Got Nature? Blog

GroundhogGroundhogs are good at many things, said Brian MacGowan, Purdue University Extension wildlife specialist and Forestry and Natural Resources Extension coordinator, but predicting the weather definitely isn’t one of them.

The lore surrounding Groundhog Day originated in Germany where people used the reactions of badgers and hedgehogs to gauge weather patterns. When the tradition eventually migrated to America, Jarred Brooke, Extension wildlife specialist, said hedgehogs, which can be found throughout the United States, became the mammalian forecaster of choice.

“They’re crafty little critters,” McGowan explains, “which is why they’re found in so many different places. They’re habitat generalists and can live in open woodlands, grasslands, what have you.”

While MacGowan and Brooke agreed groundhogs don’t have a great track-record of weather prediction, other facts make groundhogs one of the more interesting members of the squirrel-family.

For full article see: Groundhogs can’t predict the weather but they do poop underground.

Resources:
Selecting a Nuisance Wildlife Control Professional – The Education Store, Purdue Extension Resource Center
Preventing Wildlife Damage – Do You Need a Permit? – The Education Store
The Basics of Managing Wildlife on Agricultural Lands – The Education Store
Nuisance Wildlife – Indiana Department of Natural Resources
Dealing with nuisance geese this spring – Got Nature?
Animal Damage Management: Woodchucks, The Education Store

Brian MacGowan, Wildlife Extension Specialist
Purdue University, Forestry and Natural Resources

Jarred Brooke, Wildlife Extension Specialist
Purdue University, Forestry and Natural Resources


Emerald ash borer (EAB), the most destructive forest pest to enter North America has left hundreds of millions of dead ash trees in its wake.  Although this pest has been found throughout our state, many of Indiana’s ash trees are still alive, or dead and still standing.  Ash trees killed by emerald ash borer, become extremely brittle and break easily as they decline. Branches can fall on people and property in snowstorms, with a light breeze, or even on a calm clear day. Danger could be hanging over your head in the street, in the forest, and even in your backyard.

Why does emerald ash borer make ash trees so brittle?

EAB damaged tree

Large ash limbs that have broken off in the upper canopy.

Unlike elms, oaks, and maples, ash trees use a thin ring of conducting tissue to supply water from the roots to the entire tree.  Emerald ash borer grubs will damage these functional water pipes as they chew just beneath the bark inside trunks and branches. This causes the tree to dry quickly and the structural wood to become prone to cracking. Internal breaks in the structural wood that bear the weight of the tree are often hidden from view by tree bark. As such, limbs can break and fall at any point along the branch at any time. It is not uncommon to have sizable limbs snap 30 feet off the ground on a calm day.

The threat of falling limbs is not limited to just dead ash. A comparative study of ash trees conducted in Ohio shows that structural integrity of ash trees can begin to decline even when trees are mostly green and have two thirds of the canopy still intact.

What should I do to protect myself from falling ash trees and limbs?

EAB tree thinning with percents.

If your tree has lost less than 30% of its canopy hire a professional to protect the tree.

If the tree has lost more than 30% of the canopy, make plans to remove it.  Delaying removal allows the tree to become more brittle and the problem more dangerous.  Remember, EAB causes progressively more injury to ash trees as time goes on.  The dead parts never come back to life.

If you have been treating your tree continue to do so.

How should I remove the tree?

To minimize risk of harm, hire a trained professional who has experience removing emerald ash borer damaged trees. The International Society of Arboriculture maintains a directory of Certified Arborists and their credentials. They can help find an arborist near you.  Always get bids from more than one contractor. Be sure your contractor is insured and bonded in case of an accident. Professionals are happy to share this information.

Some homeowners might be hesitant to remove dead ash trees because they provide valuable habitat for a range of woodland animals and mushrooms. However, we do not recommend keeping them standing unless you can guarantee that no people, domesticated animals, or property will ever be in their path if they fall. If you have a dead tree that can’t be felled right away or ever, stay away from it until after it has fallen.

Article courtesy of the Landscape Report.

Resources:
New Hope for Fighting Ash Borer, Got Nature? Purdue Extension-FNR
Invasive Pest Species: Tools for Staging and Managing EAB in the Urban Forest, Got Nature?
Emerald Ash Borer, Purdue Extension-Entomology
Emerald Ash Borer Cost Calculator – Purdue Extension Entomology

Lindsey Purcell, Urban Forestry Specialist
Purdue Forestry and Natural Resources

Elizabeth Barnes, Exotic Forest Pest Educator
Purdue Entomology

Cliff Sadof, Professor, Ornamental, Pest Management
Purdue Entomology Extension Coordinator


How do I remedy poor branching? Is my tree at risk of splitting, and how can pruning prevent that? Corrective pruning has many implications for tree structure, health, and longevity. Developing a strong, central branch structure in a deciduous tree is critical for preventing structural failure caused by storms, wind, and ice. This 8-page publication explains the problems resulting from a co-dominant stem structure and addresses pruning strategies for correcting poor structure.

To view this full publication please go to Corrective Pruning for Deciduous Trees located in The Education Store, Purdue Extension’s resource center.

Resources
Preparations to Prevent Southwest Tree Injury, Got Nature? Blog
When do you stake a tree?, Got Nature? Blog
Top 5 List for Tree Selection and Planting, Got Nature? Blog
Tree Selection for the “Un-natural” Environment, The Education Store, Purdue Extension
Tree Support Systems, The Education Store, Purdue Extension
Tree Installation: Process and Practices, The Education Store, Purdue Extension
Planting Your Tree Part 1: Choosing Your Tree, video, The Education Store, Purdue Extension

Lindsey Purcell, Urban Forestry Specialist
Purdue Forestry and Natural Resources


Posted on October 17th, 2018 in Forestry, Urban Forestry, Woodlands | No Comments »

It all starts with providing some supplemental nutrition for small to medium-aged trees in the late fall when trees go into a state of dormancy. This is when trees stop active growth and begin to form terminal buds, drop leaves and develop cold resistance.  Adding fertilizer to trees too early in the season can push new growth which will be prone to winter damage.

A fertilization program is used to maintain trees in a vigorous condition and to improve their immune system against pests. Fertilizing trees refers to the practice of adding supplemental nutrients (chemical elements) required for normal growth and development. However, you really can’t “feed” a tree, since trees are autotrophs. They use nutrients to feed themselves by making sugar in the leaves through photosynthesis.

Figure-1

Applying fertilizer to newly established tree 3rd year after transplanting.

Nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) are plant nutrients needed in the largest quantity and these are most commonly applied as a complete fertilizer. However, the addition of any soil nutrient is recommended only if soil or plant foliage tests indicate a deficiency. For trees and shrubs in most of Indiana, the two most common causes of nutrient problems are high pH (alkaline) soils, which can lead to chronic deficiencies of nutrients in some tree species, such as red maple and pin oak, and nitrogen-deficient soils. Typical symptoms include yellowing chlorotic leaves and reduced growth and smaller leaf size.

Trees in natural settings get nutrients from the air, organic matter, nutrient cycling, and microbial activity. In many cases, supplemental nutrition is not necessary in fertile soils which have enough nutrients in the proper amounts to support healthy growth, especially on established trees, but in the urban and suburban environment, often a little assistance is needed. The more challenging urban environment provides less opportunity for healthy growth due to poor, fragmented soils, reduced microbial activity and compaction. Trees needing fertilization to stimulate growth include those exhibiting the symptoms of pale green, undersized leaves, chlorosis, reduced growth rates and those in decline resulting from insect attacks or disease problems. Also, turf can be a serious contender for nutrients and trees surround by turf benefit from additional nitrogen applications every couple of years.

Trees which should not be fertilized include newly planted trees in the current year and those with root damage from recent trenching, construction or other disturbance. The root systems of these plants will need to re-establish before fertilizers are applied with cultural practices such as supplemental moisture and mulch. Older, established trees do not need to be fertilized every year and may never need supplemental feeding. In fact, serious pest problems can result on over-fertilized trees. Research indicates that young deciduous trees benefit from additional nitrogen in low-analysis, slow release forms.  Conifers require less fertilization and are genetically adapted to low-nutrient soils.

For more information on how and when to fertilize trees, refer to HO-140-W, Fertilizing Woody Plants from the Purdue Extension Education Store.

Article shared by: The Landscape Report, Start Preparing Trees for Winter and Next Year.

Resources:
Trees and Storms, The Education Store, Purdue Extension’s resource center
Tree Risk Management, The Education Store
Fertilizing Woody Plants, The Education Store

Lindsey Purcell, Urban Forestry Specialist
Purdue Forestry and Natural Resources


Trees with colored leaves.For many people, the autumn season welcomes a pleasurable change in the weather.  We notice, even during a warm fall day, the air gets cooler and the brisk breeze forces out the fleece.  There are a couple of questions to be asked every year at about this time. Why do leaves change color and drop their leaves when fall weather appears?  Much of it has to do with day-length and temperature. The important thing is not that the amount of sunlight has decreased but rather the amount of dark has increased. The plants we’re talking about in this case are the deciduous trees, which are the trees producing the vibrant colors and those that lose their leaves annually. These woody plants “sense” the days are getting shorter during late September as winter slowly creeps in on us. Things like pigment, light, weather conditions; plant species, soil type and location all play important roles in the fall party and colorful confetti trees create for us to enjoy.

When daylight hours are less and temperatures are cooler, photosynthesis slows down and there is less chlorophyll production. This reduction reveals yellow or orange pigment called carotenoids and are usually hidden by the abundance of chlorophyll present in leaves during the growing season.

Unlike chlorophyll and carotenoids, which are present in leaf cells throughout the growing season, anthocyanins are produced mainly in the fall. These natural chemicals give color to familiar fruits such as cranberries, red apples, cherries, and plums. These complex compounds in leaf cells react with excess stored plant sugars and exposure to sunlight creating vivid pink, red, and purple leaves. A mixture of red anthocyanin pigment and beta carotene often results in the bright orange color seen in some leaves.

The cool fall temperatures cause the closing of leaf veins and prevent sugars from moving out which prolongs fall color. Thus a succession of warm sunny days and cool crisp nights can create quite a display.

Soil moisture levels have an impact on the ability to produce good fall color. A prolonged drought can delay color change for a few weeks. The ideal conditions for producing the best colors are good summer weather, with timely rainfall, and sunny fall days with the cool night temperatures.

Tree species vary in their ability to provide fall color, as some trees just don’t produce anything noteworthy. Color depends on the nutrient levels of iron, magnesium, phosphorous, or sodium in the tree.  Some tree species displaying yellow foliage are ash, birch, beech, elm, hickory, poplar, and aspen. Red leaves are seen most often in dogwood, sweet gum, sumac, and tupelo trees. Some oaks and maples present orange leaves while others range in color from red to yellow, depending on the species.

Even with these facts the timing, location, and intensity of autumn color are not completely predictable. To truly experience the colorful display you must be tuned in to your trees and your weather.  Get outside and enjoy the party our woodlands are providing and enjoy nature’s beautiful confetti.

Resources:
It’s Fall, but why are the leaves still green? article and video, WLFI.com
It’s late October and many leaves on trees are still green. What’s up with that?, IndyStar.com
Why Leaves Change Color, The Education Store, Purdue Extension
Why Leaves Change Color, USDA Forest Service, Northeastern Area
Fifty Trees of the Midwest App for the iPhone, The Education Store
Native Trees of the Midwest, The Education Store
Trees and Storms, The Education Store
Tree Installation: Process and Practices, The Education Store

Lindsey Purcell, Urban Forestry Specialist
Purdue Forestry and Natural Resources


Posted on September 7th, 2018 in Forests and Street Trees, Urban Forestry | No Comments »

A recent study at the University of British Columbia noted that a single tree along an urban street can help alleviate winds, shade pedestrians, and decrease wind pressure on nearby buildings. For both homes and businesses, the presence of trees can help decrease costs associated with maintaining indoor temperatures.

flickr.com, photo credit: Kris Arnold

Photo credit: Kris Arnold, flickr.com

Researchers used remote sensing technology to create intricately detailed computer models of a neighborhood that included each tree, garden, and structure. The models were able to elucidate how various scenarios (no trees, bare trees, full-leaf trees) influence airflow, thermal patterns, and overall radiant heating and cooling throughout the streets of the neighborhood. Resultant data indicated trees at various stages can decrease wind speeds by as much as a factor of two. For example, a strong 30km/h wind could be reduced to a comfortable 15km/h breeze.  The results also showed trees reduced the strain caused by wind pressure on building spaced closely together and farther apart. Close examination of the data indicated wind pressure causes up to a third of the costs associated with energy consumption and increased costs up to 10% in winter and 15% in summer. Using data gleaned from over a decade of measurements (from a monitored wind tower), they discovered even leafless trees are beneficial in winter months to regulate air flow and wind pressure on buildings.

This modeling effort represents the first of its kind to simulate actual neighborhood conditions using an existing neighborhood recreated in great detail as a model. Further work of this kind can be used to predict storm effects on structures and pedestrian movement. These data can assist engineers and city planners in the creation and layout of buildings, streets, and greenery while limiting energy losses and help evaluate proposed effects of weather forecasts throughout the neighborhood.

flickr.com, photo credit Rob Young

Photo credit: Rob Young, flickr.com.

References:
M.G. Giometto, A. Christen, P.E. Egli, M.F. Schid, R.T. Tooke, N.C. Coops, M.B. Parlage. 2017. Effects of trees on mean wind, turbulence and momentum exchange within and above a real urban environment. Advances in Water Resources, 106: 154 DOI: 10.1016/j.advwatres.2017.06.018

University of British Columbia. Trees can make or break city weather. Science Daily, 26 July 2017.

Resources:
Tree Selection for the “Un-natural” Environment, The Education Store – Purdue Extension’s resource center
Planting Your Tree Part 1: Choosing Your Tree (Youtube video),  Purdue Extension-FNR
Tree Installation: Process and Practices , The Education Store
Tree Planting Part 2: Planting a Tree (Youtube video), Purdue Extension-FNR
Top 5 List for Tree Selection and Planting, Got Nature?, Purdue Extension-FNR
Indiana’s Urban Woodlots, The Education Store

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


Indiana batAt different times of the year, I get questions about bats in structures.  Bats are a timely issue towards the end of summer because young bats will soon be able to fly.  Excluding bats from structures is limited to this time.  This process is typically called “venting” where access points (both in use and potential) are identified, most are sealed off, and the remaining points are fitted with one-way doors that allow bats to leave but not reenter. If only the opening they use is sealed off, they will simply use another entry point. Think of it this way – our houses have multiple points of entry, but you may only use one. You will use another if necessary.

Bats can make their way into a house in a number of ways – gaps between siding and chimney, gaps between roof sheathing and fascia board, etc.  New and old construction alike. Eliminating access to all of these small, potential points of access can be a challenge. The bodies of some bat species are as small as your thumb. Even though you don’t have an attic, there are still spaces inside a structure where bats can live.

Bats are one of the most difficult wildlife conflicts to deal with because of the nature of their habits. They can pass through extremely small openings, move throughout the inside of a structure, and often entre/occupy hard to reach areas. Bat exclusion is not an activity I recommend for most homeowners.  There is a skill necessary to find and seal all possible access points. Since most of these are located high above ground and accessing these points can require special ladders, lifts and other safety equipment.

Having bats in the attic isn’t simply a nuisance issue, but also can be a safety issue. Like Most wildlife carry diseases. With bats, histoplasmosis and rabies are the two that are the ones most concern for people with bats in their homes.  The Center of Disease Control (CDC) has good information on these and other diseases. Fleas that live on bats can also be vectors for disease. It is always a good idea to limit exposure to wildlife animals as much as possible. For bats, venting in the end of summer and fall and preventing reentry is a logical first step.

If you have bats and want to solve the problem now is the time to contact professionals who can help. Unfortunately, most nuisance wildlife control operators don’t do bat work because it requires specialized equipment and the difficulty of it.  Because of that, control will not be cheap for the customer.  Many people construct bat houses to attract bats. While beneficial, artificial bat houses will not attract bats from an attic.

Resources:
Selecting a Nuisance Wildlife Control Professional, The Education Store-Purdue Extension’s resource center
Bats in Indiana, Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR)
Bat Houses, Bat Conservation International

Brian J. MacGowan, Extension Wildlife Specialist
Department of Forestry & Natural Resources, Purdue University


If you’ve ever had to work on a tree leaf collection, no doubt you included a leaf from Indiana’s state tree. Also known as tulip poplar and yellow poplar, the tuliptree is actually not a poplar at all. It is a member of the magnolia family known botanically as Liriodendron tulipifera.

Indiana Tuliptree

A tuliptree, the state tree of Indiana.

The tuliptree is native to most of the eastern half of the United States and prefers rich, moist, well-drained, loamy soil. It is found throughout Indiana, but it is more prevalent in the southern two-thirds
of the state.

Its unusual flowers inspired the common name. The flowers are shaped much like a tulip with greenish-yellow petals blushed with orange on the inside. Because they generally are found high in the leaf canopy, the flowers often go unnoticed until they drop off after pollination. The leaves of this tree are also quite distinct — each one has a large, V-shaped notch at the tip.

Because tuliptrees transplant easily and grow fast, they are a popular choice for in home yards. But don’t be fooled by its small size in the nursery. Give a tuliptree plenty of room in your landscape plan. A tuliptree can reach as tall as 190 feet where it’s allowed to thrive, but it is more likely to reach 70 feet tall as a mature landscape specimen. Tuliptree is not without its share of pests and diseases. Among the most common are leaf spots, cankers, scale insects, and aphids….

For full article view “State tree a popular landscape choice,” Morning AgClips.

Related Resources:
Pruning Ornamental Trees and Shrubs, The Education Store-Purdue Extension resource center
Tulip Poplar: Is Indiana’s State Tree a Protector for the Rare American Ginseng Plant?, GotNature?, Purdue Extension – Forestry and Natural Resources

Rosie Lerner, Extension Consumer Horticulturist
Purdue University, Horticulture & Landscape Architecture


Trees offer many functional and aesthetic benefits, but one of the most common is shade. Because of this, one of the most important aspects of tree selection and planting is placement. Improper placement of trees can diminish the value of the tree on the site. The tree can actually become a liability if it conflicts with infrastructure or just does not providing any useful function at all. It’s important to consider and energy efficient design to obtain shade where it’s needed most such as south or west facing structures.Tree Shade

In this hemisphere, the sun is in the south and the source of cold weather is in the north. Whenever possible, place openings for sunlight and radiant heat primarily on the southern exposure, then on the west and east. For energy efficiency in winter, use the low arc of the sun to capture the maximum amount of warmth through east-, west-, and south-facing windows. Windows with a northern exposure are a source of cool air from prevailing winds during the hot months. So, give the north minimum exposure and maximum natural protection in the winter.

When selecting trees for energy efficiency, don’t plant evergreen trees near the house on southern exposures. Trees may provide some shade and screening but will also block out the warming effects of the sun during winter months. When choosing trees for shade and solar gain, choose larger, deciduous-canopy trees, which provide an advantage year-round. This means shade in the summer, blocking the sun’s energy. In the winter, after leaves have dropped, the sun’s energy can pass through the tree and into the window.

Tree Shade

Figure 1. Protection from the summer sun.

Select good quality trees from a reputable source that are suitable for your location. The old adage, “you get what you pay for” goes for nursery stock as well.  Correct placement is critical for an energy-efficient design and reduced maintenance as the tree grows and matures. Be certain the mature height and spread fit the location before purchase and planting the tree. This allows the tree freedom to spread into the design space naturally without excessive pruning needed to prevent conflicts with the home. However, the tree still must be close enough to the house for the canopy to provide shade. A good rule of thumb to begin placing the tree at least 20 feet from the house. For larger shade trees, you may need to plant as far as 40 feet from the house to insure room for growth (Figure 1).

Trees provide many benefits besides shade whichincludes cleaner air and increased property values. These ecosystem services are the reason why we plant trees, besides beautifying our landscape.

The functional benefits of shading help make homes energy-efficient by creating a cooling effect during the hot summer months and by allowing passive solar gain during cold winter months. However, proper selection and placement is critical to make the tree work for your site.  Choose wisely, plant properly.

Full article from Purdue Landscape Report.

Resources:
Tree Selection for the “Un-natural” Environment, The Education Store – Purdue Extension resource center
Planting Your Tree Part 1: Choosing Your Tree (Youtube video),  Purdue Extension-FNR
Tree Installation: Process and Practices , The Education Store
Tree Planting Part 2: Planting a Tree (Youtube video), Purdue Extension-FNR
Top 5 List for Tree Selection and Planting, Got Nature?, Purdue Extension-FNR

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


2017 Annual ReportPurdue Extension has posted its 2017 Annual Report online, highlighting the ways in which Extension educates empowers people throughout Indiana and promotes statewide economic vitality. The annual report includes stories regarding agricultural research in unmanned aerial vehicle use, key partnerships that return disabled farmers to their fields, enhanced economic futures in Indiana’s small towns, programs to increase health and wellness statewide, and much more.

Look to the future with Enhancing Public Spaces as this program grows and adds a health and wellness component. The Purdue University Extension program addresses public spaces and their role in enhancing the quality of place by helping regions, communities, and neighborhoods plan and prepare for a sustainable future.

Resources:
Purdue Extension Annual Report – 2016
What is Purdue Extension? – Purdue Extension Video

Purdue Extension

 


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