Plant-Inspired Designs. PLOS ONE. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0170022

Web Resources:
Iowa State University. “Scientists design electricity generator that mimics trees.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 31 January 2017.

Additional Resources:
What is a GMO? Making Trees Stronger, Podcast, Got Nature?, Purdue Extension-FNR
Purdue’s BioWall Project Aims For Cleaner Indoor Air, Got Nature?
Do Trees Sleep?, Got Nature?
Gardens by the Bay: Supertrees of Singapore Light up the Night Sky ,

Shaneka Lawson, USDA Forest Service/HTIRC Research Plant Physiologist/Adjunct Assistant Professor
Purdue University Department of Forestry and Natural Resources

In Tennessee, magnolia and the highly invasive ornamental pear trees are in full bloom. In New Jersey, crocuses and buttercups are vibrant spectacles of color. Here in Indiana, flowering dogwood, pawpaw, and red oak have responded to an early spring with a burst of blooms as well. This vibrant display is the result of a mild winter. Unfortunately, there is a downside. A sudden cold freeze after this swathe of warm weather could severely damage blossoms, buds, and significantly reduce yields in fruit and nut trees.

Pear tree.

Blooms on pear tree.

Magnolia tree.

Blooms on magnolia tree.

Crocus flowers

Crocus blooms.

Ranunculus flowers

Buttercup blooms.

Growth of a tree or flower is the result of the weather and the perpetuation of its natural growth cycle. To store sufficient resources for the following year, trees use the winter season as an opportunity to shuttle nutrients to their roots. With cold temperatures keeping pests at bay, fewer nutrient resources are needed for defense and maintenance. These nutrients will be shuttled to the branches the following spring to support the growth of buds and blossoms. Interruption in the storage process caused by early spring conditions interferes with nutrient supplies and kickstarts the growing cycle again.

Nutrients once slated for root storage are now being sent to the branches to begin fruit and bud production despite having fewer resources in storage than usual. A freeze that occurs after leaves and buds begin to appear will damage the new growth and likely delay flowering and fruiting until much later in the year when surfeit energy is available to support a second growth effort. While trees are usually able to leaf out a second time, there are often more issues with low yield and early leaf drop.

Pawpaw tree with blooms.


Dogwood tree with blooms.


Red oak tree.

Red oak

Also, insect pests, usually subdued by cold winter temperatures are likely to be out much earlier than usual and with greater numbers. This increase in insect presence does not necessarily bode well for plant pollinator populations. If, for example, a tree flowers earlier than honeybee populations are available, then it is possible that those trees will go unpollinated. Also, if other pollinators are also unavailable, there will be no fruits the following year on that tree.

USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map

USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map. Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture,

Ultimately, the state of our seed, fruit, and nut production depends on two major events; pollination and lack of a cold freeze. If we see a sudden cold snap that damages the trees and eliminates pollinators, then next spring will be a time of sorrow rather than an exciting start to the growing season. The dramatic shifts in weather temperatures over the last decade have led the Department of Agriculture to reevaluate and reassess plant hardiness zones. For the first time in thirty years, an updated map with new zones has now been created, USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map.

Purdue Plant Doctor App, Purdue Extension
Purdue Plant and Pest Diagnostic Laboratory, Purdue Agriculture
Planting & Transplanting Landscape Trees and Shrubs, The Education Store, Purdue Extension resource center
Tree Planting Part 1: Choosing a Tree – video, The Education Store
Tree Installation: Process and Practices, The Education Store

Shaneka Lawson, USDA Forest Service/HTIRC Research Plant Physiologist/Adjunct Assistant Professor
Purdue University Department of Forestry and Natural Resources

Lenny Farlee, Sustaining Hardwood Extension Specialist
Purdue Department of Forestry and Natural Resources

Indiana Amphibian and Reptile ID PackageIf you or someone you know loves to learn about wildlife, especially reptiles and amphibians, then you will be interested in our new special offer package. We are offering our complete collection of reptile and amphibian field guides (4 softcover books) for 10% of the price of each individual book. These books cover all of the reptiles and amphibians that are found in the state of Indiana. They include detailed physical descriptions, distribution maps, and interesting information about the ecology of each species. All of the included books have been peer-reviewed by experts in the field of herpetology.

The Indiana Amphibian and Reptile ID Package can be purchased from the Purdue Education Store for $36.00.

Additional Resources, The Education Store, Purdue Extension:
Frogs and Toads of Indiana
Salamanders of Indiana
Snakes and Lizards of Indiana
Turtles of Indiana

More Resources Available:
Help the Hellbender, Purdue Extension
The Nature of Teaching, Lesson Plans K-12, Purdue Extension

Nick Burgmeier, Research Biologist and Extension Wildlife Specialist
Purdue Department of Forestry and Natural Resources

Drawing of sleeping tree, pixabay.comNearly all creatures exhibit differing behavior during the day and night. Songbirds sing and fly about during the day and roost at night. Owls forage for food primarily at night and rest during the day. Many of us have noticed how flowers seem to droop at night and appear to be sleeping before resuming a more erect posture at sunrise. Is it possible that despite the carbon reinforced bark trees do the same thing? New research says “Yes!”

It’s true! Trees droop their branches at night and lean over. This drooping is not the full bow often associated with a Broadway play in New York. Research scientists in Austria, Finland, and Hungary have used laser scanners to observe and record this “sleeping” behavior in silver birch (Betula  pendula) thus it is natural to assume other tree species behave similarly.

Daffodils drooping at night.




This leaning phenomenon has been calculated to only be 10 cm (~4 in in trees that were roughly 5 meters tall (16 ft 4 in). Repeated measurements have assured that these changes in overall tree height are genuine and repeatable.

Scanned birch with front view and side view.

Point clouds measured from the Finnish birch at the time of sunset (black) and sunrise (green). Stem and branch points have been separated based on their spectral properties. Photo credit: Eetu Puttonen, Finnish Geospatial Research Institute (FGI) in the National Land Survey of Finland.

Scientists ruled out wind, elevation, and other weather effects by conducting the experiment in both Finland and Austria.

It was thought that water balance may have been responsible for this movement but has been ruled out as the lasers use infrared light that is reflected and not absorbed by the plant for photosynthesis. This allows the entire tree to be mapped quickly and with high resolution.

Future work is to be directed at increasing the scope of the experiment to measure larger areas (orchards, plantations) and adding in day and night water use measurements to better understand tree influences on regional climates. This work shows that, at the end of the day, even trees need a nap.

Literature Cited:
Puttonen E, Briese C, Mandlburger G, Wieser M, Pfennigbauer M, Zlinszky A, Pfeifer N. 2016. Quantification of overnight movement of birch (Betula pendula) branches and foliage with short interval terrestrial laser scanning. Frontiers in Plant Science doi: 10.3389/fpls.2016.00222.

Animation of scanned birch.

Animation of the point cloud change in Finnish test over time. The scanned birch is in the middle. Each frame corresponds to a single terrestrial laser scan. Animation credit: Eetu Puttonen, Finnish Geospatial Research Institute (FGI) in the National Land Survey of Finland.

Additional resources:
How do trees go to sleep, Technische Universität Wien
Scientists have found trees ‘sleep’ at night too, GeoBeats News, YouTube

Shaneka Lawson, USDA Forest Service/HTIRC Research Plant Physiologist/Adjunct Assistant Professor
Purdue University Department of Forestry and Natural Resources

Storm damage, trees downSafety first! Stay clear and look for dangerous hanging limbs, broken branches and other failures before beginning cleanup or inspections. Keep others clear of the areas beneath and around damaged trees. Be alert for power lines that could be involved with damaged trees. All utility lines should be considered energized and dangerous.

Lindsey Purcell, Purdue urban forestry specialist, shares, “in my experience, during storm cleanup, many tree owners are faced with the decision of what to do with their trees relative to restoration or removal”.  There are several types of tree damage that occur from violent weather. Each has its own specific assessment considerations. All parts of the tree should be inspected during a post-storm assessment. This requires the expertise of trained, professional arborists to assist with the decision making regarding the best course of action. Unfortunately, there are those who take advantage of the situation and overcharge or provide poor advice when it comes to the best decision on their trees. Don’t make any hasty decisions and be sure you are hiring an International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) Certified Arborist, ask for references and proof of insurance in the process.

View publication Trees and Storms located in the Purdue Extension-The Education Store for more information.

Trees and Storms – The Education Store, Purdue Education Resource Center
Caring for storm-damaged trees/How to Acidify Soil in the Yard – In the Grow, Purdue Extension
Expert: Some storm damage can be easily prevented – Fox 59 News
What to do with your damaged trees – WLFI
Why Is My Tree Dying? – The Education Store
Tree Risk Management – The Education Store
Mechanical Damage to Trees: Mowing and Maintenance Equipment – The Education Store

Lindsey Purcell, Urban Forestry Specialist
Purdue University, Department of Forestry and Natural Resources

Learn to recognize and report invasive forest pests at these free workshops.Early Detector Training Workshops, Save the Date logo

These evening sessions will prepare you to be the first line of defense for your community’s urban forest.

Bloomington, IN—July 11th
6:00 pm– 8:00 pm
3400 S Walnut St
Bloomington, IN

Aurora, IN—July 12th
6:00 PM-8:00 PM
229 Main Street
Aurora, IN

Nashville, IN—July 13th
6:00 PM-8:00 PM
Old State Rd 46
Nashville, IN 47448

For more information view brochure: Invasive Forest Pests Early Detector Training Workshop (.60mb pdf).

Become an Early Detector, Purdue Extension Entomology
Tree Doctor App, The Education Store
Invasive Species, Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR)
Ask an Expert, Purdue Extension-Forestry and Natural Resources
What to do about emerald ash borer, Got Nature?, Forestry and Natural Resources
Indiana Invasive Species Council, Includes: IDNR, Purdue Department of Entomology and Professional Partners
Great Lakes Early Detection Network App (GLEDN), The Center for Invasive Species & Ecosystem Health

Sara Stack, Graduate Research Assistant
Purdue Department of Entomology

Cliff Sadof, Professor
Purdue University Department of Entomology

Matt Ginzel, Associate Professor
Purdue University Department of Forestry and Natural Resources & Department of Entomology

Got Nature?

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