Got Nature? Blog

Invasive species are any plant, animal, insect or plant disease not native to a specific location that can cause harm to the environment, impact the diversity of native species, reduce wildlife habitat or disrupt important ecosystem functions.

As spring approaches, many invasive plants are beginning to leaf out in local woodland areas. Now is the time to stop them in their tracks so they don’t overtake native plants, affect water availability or damage the quality of soil among other potential impacts.

Here are some resources to help you identify various invasive plants in woodland areas near you, to know when to report them and also what you can do help control their spread.

burning bush

burning bush

Asian Bush Honeysuckle
Watch this video to learn how to identify Asian Bush Honeysuckle .

Burning Bush
Learn about the Winged Burning Bush and what you can do to stop the spread of this species.
Learn more about the identification, distribution, impact, management and control of this deciduous shrub found in Indiana hardwood forests with this Purdue Extension publication, Invasive Plant Series: Winged Burning Bush.
Check out this article for alternatives plants listed in the Purdue University’s Landscape Report, Alternatives to Burning Bush for Fall Color.

Callery_pear_thicket

Callery Pear

Callery Pear
Watch this video to learn how to identify Invasive Plant Species: Callery Pear and discover some steps you can take to combat this invader.
To identify callery pear view this article in the Landscape Report titled Now is the Time to Identify Callery Pear.
Learn about what you can do if you have callery pear by viewing this article in Purdue Extension’s Indiana Yard and Garden, A “Perfect” Nightmare.

Japanese Chaff Flower
The chaff flower is typically found in flood plains, ditches, bottomland forests and on riverbanks, growing in rich, moist soil. It often shades out and displaces many native plant species. Learn more about the

mileaminute

Mile-a-minute

chaff flower and how to report it by viewing this Purdue Extension publication Japanese Chaff Flower.

Kudzu
Learn more about Kudzu in Indiana (pdf 248kb).

Mile-a-minute Vine
This plant forms very dense, tangled mats, growing over shrubs, small trees and up the sides of forest edges. Learn how to identify and control this fast-growing vine within the buckwheat family by viewing this Purdue Extension publication Mile-a-minute Vine.

multiflorRoseRob_Routledge_Sault_College_Bugwood.org

Multiflora Rose
Credit: Rob Routledge, Sault College, Bugwood.org

Multiflora Rose
This plant bears white flowers in clusters, which turn into small red berries in the fall. Learn more about how to identify and control Multiflora Rose  (video).

Oriental Bittersweet
Familiarize yourself with Invasive Plant Species: Oriental Bittersweet, an exotic invasive vine that is moving from ornamental plantings to fields and woodlands.

Wintercreeper
This exotic invasive vine is moving from ornamental planting to fields and woodlands and features a white to pinkish-red fruit that is visible from September to November. Learn how to identify Invasive Plant Species: Wintercreeper, which is green all-year-round, and steps you can take to combat this invader.

Winter Creeper

Winter Creeper
Credit: Chris Evans, NRES/University of Illinois

Resources
Indiana DNR Division of Forestry
Indiana Invasive Species Council
Report Invasive, Purdue Extension
Woodland Invaders, FNR Got Nature? post
What Nurseries Need to Know About the Invasive Species Regulation, The Education Store, Purdue Extension’s resource center
Invasive plants: impact on environment and people, The Education Store, Purdue Extension’s resource center

Elizabeth Jackson, Manager Walnut Cncl/IFWOA & Engage Specialist
Purdue University Department of Forestry and Natural Resources

Wendy Mayer, FNR Communications Coordinator
Purdue University Department of Forestry and Natural Resources


Posted on March 20th, 2020 in Forestry, How To, Plants, Wildlife, Woodlands | No Comments »

manage woods for white-tailed deer cover

Many woodland landowners are interested in improving their properties for one of Indiana’s most abundant game animals, white-tailed deer. This publication titled Managing Your Woods for White-Tailed Deer outlines different options landowners have to enhance white-tailed deer habitat in their woodlands. Learn the pros and cons of mature forests vs. young forest stands along with finding answers to these and other questions you may have:

  • Can mature forests cause less forage?
  • What does lacking oak trees mean for managing deer?
  • Which plants do deer eat?

This 16-page publication filled with plants and forest photos is a free download from the Purdue Extension resource center, The Education Store. View other deer publications and video resources as you place keywords in the search field located on The Education Store website.

Resources
Renovating native warm-season grass stands for wildlife: A Land Manager’s Guide, The Education Store, Purdue University
Bovine Tuberculosis in Wild White-tailed Deer, The Education Store
How to Score Your White-tailed Deer, Video, The Education Store
How to Build a Plastic Mesh Deer Exclusion Fence, The Education Store
Frost Seeding to Establish Wildlife Food Plots and Native Grass and Forb Plantings, Video, The Education Store

Jarred Brooke, Extension Wildlife Specialist
Purdue Department of Forestry and Natural Resources


Posted on March 19th, 2020 in Forestry, Forests and Street Trees, How To | No Comments »

Purdue Landscape Report: We all have heard about dormancy and the restful time of woody plants in our landscapes. That “chill-out” time is nearing the end and it’s time to think about tree maintenance. Trees and shrubs have actually been growing for quite some time, we just can’t see it… yet. Woody plants begin growth after the chilling requirements have been filled. These requirements are different for every plant. Chilling units are hours of time spent above freezing. The number of hours required for chilling varies for different plants from less than 500 to 1,500 hours or more. Many people think the plant is tracking hours below freezing, but in actuality, hours below freezing has no effect on chilling but does increase cold hardiness. Our mild winter and early spring arrival is playing a role in this process.

Spring-Buds

Figure 1. These oak tree buds may look dormant but have completed their chilling requirement and are ready to break. Source

An important maintenance task is supplemental fertilization during early spring weather, especially if there wasn’t any type of fall fertilization. Let’s take a look at how a tree uses and gains energy during the year to understand why and when trees need good nutrition. After the leaves have fallen there is no way to generate food because without leaves, there is no photosynthesis. There are huge demands on the carbohydrate reserves due to increased metabolic functions to support new leaves, flowers and fruit. Supplemental nutrition can help if storage levels are low or depleted until the new photosynthates are available. That’s a huge demand on its reserves! The tree must rely on stored carbohydrate reserves in its woody parts such as stems and branches to grow. Hopefully, the tree was healthy and developing those reserves going into fall or supplemental nutrition was offered with fall fertilization. If not, then the tree exhausts much of its energy and is in need of new resources.  In some situations, it may be considered safer for the tree to apply fertilizer in the spring. Fall applications, if applied too early in the fall season, can create the risk of forcing the plant into becoming metabolically active right when cold weather hits, creating growth susceptible to freeze damage.

Many woody plants begin the new year’s growth with stored food from the year before. An application of fertilizer in the spring gives an additional boost to this new growth. It is important to note that not all trees and shrubs need fertilization, however, most can benefit from this application, especially the younger actively growing trees. In forests, soils have an abundance of nutrients, but in our landscapes and urban forest areas, that’s not often the case.  As we sweep away leaves, twigs and fallen bark, we’re removing potential recycling of nutrients for the soil. Additionally, the grass around our trees is unnatural and often outcompetes trees for available nutrients and water. That’s why we need to fertilize our trees, spring or fall. Look for signs that your tree is lacking nutrients in the soil. If you see these signs, fertilization may be necessary.

Seasonal-Starch

Figure 2. The graph shows the starch loss or energy used during various growing stages for the tree during the year. Most energy is depleted after leaf emergence and then regained as leaves begin photosynthesizing new resources. Source

  • Shorter than normal annual twig growth
  • Undersized leaves that are fewer in number
  • Dead branches and branch tips
  • Leaf veins darker than leaf margins
  • Leaves any other color than dark green, such as yellow or red

However, never fertilize without getting a soil test. If your trees are experiencing any of the above symptoms, have your local arborist inspect the tree to determine the best treatment. Also, Review Consumer Horticulture: Fertilizing Woody Plants (pdf) for more details on fertilizer application techniques and rates.

Now for just a little about tree pruning. All of that new tree growth is going to prompt the pruning activities… be patient!  Once trees start budding and blooming in the spring hold off until after the flush.  Pruning in the spring can limit bloom potential and remove newly expanding leaves that will be needed to produce new food products for energy.

Generally, the best time to prune is several weeks after the spring flush or during the summer months. Early spring pruning should focus primarily on pruning for safety to remove any dead, dying or decayed branches. Aesthetic or structural pruning can be completed much later and when the tree is better prepared to seal those pruning wounds with energy reserves.  For more information refer to the publication Tree Pruning Essentials from the Education Store on pruning topics.

Resources
Consumer Horticulture: Fertilizing Woody Plants, The Education Store, Purdue University
Tree Planting Part 1: Choosing a Tree, Video, The Education Store
Tree Installation: Process and Practices, The Education Store
Tree Pruning Essentials, Video, The Education Store
Corrective Pruning for Deciduous Trees, The Education Store
Tree Pruning: What Do Trees Think?, The Education Store

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


Rainscaping, planting to help with water runoff.

The Purdue Extension and Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant Rainscaping Education Program was highlighted in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Education Accomplishments Report (pdf) for fiscal year 2019.

This report highlighted all of NOAA’s greatest accomplishments related to education in five main goal areas: science informed society, conservation and stewardship, safety and preparedness, future workforce and organizational excellence.

The Rainscaping Education Program was featured in the Conservation and Stewardship section of the report. The Purdue Rainscaping Education Program offers state-wide training for Purdue Master Gardeners, conservation agencies and organizations, stormwater professionals and landscape companies and consultants. Through two-day workshop sessions, the program provides an introduction to rainscaping and rain gardens, including segments on site selection, plant selection, garden design, installation, maintenance and community engagement.

“It is wonderful to have the innovative and collaborative work of the Purdue Rainscaping Education Team recognized for its efforts,” Kara Salazar, assistant program leader and extension specialist for sustainable communities said. “The team has been working together since 2013 to develop and implement the interdisciplinary program addressing the need for community education on sustainable landscape practices to prevent polluted runoff.”

Salazar and John Orick, Purdue Master Gardener State Coordinator, are co-leads on the project. View  the full Rainscaping Team.

The featured segment on the Rainscaping program from the NOAA annual report is below.
2019 NOAA annual report highlighting Purdue Extension Rainscaping.

Resources
What is Rainscaping? Purdue Rainscaping Education Program Video, Purdue Extension
Q&A About Drainage Water Recycling for the Midwest,  The Education Store, Purdue Extension resource center
Become a Purdue Master Gardener, The Education Store
Climate Change: How will you manage stormwater runoff?, The Education Store
Plan Today For Tomorrow’s Flood, The Education Store

Kara Salazar, Assistant Program Leader and Extension Specialist for Sustainable Communities
Department of Forestry and Natural Resources


Posted on February 14th, 2020 in How To, Urban Forestry, Wildlife | No Comments »

Extension publication, No Room at the Inn: Suburban Backyards and Migratory BirdsBird migration is one of the greatest phenomena of the natural world. Birds depend on suitable habitats to rest and refuel. In this free download publication titled No Room at the Inn: Suburban Backyards and Migratory Birds, a Purdue researcher describes ways to manage your backyard to attract birds of all types, for your enjoyment and their survival. Including a list of common migratory birds in Indiana, this publication also provides a list of other suggested resources to learn more about birds and how to identify them.

Resources:
Forest Birds, Video, Purdue Extension
Birds and Residential Window Strikes: Tips for Prevention, The Education Store, Purdue Extension resource center
Managing Woodlands for Birds, The Education Store
Climate Change + Birds, Purdue Climate Change Research Center

Jessica Outcalt, Graduate Research Assistant
Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, Purdue University


Posted on February 13th, 2020 in Forestry, How To, Land Use, Wildlife | No Comments »

Just because the winter days are cold and dreary doesn’t mean the work to improve wildlife habitat on your property has to stop. In fact, now is a perfect time for a wide range of habitat projects. One such project is frost seeding native grasses and forbs. Here’s why you should brave the cold and consider sowing your seeds this winter.

Picture3

Picture 3. Smaller fields can be established with just a hand seed spreader (left), whereas an ATV or tractor-mounted spreader is better for larger fields (right).

Picture2

Picture 2. When broadcasting native seed, it should be mixed with a carrier (pelletized lime here) to help the seed flow through the spreader.

Picture1

Picture 1. After frost seeding, the native grass and forb seed is visible on the ground, but the freezing and thawing of the soil will ensure good seed-to-soil contact.

Its natural
If you think about how a native prairie works, many of the seeds ripen in the late summer and early fall and drop to the ground throughout the fall and winter. So, sowing seeds from January through March or frost seeding is mimicking what would have occurred naturally. By doing such, you are taking advantage of the freezing and thawing cycles of the soil. The helps with a couple things.

First, many native plant seeds – forbs (wildflowers) especially – need that natural freezing and thawing cycles to break their dormancy. Thus, frost seeding can help increase the germination of many of these species. Second, the freezing and thawing of the soil helps to work the seed into the soil, which can improve seed-to-soil contact, an important factor in planting success (picture 1).

Less time to waste
Dormant seeding or seeding once the soil dips below a certain temperature (as early as November) is another viable option to establish a native grass and forb stand. But with frost seeding, the seed remains on the soil for less time before germination. Which may reduce the seeds’ exposure to soil pathogens, rodents, birds, or other critters that may eat the seed or reduce germination.

Minimalist-style
Frost seeding native grasses and forbs can be done will minimal equipment. All you need to frost seed is a hand or mechanical seed spreader, the seed, and a carrier (picture 2). Using a hand seed spreader works great for small fields, but you may consider using an ATV or tractor-mounted mechanical spreader for larger fields (picture 3).

Another option is to use a no-till seed drill. Of course, this will require more specialized equipment, but many Soil and Water Conservation Districts or Pheasants and Quail Forever Chapters have no-till drills that you can borrow or rent to help complete your project.

When it comes to establishing native grasses and forbs, there is more than one way to plant a field. But, frost seeding might be the option that is best suited for you and your site.

For a How-To on frost seeding, check out our Frost Seeding Video below:

Resources
Frost Seeding to Establish Wildlife Food Plots & Native Grass and Forb Plantings, video, The Education Store, Purdue Extension Resource Center
Calibrating a No-Till Drill for Conservation Plantings and Wildlife Food Plots, video, The Education Store
Renovating native warm-season grass stands for wildlife: a land manager’s guide(pdf), The Education Store
Purdue Extension Pond and Wildlife Management Website, Purdue Extension

Jarred Brooke, Wildlife Extension Specialist
Department of Forestry & Natural Resource, Purdue University


Ag BMPAgricultural Best Management Practices (BMPs) are intended to protect or improve water quality without significantly impacting production.  This resource titled Tipping Point Planner Stormwater Definitions, Agricultural Best Management Practices, helps communities plan for a sustainable future. Authored by Ben Wegleitner, social science outreach associate, Daniel Walker, community planning extension specialist, Kara A Salazar, assistant program leader and extension specialist for sustainable communities, and Lydia Utley, data analyst, you will find references and get an overview of how the Tipping Point Planner program guides you through best management practices.

In this Long-Term Hydrologic Impact Assessment (L-THIA) model and the Tipping Point Planner program you will find the following BMPs: no-till practices, buffer strips, grassed waterway, nutrient management, grade stabilization structure and blind inlet.

With help from trained facilitators, the Tipping Point Planner program enables professional and citizen participation in the land use planning and management process.

Resources
Tipping Point Planner, Sustainable communities, Purdue University
Urban Best Management & Low Impact Development Practices, The Education Store, Purdue Extension resource center
Bioindicators of Water Quality: Quick Reference Guide, The Education Store
Improving Water Quality by Protecting Sinkholes on Your Property, video, The Education Store
Improving Water Quality At Your Livestock Operation, video, The Education Store
Improving Water Quality Around Your Farm, video, The Education Store
Healthy Water, Happy Home – Lesson Plan, The Education Store

Kara A Salazar, Assistant Program Leader and Extension Specialist for Sustainable Communities
Purdue University Department of Forestry and Natural Resources


Urban BMPUrban best management practices (BMPs) and low-impact development practices are forms of green infrastructure designed to protect water quality and quantity by reducing stormwater runoff or by storing and treating stormwater before it reaches surface waters. Low-impact development practices are intended to mimic natural infiltration processes.

This publication titled Tipping Point Planner Stormwater Definitions: Urban Best Management Practices (BMPs) and Low Impact Development Practices is written by Ben Wegleitner, social science outreach associate, Daniel Walker, community planning extension specialist, Kara A Salazar, assistant program leader and extension specialist for sustainable communities, and Lydia Utley, data analyst. It discusses the benefits of several urban best management practices for protecting or improving water quality. These BMPs include: permeable pavement, rain barrels, bioretention system, grass strip (or buffer strip), grassed swale, retention ponds, wetland basin and detention basin. The following practices are used in the Long-Term Hydrologic Impact Assessment (L-THIA) model and the Tipping Point Planner. Through Tipping Point Planner, Great Lakes communities can plan sustainable futures by directly linking data to their local decision-making processes.

Resources
Tipping Point Planner Stormwater Definitions: Agricultural Best Management Practices, The Education Store, Purdue Extension resource center
Improving Water Quality by Protecting Sinkholes on Your Property, video, The Education Store
Improving Water Quality At Your Livestock Operation, video, The Education Store
Improving Water Quality Around Your Farm, video, The Education Store
Healthy Water, Happy Home – Lesson Plan, The Education Store

Kara A Salazar, Assistant Program Leader and Extension Specialist for Sustainable Communities
Purdue University Department of Forestry and Natural Resources


Posted on January 29th, 2020 in Alert, How To, Wildlife | No Comments »

coyotesJanuary IDNR Wildlife Bulletin Newsletter: It’s that time of year again – coyotes are on the move, and Indiana residents might see them more, but this should not be a cause for alarm.

Coyotes are common everywhere in the state, even in urban areas. Coyotes become more active during winter, and the bare vegetation this time of year increases the chance of catching a glimpse. Young coyotes leave their parents to find a new home, making them more likely to be seen during winter. And in January, coyotes will be looking to breed, making them even more active. Seeing more coyotes does not mean they are increasing in number.

Where people are, coyotes follow. Coyotes like to eat animals and plants that thrive around yards and homes, including rabbits, mice, fruit and squirrels. They thrive around people because of the abundant food that comes with human development.

Coyotes are a common member of Indiana’s urban wildlife community, as are raccoons, red foxes, and opossums. Coyotes are also an important member of Indiana’s wildlife community, helping control rodent populations and cleaning up carrion.

Coyotes typically weigh between 20-30 pounds and are similar in height to a German Shepherd. Winter fur, which is thicker, makes coyotes appear bigger than they actually are, potentially causing concern.

To reduce the possibility of pets having a negative interaction with coyotes or any other wildlife, keep pets leashed, in a kennel with a secure top, or indoors.

Problems between coyotes and people are uncommon. Follow these tips for making your property less attractive to coyotes:

  • Clean up fallen fruit from trees or gardens.
  • Keep garbage secure.
  • Make sure pet food and treats are not left outside.
  • If you see a coyote around your yard, take down birdfeeders; coyotes could be attracted to the rodents eating the seeds.
  • Never intentionally feed a coyote, which could result in its losing its fear of people.

Making a coyote feel unwelcome around people can help maintain its natural fear of humans, but never corner or chase a coyote – you should always allow it to have a clear escape path to get away from you.

If you see a coyote and want it to go away, try to make it uncomfortable:

  • Yell.
  • Wave your arms.
  • Spray it with a hose.
  • Throw tennis balls or small stones at it, but don’t throw anything that could be food, like apples.
  • Carry a jar of coins to shake or a small air horn to make noise.

Learn more about coyotes at Dealing with Nuisance Coyotes
Full Article >>>

Resources
Coyotes (PDF), Wildlife Conflicts, Department of Entomology, Purdue University
Urban Coyote Research Center, Urban Coyote Ecology & Managenet, Cook County, Illinois
Dealing with Nuisance Coyotes, Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR)-Fish and Wildlife
Coyotes a Constant Problem in Indy Suburbs, IndyStar

Indiana Department of Natural Resources


Posted on December 9th, 2019 in Christmas Trees, Forestry, How To | No Comments »

Tree ComparisonSo you are off to select a real Christmas tree this year? The tree characteristics that influence a family’s decision on what species to select can vary greatly. First, many families just want the experience of cutting their own tree. In this case, any appropriately priced and correct sized tree will do. Other consumers may be more demanding in terms of different tree characteristics. These include fragrance of the tree, rather the tree is cone or more globose shaped, needle length, and of course expected needle retention. Color is also to be considered, as well as branch stiffness and cost. These factors all come into play rather the purchaser is aware of them or not. They all interact in one way or another to define the perfect Christmas tree and to create great Christmas memories.

There are about 200 real Christmas Tree Farms producing trees on over 2,500 acres in Indiana. Each year about 90,000 Christmas trees are harvested in Indiana and over a billion dollars in sales are made throughout the U.S. Based on number of trees harvested, Indiana ranks seventh among all states. Most of the farms are choose and cut operations but some wholesale farms, particularly in Northern Indiana, also exist. Real Christmas trees are also sold at retail outlets.
Scotch pine, consisting of several varieties, remains the most commonly grown Christmas tree in Indiana. However, as transportation and communications improved the desire for other species such as the firs and spruces increased. Because climate and soil conditions vary substantially from one end of Indiana to the other, not all species will be found in one area and probably not all on one farm. However, most Indiana farms will have three or four species available.
Scotch pine and white pine are usually the least expensive trees whereas the true fir, are more costly. Douglas fir (not a true fir) and spruce are usually intermediate in cost. The pines will grow on most soils in Indiana and do not require fertilization. Fraser-fir and Canaan fir will only grow on well to moderately well drained soils, require fertilization, and are in relatively short supply as choose and cut trees, especially in southern Indiana. Some farms do not have true firs available in the field. Douglas-fir and spruce trees are intermediate in the care they require while in the field and thus usually intermediate in price. However, growers may have a surplus of a certain species or size of trees and reduce the price to assure that the trees will be sold.

Blue Spruce

Blue Spruce

To view the table that presents the common characteristics which help to determine a consumer’s preference for a certain species, as well as read the full article, view the Selecting an Indiana-Grown Christmas Tree publication.  However, in the end, it comes down to a family’s preference. The preferred species can also be determined by memories of past Christmases.
In addition to the most commonly produced Indiana species described in the publication, other species may be available. Noble fir and grand fir are shipped in from the west coast and balsam fir from the Lake States and Canada. Balsam fir has been a fairly popular species in the past. Some growers are experimenting with other species such as Korean fir, Turkish fir, and Nordman fir. These are beautiful trees but since it can take at least seven years for these trees to reach Christmas tree size, don’t expect to find many choose and cut trees available just yet.

For more information about Christmas trees or to locate a choose-and-cut tree farm near you, please visit the Indiana Christmas Tree Growers’ website,  or the National Christmas Tree Association website.

Resources:
A Choose-and-Cut Pine and Fir Christmas Tree Case Study, The Education Store, Purdue Agriculture’s resource center
Living Christmas Trees For The Holidays and Beyond, The Education Store
Tips for First-Time Buyers of Real Christmas Trees, The Education Store
Growing Christmas Trees, The Education Store

Dr. Daniel Cassens, Professor Emeritus
Purdue Department of Forestry and Natural Resources


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