Got Nature? Blog

Posted on September 22nd, 2017 in Forestry, Forests and Street Trees, Woodlands | No Comments »

FNR 550 WDue to reasons such as pruning, location of growth and species characteristics, trees can grow in ways that don’t endorse long-term health and safety. To counter trees growing in unsafe ways, cabling, bracing, guying, or props can be utilized to prevent branch or whole-tree failure. These tree support systems reinforce critical areas of the tree by limiting the movement of branches or leaders. In the publication titled Large Tree Cabling and Bracing, FNR-550-W, common structural deficiencies in trees and the tree support devices used to prevent problems caused by those deficiencies are described and covered.

Resources:
Tree Support Systems, The Education Store, Purdue Extension
Tree Planting Part 1: Choosing a Tree, The Education Store, Purdue Extension
Tree Pruning: What Do Trees Think?, The Education Store, Purdue Extension
Forest Improvement Handbook, The Education Store, Purdue Extension
Got Nature?, Purdue Extension, Forestry and Natural Resources

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


Posted on June 30th, 2017 in Forestry, Wildlife, Woodlands | No Comments »
Eastern Hellbender

Eastern Hellbender

We have written about the Eastern Hellbender salamander (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis alleganiensis) in this blog multiple times. It is a unique species and plays an important role in the aquatic ecosystem in which it inhabits. Unfortunately, the species has been declining throughout much of its range over the past several decades and can no longer be found in many of the rivers and streams where it used to be common. In Indiana, the Eastern Hellbender can only be found in the Blue River. However, this population is also declining and without intervention will likely disappear within the next 20 years.

To help prevent this, Purdue University’s “Help the Hellbender” has teamed with Mesker Park Zoo and Botanic Garden (MPZ) to attempt to captive breed the Eastern Hellbender. Purdue University biologists have been capturing wild Eastern Hellbenders from the Blue River and transporting them to MPZ. MPZ has built an indoor stream designed to mimic the conditions in the Blue River. They have followed the advice of members of the highly successful Ozark Hellbender subspecies (C. a. bishopi) breeding program at St. Louis Zoo.

Mesker Park Zoo and Botanic Garden zookeeper, Bryan Plis, places a wild Eastern Hellbender into the new breeding raceway

Mesker Park Zoo and Botanic Garden zookeeper, Bryan Plis, places a wild Eastern Hellbender into the new breeding raceway

If successful, this captive population will provide a long-term, easily accessible source of young Hellbenders for eventual release. This will allow us to continue to repopulate the Blue River while expanding our release efforts to include other southern Indiana rivers with suitable habitat. The breeding program also will reduce the need to spend countless hours searching the river in the hopes of finding increasingly rare Hellbender nests. Through these efforts we will hopefully be able to reestablish self-sustaining populations of Hellbenders throughout southern Indiana and help prevent the extinction of a truly magnificent animal.

For more ways you can help, please visit HelptheHellbender.org.

Resources:
Mesker Park Zoo: Helping the Hellbender , Purdue Extension-Forestry and Natural Resources, YouTube
Help the Hellbender, Purdue Extension-Forestry and Natural Resources
Mesker Park Zoo and Botanic Garden
Hellbender Information, St. Louis Zoo
Purdue Partners with Indiana Zoos for Hellbender Conservation, Purdue Newsroom
I found this in my barn. Is it a Hellbender?, Purdue Got Nature?, Forestry and Natural Resources

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


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.


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:
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.

Resources:
Hands of the Future, Inc.
Junior Nature Club

Zonda Bryant, Director
765.366.9126
director@hands-future.org

 


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.

Pawpaw

Dogwood tree with blooms.

Dogwood

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, planthardiness.ars.usda.gov.

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.

Resources:
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


Spotted salamander.

The Spotted Salamander (Ambystoma maculatum) is a common species of mole salamander. Photo credit: T. Travis Brown.

I have been asked some variation of this question multiple times over the past several years. Sometimes the “hellbender” is found in a barn, on a basement floor, crawling across a driveway, or occasionally in a pond. The common denominator is always that someone has found a salamander, and they are concerned it is an Eastern Hellbender that needs help.

I appreciate this concern. I am glad to see that people have become more aware of the existence of the Eastern Hellbender and that it is something worth helping. The Eastern Hellbender is an endangered species in Indiana, and we always welcome reports from concerned citizens. However, the Eastern Hellbender is a very rare species in Indiana and is uncommon throughout most of its range in the eastern United States. The species has been declining in Indiana over the past several decades and is now known only from the Blue River in Washington, Harrison, and Crawford Counties. For this reason alone, it is unlikely that anyone would find a Hellbender on their property.

However, another equally important reason that it is unlikely a Hellbender involves the species biology. The Eastern Hellbender is fully aquatic and lives exclusively in rivers and streams. Unlike most amphibians, its primary means of respiration is by absorbing oxygen directly from the water through its skin. One adaptation Hellbenders have evolved to help with oxygen absorption is the development of wavy skin-folds along the sides of their bodies. These skin-folds provide greater surface area for oxygen absorption. Hellbenders have lungs, but they do not function well enough to allow them to survive extended periods of time on land. Hellbenders have been found on land immediately next to rivers and streams, but this is rare and is generally considered an anomaly.

Hellbender vs. mudpuppy

Top: Hellbender, Bottom: Common Mudpuppy.

While this rules out finding them on land away from rivers and streams, what about ponds and lakes? Hellbenders typically prefer clean, cool, swift flowing rivers and streams with a high oxygen content. These conditions are not typically found in ponds and lakes, and would make it unlikely that hellbenders would willingly reside in them. Moreover, these water bodies are usually landlocked with no close access from rivers and streams, and since hellbenders do not like to travel overland, they will likely never encounter a pond or lake.

There are two unlikely possibilities that might result in a Hellbender being found in a pond or lake. The first would be if someone captured a hellbender and moved it there. The second would be a pond or lake owner that lives in the floodplain of a river containing Hellbenders. Hellbenders do occasionally get dislodged by flooding and washed downstream. A large flood has the potential, however unlikely, to wash a Hellbender into a nearby pond. I am unaware of this ever happening, but it is a possibility.

So if you haven’t found a Hellbender, what have you found? If you found your salamander on land, it is very likely one of a group of salamanders known as mole salamanders. Mole salamanders are common throughout most of Indiana. They typically breed in ponds in the spring and then hide under logs or bury themselves underground. They are commonly found during spring breeding migrations and are frequently seen in large numbers. They often times find themselves wandering onto our properties and getting stuck in window wells or hiding themselves under rocks, firewood, or in our barns.

If you found your salamander in the water then it could be either the aforementioned mole salamander or a Common Mudpuppy. Mudpuppies are commonly confused with hellbenders and do live in ponds, wetlands, and creeks. Like the Hellbender, they are fully aquatic and don’t go on land except in very rare circumstances. Mudpuppies have large, fluffy gills behind their heads, which Hellbenders do not have. Mudpuppies also lack the skins folds along the sides of their bodies.

While most people will go their entire lives without ever seeing a Hellbender, if you live in the right areas it is a possibility. If you think you have seen a Hellbender, then please take a photo and let us know by visiting our Hellbender Reporting Webpage below. We are always happy to help.

Resources:
Hellbender ID – video, The Education Store, Purdue Extension resource center
HelptheHellbender.org, Purdue Extension
Help the Hellbender: North America’s Giant Salamander, The Education Store
Salamanders of Indiana, The Education Store
Appreciating Reptiles and Amphibians, The Education Store

Nick Burgmeier, Research Biologist and Extension Wildlife 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


Got Nature?

Archives