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Articles of Interest
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Slash: What Good Is It?

Written by Jim Finley, Professor Emeritus, Forest Resources Management, Center for Private Forests at Penn State

In my experience, people like to have their woods neat and tidy. Following a timber sale or nearly any work in the woods, folks want to remove the slash, which is generally the tree tops and unwanted larger branches and whatnot. Even after they take away the useful firewood, there is still tree “trash” left. What to do with that mess? Pile it? Burn it? Or, tolerate it while it rots?

Slash is important and contributes to site productivity and is for several reasons best left where it lies. Without going too deeply into nutrient cycling, slash contributes essential elements useful for tree and plant growth back to the site. The log, which is often taken from the site as the product, is mostly carbon and other macronutrients. The slash comprised of smaller branches, twigs, and leaves contain many of the micronutrients such as nitrogen, magnesium, phosphorous, and potassium. If these are removed, with time they will rebuild through soil building and precipitation, but slowly.

Slash contributes immensely to organic material cycling and, in that process, release those micronutrients. Organic matter is a principle component of the upper layers of the soil profile, which is known as the O-horizon, which helps protect the underlying soil (mineral components) from erosion. Think about rain – a timber harvest will open the canopy, leaving areas where there is little to reduce the impact of rain on the forest floor. While the removal of the slash may not always expose mineral soil, it does expose the existing organic layer to increased light and heat, which accelerates decomposition.

Slash, as it is left after a timber harvest, actually creates some shade, distributed across the site, and, over time, it continues to break down, adding to the site’s organic layer. This decaying organic matter acts as a “sponge,” absorbing water and allowing it infiltrate more slowly into the underlying soil structure. Then, too, all this organic matter supports a community of fungi, macro invertebrates, and amphibians, and reduces surface water flow.

From a forest renewal perspective, slash is known to help facilitate forest regeneration. One of the major challenges to establishing regeneration is white-tailed deer. Deer are known to be opportunistic feeders. Surprisingly, the residual slash is very important for deterring browsing on desirable, preferred browse species. So, a site with lots of slash is more likely to regenerate from the “fences” created by the residual detritus. The advantage afforded by the slash is relatively short lived (5 to 10 years), which can be especially critical to having the site revegetate.

Much of the micro-organism community (e.g., insects, fungi, reptiles, amphibians, small mammals) depend on the habitat created by the slash following harvesting. If you have had the opportunity to watch a log rot over many years, you might know something about all the species that use that log as part of their life cycle. As an example, back in 1975, we felled a large tree (sugar maple of about 28 inches diameter) in a Penn State woodlot and let it lie. Now, pushing 50 years later, that log has almost completely returned to the soil. Over the years, we saw fungi, small mammals, and insects using the log. Just last year, a black bear broke up the log to get at the grubs and whatnot it housed.

Various research literature documents the importance of slash as wildlife habitat. Studies suggest that at a minimum a woodlot should have 3 to 5 cords per acre of woody material on the forest floor. That would translate into 270 to 450 cubic feet of tree parts. A timber harvest might well leave more than that amount of slash; however, the more the better, as much of it is relatively short lived.

There might be some risks associated with leaving slash scattered about in a woodlot. It could become fuel and increase the risk of fire. Fortunately, in Pennsylvania and across most of the Northeast, our relatively even rainfall across the year keeps the moisture content of fine twigs and slash high enough that they do not easily support fire. Although, conifer slash and dried leaves, especially on south and west facing slopes, can dry and burn under the right (or wrong) conditions.

For the most part, having a messy woodlot with dead trees and tree parts scattered across the forest floor might not be as attractive as one swept clean; however, a watchful eye will find it more interesting.

For more information, check out the Penn State Extension publication, titled “Dead Wood for Wildlife.” https://extension.psu.edu/dead-wood-for-wildlife

The Pennsylvania Forest Stewardship Program provides publications on a variety of topics related to woodland management. For a list of free publications, call 800 235 9473 (toll free), send an email to RNRext@psu.edu, or write to Forest Stewardship Program, The Pennsylvania State University, 416 Forest Resources Building, University Park, PA 16802. The Pennsylvania DCNR Bureau of Forestry, USDA Forest Service, Penn State Extension, and the Center for Private Forests at Penn State, in Partnership through Penn State’s Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, sponsor the Forest Stewardship Program in Pennsylvania.

Jim Finley
Professor Emeritus, Forest Resources Management
Center for Private Forests at Penn State
Email: fj4@psu.edu


Tree-of-heaven and the Spotted Lantern Fly: Two Invasive Species to Watch

Written by Jim Finley, Professor Emeritus, Forest Resources Management, Center for Private Forests at Penn State

Increasingly, Pennsylvania’s forests are experiencing threats from invasive insect and plant species. Right now, one insect and one tree species, which maybe inextricably linked, are in the news. They are the spotted lanternfly, which was accidently introduced to the United States in Pennsylvania in 2014, and the tree-of-heaven (Ailanthus altissima), purposely introduced to the United States and Pennsylvania in 1784. How do these two species relate?

First, if you have not heard of the spotted lanternfly, you will. In just four years, this insect from China has rapidly spread, and is found in 13 southeastern Pennsylvania counties, which are now under quarantine. The spotted lanternfly is threatening fruit and grape production (think about Pennsylvania’s burgeoning wine industry) and at least 25 forest tree species. To learn more about the spotted lanternfly, start your web search athttps://extension.psu.edu/spotted-lanternfly. This insect is a major threat and worthy of everyone’s attention.

Tree-of-heaven is also native to China. For years, foresters and woodland owners across Pennsylvania and the east have worried about how this invasive tree species can and will affect forests. It is a rather aggressive invasive species that shows up in unexpected places. It is especially well suited to urban environments and does well on disturbed sites such as those found along transportation rights of ways. It can even take advantages of cracks in sidewalks. You may have heard of it as “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.” This is the same tree

So, both the spotted lanternfly and tree-of-heaven are from China. Why is this important? The science is still unfolding. While it seems that the spotted lanternfly can reproduce on many trees and shrubs, it does seem to show a distinct preference for tree-of-heaven. However, researchers are working on this question. Importantly, though, controlling tree-of-heaven could play a role in slowing the lanternfly’s advance. Therefore, learning to identify tree-of-heaven is the first step in managing the pest’s spread.

In late summer and early fall you might easily recognize tree-of-heaven as the female trees have showy clusters of orangey-red maturing seeds across the upper crowns, which look a bit like uniquely colored hydrangea flowers at a distance. Later, the color will fade, becoming off-white and remaining until spring in the leafless trees. The compound leaves look very similar to black walnut and sumac; however, on closer examination, they have many more leaflets (from 15 to 41) and approach 3-feet in total length. Each of the individual leaflets has a small gland at the base of the blade near the petiole. The real telling difference is the offensive smell when leaves or stems are crushed, which is sometimes described as “spoiled peanut butter.”

Tree-of-heaven grows rapidly and can become relatively large. Last measured in 2004, Pennsylvania’s largest tree-of-heaven was 80 feet tall, with a crown spread of 50 feet, and 4 feet, 9 inches in diameter. When suppressed under a forest canopy or pruned in urban settings, tree-of-heaven may be shrubby. It has smooth, thin bark and a straight stem.

A challenge to controlling tree-of-heaven is its rooting characteristics and its response to the cutting of its stems. The tree develops large thick roots near the trunk, which extend into a network of finer shallow roots. These wide spreading roots readily sprout, often resulting in the appearance of dense clumps of smaller trees near larger stems. When individual stems are cut, the root system prolifically sprouts. One study found that two years after a tree-of-heaven harvest in Pennsylvania, there were on average 17,860 two-year old sprouts per acre averaging 9 feet in height and an additional 10,019 sprouts one-year old and averaging 2 feet in height. Spouts will rapidly self-thin, but can form a competitive canopy. While the tree is generally considered short-lived (30 to 70 years), sprouts from the first tree planted in 1784 were still growing in Philadelphia's Bartram Botanical Garden at the turn of the 21stcentury. Tree-of-heaven is allelopathic, meaning it exudes chemicals that may suppress other tree species, which further benefits is ability to colonize areas.

While root sprouting is a major way by which the tree colonizes, reproduction also occurs from seed. Individual flowers can contain hundreds of seeds. Estimates are that individual trees may produce upwards of 350,000 seeds annually. In a 1928 publication on tree-of-heaven, it was reported that a 12-inch diameter tree in Pennsylvania in one year produced more than one million seeds. Most seeds are viable, even those that overwinter on the tree and disperse in spring. Reportedly even small breezes can lead to wide dispersal. To successfully seed into an area, though, the seeds need sufficient light.

Limiting the spread and occurrence of tree-of-heaven might slow spotted lanternfly spread and subsequently protect other plants and trees injured by its feeding. With all invasive species, the first response is to recognize the problem and control it early. Early efforts can involve less heroic measures and simply pulling young shoots and avoiding breaking roots may find some success. Unfortunately, tree-of-heaven’s response to cutting is prolific sprouting. Therefore it is necessary that all control treatments have a direct effect on root sprouting capacity, which immediately suggests the need to include targeted herbicides to control sprouting. Foliar and basal herbicide applications are effective on smaller trees. Larger trees are best controlled with stem injections followed by cutting. To learn more about controlling tree-of-heaven, visit https://extension.psu.edu/tree-of-heaven.

To learn more about Ailanthus altissima visit: https://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/plants/tree/ailalt/all.html

The Pennsylvania Forest Stewardship Program provides publications on a variety of topics related to woodland management. For a list of free publications, call 800 235 9473 (toll free), send an email to RNRext@psu.edu, or write to Forest Stewardship Program, The Pennsylvania State University, 416 Forest Resources Building, University Park, PA 16802. The Pennsylvania DCNR Bureau of Forestry, USDA Forest Service, Penn State Extension, and the Center for Private Forests at Penn State, in Partnership through Penn State’s Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, sponsor the Forest Stewardship Program in Pennsylvania.

Jim Finley
Professor Emeritus, Forest Resources Management
Center for Private Forests at Penn State
Email: fj4@psu.edu
Phone: 814-863-0402


Written by Leslie Horner, Forest Stewardship Program Associate, Center for Private Forests at Penn State

For Love of the Woods—The Importance of Helping Others Connect and Care in the Long Haul

University Park, PA July 31, 2018 —With nearly 17 million acres of forested land in Pennsylvania, it can be easy to take for granted that those woods will always be there. An comprehensive “state of the state” report published by the Brookings Institution in 2016 (A Competitive Agenda for Renewing Pennsylvania) noted that one of Pennsylvania’s biggest challenges for the future is that land conversion and development in Pennsylvania is chipping away at what so many love about the state—its quality of place that is tied so closely with the forested landscape. According to the findings of the report, the state’s population is not growing, but the rate of development is second in the nation, with a rate of almost 4 acres of land being developed for every new resident of the state (between 1982 and 1997, also indicating that the trend is continuing).

Most of Pennsylvania’s forested land—11 million acres—is privately owned, in the care of an estimated 740,000 owners. That number has been steadily increasing over several decades. In 1980, the number of woodland owners in Pennsylvania was about 490,000 and by 1993 the number of owners grew to about 514,000 owners. Researchers at the Center for Private Forests at Penn State found, in a 2010 survey, that many woodland owners intend to pass their land on to younger family members. However, the Brookings Institution reported a trend of young people leaving the state, often in search of better-paying work. With an additional trend of forested land being divided into smaller chunks and/or being developed as aging owners sell or transfer land to heirs and other owners, it becomes clearer that there are challenges to simply keeping forests as forests.

This leads to an important question: how can today’s woodland owners foster and inspire the next generation of woodland owners who will ensure that our forests are retained and actively cared for? Much of the challenge surrounding this question—and also the hope—can be distilled into the simple concept of deepening people’s connection with the woods around them. Clearly, connection begins with simply spending time in the woods, but a part of what deepens that connection is learning. Most people who own, study, and/or work in the woods can think of at least one person in their lives who helped them experience and learn about the forest. Many times, that experiential learning came in an informal setting rather than in a structured class. This points to a tremendous opportunity for current woodland owners who share their knowledge and love of the woods to make a difference in the long term by helping to spark learning and engagement of future woodland owners and caretakers.

For someone who is more introverted than extroverted, the idea of teaching others seems easier said than done. One doesn’t have to be extroverted or charismatic to be a good teacher, though. Whether leading an organized group or sharing a walk in the woods with grandchildren or a neighbor, being a good teacher really comes down to tapping into one’s own excitement, meeting the learners where they are, and following some basic “best practices.”

The way we share our knowledge and passion for woodland—whether with children or with adults—is a big part of deepening others’ understanding of and relationship to the land. In particular, finding ways to incorporate active learning is essential to cultivating knowledge and connection. When a learner can feel the texture of a leaf or the bark of a tree, learn a plant’s unique smell, and closely examine the hairs on a twig or the shape of a leaf scar, their learning is greatly enhanced. When storytelling is incorporated with teaching—maybe how a tree or understory plant has been used medicinally or as food, how a plant’s name relates to its characteristics, or even a personal story about how the instructor came to learn about a plant—learners are engaged more deeply than a lecture-style learning experience.

Hands-on experience and demonstration are also important and effective in helping people of all ages learn. A few ways one might lead active, hands-on learning in an informal setting is to engage family members in building an inventory and description of plant on a family property, or to capture the oral history of how the family has used and stewarded the land. For more advanced learning, and in settings where a landowner might want to share his/her woodland stewardship knowledge, hands-on demonstrations are also very useful and impactful. For example, a current project of the Center for Private Forests at Penn State is engaged in teaching experienced landowners a hands-on woodland health and regeneration assessment that they can share with less experienced landowners. This assessment process includes an exercise that has landowners conduct an imaginary harvest, in which only the largest diameter trees are removed. By engaging in a hands-on exercise and an interactive conversation, the message of how this type of harvest would worsen woodland function and its future potential is communicated much more effectively than simply telling a landowner why this type of harvest is detrimental.

To help build connections to the land by teaching in either a formal or informal setting, and with any audience of learners—whether family or neighbors, adults or young people—there are some basic but essential practices to keep in mind to make the learning and connection-building most effective. •

When talking with a group outside, wait for everyone to catch up and encourage people to gather in a circle to allow everyone to hear and see. Many of us have experienced the frustration of being in the back of the group and missing what the leader is sharing with the people in the front of the group. This practice also helps to foster richer conversation. •

Help the learner understand how an idea relates to their own lives. An effective teacher thinks about who the audience is and makes the topic understandable and relatable to that audience. In other words, a good teacher answers the question of “Why should I care?” without waiting for the question to be asked by the learner. •

Meet learners where they are. Be open and welcoming of different perspectives. Listen, look for shared values and experiences, and be thoughtful and gentle in correcting a misconception and broadening a conversation. •

Make use of teachable moments. Don’t miss the opportunities to talk about unanticipated questions that arise, or crouch down on the trail to observe a plant or critter. Connections to the land are built with these moments, as well as any planned agenda.

Just as active stewardship is important in addressing concerns like invasive plants in Pennsylvania’s forested landscape, the role of current woodland owners as teachers of their peers and families is important to cultivating the connection and care that will help keep forests as forests in the long haul.

For more information about projects and tips mentioned in this article, or for additional ideas and resources to engage family and neighbors in learning about and connecting with woodlands, contact Leslie Horner at lah310@psu.edu or 814-867-5982.

The Pennsylvania Forest Stewardship Program provides publications on a variety of topics related to woodland management. For a list of free publications, call 800 235 9473 (toll free), send an email to RNRext@psu.edu, or write to Forest Stewardship Program, The Pennsylvania State University, 416 Forest Resources Building, University Park, PA 16802. The Pennsylvania DCNR Bureau of Forestry, USDA Forest Service, Penn State Extension, and the Center for Private Forests at Penn State, in Partnership through Penn State’s Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, sponsor the Forest Stewardship Program in Pennsylvania.

Leslie Horner
Forest Stewardship Program Associate, Center for Private Forests at Penn State
Phone: 814-867-5982
Email: lah310@psu.edu


The Time is Right—Finding and Growing Niches for Woods Work

Written by Leslie Horner, Forest Stewardship Program Associate, Center for Private Forests at Penn State

University Park, PA May 25, 2018 — In the context of both forest research and forest stewardship, it’s become more common to hear the words resilient and adaptable. Generally speaking, to be resilient is to have ability to bounce back from setbacks, and to be adaptable is to have ability adjust to new conditions. As we see changes in forest conditions—new pest insects and diseases, weather extremes, shifting species composition—foresters are adapting management to promote forests that are resilient as change occurs. The concepts of adaptability and resilience also fit well in the context of forest-related businesses; the more attentive and adaptable forest businesses are to changing conditions, the more resilient those businesses will be.

The continued success of Pennsylvania’s forest products industry can be partly credited to the adjustments it has made in the face of hard-to-predict markets—demonstrating the adaptability and resilience of the industry. One example is the focus on meeting the demand for Pennsylvania’s hardwoods in other countries. As Wayne Bender, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Hardwoods Development Council, told foresters at a January meeting, exports of both lumber and logs have risen in the last few years. Seventy-five percent of Pennsylvania’s lumber exports are being sold to China, Canada, and Mexico. Just as the forest products industry is demonstrating adaptability to changing markets by focusing on overseas markets, they are seeking opportunities to use materials that are less traditional. Therein lies an opportunity for small business development, too.

That opportunity was highlighted well in the October 2016 Pennsylvania Green Ribbon Task Force Report, Woods that Work: what’s good for the woods is also good for job creation and small business development. In particular, “what’s good for the woods” are the suite of practices that control the spread of invasive plants, improve the chances for successful regeneration, and improve the overall health of the woods by promoting diverse ages and species of trees across the state. Among the recommendations of the Green Ribbon Task Force, an all-encompassing collaborative assembled at the request of Governor Tom Wolfe, were two other initiatives that relate to the potential for job and business creation based on woodland improvement: 1) supporting loggers in their recruitment and apprenticeship of a new generation of woods workers, and 2) incubating new opportunities for “makers” and manufacturers.

Initiatives like these recommended by the Green Ribbon Task Force have significant potential to also help meet the needs of woodland owners. The staff of the Center for Private Forests at Penn State have the opportunity to regularly interact with woodland owners all over Pennsylvania, through its landowner network called Pennsylvania Forest Stewards volunteers, as well as at events like its biennial forest landowners conference, and regional and county meetings. What many landowners have expressed in these interactions is that they cannot find time or are otherwise unable to do woods work like invasive plant removal themselves. In addition, many landowners cannot find people to hire to do this work—there is more work to be done than there are woods workers available to be hired for the work.

There are clear needs and opportunities for adapting our perspective of what forest-related businesses look like and can be. Some of the opportunities relate to creating and nurturing a new model for woods work—woods practitioners providing woodland improvement services, especially for smaller acreages and woodland improvement activities that may generate mostly low-value and small diameter wood. Other jobs and businesses may be created around the idea of making value-added products from the woods, such as lump charcoal for cooking, biochar, decorative crafts, and food and drinks that use nuts and fruits from the woods.

The time is ripe for entrepreneurship and cultivating woodland enterprises in Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development has developed resources to help people grow an idea into a business, including a website (business.pa.gov) called PA Business One-Stop Shop where you can find people and resources to help guide the way. The Entrepreneur’s Guide—Starting and Growing a Business in Pennsylvania, found on the One-Stop Shop website, is a great resource to start with. USDA Rural Development—Business and Cooperative Programs offers a wealth of helpful publications about cooperative business models—from how cooperatives can help businesses address the challenge of scale, access, and branding, to the nuts and bolts of how to start a cooperative (www.rd.usda.gov/publications/publications-cooperatives). The Green Ribbon Task Report is an interesting read, and includes an inspiring list of suggested readings about startups, the maker movement, and locally-focused businesses (www.dcnr.pa.gov/Business/ForestProducts). For a list of additional resources relating to developing a woodland enterprise, cooperatives, and agroforestry, contact Leslie Horner at lah310@psu.edu or 814-867-5982.


Spring Woodland Flowers: Overcoming the Learning Challenge

Written by Jim Finley, Professor Emeritus, Forest Resources Management, Center for Private Forests at Penn State

University Park, PA – April 27, 2018 – Maybe you’ve been in the woods with someone who seemingly knows every plant, even those impossible to identify spring wildflowers. It is seemingly amazing that someone can learn all those plants; however, with some dedication, a modicum of interest, and a half-decent wildflower guidebook, you can easily move up the “I know that plant” scale.

Across Pennsylvania it is a season of wonder in the woods as the plant community comes alive and takes advantage of the longer, brighter days and warming soils. Mixed among the detritus from last year’s annual, biennial, and perennial herbaceous plants, the careful observer will spy shades of green or even some seemingly misplaced blossoms. It is the season of “what is THAT?”

Most of us use field guides to learn these plants by associating pictures or drawings of blooms, short descriptions of flower structure, and even shorter site condition descriptions. When the blooms are present, matching pictures to the flower might still be somewhat of a challenge. What color is the flower, really? How many petals? As well, the description might include words that you just don’t understand. What does it mean that the flower is complete or incomplete? What is an inflorescence? Nonetheless, field guides and picture matching are useful and, in the end, about the best way to work through the identification process. Unfortunately, too often it seems you are either too early or late too match pictures to flowers. This suggests that learning when to look for spring flowers is part of the identification process.

Phenology is the study of how seasons, climate, and site factors influence plant cycles. Even with only a passing interest in woodland spring wildflowers, you are already aware of phenological processes as you anticipate certain seasonal events. For example, many people look forward to seeing yellow coltsfoot plants blooming in the gravel berms along country roads; however, without pausing to study them closely, they might think they are dandelion flowers, which are still weeks away from showing their first blooms. In the case of these two flowers, which are both non-native to the United States, a quick look at the flowers finds similarities; however, the coltsfoot leaves don’t show until early summer, while the dandelion leaf rosettes are likely already present in your lawn.

Botanists refer to many of the spring wildflowers as spring ephemerals, which means they last only a short time. As spring makes its way to the area, when growing conditions are right, these plants are visible in the forest. A couple of the first easily recognized spring ephemeral wildflowers in Pennsylvania woodlands are spring beauty and trout lily. For both these species, the leaves, which precede the conspicuous, small, delicate flowers, are the first evidence of their presence. In the case of the trout lily, the mottled leaves foretell a future show of nodding yellow flowers; however, the longer thinner leaves of the spring beauty are less descriptive and you may have to wait to ascertain the presence of the delicate white and pink striped blossoms. With either of these flowers, when you find them, they often cover rather large areas – they seem to be everywhere common – you can’t avoid stepping on them.

As you learn about spring wildflowers, you can begin to anticipate when and where to look for them, and this knowledge hopefully will pull you back to see the show. Even if you miss the show, you will begin to learn the leaf and fruit structures of some common ephemeral plants, some of which are very distinct. For example, the leaves of our native orchids remain long after the passing blooms. If you are lucky enough to see a spread of orchids, most commonly lady slippers, you will likely recall the vision in coming springs as other clues remind you of upcoming seasonal woodland events. If you find only the leaves, they may entice you to come back to the place again in hopes of seeing the flowers.

Much of the joy of learning the woodland wildflowers is the anticipation of the season’s show. Where will it be? When will conditions be right? What leaves represent the coming display? Or, what display did you miss? Eventually, you learn to look for the signs in particular places, much as you anticipate seeing friends when you are in familiar neighborhoods. When you find a wildflower that you want to know, record in your field guide when you saw it, where it lives, and record, at least mentally, your own description of the neighborhood where it lives. This latter point is important. Look at the woodland neighborhood, especially the more permanent plants as clues to the wildflowers that may live there.

The Pennsylvania Forest Stewardship Program provides publications on a variety of topics related to woodland management. For a list of free publications, call 800 235 9473 (toll free), send an email to RNRext@psu.edu, or write to Forest Stewardship Program, The Pennsylvania State University, 416 Forest Resources Building, University Park, PA 16802. The Pennsylvania DCNR Bureau of Forestry, USDA Forest Service, Penn State Extension, and the Center for Private Forests at Penn State, in Partnership through Penn State’s Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, sponsor the Forest Stewardship Program in Pennsylvania.


Timber Harvesting Cautions

Written by Allyson Muth, Center for Private Forests at Penn State

University Park, PA -- February 23, 2018 – The recent warm weather and wet conditions are making for poor logging conditions; however, it appears that timber buyers are busy looking for standing timber. Based on the calls we’ve been getting from landowners wanting to know the dollar value of their trees, owners are looking at trees in a different way than usual. Unsolicited knocks on the door from someone offering to buy a landowner’s trees always raise red flags. Yes, it may be an efficiency of scale – people are working in the area and wouldn’t have to move equipment far – but it also means you have something of economic value. And if you’ve never thought of your trees with dollar symbols in your eyes, it can be a surprise. You must use care that any activities you undertake don’t compromise the reasons you own and care for your land.

Jim Stiehler, now passed but formerly with the DCNR Bureau of Forestry, used to say, “Timber harvest represents the best time to make a positive change on your woodland; but it’s also the time when the most damage can be done.” As with many things forestry, there are many myths associated with timber harvesting that can lead to bad outcomes. Let’s address some in hopes of getting to a more positive outcome.

Those trees need to be cut. Unless they present a risk to life or infrastructure, or insect or disease is in the area, no tree ever needs to be immediately cut. Sure, trees have economic and biological maturity, but in a resource with a lifespan many decades beyond our own, the time frame for decision-making is correspondingly longer. You have time to make decisions that do well by your land.

Get those big trees out of the way and the little trees will grow up to replace them. Unless you’ve taken action to get the next generation of young trees growing in the forest, or you’re the lucky inheritor of a two-aged stand, for the most part across Pennsylvania, those big trees and little trees are the same age. They may be different species which would account for different growth rates (for example oaks and hickories), or they may the winners within a species due to microsite or genetic superiority. By the same rules that a farmer keeps his prize bull around for breeding, why would you want to take the best growing trees out of your stand, without ensuring that their progeny are there to replace them? And with most of Pennsylvania’s trees of an average age between 80 and 120 years old, we know that at that age many trees lose their ability to respond well to increased light. They aren’t going to grow quickly and recapture a site – instead the light can cause stress and you’ll lose more trees in the process.

We’ll just do a “select cut.” As with the knock on the door, anytime the phrase “select cut” enters the conversation, red flags and warning lights go off. A forester’s job is to use management techniques to mimic natural events in the forest (for example windstorm, fire, blowdown) to advance the forest along its successional path (the natural process of different species replacing each other following different stages of growth – a process that can take tens to hundreds of years), slow it down, or reset it in order to help the forest improve in health and functionality, and to help it meet the owner’s values. In the manner in which it has come to be used, a “select cut” means the best trees are removed – take the best and leave the rest. Diameter limit cuts fall in the same red flag area – cutting all trees above a certain diameter. Within a species, this could remove the best growing trees of that group. Across species, because different tree species have different light requirements and rates of growth, this could remove an entire species from your forest. Anecdotally we hear about this happening a lot in mixed oak stands. With our forest’s history, in some places oaks are currently the largest trees. And if you love wildlife or hunting, it makes little sense to remove one of the largest food sources for insects (feed the birds) and wildlife. The maples and birch left aren’t going to fill that food void.

Forestry’s not complicated. I can do this on my own. It’s been said that forestry is not rocket science; it’s a lot harder (I will admit, some forester probably said this). The reality is that a forest is a very complex system. As you engage with your woods, you recognize the diversity of species, the diversity of sizes, the things that are there that shouldn’t be, and things that aren’t there that should be. All of these variables, plus a landowner’s values and goals for their property, and, hopefully, an expectation of land stewardship beyond the current tenure, should go into the decisions that are being made about the woods. There are professional service providers who can help – consulting foresters. If ever a timber harvest is considered, we strongly encourage landowners to have someone to advocate for you, your values, and your long-term hopes for the woodland. Consulting foresters can prescribe management activities that will best mesh with your woods and your values. They can mark timber to carry out that activity. They can bid out the sale. And they can, at times, monitor the harvest to ensure good work is done. Yes, trees can bring dollar figures to your pocket, but they also bring you (and the rest of us) so much more. Having a professional who can interpret the story of your forest, help you understand what you have on your land, and help guide you in the process to move the forest to a place you hope it can go is an asset to you. As with other professionals, there are costs involved. But more often than not, these professionals ensure a more positive outcome. As with all professions, there are scrupulous and unscrupulous players in forestry. Get recommendations; ask for references.

There is always time to make well-informed decisions about the long-term care of your woods. Purchase of standing timber may be picking up right now, but make sure you understand the actions and potential outcomes before you make the decision to sell trees. Ask for help. Educate yourself. The trees and forest will be better for it.

A great resource to get you started is a Penn State publication titled, “Forestry with Confidence.” You can find it online (https://extension.psu.edu/forestry-with-confidence-a-guide-for-woodland-owners) and review or download a copy. The publication is also available for purchase – shipping and handling fees are based on your location.

The Pennsylvania Forest Stewardship Program provides publications on a variety of topics related to woodland management. For a list of free publications, call 800 235 9473 (toll free), send an email to RNRext@psu.edu, or write to Forest Stewardship Program, Natural Resources Extension, The Pennsylvania State University, 416 Forest Resources Building, University Park, PA 16802. The Pennsylvania DCNR Bureau of Forestry, USDA Forest Service, Penn State Extension, and the Center for Private Forests at Penn State, in Partnership through Penn State’s Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, sponsor the Forest Stewardship Program in Pennsylvania.

Allyson Muth
Center for Private Forests at Penn State
Phone: 814-865-3208
Email: abm173@psu.edu


Seeing Change in our Forests—Weather, Insects, and Forest Health

Written by Leslie Horner, Forest Stewardship Program Associate, Center for Private Forests at Penn State

University Park, PA. January 30, 2018—Despite the sheer number (both individuals and species) of insects in eastern forests, they go unnoticed by many as they carry on with their life cycles, hidden from our cursory sight under the leaf litter or in the tree canopy or beneath the bark of a tree. Every once in a while, though, changes in environmental conditions will cause insect populations to boom. These booms, or outbreaks, in insect population are more commonly noticed—either due to sheer number of insects or by their effects they have.

While there are many native insects that escape our attention until such a population outbreak occurs, there are other species of insects that have gotten attention because of the havoc they are wreaking in the forests of Pennsylvania and other eastern states. Emerald ash borer and hemlock wooly adelgid are among several non-native pests that are on the radar of many woodland owners and managers as they have caused widespread death of ash trees and hemlocks. Spotted lanternfly, too, has also caused great concern for its rapid spread the past two years and the devastating effects its continued spread will have on trees and agricultural crops. Although native insects like gypsy moth, cherry scallop shell moth, and fall cankerworm can also cause significant forest damage during population outbreaks, a natural control of some kind (predators, for example) that brings the population back into balance is more likely within an insect’s native range.

Changes in environmental conditions—especially changes in temperature and precipitation—play a big role in the dynamics of insect population outbreaks. Forest researchers and managers have long been paying attention to changing environmental conditions, since they can have both short-term and long-term effects in forests, whether related to insect pests specifically or to overall forest health. As more and more woodland owners become aware of the damage from insect pests to some common tree species in our forests, many wonder how these pest insects are affected by weather extremes like a polar vortex, or an unusually warm winter, or a drought.

Will gradually changing environmental conditions and short-term weather extremes help or hinder the spread of the non-native pest insects in our forests? We know that some weather extremes can help in controlling non-native insect pests in the short term. For example, single digit temperatures can kill as much as 90% or more of hemlock wooly adelgids in a given location. Individuals that are especially cold-hardy, however, will survive and reproduce. Emerald ash borers, whose larvae survive the winter underneath the bark of an ash tree, are very tolerant to extreme cold—surviving at temperatures even 22 degrees below zero. Spotted lanternfly is also adapted to cold temperatures, and actually lays eggs during the winter.

Weather extremes and changing environmental conditions can directly or indirectly affect insect populations. In terms of direct effect, temperatures that vary significantly from the normal seasonal average may affect the development rates of insects, or cause a change in the timing of reproduction, and cause direct mortality of some insects. A long period of unseasonably warm days in winter, for example, can cause some species to break their winter dormancy, which in turn might lead to untimely reproduction or cause mortality in adults and/or immature insect forms when the temperatures snap back to normal. When we think of specific examples like some species of parasitic wasps that prey on emerald ash borers, it becomes clear how what seems like a small impact (i.e.—death of some parasitic wasps during unusual or extreme weather) can cause ripple effects in the web of life in the forest.

Changing environmental conditions can also have indirect effects on both insect and host tree species. For example, a trend of warmer winters can help facilitate a species extending an insect species’ range north. This has been evidenced by the southern pine beetle now moving further into the northeast. Similarly, trees can also extend to the edges of their range, facilitated by changing environmental conditions. When they are at the edge limits they are even more susceptible to damage resulting from insect outbreaks.

Forest researchers and managers have long been paying attention to changes in environmental conditions, documenting both short-term and long-term effects in forests. Effects are being observed in individual woodland stands as well as at the landscape. Defoliation, dieback, mortality of host trees resulting from insect outbreaks has impacts on forest structure and composition, often aiding the spread on invasive plants. Insect outbreaks can also leave trees more vulnerable to tree diseases.

With the complexity of the forest ecosystem and the wildcard factor of so many non-native, invasive insects and plants it seems daunting to think about the changes we may continue to see in our woodlands. For forest researchers, the focus of their work will continue to explore these complex relationships between environmental conditions, insects, and woodland plants and trees. For forest managers and woodland owners, there are tangible steps we can take to support forest health and function. We can maintain diversity of tree species and diversity of ages of trees. We can monitor our woodlands to watch for non-native insects and plants, and take action to control their spread. We can talk with our fellow woodland owners and neighbors about what we’ve learned in taking care of our own woodlands.

Learn more about insect pests and tree diseases at:
· www.dcnr.pa.gov/Conservation/ForestsAndTrees/InsectsAndDiseases/Pages/default.aspx
· www.fs.usda.gov/ccrc/topics/insect-disturbance/insect-disturbance

To learn more about what’s happening in your woodland and what you can do, contact your service forester for a visit at no cost to you:
· www.dcnr.pa.gov/Conservation/ForestsAndTrees/ManagingYourWoods/Pages/default.aspx

The Pennsylvania Forest Stewardship Program provides publications on a variety of topics related to woodland management. For a list of free publications, call 800 235 9473 (toll free), send an email to RNRext@psu.edu, or write to Forest Stewardship Program, Natural Resources Extension, The Pennsylvania State University, 416 Forest Resources Building, University Park, PA 16802. The Pennsylvania DCNR Bureau of Forestry, USDA Forest Service, Penn State Extension, and the Center for Private Forests at Penn State, in Partnership through Penn State’s Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, sponsor the Forest Stewardship Program in Pennsylvania.

Leslie Horner
Forest Stewardship Program Associate, Center for Private Forests at Penn State
Phone: 814-867-5982
Email: lah310@psu.edu

Regenerating the Forest: Seeds and the Mysterious Seed Bank
Written by Allyson Muth, Forest Stewardship Program Associate, Center for Private Forests at Penn State

From where does the next forest come? For many of us, our experience growing plants comes from working with gardens. Even without a green thumb, we’ve likely all, at some point in our lives, placed a seed in a cup of dirt to see if we could get something to grow. While seeds play a role in starting the next forest, either re-occupying a site, or spreading beyond their current boundaries, trees have multiple strategies to ensure their continuity through offspring.

Most, if not all, of our hardwood trees have reproductive processes, in addition to seeds, which allow them continue to exist on a site in the woods. One such strategy is sprouting. While the ability can decrease as the tree ages, dormant buds at the root collar (where the stem connects to the roots) can sprout in response to damage or disease. We see a lot of stump sprouts after a tree has been harvested, and many of the trees in the current forest have sprouts as their start – red maple is rather successful at this strategy. Other trees can send sprouts up from their root networks – beech brush is an example of root sprouts. Another strategy used by some species is the ability to “layer.” As a branch curves down to the ground, it may become covered by leaves and duff, eventually enabling that branch to grow roots and create a separate clone that will survive if something happens to the parent tree – some spruces have this ability and a few non-native shrubs as well. And then we’ve got a few plants that negatively impact our forests which can grow new plants from root fragments or rhizome fragments (rhizomes are subterranean stems that can send out both new roots and new stems – trees don’t have rhizomes, but problematic plants like Japanese knotweed do). An important consideration for all of these “vegetative” reproduction strategies is that the new tree is a clone of the parent. If the parent is lost due to insect or disease, the sprouts will have the same susceptibility.

Seeds are a tree’s potential offspring from sexual reproduction strategies. If you’ll remember from your high school biology classes, genes are given to the seed from each parent. These genes will express differently as they combine, leading to different physical characteristics in an individual. While some tree species can self-pollinate, wind and insects are the prime distributors of tree pollen to the female flowers that will result in seed production.

Just as trees have different strategies to pollinate their flowers – wind and pollinators – so too do they have different strategies to disseminate the seed. Wind is an important seed disperser for light seeds with wings (maples, ash, yellow poplar, pines, black birch); gravity also does its part to move seeds. Overland water flow is responsible for movement of lighter seeds. Small mammals move larger seeds as they cache food for winter survival; however, many squirrels and chipmunks tend to take bites out of seeds, limiting their ability to start to grow. Blue jays are winners in distributing oak seeds – they have been recorded moving acorns several hundred to thousands of yards from parent trees. As humans, we also play a role in seed distribution – think about those seeds that attach to your clothing, or land on your car to blow off at random times.

Different seeds have different triggers that prompt a seed to germinate. Light and moisture are key for most species. Some require a period of exposure to cold, over-wintering, before they start to grow. Others germinate within days of falling to the ground. Some prefer bare mineral soil; others need to be covered in the duff of the forest floor to grow. There are also those that can hang out buried in the forest floor for years or decades before they respond to perfect conditions to grow – these seeds are part of the seed bank.

The seed bank has an air of mystery around it. It’s an easy assumption to make that there are seeds on site that will respond to a harvest or natural event. But not all the trees that we want to continue to exist on a site have that ability.

Yellow poplar has one of the longer-lived seeds in the seed bank at eight years. White ash and black cherry can bank for up to three years. The real winners in the seed bank, with seeds remaining viable for 50 to 100 years, are pin cherry (also called fire cherry) and black raspberry. Knowing the history of a site will help you understand what may come back after disturbance. Unfortunately, there are a few bad actors with the ability to bank their seed. Paulownia tomentosa (princesstree) seed can survive for two to three years in the forest soil. Japanese stiltgrass seed can remain viable for three years. If you’re struggling with these non-native invasive species, you may have to keep fighting for multiple years to exhaust the seed bank – an important consideration for your invasives treatment planning.

Native tree reproductive strategies
· Beech has limited seed dispersal. Blue jays are an important distributor. Most seeds germinate the first spring after seedfall, after over-wintering. Beech is a prolific root sprouter and can also stump sprout.
· White ash wind-blown seeds are viable for three to four years, and require exposure to cold before germination. Younger trees can resprout from the root collar, but the ability declines with age.
· Red maple seeds are wind-dispersed. Seeds germinate soon after they fall, with 95% of viable seed germinating within the first ten days. Red maple can stump sprout.
· Black cherry seeds must overwinter. Animals contribute to the seed dispersal. Black cherry can delay germination for up to three years, lying dormant in the forest soil until conditions are prime.
· Northern red oak acorns must overwinter before they germinate. The acorns fall in autumn and germinate in spring. Blue jays and mammals spread the seed. Oaks in the red oak group can stump sprout prolifically.
· White oak acorns germinate soon after they fall. Many white oak acorns are damaged by insects or seed eaters. The blue jay is a primary disperser. Oaks in the white oak group can stump sprout, but not quite as prolifically as those in the red oak group.
· Yellow poplar seed is wind-dispersed. Seed can remain viable in the forest floor for up to eight years.
· Sugar maple seed is wind-dispersed. In nature, few persist as viable seed for more than one year. In the northern part of its range, sugar maple can sprout prolifically; it sprouts less vigorously in the southern part of its range.
· Chestnut oak acorns, as part of the white oak group, germinate soon after they fall. Mammals help spread the seed. Chestnut oak stump sprouts more frequently as compared to other oaks. · Hemlock seeds are gravity- or wind-dispersed. The seeds germinate the first spring after falling. Seed is the hemlock’s only method for regeneration.
· Black birch seed is wind-dispersed. Seeds germinate the spring after dispersal. It is a less prolific stump sprouter.
· Black gum seed is dispersed by gravity and birds. The seed germinates the spring after seed fall; it can also stump sprout.
· White pine seed is dispersed by wind and animals. Seed germinates the first year after seed fall.
· Hickory seeds are dispersed by mammals. The nut must overwinter before germination. Hickories can stump sprout but that ability declines with age.

Non-native tree and plant reproductive strategies
· Tree of heaven has a tremendous ability to root and stem sprout. In fact sprouting is its most common reproductive method. Any threat or injury will cause tree of heaven to sprout prolifically. Its wind-dispersed seed must overwinter before germinating, but it does not persist in the seed bank.
· Paulownia seed is wind-dispersed and can persist in the seed bank two to three years.
· Asiatic bittersweet has tremendous sprouting ability – sprouting from the roots, root fragments, and the root collar. Any form of damage encourages sprouting. Its seeds are spread by birds, but are short-lived in the seed bank.
· Japanese knotweed also has tremendous ability to sprout, sprouting from the stem, rhizome, or rhizome fragments.
· Japanese stiltgrass can seed bank up to three years. Gravity, water movement, and human or animal carriers spread its seed.

As you plan for the future of the woods, a knowledge of forest history and the tree species that live in your woods, and an understanding of their strategies to continue to exist, will be key to understanding the potential of your forest and will allow your woods to attain the goals you’ve set.

If you’re interested in learning more about other tree species, the website “Fire Effects Information System” managed by the USDA Forest Service contributed much to the background for this news release (https://www.feis-crs.org/feis/faces/SearchByOther.xhtml). Click on “Life Form” and the blue button labeled “Go” to get to the species list.

The Pennsylvania Forest Stewardship Program provides publications on a variety of topics related to woodland management. For a list of free publications, call 800 235 9473 (toll free), send an email to RNRext@psu.edu, or write to Forest Stewardship Program, Natural Resources Extension, The Pennsylvania State University, 416 Forest Resources Building, University Park, PA 16802. The Pennsylvania DCNR Bureau of Forestry, USDA Forest Service, Penn State Extension, and the Center for Private Forests at Penn State, in Partnership through Penn State’s Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, sponsor the Forest Stewardship Program in Pennsylvania.


Owning or Holding Woodlands

Written by Jim Finley, Director, Center for Private Forests at Penn State

University Park, PA – June 26, 2017 – Everyone owns stuff. Our homes are full of things. Things we buy. Things people give us. Interestingly, though, most of the things we own have a limited useful life. Almost everything we use wears out. Although, sometimes, we have something of value we inherited and continue to treasure – protect or steward – to pass forward to someone who will come after us.

“Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children. We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors; we borrow it from our children."
Ancient Native American Proverb

Land is one of those things we “own” that will extend beyond us. We can use it carefully and, in the process, pass forward nearly all of its value. Alternatively, we can abuse land and the resources it provides and leave those who come after us with something of little value. We have the capacity to look forward beyond our needs and wants to those who will depend on those same resources in their lives. Land and many of the Earth’s natural resources are ultimately finite; when we have consumed them, they are gone. We cannot easily make more or find substitutions. Degraded land, parched land, disturbed land does not renew quickly.

For more than four decades, I have worked with and studied private woodland owners –to help them steward the land by making good decisions about its care and management. My wife and I are among the nearly 750,000 woodland owners in Pennsylvania who link to the land through ownership of at least one acre of trees. Based on statistics alone, about one in six Pennsylvania households owns woodlands. But, do we really “own” the land?

Nearly 20 years ago, I was fortunate to spend time in Australia working with farmers and tree growers. These people all understood their connection to the land and they were striving to learn how to become better caretakers by repairing what they or previous generations had done to degrade the land. Without exception, the people I met understood and articulated that they had a duty to those who would next work the land. They struggled with the Western idea of owning land – they were “land holders.” I like that perspective.

Today, for the first time human history, more people live in cities of more than a million people than live in less urban or rural places. As a result, our connections to the land and the values it provides to support ecological functions are eroding. Increasingly, understanding that we depend on the land for our very existence is almost a foreign construct. We appreciate connections to electricity more than we appreciate our connection to and dependence on nature. Today, I believe that our connections to the past and future also erode. We need to understand that the decisions we make about land, woods, and water extend across both space and time.

"We did not weave the web of life; we are merely a strand in it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves."
Chief Seattle

It seems that woodland owners I meet are increasingly warming to the idea that they are really caretakers of their land. They accept the idea that stewarding the land involves not just working to improve its health and well-being now, but also involves planning for who and what comes after their tenure. They are asking questions about how they can ensure that someone who cares for the land will hold it in the future and will pass it forward across generations. If you hold land or woodlands and have had thoughts about how to ensure its continued stewardship for future generations, Pennsylvania has tools and resources to help develop a plan to protect its value for tomorrow. Back in 2001, the state’s legislature passed the Conservation and Preservation Easements Act (Act 29 of 2001), which was the enabling legislation for conservation easements in the state (prior to 2001, the Agricultural Area Security Law allowed for agricultural conservation easements). A conservation easement allows landowners to sell or donate their right to develop the land to a conservation organization. The removal of this right follows the deed and all future owners are held to the same restriction – no development. To learn more about this landmark legislation, visit http://ConservationTools.org and search the Library for Act 29.

Maybe a conservation easement is not the right tool for you and your vision for land. There are other options relating to developing an estate or succession plan that may allow you to help guide future decisions about the stewardship of the property. Planning an estate that will protect the important resources you hold today takes time. To learn more about how you can look into the future to protect land related resources, visit the Center for Private Forests’ legacy website (http://ecosystems.psu.edu/legacy).

Nearly 50 years ago, people were concerned about the future of clean air and clear water. At that time, a generation was stepping up and advocating for the environment. The need to do that is no less important today when some people have a short vision of our relationship to our land and its natural resources. If we continue to consume our resources for only our own economic gain, without thinking of the future, what will we learn?

"Only when the last tree is cut; only when the last river is polluted; only when the last fish is caught; only then will they realize that you cannot eat money."
Cree Indian Proverb

The Pennsylvania Forest Stewardship Program provides publications on a variety of topics related to woodland management. For a list of free publications, call 800 235 9473 (toll free), send an email to RNRext@psu.edu, or write to Forest Stewardship Program, Natural Resources Extension, The Pennsylvania State University, 416 Forest Resources Building, University Park, PA 16802. The Pennsylvania DCNR Bureau of Forestry, USDA Forest Service, and the Center for Private Forests at Penn State, in Partnership through Penn State’s Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, sponsor the Forest Stewardship Program in Pennsylvania.


Getting to Know our Woods through the Seasons—Springtime Insights

Written by Leslie Horner, Forest Stewardship Program Associate, Center for Private Forests at Penn State

University Park, PA -- April 25, 2017 -- With the arrival of spring, many of us go into the woods with a specific mission in mind, whether it is looking for the excitingly elusive morel mushroom, photographing ephemeral woodland flowers, or watching for returning migratory birds. In search of our own favorite spring harbinger, it can be easy to overlook the bigger picture and the story this picture tells about a woodland. In each season, we can gain new insights on how the woods function and what kinds of stewardship activities may be needed.

Many people focus on learning to identify trees primarily by leaves. Tree flowers and the timing of flowering are also useful features for identification, helping to distinguish between different species of the same genus of tree. Many guidebooks include flower illustrations. An especially helpful resource for visual learners is George W. D. Symmondfs The Tree Identification Book, published in 1958. In this book, photographs of tree flowers are organized in the general order of when they bloom.

Right now across central Pennsylvania we see some trees displaying pale green shades flowers that are recognizable as maples. But which species? The very-common red maple can be ruled out since those blooms are red or yellowish-red and have already passed peak bloom time. In your own woodland, you may have previously identified one of these trees as a sugar maple. A closer look at the pale green flower, though, may lead to a corrected identification—the non-native Norway maple. Sugar maple flowers are clustered on long pedicels (stalks) that dangle, resembling clumps of green tinsel on the tree. The flowers of non-native Norway are on shorter, upright pedicels. This closer examination of tree flowers can also help to identify desirable tree species in your woodland that may not have been noticed before because there are few in number. Flowers can also help to reveal a tree in your woods that needs assistance if it is to survive—a hackberry within a thicket of bush honeysuckle, for example.

In many tree species, the flowers emerge before the leaves. This is an adaptive strategy, enabling a tree to put its energy (carbohydrates stored in the tree over the winter) into reproduction—producing the flowers, which will in turn produce seeds. Flowering before leaves emerge or are fully grown helps in tree pollination, allowing more open space for pollen and pollinators to move from flower to flower. Some species, including oaks, hickories, elm, and birch, are pollinated by wind. Other species, including yellow poplar, basswood, locust, cherry, and magnolias, are pollinated by insects. As with the flowers of non-woody plants, tree flowers of different species have different morphology (shape) to attract particular pollinators—bees, beetles, flies, wasps, butterflies, moths. Maples are wind-pollinated but they also may benefit from pollination by the bees and other insects that visit the flowers. Binoculars are a great way to get a view of flowers that are out of reach and the pollinators that visit them.

A broader view of a woodland in early spring can give a general sense of how many different tree species grow there. With the help of the flowers and without the leaves, it is easier to get a sense of how many other individuals of a tree species are present in a stand of trees or throughout the woodland. Having many individuals of the same species of our native trees is not necessarily a concern. On the other hand, this broad view may reveal an undesirable non-native species, which will negatively affect growth of native species, and may dominate a woodland. For example, Norway maple—identified both by flowers and by leaves that emerge sooner than sugar maple—may be common in a stand. Similarly, if the broad view of the understory shows lots of shrubs which have developed leaves before most everything else in the woods, this usually indicates non-native invasives.

This simple exercise of taking the broad view of the woods to get a sense of whether there are a few species or many species has significance beyond mere observation. Foresters agree that a woodland is most resilient to threats from insect pests or disease or extreme weather when it has diverse species and ages of trees. Enhancing native tree and plant diversity involves managing light in woodlands, which is done by creating openings. Growth of tree species other than those present in the canopy, and growth of new age classes of trees (for example, seedlings, saplings) benefit from sunlight reaching below the canopy. In addition to openings being important to fostering age and species diversity in the woods, these openings also benefit pollinators. In 2016, researchers from the Southern Research Station of the U.S. Forest Service reported on their study of pollinator abundance in seven types of forests. Their findings showed that the abundance and diversity of pollinators was greatest in forests that had more openings in the canopy.

Adding to the other springtime observations suggested here, this season is also ideal for observing how light availability changes as leaves in the canopy emerge. This can help further decipher whether a woodland may benefit from new canopy openings to enhance native tree and plant diversity.

Does sunlight still reach the understory and forest floor when the canopy trees have leafed-out? If not, there may be need and opportunity to create some openings in the canopy to allow younger trees to establish and grow.

Any decisions to create new openings in the forest should involve careful thought about what other plants will take advantage of the openings. Clearly, if non-native invasive plants are nearby or already present in the stand, there is great risk that those undesirable plants commandeering increased light resources. Therefore, if you plan to change forest structure, it is critical to have a plan to address invasive-competitive plant species.

Springtime activities like these—learning to identify trees in a new way, observing and tracking how light in the woods changes as leaves emerge, and taking small ongoing steps to control populations of invasive plants—may sometimes feel inconsequential. To the contrary, every small effort we make in understanding whatfs growing in our woods and thinking about how to foster variety in the species and the age of trees is essential and will contribute to greater overall impacts, especially if they are shared with family members, friends, and neighbors.

The Pennsylvania Forest Stewardship Program provides publications on a variety of topics related to woodland management. For a list of free publications, call 800 235 9473 (toll free), send an email toRNRext@psu.edu, or write to Forest Stewardship Program, Natural Resources Extension, The Pennsylvania State University, 416 Forest Resources Building, University Park, PA 16802. The Pennsylvania DCNR Bureau of Forestry, USDA Forest Service, Penn State Extension, and the Center for Private Forests at Penn State, in Partnership through Penn Statefs Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, sponsor the Forest Stewardship Program in Pennsylvania.


The Coming of Spring and Trees

Written by Jim Finley, Director, Center for Private Forests at Penn State

University Park, PA – March 28, 2017 – This was a different winter. It had a good start – cold with some snow. Then, it was February. Instead of the coldest month, it was light jacket season – it seemed as if spring was here to stay. Now, we are just past the spring equinox and most of the state recently saw a lot of white blanketing the ground. If we are confused, imagine how the plants gfeel.h

Some trees and other woody plants have started to respond to the unnatural weather conditions with swollen buds and subtle changes in twig color (yellow on willow, and reddish purple in black birch). Fruit growers across the state are anxiously watching the weather, wondering if we will get another cold snap that may hold off flowering until later in April and our more traditional frost-free dates. Similarly, strawberry producers are expressing concerns about cold temperatures affecting those delicate flowers. People care about these domestic plants and ask questions: Will the crops be safe? Will our weather affect supply and prices?

We can all appreciate how weather affects our crops and landscape plantings; however, what is happening in forests and woodlands? The astute observer will note changes that suggest forests are ahead of schedule as well. By the end of February in central Pennsylvania, some red maples were already opening flower buds. At the same time, buds on some shrubs (e.g., elderberry) were expanding and showing the yellow-green edges of juvenile leaves under the brown bud scales. By the second week in March, it was common to see aspen flowers displayed high in tree crowns.

Our native trees have over millennia adapted to our climate and go through a process of acclimation in the fall to prepare for cold and deacclimation in the spring to initiate growth. Both of these processes are set in motion by the interaction of available light and temperature. As trees begin the process of shutting down or going dormant for the winter, many internal changes at the cellular level prepare them for cold temperatures, and once they are dormant, they will remain in that state until they meet some external and internal thresholds. Again, these include light and temperature. In addition, for some tree species, they need to attain a chilling threshold where temperatures are cold enough for an extended period. Once dormant, most of our trees can tolerate extremely low temperatures.

Trees begin to gawakenh or come out of dormancy (i.e., deacclimate) in response to photoperiod or the amount of light and the amount of time where temperatures are above freezing. Just like many of us, coming awake is a much slower process than falling asleep or going dormant. Apparently, once the deacclimation process reaches a certain point, it is increasingly difficult to reverse; however, it is possible to gstallh growth initiation with cold temperatures if it is early enough. As dormancy begins to break, growth initiation will occur and most sensitive are flower and leaf buds. Most often, though, for many of our forest trees, flowering buds open after the leaf buds, and leaves are generally more cold tolerant.

Studies have determined that our native trees deacclimate differently in response to the amount of light or photoperiod and the accumulation of warmth when gdecidingh to awaken in the spring. Among those that response more to light are white ash, sweet gum, white pine, white oak and swamp white oak. Those that awaken to increasing amounts warming include sugar maple, box elder, green ash, butternut, quaking aspen, black cherry, and red oak.

In a normal year, the combination of light and temperature provides the means for predicting plant processes such as spring greening and fall coloration. However, one of the unknowns is how our trees will have responded to the warm February. We may well see some trees leaf out earlier. Hopefully, these young leaves will do well. More problematic is if forest tree flowers appear too early and their subsequent response to early frosts, which are extremely damaging to flowers. Many wildlife species depend on successful seed years for mast production (i.e., acorns, nuts, and fruits). Increasingly changes in weather and climate put seed production at risk and the resulting impacts to forests and dependent species and processes are important to consider.

Documenting and understanding the timing of these and other events in a plantfs life involves the study of phenology. Phenology is very useful as it relates to timing of anticipated natural events and may help us understand how weather and climate change, as well as how those factors affect wildlife behavior and lifecycles. People, both scientists and citizens, have followed and document phenological events for years. To enlarge the number of people watching events across large regions, scientists seek input from the public in a partnership to do citizen science. As an example, one citizen-science project - Project BudBurst (http://budburst.org) – has depended on people across the country to report when common plants first flower. This effort and others like it provide data on how changing climate is affecting plants.

If you would like to learn more about phenology, look to Center for Private Forests at Penn Statefs website (http://ecosystems.psu.edu/research/centers/private-forests/news/2016/woodland-nature-journal2014tracking-changes-through-the-seasons) to purchase a copy of its Woodland Nature Journal to record your local observations and to find information on other citizen-science projects relating to phenology.

The Pennsylvania Forest Stewardship Program provides publications on a variety of topics related to woodland management. For a list of free publications, call 800 235 9473 (toll free), send an email to RNRext@psu.edu, or write to Forest Stewardship Program, Natural Resources Extension, The Pennsylvania State University, 416 Forest Resources Building, University Park, PA 16802. The Pennsylvania DCNR Bureau of Forestry, USDA Forest Service, and the Center for Private Forests at Penn State, in Partnership through Penn Statefs Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, sponsor the Forest Stewardship Program in Pennsylvania.


Waiting For Spring—A Closer Look at Forest Ecology in Winter

Written by Leslie Horner, Forest Stewardship Program Associate, Center for Private Forests at Penn State

University Park, PA -- January 19, 2017 -- A fascinating aspect of a woodland ecosystem in winter is the evidence of all the various ways by which animals and plants survive harsh winter conditions. In late fall, the growth rate and reproduction of both plants and animals begin to change, triggered by the length of day and nights. These physiological responses collectively are called photoperiodism. The lengthening nights and shortening days trigger winter survival strategies. The primary strategies for adapting to freezing temperatures and reduced food availability are: migration, hibernation, and toleration.

Migration is perhaps the most commonly considered of these strategies. It is fairly easy to notice the comings and goings of many bird species. Warblers and other songbirds have left for warmer southern climes, making more noticeable the dark-eyed juncos, tufted titmice, Carolina wrens, and other species that remain in the winter woodlands. Other birds, including pine siskins, common redpolls, evening grosbeaks, snowy owls, Northern harriers, and numerous other species of raptors and waterfowl migrate to and through Pennsylvania and other temperate zone states through the winter. Migration even occurs among mammalian species such as the woodland-dwelling silver-haired bat, and even insects like the monarch butterfly.

The second type of winter adaptation observed among woodland animals is hibernation. While other animals are more commonly thought of when considering hibernation, woodland insects also survive through winter in a type of hibernation called diapause. Diapause is simply an “intermission� in development prompted by adverse environmental conditions. Diapause occurs at different life stages for different types of insects. In many butterfly species, winter diapause happens during their pupal form, while the young insect undergoes complete metamorphosis while protected inside a case-like structure called a chrysalis. This pupal, or chrysalid, stage in development entails a breaking down of larval body tissue and reforming into the adult form of the insect. Wooly bear caterpillars, the larval form of the Isabella moth, get through the winter a different way. They overwinter in that larval (caterpillar) form, often sheltering in the leaf litter or under tall grasses.

The emerald ash borer—an insect that many woodland owners are on the lookout for—survives the winter in a form that is somewhat in between the larval and pupal development phases. These pre-pupae are protected from the freezing temperatures in the inner bark or the outer ½ inch of the sapwood of the ash tree or log. A study done in Ontario, Canada found that the larvae of the borer are cold-hardy to the point of -23°F, at which point even the adaptive strategy of diapause is not sufficient to survive the cold. Emerald ash borers are successful in surviving these extreme temperatures by accumulating high concentrations of glycerol, a sugary compound with a very low freezing point. They also are able to produce other compounds which act as antifreeze within their bodies.

In the woods during winter, one will also see some adult insects that remain active or semi-active. Smaller body size of some species that remain active helps to eliminate surface area exposed to cold and moisture. Like the emerald ash borer, the winter survival strategy used by many insects that overwinter as adults is the production of sugars, alcohols, and proteins, which have properties that act as antifreeze. These cryoprotective compounds replace most of the water in an insect, and prevent the bodily injury that would occur from water turning to ice crystals.

The third strategy, tolerance, is the primary adaptation woodland plants rely upon to survive winter’s freeze. All plants have a physiological response to freezing temperatures, shortening days and lengthening nights, though the types of responses vary. In annual plants, individual plants are killed by winter weather, but the plant community survives because of the mature seeds that will spread and produce new plants in the spring. Other plants, including almost all of our native perennial flowers and herbs, die back in winter except for their rhizomes (roots), which go dormant until warmer temperatures trigger new vegetative growth in the spring.

Trees, with their height, experience significant exposure to freezing temperature, strong winter winds, ice, and snow. They rely on both chemical and structural changes that help them tolerate the winter. Structurally, the shape of conifers helps to protect against limb breakage by allowing gravity to help clear snow-laden branches. The fallen snow also creates a protective “fence� around the tree. Some species, like oaks and beeches, retain their leaves well into winter as an added layer of protection against water loss through leaf scars. Bark also plays a significant role in preserving water resources during winter.

In fact, most of the winter tolerance adaptations of trees relate to water—preventing water loss or damage to the tree’s living cells by ice crystals. In late fall, a plant hormone called abscisic acid (AA) is triggered by the shorter days. One of the functions of AA is to increase the flexibility in cell walls within the tree. This helps in two ways. First, permeability of the cell walls allows water to move from within the cell to the space in between cells. The water can freeze there without causing damage to the cells. Secondly, because the cell walls are now more pliable, any water that does remain in the tree’s cells and freezes has less risk of the crystals puncturing the cell wall, which ultimately would stress the tree.

Along with other responses triggered by photoperiodic changes in late fall is the conversion of starches to sugar within tree cells, which lowers the freezing point.

Another fascinating way that trees tolerate winter through managing water at a cellular level has been described by Paul Scharberg—a plant physiologist with the U.S. Forest Service Aiken Forestry Sciences Lab in Burlington, Vermont—as a “glass phase.� In this cellular adaptation to prevent freezing, water mimics the almost-solid characteristic of molten silica as it cools to form glass, which appears solid but actually continues to move ever so slightly. The cell water, like silica, retains its liquid properties, allowing the slightest degree of movement.

Though adaptations like these can’t be observed with the naked eye, there are plenty of other winter survival strategies to observe during a walk in the woods. In any case, getting to see our woodlands in different seasons is a big part of developing an understanding and appreciation for the complexity and interdependence of all the living parts of a forest. Throw on an extra layer and head out to see what you can see for yourself—at the very least, it will give you time to think about what forest stewardship activities you might want to add to this year’s to-do list.

The Pennsylvania Forest Stewardship Program provides publications on a variety of topics related to woodland management. For a list of free publications, call 800 235 9473 (toll free), send an email to RNRext@psu.edu, or write to Forest Stewardship Program, Natural Resources Extension, The Pennsylvania State University, 416 Forest Resources Building, University Park, PA 16802. The Pennsylvania DCNR Bureau of Forestry, USDA Forest Service, and the Center for Private Forests at Penn State, in Partnership through Penn State’s Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, sponsor the Forest Stewardship Program in Pennsylvania.


Trees and Drought

Written by Jim Finley, Ibberson Professor of Forest Management and Director, Center for Private Forests at Penn State

University Park, PA -- September 27, 2016 -- In Pennsylvania, we have had an extraordinarily hot and dry summer. Those who make their living from the land are well aware that rain is changing. When it occurs, it is more intense and has seemingly less value to crops. It seems that those less connected to the land celebrate the warm days without rain � another sunny day is not always the best day.

So, how have some of your neighbors fared? "Hey you! Yes, you, the tall skinny fellow standing on the edge of the road. How has your summer been?"

"You, know, I live here next to the road. All summer, I've watched the sun rise over there in the east, move across the sky, set in the west. This road, that lies just south of where I live, reflects a lot of heat towards me. Most days, there are few clouds to offer any shade, and I get awfully thirsty. It seems I take in gallons of water to no avail. As fast as I take it in, it just seems to evaporate. From early in the morning until late afternoon, I have to put up with direct sun -- there is no shade from my neighbors. Many days this summer, I ran out of water and, even as the sun set, I was too hot and dry to do my work. This summer really stressed me out and quite a few of my neighbors are in real trouble -- I am not sure they can take more of this weather!"

Imagine what it is like to have your roots anchoring you in one place and depending on rain from the sky to ensure there is adequate moisture in the soil to keep you working. What kind of work does a tree do, you ask? Well, trees use carbon dioxide from the air, water from the soil, and light from the sun to make sugar through work called photosynthesis.

Photosynthesis is a complex process that requires certain conditions. All of our trees have leaves where the magic occurs. Tree roots collect and move water, which is absolutely essential, along with minerals and nutrients through long soda straw like tubes in the tree’s bole to the leaves. Photosynthesis involves combining carbon dioxide, which enters the leaf through small openings called stomates, water, and light in special cells called chloroplasts which contain chlorophyll (the green color in leaves) to make sugars. Stomates are important part of the process as they have the ability to open and close and thus control photosynthesis.

Stomates open and close by monitoring the amount of water available and air temperature. If the temperature is too high, then water demand is too high, and the tree stops making sugars necessary for its growth. When that happens, trees have to respirate. That is, they use up sugars to carry out life functions. The relationship between water in the soil and leaves is critical. And, on a hot summer day without rain, a tree might spend more of its time using up its sugars than using them to make wood, seeds, new twigs and buds, repairing damage, and getting ready for winter.

There is a lot going on with trees even when they are not growing. If things get really hot and water is too scarce, trees and most other plants will wilt and loose turgor pressure in their leaves. You have seen those wilting leaves. If water comes soon enough or the air temperature drops as it does late in the day and through the night, plants can recover; however, the stress of inadequate water can take its toll.

Trees under stress are susceptible to many threats. Insects and diseases are often lurking in the environment to take advantage of tree defense mechanisms negatively affected by heat and inadequate water. Healthy trees are constantly restoring and repairing weakened or damaged defenses. For example, Armillaria mellia, a common root rot, is always present the soil. When roots struggle to find water, they may begin to decline as water is actually pulled from their fine roots by the soil itself. Re-establishing water movement processes from those points to the leaves takes resources, and the roots may lose their battle with the root rot fungus and as a result begin a slow process of decline and, perhaps, death.

Across Pennsylvania, trees are showing signs of stress. The tree we heard from at the start of this article might be one along a road or next to your driveway. The extra heat gathered and reflected from the macadam increases water demand. Already, as you look around the neighborhood, you might see some trees are having leaf loss at the tops of their crowns. Elsewhere in the crown, leaves are detaching and littering the lawn with green rather than autumn colors.

You may have also noticed trees on road cuts turning brown or showing premature yellow. These cuts where the soil is shallow or facing south or west are often quick to show moisture stress. When water is scarce, as it is now, it is common to see maple and birch shedding leaves or going brown.

Elsewhere, there are reports of patches of oak, red and sugar maple, and even tulip poplar changing color sooner than expected or even appearing dead. It is difficult to interpret what is happening in all cases, but in some, the site might be poor, with shallow soils, or oriented to receive more direct light and heat; trees are responding by casting leaves earlier than expected. In some cases, roads and reflected heat add to the stress, or soils impacted by construction or fill just can’t hold enough water.

Water is essential for plant growth. Heat and lack of rain make for difficult growing conditions. Over the next few years, based on this summer alone, expect trees to struggle even if conditions are better next year. As we approach the end of the growing season, there is not much we can do for individual trees showing stress responses, especially in the forests. Lawn trees might benefit from deep watering. Make sure they get at least two inches of water under their crown spread every 7 to 10 days until the soil freezes.

The Pennsylvania Forest Stewardship Program provides publications on a variety of topics related to woodland management. For a list of free publications, call 800 235 9473 (toll free), send an email to RNRext@psu.edu, or write to Forest Stewardship Program, Natural Resources Extension, The Pennsylvania State University, 416 Forest Resources Building, University Park, PA 16802. The Pennsylvania DCNR Bureau of Forestry, USDA Forest Service, and the Center for Private Forests at Penn State, in Partnership through Penn State's Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, sponsor the Forest Stewardship Program in Pennsylvania.


New Leaves on Trees: Will They or Won't They Show?

Written by Allyson Muth, Forest Stewardship Program Associate, Center for Private Forests at Penn State

University Park, PA -- May 20, 2016 -- Driving around Pennsylvania this time of year, we've seen or are starting to see leaf bud break on many trees. As I pass through various regions, I'm paying close attention to what's happening with the trees. Bud break and leaf out vary between species and are quite often influenced by weather. This year is an interesting year due to the early warmth and dryness, and now cool and wet -- it appears many trees may be confused. Or maybe there is something wrong... Leaf out gives a good idea of what should be happening, but maybe isn't. The inner monologue as I see trees not quite fully leafed-out goes something like this, "Is that one a black walnut? Yes! Okay, it's not bad that that one doesn’t have leaves yet. Wait, where are Thousand Cankers Disease outbreaks? How close am I to those? Okay, fingers crossed for that one. An oak? Maybe I can start to see some green. Whew, I see flowers expanding which look like tassels below the small young leaves. That one's good too. What about that one? That's an ash. It is gone. That one won't be leafing out this year or ever again� So sad."

Since its first Pennsylvania detection in the middle 2000s, the extent of the emerald ash borer impact is significant, in both the area and the speed of the damage done. It seems this year that a lot of ash that previously were hanging on are no longer. Fencerows have standing dead trees. Yard trees are dead. This component of the forest has been decimated, in the literal sense of the word.

When the emerald ash borer was identified in the Midwest and the first infestations were discovered in western Pennsylvania, many wrote the species off. At that time, ash only comprised 11% of the state's forest trees, and by the time we discovered the borer's presence, its extent was beyond the initial discovery area. It's hard to determine where those little guys are until ash start dying. Despite marketing campaigns to "stop moving firewood," these pests were considered unstoppable, and major eradication or control efforts were not implemented because there weren't any feasible options for large scale treatment.

We live in a time of global commerce with unfortunately limited resources for inspection of imports to stop new threats from entering our forests. As a result, battles have to be chosen wisely and all too often there are few options for mounting an offensive. The emerald ash borer has taken or is taking a tenth of the forest trees. Combine that with dead and dying elm (Dutch elm disease and elm yellows) and hemlock (hemlock woolly adelgid), gypsy moth infestations, both current and from several years ago, impacting the oaks, and thousand cankers disease now threatening the black walnuts, we see lots of dead trees. Now, as things green up, it’s easy to find the absence of green where it should be. And once you see, you can't stop seeing.

As you begin to see what's missing from the landscape where you travel or visit, pay attention to other species having trouble. Seemingly, there are always known and unknown threats challenging trees and forests. If we find them early, there are sometimes control options, even if it means removing affected trees. Recently in nearby states, keen-eyed and curious woodland owners were some of the first to identify the Asian long horned beetle and in Pennsylvania the spotted lanternfly. These early detections are key to control these pests.

So what happens now with all the ash? Dead ash are messy decomposers. They tend to decay quickly and often snap up high in windy weather. Now is the time to pay attention to the dead ash in your yards, next to your buildings, along your trails. These dead trees will quickly become hazard trees and may pose a safety concern for you and yours.

Removing dead trees is always a risky activity. Use all of your personal protective equipment and tremendous caution in getting these trees down. Don't hesitate to call on a professional if the trees are big, numerous, or in settings where property or personal injury are concerns

Going forward, pay attention to all the trees around you. Watch for crowns of trees that were once lush and full, but now are looking sparse or thin. Watch for increased woodpecker and other insect-eating bird activity, as they strip bark to get at the insects just underneath. Inform yourself about what's going on in your area so you know what to watch for in your woods and the woods around you.

The PA DCNR Bureau of Forestry has a useful website where they post advisories, information about forest pests, fact sheets, and how to identify what is killing your tree (http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/forestry/insectsdisease/index.htm). Check it out. Keep yourself informed. And keep your eyes open!

The Pennsylvania Forest Stewardship Program provides publications on a variety of topics related to woodland management. For a list of free publications, call 800 235 9473 (toll free), send an email to RNRext@psu.edu, or write to Forest Stewardship Program, Natural Resources Extension, The Pennsylvania State University, 416 Forest Resources Building, University Park, PA 16802. The Pennsylvania DCNR Bureau of Forestry, USDA Forest Service, Penn State Extension, and the Center for Private Forests at Penn State, in Partnership through Penn State's Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, sponsor the Forest Stewardship Program in Pennsylvania.


A Look at Forest Health -- Simple Steps to Help Evaluate the Woods Nearby

Written by Leslie Horner, Forest Stewardship Program Associate, Center for Private Forests at Penn State

University Park, PA -- April 21, 2016 -- In the "procession" of spring blooms and leaves, it will be another three weeks or so before the leaves of trees begin to unfurl. Some shrubs, however, conspicuously have had their leaves for almost a month now. As happy as many of us are to see the first green after the winter months, the green of these early-leafing shrubs is actually a tell-tale indicator that these shrubs are likely invasive species--autumn olive, Russian olive, Japanese barberry, and bush honeysuckle to name a few, as well as small trees like the Bradford pear.

Like the early leafing-out of invasive shrubs, seasonal changes generally reveal clues to woodland health that may have gone unnoticed before. Now--before the trees are fully leaved--is an ideal time to observe some other factors that help to describe forest health. Though a forester will use a more in-depth process to evaluate forest health, there are some simple steps anyone can take to get a basic understanding of whether or not a forest is "healthy."

One important first step in evaluating forest health is to look at the physical arrangement of the woods--the forest structure. A healthy forest has multiple vertical layers. Beginning with the forest floor and moving up, these layers are: the leaf litter, the understory (composed of herbaceous plants, woody shrubs and young trees usually under about 5 ft. in height), a mid-story (with young trees and shrubs taller than those in the understory), and an overstory (also called the canopy). Trees and shrubs that have died are also part of forest structure. Each layer in the forest structure performs a set of "job duties" for the forest ecosystem, whether it is shelter or food for a variety of animals, regulating the amount of light available to plants below, or enriching the soil through decomposing leaves or logs.

To practice what a forester looks for in evaluating forest structure, begin by simply looking from the ground to the tops of the trees, and then scan the woods from side to side. Are the expected layers of the forest structure there? Are there large gaps--with no living or dead tree structures--between the canopy and what is below? Is there a very dense shrub layer present? Do some shrubs and/or vines develop leaves long before the other trees and shrubs?

Early leaf development is often a clue to identifying invasive species. Landowners can take advantage of this characteristic "self-identification" by invasive plants and take time to mark them with flags, ribbons, or other visible marking for locating later. Killing invasive shrubs is an important activity. At the edge of a woodland, where they are commonly found, their seeds are carried by wildlife and become planted elsewhere. In this way, these shrubs can spread deeper into woodland interiors, where it is especially important to find and remove them. The dense layer formed by these fast-spreading invasive shrubs significantly reduces the amount of light that reaches the forest floor. This reduction in light, in turn, may eliminate or greatly reduce the number and diversity of native plants and considerably impact the successful development of tree seedlings.

Looking further into the forest structure, are dead or dying trees present? In a healthy forest, some dead and dying trees are expected--in fact, they are necessary to the balance of a forest ecosystem. Dead trees that are still standing, known as snags, provide food to insects and animals that eat insects, shelter to a variety of birds and mammals. Dead trees and branches also continue to provide food and shelter after falling to the ground, in addition to helping to build and enrich the soil. Because of this role in the ecosystem, fallen dead trees, also called "coarse woody debris," are more good indicators of woodland and even stream health.

On the other hand, if a forest has many dead or dying trees, it could be a sign that a pest insect such as emerald ash borer or gypsy moth has invaded. It could also indicate some type of disease that is affecting the trees. Signs of a dead or dying tree include: woodpeckers visiting a particular tree frequently, holes or patches of cleared bark left from their feeding, or tree branches without bark and/or small twigs.

Having trees of different ages is another indicator of forest health. It would seem that trees of different heights and diameters in our woodlands indicate trees of different ages. Instead--due to past harvesting, land clearing during settlement times, and some catastrophic natural events (insects, fire, disease, for example)--most trees in a given Pennsylvania woodland are actually about the same age. Differences in the height and diameter of individual trees is a direct result of light conditions and "room to grow" available to the trees. The species of tree is another factor that leads to differences in height and diameter, as some species grow faster than others. In a forest, there may be patches of trees that are a different age than another patch of trees within the same forest--as a result of light, space, and species--but the overall age of the forest will be about the same.

We can promote woodland health by helping along the growth of younger trees. An easy starting point, with the help of a few guiding questions, is to evaluate whether or not the conditions are right for establishing new trees to grow into the canopy. Are there openings in the canopy that allow light to reach the forest floor? If not, some tree species may not receive enough light to grow; they may be "hanging out" in the understory waiting for the right light conditions to help them grow. Are there tree seedlings present across the forest floor? Are there young trees that are unusually scraggly? If so, it could be an indicator that deer are browsing heavily on the young trees, stunting the growth of the tree.

These are just a few but important ways to look at woods to get a sense of their health. It is very likely that the woods near you could use a little assistance. The necessary help may include: removing non-native and invasive plants to allow growth of native species; protecting young trees from deer damage with fencing and shelters; and creating openings in the canopy so that trees of different ages and species can become established and eventually grow into the canopy. Diversity in woodland species and age is essential in the long term. A healthy forest is diverse and will thereby remain resilient to unforeseen changes that will occur over time.

The Pennsylvania Forest Stewardship Program provides publications on a variety of topics related to woodland management. For a list of free publications, call 800 235 9473 (toll free), send an email to RNRext@psu.edu, or write to Forest Stewardship Program, Natural Resources Extension, The Pennsylvania State University, 416 Forest Resources Building, University Park, PA 16802. The Pennsylvania DCNR Bureau of Forestry, USDA Forest Service, and the Center for Private Forests at Penn State, in Partnership through Penn State's Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, sponsor the Forest Stewardship Program in Pennsylvania.


Wooded Landscapes Have Very Few Fences
Written by Jim Finley, Ibberson Professor of Forest Management and Director, Center for Private Forests at Penn State
University Park, PA -- March 18, 2016

Robert Frost, in his 1915 poem Mending Fences, wrote "Good fences make good neighbors." Interestingly, this was not his perspective; rather, it was his neighbor's. Frost questioned the need for a fence as his neighbor's land harbored pines and his, apples. It did not strike him that his apples would eat his neighbor's pine cones. Frost saw value in good fences when cows were involved; otherwise, before building a wall he would ". . . ask to know, What I was walling in or walling out. . ." He was arguing against rather than for fences. In other words, fences that tend to isolate and enclose do not make for good neighbors -- an outward view builds better relationships

We all live in a landscape. For sure there are lines -- boundaries -- that define our relationships within a landscape and to the property of others. This is the case whether you live in an apartment, an urban development, or a rural landscape. We know where these "imaginary" lines are and to some extent we defend them as our property. For sure, there are reasons in a civil society to know and respect these boundaries against some intrusions; however, they are permeable.

Without getting too deeply into legal arguments over property rights, we experience and observe that what others do on their property does affect us. The neighbor's new bright pink utility shed may offend your view. The barking dog takes away from a night's sleep. The barbecue up the street smells delightful, but you weren't invited to the party. There are many egregious issues involving boundaries that the courts have addressed; however, consider that we all have a duty to others who live in our landscape -- our neighbors both close and further away.

The limits or boundaries of a landscape are difficult to describe, as one property borders another and yet another. In many ways, we are all neighbors and the decisions we make move across the landscape like ripples from a stone tossed into a pond.

When managing land, it becomes readily apparent that no one can control everything that moves across boundaries within the landscape. Air, water, wildlife, and seeds cross boundaries within and beyond what we might call a landscape. It might seem that individual choices within a larger landscape are not that important. They are. The trick is to consider how good and bad decisions can add together, and how time adds to the importance of recognizing our individual roles in helping create and maintain healthy, functioning landscapes where we can live, work, and recreate.

Across Pennsylvania, forests and woodlands are dominant features on our landscape. The decisions individual landowners make about use of their woodlands affect the larger landscape and directly affect forest health because their actions reach beyond their boundaries. There many examples.

In about 1904, chestnut blight was inadvertently introduced to North America through infected nursery stock from Japan. In 1905 foresters noted that American chestnut trees in New York's Zoological Garden were showing symptoms of an unnamed disease. While it is likely the disease was introduced in multiple locations as Japanese chestnut trees were popular additions to gardens, it quickly spread across the East and in less than forty years had decimated this economically and ecologically important species, essentially eliminating it from our forests.

Gypsy moths were purposely brought to the United States with the intent of cross-breeding them with silkworms to develop a silk industry in New England. In 1869, a few of the insects escaped and in less than ten years were defoliating trees in Massachusetts. Despite warnings of the potential threat from this species, there was little effort to contain its spread. By 1937 they had crossed the Delaware River into Pennsylvania, where they have killed millions of trees and continue to wreak havoc on forested landscapes.

Perhaps less dramatic, but demonstrating how seemingly unimportant or poorly conceived decisions move across landscapes, consider multiflora rose, an Asian species first introduced in the 1860s as rootstock for grafted roses. In this role, it was relatively "well behaved." Then, in 1930s, the Soil Conservation Service promoted it for soil erosion control and as a living fence or natural hedge. By the late 1960s, it was obvious that the living fence was out of control -- it was moving from one property to another across landscapes.

Consider one more example involving a loved native and very controversial species -- the white-tailed deer. This species easily moves across boundaries in any landscape. Some landowners seek more deer; while others want fewer. Too many deer shift plant species composition by selective browsing that "allows" less desired native and exotic plant species to gain the upper hand and exclude many desirable species. Only by working together, across fences, can we balance their numbers with the capacity of our woodlands to support the herd.

The list of species that were once considered controllable and now challenge our ability to manage natural systems is long: emerald ash borer, autumn olive, bush and Japanese honeysuckle, Japanese stiltgrass, Oriental bittersweet, hemlock wooly adelgid, and more. To address these types of challenges, like raising a child, takes a neighborhood. If people can cooperate by looking both inside their "fence" and across the wider landscape, maybe there is a chance to restore forest and landscape health. People have to become neighbors who work together to restore landscapes. Taking a turn on Frost’s poem, if we are going to have healthy forests, landscapes, or global climates, good neighbors have to take down fences and learn to work together to achieve common goals. This is not easy, but it starts by talking across the fence, to understand shared needs, and to decide to look for balance and health.

The Pennsylvania Forest Stewardship Program provides publications on a variety of topics related to woodland management. For a list of free publications, call 800 235 9473 (toll free), send an email to RNRext@psu.edu, or write to Forest Stewardship Program, Natural Resources Extension, The Pennsylvania State University, 416 Forest Resources Building, University Park, PA 16802. The Pennsylvania DCNR Bureau of Forestry, USDA Forest Service, and the Center for Private Forests at Penn State, in Partnership through Penn State's Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, sponsor the Forest Stewardship Program in Pennsylvania.

Jim Finley
Ibberson Professor of Forest Management and Director, Center for Private Forests at Penn State
Phone: 814-863-0401
Email: fj4@psu.edu


Allyson Muth
Forest Stewardship Program Associate
Center for Private Forests at Penn State
Phone: 814-865-3208

University Park, PA -- February 19, 2016 -- In working with landowners across the state, the staff of The Center for Private Forests at Penn State spend a lot of time discussing the need for forest legacy planning. Forest legacy planning is simply extending the concept of estate planning to include a plan for woodland property to be transferred and cared for by a future owner-- whether a family heir or an unrelated owner. This planning is important because we know that harvests occur and/or land is parcelized, or subdivided, most often at the time when it changes hands, either within families or outside. Our research has found that 80% of landowners want their woods to stay in the family, yet only 21% have plans to create legal structures that will protect the working woods and facilitate the transfer of land between owners. Fewer still have taken concrete action.

We also know that 75% of the current woodland owners got their land by purchase rather than inheritance. If percentages buying versus inheriting have stayed consistent between generations of landowners, this means that a lot of landowners' plans for the woods remaining in the family have failed. Studies cite family communication as one of the major barriers to planning. Discussing what happens when the current owner is no longer alive can be difficult for family members. Current owners choose not to engage their heirs in conversation to keep family harmony or because assumptions are made about potential heirs' interest in the woods ("What if they don’t want it?" or "I’m sure they know how I want the land to be cared for"). Believe it or not, not all families have excellent intergenerational communications! When we talk about legacy planning, estate planning, or succession planning, we spend a lot of time talking about communications. Many organizations have created tools to facilitate learning about family members� values around the woods. There are lots of resources available to landowners who’ve made decisions to delve into legacy planning (just Google "Forestry Legacy Planning" or "Woodland Legacy Planning" to find some). There are a range of legal tools people can use to pass on land, but understanding those options require a willingness to move beyond the decision to make a plan. All the tools and resources out there require a willingness to start the process, a commitment to making a plan, and communications with those you hope will come after you.

If one of the biggest hurdles for legacy planning for those who wish to keep the land in their family is family communications, how do you take an understanding your hopes and intentions for your woodland and turn them into a statement of commitment and action? If family communications are not easy, it might require a more formal approach to ensure smooth family conversations. Most businesses, organizations, and other entities develop mission statements to guide their work, to provide a goal and future aspiration, and to give those working within the group an understanding of who they are and what they aim. The same process of creating a mission statement might help you plan for the future of your woods. How might you best communicate the values and aspirations you have for the woods now and for future owners? What if you gave those voices a resonant message that all could support and use to plan for the future of the land -- a Woods Mission?

What would your Woods Mission sound like? It would likely include words like "protect," "use," "conserve," "sustain." It would have values that resonate with you and your family, like "wildlife," "beauty," "recreation," "forest products," "health," "privacy." It would likely include words indicating a future that looks even better than the current condition, like "improve," "enhance," "create." What words give voice to your woods? What words represent values and hopes you hold and those you hope to come after you hold? What words represent a way of talking about the woods that doesn’t necessarily impose upon family dynamics, but instead represents expectations and goals that all can fully support?

Being a woodland owner is difficult work. Being caretakers of a resource that provides benefits not just to you and yours, but to the larger society as well, carries responsibility that many are willing to shoulder. Caring well for the woods includes planning for its future. Despite the difficulties often accompanying future planning processes, reflect on what you hope will happen to the land after you. Include the voices and values of those you hope will become the next caretakers of the land. Be clear and collaborative about those hopes. Leave no room for assumptions or misunderstandings. Create with your heirs a message to embrace and then support their journey to becoming caretakers of the woods. The process starts with the current owners. Give voice to that work by developing your Woods Mission. The Pennsylvania Forest Stewardship Program provides publications on a variety of topics related to woodland management. For a list of free publications, call 800 235 9473 (toll free), send an email to RNRext@psu.edu, or write to Forest Stewardship Program, Natural Resources Extension, The Pennsylvania State University, 416 Forest Resources Building, University Park, PA 16802. The Pennsylvania DCNR Bureau of Forestry, USDA Forest Service, and the Center for Private Forests at Penn State, in Partnership through Penn State's Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, sponsor the Forest Stewardship Program in Pennsylvania.


Leslie Horner
Forest Stewardship Program Associate, Center for Private Forests at Penn State
Phone: 814-867-5982
Email: lah310@psu.edu

Making a Plan -- Learning and Caring for Your Woods Through the Year

Written by Leslie Horner, Forest Stewardship Program Associate, Center for Private Forests at Penn State

University Park, PA -- January 21, 2016 -- In nature, winter is a time of pause and slowing down of many animal and plant life cycles. With the arrival of colder weather and the bustle of the holidays now behind us, we may be thinking of our own "hibernation." On the other hand, many of us are also happily paging through seed catalogs, planning our vegetable and flower gardens, or thinking of other projects for the new year. This relatively quiet time of the year is also perfect to plan for woodland activities that can be done in spring, summer, and fall.

Developing a schedule for woodland stewardship (or tree care, if you have a small wooded area in your yard) can benefit you and your woodland in several ways. Breaking a project into individual steps can help the work feel less overwhelming. Taking time to plan a schedule for the year also ensures that activities are done when they will yield the best results for your trees and other plants.

There is no one-size-fits-all schedule for woodland stewardship--what goes into your calendar depends on your goals for the land and conditions in your woods. If you haven’t written out your goals and objectives, make this your first "to-do" for the year’s calendar. This task can be simplified by asking and answering a few questions. What do you enjoy or value about your woods? How do you use your woods now? What are your hopes for using and enjoying your woodland in the future? Answering these questions will help you get started in reaching your objectives -- for example, managing for particular wildlife species, growing non-timber forest products, or gathering firewood.

While it may not feel like work, walking in your woods throughout the year is an important "to-do" to add to your calendar. This will help you get to know the lay of the land and to observe and better understand what is happening. Even if you are very familiar with your woods, regular walks help keep track of projects you started or unexpected occurrences like a tree falling across a trail or fence. Bring a small notebook and a camera to describe and document what you see. You can also record possible actions and your questions as you explore.

Begin your year with a woods walk. It is an ideal time for checking fence lines and property boundaries, and for noticing features or special places (e.g., rock outcroppings, old home sites) that are hidden when the trees and shrubs have leaves. Including such places in your description of your woodland can help in planning future work activities or enjoyment. The winter timing also gives a different perspective on woodland conditions. How would you describe the vertical and horizontal arrangement of trees and other woody plants throughout the woods? Are there areas that seem to be all shrubs and no trees? Are there trees densely covered with vines? Make note of areas like these, as they may indicate spots where you may have a need to control competitive plants. If you are able to identify the shrubs or vines as invasive species, you can use the winter to learn about best strategies to control each species you find on your property.

Creating or improving wildlife habitat may be one of your objectives for your land. A variety of related activities can be added to your calendar. For example, tree cavities are important habitat for a variety of wildlife species including many birds and mammals. A walk in the fall or winter will make it easier to see how many trees have suitable habitat. Note snags (standing dead trees) and trees with dead, hollowed branches. To improve habitat for other types of wildlife, build brush piles from invasive shrubs. Cut the shrubs in July or late summer to avoid disturbing birds as they nest. Scheduling this work for the summer also helps reduce the spread of invasive shrubs like honeysuckle, since the seed-bearing fruits are not fully formed yet. A summer/fall activity relating to wildlife habitat you might add to the calendar is recording the types and numbers of native fruit and nut-bearing trees and shrubs you have (e.g., oaks, hickories, elderberry). If not many are found in your woodland, you might plan a tree or shrub planting for the spring. The Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Howard Nursery currently has their seedling order information available. You can also check with your local county conservation district to see if seedling sales are going on in your area.

One value and intention you may share with other landowners is the desire to see your family or others close to you care for the woods as you do. In thinking of your woodland calendar, you can help build that legacy of enjoying and caring for the woods together by scheduling time to share your woodland experiences. Maybe a reunion is planned; go for a walk together as part of the event. Show your family your favorite spots in the woods. Ask them about theirs. Tell them about woodland activities you have planned and see if there are opportunities for them to take part. Maybe you have thought about how to pass on your land to family, or to someone other than a family member. Schedule a time to walk and talk about your hopes for the land, and listen to what hopes others might have. Develop a "woods mission" that you all support. If you have already begun that conversation, perhaps an activity for your woodland calendar is a talk with a land trust, or a financial planner, or a lawyer to help you understand your options for protecting your woodland and your legacy of caring for it.

No matter how long you have owned woodland and no matter how many trees you are caring for, you will benefit greatly from making a yearly plan. Your woodland calendar should have time for exploratory walks, making lists of things to learn and to do, specific projects to meet your objectives for improving habitat and forest health, and time for others to learn how you care for the woods and its future. Scheduling time in the woods this year will provide benefits to you personally and to your fellow Pennsylvanians who depend on healthy forests for clean water and for the natural beauty they provide in our lives.

The Pennsylvania Forest Stewardship Program provides publications on a variety of topics related to woodland management. For a list of free publications, call 800 235 9473 (toll free), send an email to RNRext@psu.edu, or write to Forest Stewardship Program, Natural Resources Extension, The Pennsylvania State University, 416 Forest Resources Building, University Park, PA 16802. The Pennsylvania DCNR Bureau of Forestry, USDA Forest Service, and the Center for Private Forests at Penn State, in Partnership through Penn State's Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, sponsor the Forest Stewardship Program in Pennsylvania.


Woods in Your Backyard

Written by Jim Finley, Ibberson Professor of Forest Management and Director, Center for Private Forests at Penn State University Park, PA
Email: fj4@psu.edu

December 16, 2015 -- Do you have woods in your backyard? Penn State research for Pennsylvania's Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Bureau of Forestry estimates that nearly half a million Pennsylvanians own a small patch of woodlands -- something less than ten acres in size. In fact, the average small ownership is about two acres. In sum these small patches add up to about a million or so acres, or about 10 percent, of our state’s privately held woodlands. We can speculate that about one in eight of Pennsylvania’s households own one of these small woodlands areas. Whether you have hundreds or just a couple of wooded acres, you may have plans for and visions about its use. In financial terms, your land is an asset; however, studies have repeatedly found that owners identify or associate other values or benefits to their woodlands. Perhaps, unsurprisingly, woodland owners, both large and small, report finding value in the solitude afforded by their woodlands and a sense of enjoyment with owning land. In fact, these are the two most popular values reported and are closely followed by wildlife and hunting.

It would seem that solitude, enjoyment, wildlife, maybe hunting, and many other values associated with woodland ownership should be rather easy to achieve -- they are just there and accrue over time. However, owning woodlands commonly spawns a sense of stewardship and responsibility to care for the resource for future generations. Extending this idea further, landowners may recognize that owning land connects them to a larger landscape, which is part of a community comprised of land, water, wildlife, plants, and people. This community depends on and is influenced by the actions of all who have stewardship over the land -- regardless the size of ownership. To enhance the values landowners attribute to their land or woods it is often necessary to become actively involved, to work toward some desired future condition. The idea of improving land is likely accepted by most people at some scale. In the United States homeowners and communities invest time and money "improving" landscapes. The driving force is often aesthetics -- improving the beauty of the place. Sometimes the improvement may extend to function -- making changes to improve how a landscape functions. A common example of increasing importance might be managing storm water: capturing water runoff from roads, driveways, roofs, and lawns and having it infiltrate into pervious soils by building and planting raingardens.

Changing and improving small spaces such as lawns seems to come naturally. People seem to get it and there are resources -- think magazines, garden shops, education events -- that help guide these decisions; neighbors tend to indirectly or directly encourage a sense of community to improve where they live.

Those trees and woods in the backyard are somehow different. Certainly the scale is different, if not in area, certainly in height and complexity. Temporally, woodlands change by seasons, but come back pretty much the same every year. Green is often the dominant color that people associate with health, especially in woodlands. However, left alone woods become "messy," and the tendency is to "clean them up." In small woodlots and even large ones, a common response is to leave it alone if it seems healthy, and to tidy up messes. We remove dead trees; we leave live ones.

Woods are like any garden landscape. There are reasons to renew, weed, and thin. Think about it. At some point the trees and plants growing there reach their end -- age, competition, storms, insects, diseases, or whatever cause trees to decline or die. Where will the replacements come from? In healthy forests, especially in Pennsylvania, nature should help by "planting" the next tree. Unfortunately, in many woods, especially the smaller ones near urban centers, there is a failure to weed and thin sylvan gardens. Too often there is a failure to address the diversity of weeds. The list of common weeds, most of which are non-native that we have introduced from foreign places, is long.

You might know or recognize some of these invaders: multiflora rose, privets, bush and Japanese honeysuckle, Norway maple, Japanese barberry, autumn and Russian olive, Oriental bittersweet, Japanese stiltgrass. There are many more. So, why work at weeding them from the woods? Simply, these plants are very competitive and displace native species. While they provide a sense of health with their green leaves and often abundant fruit, they provide little support to native woodland species. Sure, birds feast on the fruit, but few insects eat the leaves. A complex cycle needed to help nesting birds to fledge their young, which depend on insect protein, is partially broken. This story of species interdependence is complex and it extends across landscapes, from your backyard to your neighbors, to the woods, and beyond. It is not necessarily fully understood by even those who study and research such things. Nonetheless, if you own land -- lawn, fields, or woods -- there is much to learn. To help you and others learn more about your role in managing our land and woods, a second edition of The Woods in Your Backyard: Learning to Create and Enhance Natural Areas Around Your Home has just been released. This 108 page, spiral-bound book, with a forward by Doug Tallamy, who is nationally known for his work on the interaction of native plants, insects, and birds, can help you develop a plan to manage the land you care for.

To purchase your copy of The Woods in Your Backyard written by faculty at Penn State, University of Maryland, and VPI, visit http://palspublishing.cals.cornell.edu (it’s currently a featured book) or call 607-255-7654.

The Pennsylvania Forest Stewardship Program provides publications on a variety of topics related to woodland management. For a list of free publications, call 800 235 9473 (toll free), send an email to RNRext@psu.edu, or write to Forest Stewardship Program, Natural Resources Extension, The Pennsylvania State University, 416 Forest Resources Building, University Park, PA 16802. The Pennsylvania DCNR Bureau of Forestry, USDA Forest Service, and Center for Private Forests at Penn State in Partnership with Penn State's Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, sponsor the Forest Stewardship Program in Pennsylvania.


Giving Thanks for Woodland Owners
University Park, PA -- November 17, 2015

-- About 100 years ago, Joyce Kilmer penned, "I think that I shall never see/ A poem as love as a tree�" Nearly everyone has heard this short endearing prose; however, how many ever stop to ponder the benefits they receive daily from our sylvan landscapes? We tend to take trees and woods for granted, they have always been there; they will always remain. At this time of the year, as we move to the next season of winter snows and quiet landscapes, take a minute to reflect on how forests and trees add to your quality of life and give thanks for those who care for them.

In Pennsylvania, 70% of the state's 16 million acres of forestland is owned by people -- families, individuals, partnerships -- not the federal, state, or local government, and not industry. Pennsylvania likely has more woodland owners than any state in the nation. While academicians debate methods used to estimate the correct number, we know there are a lot of Pennsylvania woodland owners out there (740,000 by the most recent estimate). It is important to recognize that these unique individuals are daily making decisions about the care and well-being of their piece of Penn's Woods, and we owe them all a debt of gratitude.

From the smallest parcels with stands of trees (not maintained as lawn) that are an acre or more in size to the largest forested watersheds owned by individuals, partnerships, families, and hunt clubs, these wooded properties contribute to our Commonwealth's well-being. They clean our air, removing particulate matter and other air pollution that affect respiratory diseases -- heck, they make our air. These woodlands clean water and act as a sponge absorbing massive amounts of stormwater. It would take a rainstorm of over 4 inches/hour to overcome the infiltration capacities of good forest soil. Because of their capacity to absorb water, we seldom get gully-washers of that magnitude. Tree root systems, primarily the micro-roots, capture and hold pollutants to clean streams.

With 70% of the woods in the hands of private owners, their lands are the primary source of the raw materials that are the wood products we use daily. When we survey woodland owners, timber is number nine or ten on the list of reasons for owning woods. Things like connection to the woods, privacy, wildlife and biodiversity, recreation, family legacy, and aesthetics far outweigh a desire to cut trees. Yet many of these woodland owners understand that to keep their forests healthy and working, there are times when cutting trees is appropriate and needs to happen. A good woodland steward approaches cutting with an eye towards the next forest and ensures the forest left behind conserves and perpetuates their ownership values. Our state's woods are a renewable resource. They need care to remain healthy.

These 11.5 million acres of private forests are home to our state's charismatic mega- and micro-fauna. The deer, turkey, bear, fisher, porcupine, migratory songbirds, salamanders, snakes, insects, and many, many other species depend on woodland in their home and foraging ranges. White-tailed deer, our state mammal, evoke love and hate responses from woodland owners. On one hand when populations are out of balance they negatively affect forest values. When managed well, they provide untold viewing pleasure, sport, and economic value. No matter the species, forest habitat is an important resource to the wildlife that call our region home. And just think about the beauty these forests bring to our landscapes. Seeing green and thriving native trees aids in healing, reducing stress levels, and promotes relaxation and well-being. Penn's Woods' citizens would lose without our private woodlands.

Whether you are aware of it or not, our state's privately held woodlands are vital to our well-being. With the majority of it owned by people like you and me, the decisions made in its care affect us all. Many woodland owners put a lot of sweat, tears, and blood into caring for their woods -- battling invasives, worrying about forest health threats to their trees, creating wildlife habitat, and many other investments of time and resources. They want to leave their land healthier and better cared for than when they got it. Based on the trees' lifetimes, these owners won’t see the results of their labors; but they benefit us all and those who come after. At this time of gratitude, give thanks for woodland owners. They care for the trees.

Allyson Muth
Forest Stewardship Program Associate
Phone: 814-865-3208
Email: abm173@psu.edu


Growing the Next Generation of Forests in Pennsylvania

University Park, PA -- September 30, 2015 -- Pennsylvania's forests face an uncertain future. The health of our forests is at risk. Invasive insects are threatening ash, hemlock, black walnut, and elm. Invasive plants such as honeysuckle, autumn and Russian olive, oriental bittersweet, Japanese stiltgrass, garlic mustard, and almost too many species to list challenge native species in many niches. Unrestrained parcelization and development are breaking woodlands into smaller and smaller properties that make it difficult to manage many of these threats as neighbors fail to cooperate or to understand how their individual decisions lead to increasingly depauperate forest conditions. There are myriad threats that must be considered or controlled when faced with trying to retain or regenerate (start anew) the forests. Well-informed landowners can make decisions that will move forests to a better place. They just have to know what to understand and how to create a plan to implement their goals.

For more than 40 years, research and inventory data has raised questions about forest regeneration in Pennsylvania. A recently published forest inventory of Pennsylvania’s public and private forests by the USDA Forest Service finds that forest regeneration is a major concern. In those woodlands where canopy disturbance, from either tree mortality or harvesting, has changed light conditions that should spur natural regeneration, only about 4 in 10 acres has sufficient desirable tree seedlings to ensure the next forest. Desirable tree species include those important for timber production or wildlife food. If the list of species expands to include nearly all of our native tree species, the situation does not improve that much, as only about 5 of 10 acres are on a positive trajectory.

What is causing this to happen? As suggested earlier, non-native competitive plant species are benefiting from natural- or human-caused disturbance and winning the competition for light in our woodlands. Some of these competitors have an upper hand because they leaf out earlier in the spring and extend their growing season later into the fall and thus get a jump on native species. Adding to the struggle, white-tailed deer, which have exceeded ecological thresholds in some parts of the state for 50 to 70 years, have selectively browsed species they find palatable and given the advantage to species they feed on less frequently. For example, three species of ferns that spread by underground root-like structures and are not eaten by deer cover about 1 in 5 acres of forests in the state and exceed guidelines for achieving competitive tree regeneration.

If you want to regenerate a forest with naturally occurring native tree species it takes planning and the recognition that you will likely have to undertake a harvest to allow the conditions for regeneration to occur. Light has to reach the forest floor, but there are also other threats which have to be accounted for. Contrary to what many people believe, successful forest regeneration does not just happen following a harvest or disturbance. It did seem to work that way when today’s forests came along, but that was 90 or 130 years ago. Things have changed -- invasive insects, plants, and deer. Now, achieving adequate desirable tree regeneration is a process requiring time and investments before removing any of the bigger trees extending into the canopy.

Research focused on forest regeneration provides some guidelines to help assess the potential for success in growing the next forest. In some ways, assessing forest regeneration is intuitive: are there tree seedlings and are there lots of them? Most guidelines combine the size and number of seedlings and you might find the suggested numbers for success overwhelming. To achieve adequate competition between trees as they develop and to ensure that enough trees will eventually reach the canopy, estimated numbers of seedlings might range from 10,000 to more than 50,000 per acre.

If woodland owners want to assess their regeneration, the first step is to identify what is already growing. Many people struggle to identify mature trees. Identifying seedlings adds another level of complexity; however, it does become easier over time and with repetition. In most cases, the species growing in the canopy should reflect the seedling composition and this becomes an identification aide. Of course, you may also find species brought into the area by wind, water, gravity, and wildlife.

If you want to improve forest health and want to improve conditions for natural regeneration, recognize that this will require a controlled disturbance, in the form of tree removals. It is important to consider how any disturbance in the forest canopy affects light distribution in the understory and on the forest floor. When trees die from cutting or insects, disease, weather, or competition, light conditions below the canopy change and that light begins to drive change, which can be either beneficial (e.g., spurs young tree seedlings to grow) or detrimental (e.g., fosters expansion of competitive plants, either exotic or native). To plan for successful forest regeneration after harvesting there are seven questions to answer before any tree removals occur:

1. How much will the planned disturbance increase light below the canopy? If when looking up at the summer canopy there is 40 to 60 percent or more blue sky, the remaining tree crowns will likely lack the capacity to attain full closure in the near future and you are facing a regeneration situation .If the goal is to establish or release regeneration, then the cutting intensity may be correct.

2. Do you have adequate desirable regeneration already in place? With regeneration in place, the species you hope to become the next forest will have a head start on the competition.Desirable regeneration refers to tree species that are important to wildlife and for any other goals you may have for your woodland, such as firewood production or producing timber to harvest. In today’s forests, it is seldom the case that we have sufficient regeneration in place unless there was prior planning, efforts to control deer browsing, and a lack of competitive plants.

3. Are competitive native or non-native plants covering 30 percent of the area of interest? When competition is covering 30 percent or more of the area, studies suggest that it will expand quickly and dominate the area once light conditions change. If this is the case, it is likely prudent to invest in practices to control their spread -- some form of forest vegetation management.

4. Is there an adequate seed source of desirable tree species? When light conditions are right (see question 1), it is important to have adequate numbers of desirable seed producing trees. The answer to this question depends on the species, residual tree spacing, and ability of the trees to disperse their seed in the area. Light winged seeds such as red maple naturally disperse further than acorns, for example.

5. Will the planned disturbance eliminate or greatly reduce the occurrence of a desirable species in the woodlot? If so, can anything be done to retain that species or is it a valid decision to allow it to go away? For example, trying to retain ash in Pennsylvania woodlots is likely a lost cause. Contrarily, failing to retain red and white oak seed sources is not a good idea in most areas where they naturally occur.

Questions 6 and 7 relate mostly to disturbance caused by timber harvesting where the woodlot owner or the manager has more control over what they retain than what they remove.

6. Are the trees planned to be retained healthier and with fewer defects than the trees cut? Tree health and quality among the trees kept should improve. This guideline relates to harvesting or removing the worst trees first in timber harvests, which are a controlled disturbance. Too often, timber harvests focus on removing the valuable trees with the hope that the little poorer quality trees will improve over time. This is seldom the case.

7. Will the average tree diameter in the woodlot increase, stay the same, or decrease? There are few scientifically sound harvesting practices that result in the average diameter decreasing. Other than a clearcut, which if regeneration is in place and not stifled by competition is valid too, the average tree diameter should stay the same or increase some.

To adequately assess forest regeneration, you might find it necessary to involve a forester who has experience conducting inventories. As well, a forester should have the ability to evaluate competing vegetation, make suggestions for controlling or reducing invasive species, and lay out a plan for ensuring that you have adequate regeneration. Unfortunately, as suggested earlier, many of our woodlands are rapidly declining in health as owners and managers fail to recognize threats to forest health today and the implications for tomorrow.

To find a forester to help you with the management of your woodlands, visit the Bureau of Forestry website (http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/forestry/) and in the left-hand menu click on “Your Woods.� There you will find a listing of service foresters by Pennsylvania counties who can provide some on-site advice or help you find a consulting forester working in your county. When choosing a professional forester to work with you and your land, keep the above seven questions in mind and don’t be afraid to articulate your vision of what your value about your land. Find a professional who shares your interests and your trust to steward your land with you.

The Pennsylvania Forest Stewardship Program provides publications on a variety of topics related to woodland management. For a list of free publications, call 800 235 9473 (toll free), send an email to RNRext@psu.edu, or write to Forest Stewardship Program, Natural Resources Extension, The Pennsylvania State University, 416 F! orest Resources Building, University Park, PA 16802. The Pennsylvania DCNR Bureau of Forestry, USDA Forest Service, and Center for Private Forests at Penn State in Partnership with Penn State's Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, sponsor the Forest Stewardship Program in Pennsylvania.

Jim Finley Ibberson Professor of Forest Management and Director
Center for Private Forests at Penn State
Phone: 814-863-0402
Email: fj4@psu.edu


Leslie Horner
Forest Stewardship Program Associate
Phone: 814-867-5982
Email: lah310@psu.edu

A Closer Look at Pennsylvania’s Forests -- Leave Them Be, or Lend a Hand?

University Park, PA -- July 27, 2015 -- Pennsylvania's woods provide us with numerous benefits -- among them are a variety of recreational opportunities, clean water, and habitat for a wide range of wildlife. These forests, like others in the eastern United States, have returned with vigor since the late 1800s and early 1900s. Then, land clearing and the use of wood for building homes, fueling factories, and building the nation's transportation infrastructure (i.e., roads, canals, and railroads) were so extensive and fast-paced that the Pennsylvania's forests were reduced to less than half of the forest cover we see today. Today, with over 16.5 million acres of forest, which cover more than half the state, it seems hard to imagine that the forest could be anything but healthy and robust. While that is true, a closer look shows that Pennsylvania's forests are changing, and some of those changes are cause for our concern and attention.

In forests statewide, the number of trees with large diameters has been increasing, and trees in smaller diameter groupings have been declining since the 1980s. While size does not always indicate a tree's age, studies of Pennsylvania's forests have shown that our trees are aging. In many of our woodlands the bigger trees are about the same age, creating what is known as an "even-aged forest." Like people, trees have different life expectancies that vary quite broadly, but do not have an infinite lifespan. Eventually all trees die. Since many of our trees are about the same age, we could see many trees reaching the end of their lifespan around the same time.

Why should we be concerned? Won’t the forest just come back again? That is what we would expect, but Pennsylvania's forest now contains far fewer tree seedlings and saplings than one would have seen in the same woods two or three decades ago. These tree seedlings and saplings (also referred to as "advanced regeneration"), which should be the next generation forest, are absent in many forest stands. One major cause of the decline in regeneration is the increased competition from some plants that are growing where they did not used to be found. These "invasive plants" grow so quickly that they out-compete tree seedlings and other plants in the struggle to access water and nutrients in the soil, space for roots to stretch out, and room for leaves to access sunlight. Tree seedlings that don't die are stunted in their growth, leaving them small and not very hardy.

Another change in the state’s forests is a shift in species -- the species that used to be less common are trading places with species that used to be more common. Red maples are more than twice as common as any other tree species, while the number of oaks is declining. Red maples are native to Pennsylvania’s woods and are not out of place; however, they are competitive. They grow faster than oaks; so in a forest opening where oaks would normally thrive, red maples beat them to the sunlight and slow the growth of oak seedlings, or other species that used to more numerous in our woods.

Acorns from oak trees are an important source of food to turkeys, squirrels, deer and many other wildlife species. Some years, an oak tree may not produce enough acorns to feed wildlife. A forest that has a variety of tree species will reduce the stress on wildlife in cases like this, by providing a variety of "mast" (an old English word that literally means "forest food"). In the years when red oaks don’t produce as many acorns, for example, wildlife can be fed by a tree that produces similar food -- like the nuts from a hickory tree. Birds and other wildlife also need the soft kinds of mast, like the fruits of the black cherry tree. A diverse forest benefits wildlife by providing a variety of sources and types of food. A greater variety in tree species will attract and feed a greater variety of wildlife species.

A study of a forest plot in Pennsylvania showed that after forty-five growing seasons with no wire cage or other means to protect tree seedlings from deer browse, and no effort to control competing invasive plants, the study area contained no tree regeneration except for two individual red maples struggling to survive. This suggests that without active management in Pennsylvania’s forests to protect seedlings and control competing vegetation to ensure enough light in the forest understory, our forests will see significant changes in species composition and a decline in species diversity.

A forest with many different tree species and with trees of many different age groups is a forest that will be resilient to changes in weather, disease, insect pests, and other stresses. If we want to continue to enjoy Pennsylvania's forests and wildlife, we’ll need to think about how to actively deal with changes taking place -- shifting trees species and age classes. "Leaving it alone" could mean that we see fewer oaks across the landscape, or that we'll see some wildlife species struggle to find suitable habitat. Most of the state's forests (70%) are owned privately. Forest landowners across Pennsylvania taking steps to control invasive plants and help tree seedlings get established in their woodlands have an essential role in ensuring the long-term health of our woods.

To learn more about steps you can take, contact the Center for Private Forests at 814-863-0401 for a free copy of the Forest Science Fact Sheet: Regenerating Hardwood Forests--Managing Competing Plants, Deer, and Light and Forestry with Confidence: A Guide for Woodland Owners.

The Pennsylvania Forest Stewardship Program provides publications on a variety of topics related to woodland management. For a list of free publications, call 800 235 9473 (toll free), send an email to RNRext@psu.edu, or write to Forest Stewardship Program, c/o Natural Resources Extension, The Pennsylvania State University, 416 Forest Resources Building, University Park, PA 16802. The Pennsylvania DCNR Bureau of Forestry, USDA Forest Service, Penn State Extension, and the Center for Private Forests at Penn State sponsor the Forest Stewardship Program in Pennsylvania.


Jim Finley
Ibberson Professor of Forest Management
Phone: 814-863-0402
Email: fj4@psu.edu

Leaves as Large as Elephant Ears

University Park, PA -- June 25, 2015 -- "Those leaves are huge! Are you fertilizing those trees?" exclaimed a participant on a recent walking tour of a timber harvesting demonstration site in central Pennsylvania. Immediately, I had a mental flashback to summers in Pittsburgh as a child.

One of the outside games I had fun playing was "Find the biggest leaf." It was not a game that most of the kids in the neighborhood played. Really there were only two of us who found joy in finding the biggest leaves. Through this game, we learned something about tree and plant biology. First, we discovered that, as youngsters, we were ideally structured for finding big leaves -- we were closer to the ground. We soon learned that big leaves were more common down low on trees and other plants. Second, we noticed the big leaves weren't common on the sycamores lining the streets; rather, they were in the shaded alleys and along the edges of unkempt properties, the abandoned old farm field and barn, and near the strip mine where the young trees were at a convenient height.

We'd call the giant leaves "elephant ears." The game had one major rule -- you had to stay with the same species. Sycamore leaves competed with sycamore leaves, Norway maple leaves with Norway maple leaves, forsythia leaves with forsythia leaves. You get the picture. Likely we never found a leaf as large as even a small elephant's ear, but we learned and searched. It was fun!

So, why are some leaves -- even on the same individual tree or plant -- bigger than others? Biologists describe the size difference simply as "sun leaves" and "shade leaves." For the most part, leaves growing in the sun are physiologically different from those growing in the shade. The difference relates to the environment they have to deal with and the light resources they receive.

At the top of a tree, a leaf receives more light and wind. These sun leaves are thicker and smaller. They are thicker because of the distribution of chloroplasts within the palisade cells, which are tall cells standing on end just under the leaves' "skin." This arrangement makes the leaves efficient at converting light to make sugars. It also suggests upper leaves are often darker green. Because upper leaves gather more light, they get hotter. Therefore, they have more and smaller stomata, which are a leaf structure designed to exhaust oxygen and water -- a cooling mechanism -- than are found on shade leaves. The advantage of having lots of small stomata on a smaller leaf is the ability to adjust moisture loss not only to heat, but to increased wind moving across the leaf's surface.

Lower down in the tree, where the leaves are shaded by those higher up, the logic begins to reverse. The leaf is thinner because the palisade cells are shorter. This arrangement makes sense because light is less intense and does not reach as deeply into the leaf, and the leaf is often a lighter shade of green. Because the chloroplasts are closer to the surface, the leaf area increases to make it more efficient resulting in bigger leaves. The stomata are larger and wider spaced. In general the shade leaf stays cooler, has less wind moving across its surface, and needs less cooling.

What was a fun game for us as children turned out to be a great lesson: Trees and other plants respond to their environment in ways that increase their efficiency. Sometimes the reasons behind the differences in plant structures seem obscure, but nature is about efficiency. It is fun to explore our forest environment and to share our observations and thoughts. If you have the chance this summer, go looking for an "elephant ear" in your woodlot. While you are at it, invite a child to enjoy the game, "Who can find the biggest leaf?"

The Pennsylvania Forest Stewardship Program provides publications on a variety of topics related to woodland management. For a list of free publications, call 800 235 9473 (toll free), send an email to RNRext@psu.edu, or write to Forest Stewardship Program, Natural Resources Extension, The Pennsylvania State University, 416 Forest Resources Building, University Park, PA 16802. The Pennsylvania DCNR Bureau of Forestry, USDA Forest Service, and Center for Private Forests at Penn State in Partnership with Penn State's Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, sponsor the Forest Stewardship Program in Pennsylvania.


Jim Finley
Ibberson Professor of Forest Management, Penn State Dept. of Ecosystem Science and Management
Phone: 814-863-0402
Email: fj4@psu.edu

Spring Green: Reading a Story of Forest Health

University Park, PA -- April 23, 2015 -- Spring, it is finally here. Even if you love winter, there is something about the warming days, gentle rains, and spring green that draws you outdoors or at least warrants a longing look out the nearest window.

Almost magically, we go from the brown gray fields and lawns to that fresh green, which is somehow vigorous and alive. A green that is much different from the green of June and July. Spring green, in its many shades, communicates a message of renewal and health.

If you are fortunate enough to have a forest or woodlot nearby, you can watch as the canopy takes on other colors and hues. A month or so ago you might have noticed tinges of purple, or, now, reds, yellows, and shades of green. This is truly a season of colors. Not the same bold all-encompassing colors of fall; rather, the soft pastels of spring.

Unfortunately, not all shades of green in our forests tell a story of health and vibrant renewal. Some of the early greens tell of unwelcome and health-robbing exotic invasive plant species. Many of these plants once occurred only in our yards and gardens; now they are increasingly dominating our forested landscapes and replacing more desirable native trees and understory shrubs and herbs.

The careful observer is aware that many of the early greens in our urban and forested landscapes are not our native plants. These early, and sometimes just as lovely, shades of green tell a story of changing plant health. Many of the most successful invasive plants have a physiological advantage over natives. Simply, they start to grow leaves earlier in the spring than do many native species.

Looking out my office window, it is easy to pick out the Norway maples in the neighborhood across the way. Already, they are sporting yellow-green crowns of flowers and young leaves, while the native maples, basswood, elm, and oaks are just beginning to show activity. The elms are brown-looking, the red maples are tinted red, and the sugar maples and basswood are still waiting to play their hands. In the woods, where Norway maple is becoming increasingly common, especially near our cities, the green really stands out early in the season.

The understory tells the same story. Some of the first plants to show their young, soft, green leaves are not native. If you know some of these plants, you will readily recognize that privet, bush honeysuckle, oriental bittersweet, and autumn olive are quick to green-up and gather in early spring sunlight before native trees begin to show leaves. These Asian plants also begin to green before native understory plants such as dogwoods and viburnums and by doing this being to express their dominance. Our native plants fall behind in the competitive race for water, nutrients, and light.

Should we care if these once friendly and invited guests from other places take over niches in our forests and woodlands? According to some researchers the answer is an emphatic yes. Physiologically, these plants have a jump on natives and because they are foreign to our landscapes, many of them do not host insects that would normally control, in part, their spread across our landscapes. These competitive exotic plants are not part of the ecosystem and they do not feed insects, which in turn feed other insects, amphibians, reptiles, and birds. In short, many of these plants do not contribute to forest health -- they actually take away.

The story of forest health and early spring green is complicated. If you take your time, you can learn to read this story on many landscapes. If you care, learn how to write a different story in coming springs. Work to control unwanted early spring green and plant natives in your yard and landscape. By doing so, you can still have spring greens, but know they represent a gift to others who benefit from and enjoy healthy forest landscapes.

Dr. Doug Tallamy, professor of entomology at the University of Delaware, has written a very informative book about the importance of native plants to our native insect and bird populations and what homeowners can do to enhance native habitat in their own backyards. "Bringing Nature Home," is an excellent addition to your library as you work to be a good steward of the land.

The Pennsylvania Forest Stewardship Program provides publications on a variety of topics related to woodland management. For a list of free publications, call 800 235 9473 (toll free), send an email to RNRext@psu.edu, or write to Forest Stewardship Program, Natural Resources Extension, The Pennsylvania State University, 416 Forest Resources Building, University Park, PA 16802. The Pennsylvania DCNR Bureau of Forestry and USDA Forest Service, in Partnership with Penn State’s Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, sponsor the Forest Stewardship Program in Pennsylvania.


Thinking about Firewood

University Park, PA -- March 31, 2015 --Some pundits are suggesting that heating with wood is experiencing another surge in popularity. The last big turn to wood was in the 1970s following the oil embargo. Then, the focus was on woodstoves inside the house, where many found comfort in intense warmth. At the same time, many learned about the puffs of smoke, the never ending sweeping up of sawdust, bits of bark, and ashes after the inevitable cleaning. Today, you increasingly see outdoor heaters standing outside or with their short chimney poking up through a tin roof of the small shelter some erect over the stove to protect it and the wood pile. Other times you first notice the blue-gray smoke wafting across the yard and look around for the source.

Smoke is a concern with wood heating. Wood smoke is full of chemicals that threaten our health and the air we breathe. Smoke and wood are like soup and sandwich, they come together; however, with planning and forethought it is possible to reduce the amount of smoke. Without getting too technical, smoke contains four parts: particles such as ash, unburned volatiles, carbon compounds (think carbon dioxide), and water.

After a colder than normal winter in the Northeast, the last thing you want to think about is firewood. You might still be wondering if there is enough to get through the last few weeks, but now is the time to turn your thoughts to next winter. It will be here before you know it and you want to have dry wood ready. Burning unseasoned, or worse green, wood is not a good idea because you lose heat (which means you need more wood to heat the house), you create more smoke, and you increase unwanted fire risk as residues collect in venting systems.

When firewood has high water content, full combustion does not happen until the moisture is driven off. When wood is wet, the fire smolders and the heavy blue smoke is full of water and chemicals. You can smell the difference; it is acrid and harsh. When dry wood burns in a woodstove with adequate air flow (not a dampered down, smoldering fire), the volatiles burn. On the other hand, when wood is wet, even with adequate air flow, the fire still tends to smolder as the water driven off by slow combustion cools the fire. In this case, there is no flame and lots of smoke. It takes heat to drive off that excess moisture and that heat is lost as the moisture vapor carries it up the chimney. The wetter the wood, the more difficult it is to burn.

The conventional wisdom is that firewood in our climate should be cut, split, and covered for at least nine months to a year before burning. By doing this the wood will have time to lose water due to evaporation and will approach equilibrium moisture content, which for Pennsylvania is around 16 to 20 percent. Achieving this desirable dryness takes time and work. Ideally, it would be great to have a two year supply of wood at the ready at the beginning of each heating season. At the least, you should be working on next year’s wood right now and have it stacked and ready to go by mid-fall.

Cut, split, and stacked is the admonition. Split wood to expose as much surface as possible and to reduce the cross-section so it loses water more quickly. Stacking takes space and is not a haphazard process. Ideally wood stacks should be under roof or at least covered, but in a way that moisture laden air can escape -- covering with a tarp that traps water is not the best solution. To encourage drying elevate the stack on runners or pallets. This allows air to move up through the stack. Expose the stack to air and sun, which further accelerates drying. As the fall approaches, if you "smack" dried pieces together, you will hear the tonal difference. Dry wood nearly rings when ready.

Heating with wood provides great exercise, a sense of pride, a different level of comfort; however, it takes time and commitment. For your health's sake, make sure you are burning dry wood. If you are splitting the wood right before it goes into the stove, or worse yet, burning it in the round all the time, you are likely wasting heat by sending water and volatiles up the chimney and creating more smoke than necessary. Burning dry wood saves money and reduces smoke. Cut your wood now. Follow the safety rules, and get ready for next winter. It comes around every year.

The Pennsylvania Forest Stewardship Program provides publications on a variety of topics related to woodland management. For a list of free publications, call 800 235 9473 (toll free), send an email to RNRext@psu.edu, or write to Forest Stewardship Program, Natural Resources Extension, The Pennsylvania State University, 416 Forest Resources Building, University Park, PA 16802. The Pennsylvania DCNR Bureau of Forestry and USDA Forest Service, in Partnership with Penn State’s Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, sponsor the Forest Stewardship Program in Pennsylvania.

Jim Finley
Ibberson Professor of Forest Management, Penn State Dept. of Ecosystem Science and Management
Phone: 814-863-0402
Email: fj4@psu.edu


Bob Hansen, Ph.D.
Extension District Director and Forester, Bradford County, PA
Phone: 570-265-2896
Email: rsh7@psu.edu

100% Pure Pennsylvania Maple Syrup: A Great Tasting Treat!

University Park, PA -- February 18, 2015 -- To be sure, Pennsylvania has had a spate of cold weather this February. Although, if you watch the sky, it is pretty obvious days are lengthening and that means spring is on its way. Longer days will, eventually, mean moderating temperatures. For pancake lovers everywhere that suggests maple syrup season is nearly here.

Maple sugar is truly a North American product. While we generally think of maple syrup, Native Americans boiled maple sap to make sugar, likely a very important food source high in energy and easy to carry. Early North American settlers learned how to make maple sugar from the native people and soon developed methods of their own. Maple sugar remained the most popular product until the early 1900s when cane sugar became more common; sugar makers then began to make more syrup to grace pancakes.

For many woodlot owners today, making maple syrup in the early spring is an important activity. For some, it is a major cash crop from their woodlands. It is a unique crop as it is often produced, processed, and sold entirely on the farm.

The Canadian Province of Quebec leads North America in maple syrup production. Pennsylvania generally ranks 6th or 7th in syrup production. Other states producing syrup include Vermont, New York, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Ohio, Wisconsin, Maine, and others where maple trees grow and spring conditions are just right.

Common species most often tapped for syrup production are sugar, red and, the much less common black maple. Sugar maple is preferred. Tapping generally does little harm to the tree if correct guidelines are followed. Trees ten- to eighteen-inches in diameter (at 4 1/2 feet above the ground) can have one tap. Trees larger than eighteen-inches can have two taps. Tap holes, 5/16 inch in diameter, are bored at a slight upward angle into the tree to a depth of one to two inches into the sapwood. A spout or spile is gently tapped into the hole until it fits snugly. A stainless steel bucket, special plastic bag or a tubing system attached to the tap collects the sap.

The amount of sap needed to make a gallon of syrup varies with the amount of sugar in the sap. Sap sugar content varies from tree to tree, day to day, and season to season, from less than 1% to rarely 10%. The normal is about 1.5% to 3%. Approximately 40 gallons of sap with 2% sugar content will produce one gallon of syrup

In the sugarhouse producers use evaporators to remove water and concentrate the sugars. In this process the sap darkens in color from light amber to vary dark brown. . Syrup has a minimum concentration of 66% sugar solids and this occurs when the boiling sap is 7.5 degrees F above the boiling point of water (varies by altitude and barometric pressure). When the sugar concentration is less than 66% the syrup may ferment and spoil, while syrup with sugar concentrations greater than 69% sugar will often crystalize.

Syrup color often relates to the time of the season the sap is collected and boiled. Early season syrup is generally lighter in color than sap collected and boiled later in the season. The lightest amber syrup is often used to make secondary products such as candy, cream, and crumb sugar. Medium and dark amber syrups, with a stronger maple flavor than light amber, were the standard table grades. Grade B, which is darker than dark amber and often off flavored, is used in cooking and mixing with other grades or sold to companies making syrups (not pure maple syrup) using other sugars.

Up until this year, 2015, syrup was graded as light amber (a very light golden color with a delicate flavor), medium amber (an amber color), and dark amber (a darker amber color). Syrup darker than dark amber was graded as commercial (Grade B).

For several years the International Maple Syrup Institute (IMSI) and the North American Maple Syrup Council (NAMSC) have been developing a new grading system. This year, the new grades were adopted by the United States Department of Agriculture. These grades are: Golden - delicate taste which was the light amber grade; Amber - rich taste, which includes the former medium amber and lighter shades of previous dark amber; Dark - robust taste which includes former dark amber and grade B; and Very Dark - strong taste, which consists of darker than grade B (known as commercial in some states). The belief is that the new system will concentrate on the most important descriptor of syrup grades and that is how it tastes! As the new grading system is adopted in Pennsylvania you may see syrups labeled with the previous grades, the new grades, or a combination of both. But the quality of Pure Pennsylvania maple syrup will remain the same!

If you see steam rising from a sugarhouse you will know that maple season has arrived. Producers will welcome you to their sugarhouse to watch them make this special product. If you go online to www.pamapleassociation.com and click on tours, you can find dates when regional maple associations host maple weekends.

The Pennsylvania Forest Stewardship Program provides publications on a variety of topics related to woodland management. For a list of free publications, call 800 235 9473 (toll free), send an email to RNRext@psu.edu, or write to Forest Stewardship Program, Natural Resources Extension, The Pennsylvania State University, 416 Forest Resources Building, University Park, PA 16802. The Pennsylvania DCNR Bureau of Forestry and USDA Forest Service, in Partnership with Penn State’s Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, sponsor the Forest Stewardship Program in Pennsylvania.


Allyson Muth
Forest Stewardship Program Associate
Phone: 814-865-3208
Email: abm173@psu.edu

Trees and Cold: Where Are Their Long Johns?

University Park, PA -- January 16, 2015 -- It's winter in the northern climes. For many people, it's time to hibernate, curl up in front of a fire, drape yourself over the nearest working radiator, layer if you have to go outside, stay inside if you can, hope that the heat is on at work so you can justify a low thermostat setting at home. As mobile denizens of the region, people and animals find ways to hide from or tolerate the weather. What about those rooted in the ground? How do they survive cold weather?

Logically, layers of bark on trees and woody shrubs do provide some protection, but not much. When temperatures drop, trees have to have a plan to handle freezing water. They just can’t add a coat or sweater. They don’t have to deal with wind (wind chill is a human-construct), which makes us feel colder as water evaporates from our skin; nonetheless, cold is cold. How do trees adapt?

We all know that the deciduous trees lose their leaves, which are not designed to take cold temperatures. They enter a phase of not quite hibernation called dormancy brought on by a combination of shorter days and falling temperatures. They’re not growing. They’re not moving water and nutrients up and down. But they still have challenges. And for the evergreen trees, that have leaves all year round, photosynthesizing, when temperatures allow, requires water and moving nutrients around.

There are two big risks to trees in frigid weather. Water can freeze within living cells and rupture them, and air bubbles can form in the xylem (the part of the tree that moves water from the roots up) which can cause a break in the water column (embolism). When there is a break in the water column, trees can no longer pull water up to their photosynthesis factories, the leaves.

Remember from your elementary science class, water expands when it freezes. And ice does tend to have sharp edges. Imagine the water in a living cell freezing. Ice crystals would take up more space and rupture the cell membrane, causing the cell to die. Trees have to have some ways to prevent this. The prevention process for all trees starts in the fall when they change the water content of their cells. They start by taking in more sugars and creating a highly saturated solution within the cell, shrinking the cell somewhat -- the tree now has an antifreeze to prevent ice crystal formation. It takes time for trees to complete this process, a period of acclimation. Even trees that are good at creating antifreeze experience cell death with an early cold snap or late spring frost. As the cells create this antifreeze, water moves out of the cell and into the spaces between cells, where it will not cause damage if it freezes. Evergreen trees use this technique to keep their leaves year round, along with small openings in the needles (stomata) that allow gases in (and sometimes water out), and waxy coverings that help to protect the needles from frost damage. Deciduous trees use this technique to a lesser degree because they lose their leaves in the fall thereby preventing winter damage to the leaves.

Even as conifer trees have adapted ways to retain their leaves and to reduce ice crystals throughout, they may still need to move water on those warm days when some photosynthesis takes place. How do they do this with their roots in frozen soils? In Pennsylvania, most of the time forest soils don’t freeze, at least not deeply. So there is some access to water; however, they still need a strategy as freezing of the water column can cause air bubbles to form from gases dissolved in the water. When the water thaws, these air bubbles remain and may rupture the water column. In the process of moving water, trees are dependent upon water’s cohesive nature (water molecules bond to each other) to aid movement against gravity. Trees living in cold regions, especially conifers, have evolved water conducting cells that are very narrow hollow tubes (narrower than those in deciduous trees) that enable the water to move at lower pressure and thus reduce the potential for embolisms.

It turns out that many of the evolutionary adaptations that allowed trees to respond to drought, allowed them to adapt to colder regions of our world. It’s all about water and its presence or absence. So, even if it is cold outside, know that your trees are doing well and waiting to share their glory with you come the warmer temperatures of longer days in the spring.

MinuteEarth has a great video about this process: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d260CmZoxj8

The Pennsylvania Forest Stewardship Program provides publications on a variety of topics related to woodland management. For a list of free publications, call 800 235 9473 (toll free), send an email to RNRext@psu.edu, or write to Forest Stewardship Program, Natural Resources Extension, The Pennsylvania State University, 416 Forest Resources Building, University Park, PA 16802. The Pennsylvania DCNR Bureau of Forestry and USDA Forest Service, in Partnership with Penn State's Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, sponsor the Forest Stewardship Program in Pennsylvania.


Bryan Swistock
Water Resources Extension Specialist
Phone: 814-863-0194
Email: brs@psu.edu


Forests Blanketed in Snow -- A Good Sign for Groundwater Aquifers

University Park, PA -- December 17, 2014 -- Grumble. Grumble. It is going to snow. Grumble. Grumble. Why does it have to snow? Grumble. Grumble. It is so dark, cold, and snowy. You know how it is. Many folks have trouble accepting winter, cold, and snow. It seems, often, that everyone wants every day to be bright and sunny. They can tolerate the cold (maybe), as long as it doesn't snow or rain. (It is not clear which most folks find preferable; a snowy blanket on the landscape, or rainy skies and wet feet.) Sometimes it seems that the only folks who appreciate snow are kids -- no school. Maybe it is time for an attitude adjustment?

Let’s consider how winter snow fits into our annual water cycle. Across Pennsylvania, the amount of water we receive every month is relatively even. In the spring, summer, and fall, we have rain and in the winter our water often comes as snow. Snow as part of the water cycle is really important. Why champion snow?

Officially, on December 21, we move into the winter season, and many recreationists including hunters, skiers, and snowmobile enthusiasts excitedly look forward to snow-covered forests. But, forests blanketed in snow should also be appreciated by those who enjoy streams in the summer and rely on groundwater wells and springs for drinking water supplies. That's because forests and the snowpack together are important for recharging underground aquifers that hold trillions of gallons of freshwater stored in pore spaces and rock cracks beneath the soil surface. These aquifers maintain streamflow throughout the year and provide water that supports industries, businesses, agriculture, and ensures drinking water for millions of Pennsylvania residents.

The forest creates a perfect environment to capture and to allow water from melting snow to slowly enter the ground. Soil under forest canopies acts like a sponge to soak up and pass water from the surface into groundwater aquifers. Where forests are removed, soils may become compacted or even paved, reducing the amount of water that infiltrates into the ground to support aquifers. Water infiltration into the ground occurs most efficiently during times when the forest is dormant. That’s where a thick snowpack becomes beneficial.

The snowpack that accumulates during the winter insulates the soil underneath it, keeping the soil largely unfrozen and able to absorb water from melting snow. Since trees and other plants are dormant during early spring, most of the snowmelt water entering the soil can infiltrate and recharge groundwater aquifers. The snowpack also represents a large volume of stored water that can be released slowly during the spring melt. A ten-inch snowpack covering just one acre may hold 30,000 gallons of water or more. Once the snow is gone and trees leaf-out in late spring, most infiltrating water from summer rainstorms is taken up by the roots of the growing trees. The water contributed to our aquifers during snow melt creates a cycle where we have high groundwater levels during March and April that typically fall throughout the summer and early fall.

Ground water aquifers recharged in the spring by melting snow provide water supply wells and streams with a steady source of cool ground water during the long, hot summer. Fish and other stream life have adapted to the increased stream flows in spring and the relatively cool ground water supplied to the stream throughout the summer. Without this spring recharge, stream levels may drop and stream temperatures may increase to dangerous levels during the summer. So the next time you cast a fly over a rising trout or take a drink of water from your well or spring, remember that the combination of undisturbed forests and winter snowpacks provide much of the groundwater that we rely on every day.

Hopefully, you now have a reason to appreciate the snow that falls from our winter sky and blankets us with a winter cover. Snow, just like rain, is important to ensure the high quality water we enjoy in Pennsylvania and for keeping our forests healthy and growing. Let it snow!

The Pennsylvania Forest Stewardship Program provides publications on a variety of topics related to woodland management. For a list of free publications, call 800 235 9473 (toll free), send an email to RNRext@psu.edu, or write to Forest Stewardship Program, Natural Resources Extension, The Pennsylvania State University, 416 Forest Resources Building, University Park, PA 16802. The Pennsylvania DCNR Bureau of Forestry and USDA Forest Service, in Partnership with Penn State's Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, sponsor the Forest Stewardship Program in Pennsylvania.


Taking to the Woods: A Holiday Tradition University Park, PA -- November 21, 2014

Unfortunately, too many folks heed the lyrics from the popular song, "Let it snow" -- The weather outside is frightful, the fire is so delightful� and, from my perspective, they stay indoors during the best season of the year. Winter woods are delightful and add another dimension on how to enjoy those sylvan places you love in other seasons.

Research on private forest landowners conducted at Penn State finds that about 8 out of 10 of the state's holders of woodlands hope to pass it on to one or more of their children; yet, only about 4 of 10 have discussed the land with their heirs and about 1 in 4 actually manage to pass their land on to their heirs. Maybe one of the reasons this happens is that they don't find time to talk about the future of the land? A winter sojourn might provide the perfect opportunity to engage your family or heirs in an outdoor activity that is fun, relaxing, and can provide an entry for talking about the future of the land you love.

In the next month or so, many families will come together; it is a tradition. Now, this begs the question, what is your family's holiday tradition? A meal and football on television? Watching the Thanksgiving parade in New York, again, on television? Or, a meal followed by the adults talking while the kids play electronic games? Let the winter woods pull you outside, they are amazing and magical places that many folks do not know that well.

Sure, it can be cold and the wind may blow. It might snow, and you all experience the quiet of gently falling snow, or the sting of driven flakes. It might be cold, blustery, and rainy; a day when ice forms tiny beads on twigs and shines tree trunks, decorating the landscape in a special way. Don't let the weather stop you. The combination of weather and family can bring real enjoyment to you and others as you experience it together building memories.

My father had two simple rules related to the weather. If you get cold, you will get warm. If you get wet, you will get dry. On winter walks a highlight was the fire dad always built. He was a master at this. He would gather the fine sticks, maybe some yellow birch bark, pull out his wooden matches and nurse the flame. Wood was gathered and laid on the fire so the sticks would burn in half and the ends were fed toward the center. A teepee was too much work to build; you had to break all that wood. Once the fire was going you mounted the search for the "just right" toasting stick (we always brought sandwiches, not hot dogs), which had to be long enough to stay out of the smoke and would support the open sandwich. You exposed the meat to the forming coals by removing a slice of bread, putting it on top of the other slice, and methodically rotating the layers until it was all warm, toasty, and well smoked. There were many memories formed, stories told, and time together enjoyed. Those times still bring smiles.

If you have kids along, they will enjoy the fire and smoke. Make sure you have those sandwiches, snacks, a thermos of hot chocolate, and even more special treats promised for later. Bring along an extra pair of gloves, sweater, and muffler. Before and after you stop, keep folks moving to stay warm. Make it fun. Look for things you do not see in other seasons -- the squirrel and mouse tracks loping across the snow, bird nests previously hidden by leaves, or, in the nearby stream, watch air bubbles move lava-like under the ice. The sounds of winter are special, too. You might learn to appreciate the moan of the wind and rattling twigs in the canopy, or hearing trees crack and creak as they shiver in the wind, enjoy stillness in the piney woods, or the jays' call or the raucous sounds of crows. Smells, sights, and sounds can create memories that are quite strong -- the tinge of smoke, the sparkle of ice, and the sounds of winter may well help start an annual tradition that ties you and your family to the land and each other in different ways.

Your winter walk need not be long. It might be best if it is short and enjoyable. Hope that it creates memories and becomes part of your traditions. It is about building a relationship to the land and each other. The more a person experiences a place, builds a relationship with, and creates memories that extend into the past and tie to the future, the more likely they are to want to protect it. Take time to talk, recall what you did and, importantly, suggest you do it again next year.

If you would like to learn more about how you might start a new family tradition that might help you create a conversation about your woodlands and how you value it, please visit our website (http://extension.psu.edu/legacy). There you will find resources about starting a conversation about your land, where to find help on estate planning, and other information that you might share with your family or others. Talking about the future of the land is difficult, but if you love it, you should create a plan that will help future generations experience your ties to it.

The Pennsylvania Forest Stewardship Program provides publications on a variety of topics related to woodland management. For a list of free publications, call 800 235 9473 (toll free), send an email to RNRext@psu.edu, or write to Forest Stewardship Program, Natural Resources Extension, The Pennsylvania State University, 416 Forest Resources Building, University Park, PA 16802. The Pennsylvania DCNR Bureau of Forestry and USDA Forest Service, in Partnership with Penn State's Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, sponsor the Forest Stewardship Program in Pennsylvania.

Jim Finley
Ibberson Professor of Forest Management, Penn State Dept. of Ecosystem Science and Management
Phone: 814-863-0402
Email: fj4@psu.edu


Summer Rains Bring Fall Flowers

University Park, PA -- September 26, 2014 --

"April showers bring May flowers" is a common refrain reminding us the importance of water to a verdant revival after the winter whites. Might we suggest this year that May, June, July, and August rains bring spectacular fall flowers? It doesn't roll of the tongue in quite the same way, but this fall's flowers are showing amazing patterns across the landscape.

Maybe, in August, as a preview of a show yet to come, you noticed something was different. Our early fall blooms were bright, large, and common. The joe pye weed, for example, was tall and full. You often spy this late summer to early fall bloomer on field margins where the soil tends to hold a bit of moisture. The large flower heads that vary from pinkish to mauve attract many butterflies. This fall, joe pye weeds were easy to see. There also seemed to be more splashes of royal purple provided by ironweed, which seemed more brilliant and common this year than in the past. Evidently there are several different species of this spectacular plant, which vary in height and site preferences -- something to learn more about next year.

Joe pye weed and ironweed were two actors previewing the main event for this year's fall. As the summer progressed, flower heads on goldenrod began to form -- they were evident nearly everywhere. Now in late September they have burst forth with their golden heads and have filled the landscape with splashes of color that seem radiant in the autumnal sunlight. Interspersed are flat topped and purple asters adding to the display. Again, as there are several ironweeds, there are even more asters adding color to our meadows and woodland edges -- more to learn.

The most obvious and showiest of the flowers this fall does seem to be goldenrod. Various references acknowledge that Pennsylvania is rich in goldenrod, which is the genus Solidago. By the way, Solidago comes from Latin solidas and ago, meaning "to make whole." A web search will quickly reveal a number of medicinal uses for the plant including its ability to heal wounds, yet some people experience skin irritation when exposed to the plant. People often associate goldenrod with fall allergies and curse its presence. Likely those lovely yellow flowers are not the problem as their pollen is too large, moist, or sticky to travel far. In reality ragweed is likely the culprit with its relatively inconspicuous flowers which pollinate about the same time as goldenrod.

A particularly good website (http://www.discoverlife.org/mp/20q?guide=Solidago) suggests there are sixty-nine goldenrod species native to North American and fully a third, twenty-three species, naturally occur in Pennsylvania. This website provides amazing tools for identifying goldenrod species in their myriad forms by providing information on the native ranges by species as well as descriptions and photographs to parse out individual species growing in your landscapes. It does this by sorting ranges, heights, stem texture, leaf margins, leaf texture top, and leaf texture bottom. Did you know there is even a white goldenrod, which sounds a bit contradictory?

To the astute observer, there is something unique about goldenrod. In a field full of these yellow plants, it is likely difficult to notice that it grows in small patches. Goldenrod forms small clusters, maybe containing a few flower stems, or larger areas, which are actually circular clones sharing a common rhizome root structures and up to eight feet across. Again, careful observers will note that most of the plants in a given clone will be similar in height; by looking for this height difference you can sometimes see patterns in large fields. Because goldenrod is a perennial plant, it appears year after year in the same location and may reach 100 or more years of age. As the clones mature, the center might die out and form a fairy ring with plants defining the clone's edge and having a "hollow" center.

Fall is a great time to be afield, there is so much to study and observe. We are only a couple weeks from peak leaf color change, but already fall colors are a beautiful part of our landscape. Take a walk, take a flower book along, and learn some new species. Think about how plants come together to create the landscapes we know and love, but often observe from afar. And, while you are at it, take a kid along and introduce them to a world of wonder.
Jim Finley
Ibberson Professor of Forest Management
Phone: 814-863-0401
Email: fj4@psu.edu


The Private Landowners of Penn’s Woods

University Park, PA -- April 24, 2014 -- Pennsylvania is home to many things including about 12.5 million people of whom 740,000 are woodland owners, 16.6 million acres of forest of which 71% is privately owned, and 42 billion trees growing in our woodlands. Now, most of those woodland trees are small; the USDA Forest Service estimates there are about 33.8 billion seedlings less than an inch in diameter or about 2,500 trees per acre of woodland. Ignoring the seedlings, there are nearly 500 trees an inch or larger in diameter per acre. Truly Pennsylvania lives up to its name, which is literally Penn's Woods.

Those numbers paint a picture of Penn's Woods that only a number cruncher can truly enjoy. Most people don’t get really excited about describing woodlands by number of trees per acre. Rather, they build connections to woods and trees in different ways. However, living in Pennsylvania where you can see trees from nearly every point in the landscape, it is easy to become complacent about what trees mean to you.

If you think about it, trees and woods are likely part of who you are. In a recent national study, we talked with groups of people about trees and woodlands in their lives. We purposefully sought out diverse opinions by talking to a breadth of people from different ethnic, cultural, urban vs. rural, age, and economic segments. There was a common thread -- people considered forests important for many reasons including spiritual or intrinsic values, physical or psychological health benefits, quality of life, aesthetics, tranquility, watching and enjoying wildlife, wilderness experience, and relaxation. There were differences among some of the groups, but clearly we learned that people have multiple concerns about forests and their future.

Closer to home, we have conducted several studies, most recently in 2010, to learn more about our state's 740,000 woodland owners (we did not talk to them all, but we had a large sample). In this study, we defined woodlands as an acre or larger, with a minimum width of 120 feet, and not maintained as lawn. Using this definition, which comes from the USDA Forest Service, we learned that about 64% (470,000) of Pennsylvania’s woodland owners hold less than 10 acres of woods, and another 15% (111,000) own between 10 and 19 acres. Together, though, these two ownership classes hold about 25% of the state’s privately held woodlands -- 2.75 million acres. This all means that about 155,000 larger owners hold the remaining 8.25 million acres of private woodlands, which averages to 53 acres each. In Pennsylvania, why do people own woodlands? This was a fundamental question for this study. To answer this question, we first asked study participants to select, from a list of reasons, the "very important" and "important" reasons for owning woodlands. The number one reason was wildlife, not necessarily for hunting, but for watching as well. Close behind was solitude or simply the protection and comfort woods provide -- the idea of getting away. Not surprisingly, given the large number of small ownerships, many respondents held woodlands because it came with their home -- think large lots in suburbia.

Pressed a bit harder, respondents were asked to look at those items they chose as important from the reasons for owning list and to pick the most important. Solitude was the most important reason given by 18% of the owners who owned about 12% of the woodlands -- clearly this reason resonates with owners of smaller parcels. Second in the listing was enjoyment -- the idea of owning land and all that it brings with it (17% of owners and 18% of the land). Third was hunting (12% of owners and 18% of the woodlands). Incidental came in fourth (meaning the woodland came with their home) representing 12% of the owner and 6% of the woodlands; again, the small owners fell into this group. Fifth was wildlife and since hunting was already listed, this response likely reflected the watchable wildlife interests with 12% of the owners and 8% of the woodlands. Surprisingly, the sixth response by owners was an estate to pass on to others, which represented 6% of the owners and about 11% of the woodlands. Most surprising of all was interest in timber for sale, which was chosen by less than 2% of the owners representing about 5% of the woodlands.

People own woodlands for a blend of many reasons. While those reasons might be incidental to where they live, most people celebrate the trees on their land. They might not check on them daily or wonder about their health constantly, but they do value the benefits they provide. In the 2010 landowner study, we wanted to learn how people thought about the future of their woodlands -- beyond their ownership -- when they passed it to the next generation or owner, if that was possible. Interestingly, 80% of the owners expressed interest in keeping their land in the family. They wanted one or more of their children to have the land, to become the next steward. At the same time we learned that nearly 60% of today’s woodland owners in Pennsylvania had done nothing to engage the next generation in discussions about the land nor had they taken steps to make their intentions a reality.

To ensure that we have healthy productive forests and woodlands for tomorrow it is essential that we monitor their current health and condition. Yes, we have 42 billion trees in Pennsylvania, which is an interesting statistic. Some large percentage of those trees is owned by 740,000 individuals and families who have assumed a stewardship responsibility for their care and maintenance. Educate yourself about how to care for your woodlands, so that it’s there for those who come after, be they your family or the next owner. Contact Penn State Natural Resources Extension to inquire about free publications, or visit our website (http://extension.psu.edu/natural-resources/forests/private/tools-resources) to see what’s available to help you learn more about your woodlands.

The Pennsylvania Forest Stewardship Program provides publications on a variety of topics related to woodland management. For a list of free publications, call 800 235 9473 (toll free), send an email to RNRext@psu.edu, or write to Forest Stewardship Program, Natural Resources Extension, The Pennsylvania State University, 416 Forest Resources Building, University Park, PA 16802. The Pennsylvania DCNR Bureau of Forestry and USDA Forest Service, in Partnership with Penn State's Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, sponsor the Forest Stewardship Program in Pennsylvania.

Jim Finley
Ibberson Professor of Forest Management
Phone: 814-863-0401
Email: fj4@psu.edu


Vernal Pools: Critical Woodland Habitats

University Park, PA -- March 24, 2014 -- After a long winter, signs of spring are showing in woodlands across Pennsylvania. Obvious indicators are swelling tree buds, especially red and silver maple, corn snow patches remaining where deep drifts were, and in yards, daffodil, crocus, and tulip leaf tips pushing into the warming spring air.

For many woodland owners and visitors, spring is found in wetlands and vernal pools. One of the first spring woodland flowers depends on wetlands. The careful observer will take delight in finding hooded skunk cabbage flowers melting the snow around them (yes, they actually create their own heat) and showing their purple and white-spotted hoods.

The real spring show stopper is the vernal pool. In the spring, these shallow pools, filled with spring snow melt and higher water tables, become meccas of activities as many of the state’s amphibians migrate to them to breed. On late winter and early spring nights, salamanders, toads, and frogs that have traveled from nearby upland sites provide astonishing shows as they create springtime "dances" in woodland vernal pools. It is important to understand that many of these species are struggling with habitat loss and degradation and their survival depends on making good decisions as we manage, use, and change woodlands and affect associated wetlands and water resources.

Vernal pools, which are seasonal wetlands, and their surrounding landscape represent unique and threatened ecosystems. Depending on the time of the year and your experience in recognizing characteristics associated with these pools, it is sometimes easy to overlook them. Statewide, these isolated seasonal wetlands, which do not connect to other water bodies, are very vulnerable to disturbance. Key among these threats are habitat loss in the uplands surrounding pools, changing water levels and quality, debris accumulation, habitat fragmentation, vegetation changes, and climate change.

Studies have shown that many of the species dependent on vernal pools for at least part of their life cycle spend most of their lives within 1,000 or so feet of their birth site -- in that pool. So, it is critical to protect or improve conditions around their pool. For example, development that involves land clearing or felling trees might increase solar gain on the pool, changing water temperatures. Compacted soils and disturbed forest floor leaf litter remove habitat and change water flow through the soil, and might reduce water depths and change water chemistry. The installation of a street curb or a rut created by vehicle traffic near the pool becomes an insurmountable barrier. Soil erosion sediment or debris from felling trees or construction easily fill the pool and reduce or increase water levels.

Sometimes we all fail to realize how various species depend on small parts of our environment. Forests are a dominant land cover in Pennsylvania. Woodlands with wetlands and especially vernal pools are much less common and becoming even less prevalent as we use and change land. Species that depend on water, especially seasonal water, and woods are particularly limited in how they can adapt and change. Many of these species have very high fidelity to their birth pool and will even move past a suitable site looking for that special place. We need to help them survive by taking care of their critical habitat.

The Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program, a partnership formed by The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, and he Pennsylvania Game Commission, has an amazing website with outstanding information on the condition of our state’s natural resources (http://www.naturalheritage.state.pa.us/VernalPools.aspx). If you are unfamiliar with it, go look, and explore all it has to offer. Especially, look at the link to vernal pools under the “Resources� tab. This is an amazing website and it is fun and easy to navigate and read.

Spend some time learning about Pennsylvania's precious natural resources and consider how you can protect our vernal pools. If you happen to have a vernal pool on property you own or visit, you will find a very helpful vernal pool management guide on the website, which will likely become a valuable resource as you care for these important resources.

The Pennsylvania Forest Stewardship Program provides publications on a variety of topics related to woodland management. For a list of free publications, call 800 235 9473 (toll free), send an email to RNRext@psu.edu, or write to Forest Stewardship Program, Natural Resources! Extension, The Pennsylvania State University, 416 Forest Resources Building, University Park, PA 16802. The Pennsylvania DCNR Bureau of Forestry and USDA Forest Service, in Partnership with Penn State's Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, sponsor the Forest Stewardship Program in Pennsylvania.

Jim Finley
Ibberson Professor of Forest Management
Phone: 814-863-0401
Email: fj4@psu.edu


The 3-Rs of Healthy Woodlands

University Park, PA -- December 9, 2013 -- We are fortunate to live in a state that boasts so many trees and acres of woodlands. The benefits we derive from our woodlands are innumerable and greatly enhance our quality of life. Whether you have a small woodlot, trees in your yard, a tree-lined street, or access to acres of public lands, you likely recognize how trees contribute to your well-being.

Have you ever turned this around? How do you contribute to the well-being of the forest? Many people believe that trees and woodlands left alone will take care of themselves. We believe that Mother Nature knows how to do this. Unfortunately, our impact on the environment makes her job increasingly more difficult. We pollute the air and water, abuse the soil, introduce insects, diseases, and plants that injure and kill trees. The list of evils we do to trees and woodlands is long, diverse, and growing.

What can you do to increase the health of the trees and woodlands that give so much to you? You might consider the 3-Rs that underpin helping to improve the vigor and health of wooded landscapes. Rather than reading, writing, and arithmetic, think Resistance, Resilience, and Response.

Resistance is about helping trees and woodlands defend against change. There are several ways to look at this. From the perspective of the individual tree, it might be as simple as protecting it from damage such as wounding and physical damage during construction or when doing maintenance. It might also mean addressing stresses such as competition from competing plants and other trees, providing water during droughts, or selecting the correct growing site. At the woodlot level, you move from the individual tree to the larger and more complex interactions that lead to natural changes as plants compete with each other and together face stresses together, as well as issues related to changes in the environment brought on by climate, weather, harvesting, and losses due to insects and disease. The intent here is to help the woods return to pre-disturbance conditions by controlling plants competing with regeneration, reducing competition between trees to increase crown vigor, or removing damaged trees to benefit those of better health and vigor.

Resilience involves taking steps that improve the ability of trees and woodlands to withstand anticipated changes or to directly defend them from disturbance to stay relatively unchanged. This involves watching, learning, and planning. In Pennsylvania, several tree species are struggling with life-threatening insects -- hemlock wooly adelgid and emerald ash borer for example. Individually, you can protect trees from both of these problems, but such decisions will involve continued maintenance. Within the woodlot, hemlock wooly adelgid might be held at bay for a while by judicious thinning related to site conditions to increase residual tree vigor. In the case of emerald ash borer, it might involve salvaging and encouraging regeneration of other tree species to replace lost trees. It also means thinking about what you can do in the woodlot to improve native plant diversity representative of what might have grown there in the past or what might be better suited to future conditions.

Response again involves watching, learning, and planning; however, the purpose is to monitor and understand how decisions work in an adaptive context. That is, you have made decisions and implemented them -- how have they worked out? With the individual tree, have you seen an improvement in vigor? What else might you do to increase resilience and build resistance? As you move from the individual tree to the woodland the complexity increases, but so do the options. As woodlands grow and age, change does happen. Individual trees and species grow at different rates, they compete for resources, and they affect each other's health and condition. Essentially, the individuals who together grow in a place drive change among themselves, which in an undisturbed woodlot is a natural process. But as we anticipate change, such as changes in long-term weather patterns or major insect impacts, how can we help the forest to adapt to what might happen in the near or long term? Such preparation might involve changing species composition by adding or subtracting those that might compete poorly, introducing individuals of a species adapted to areas with climate similar to the anticipated change, or doing work to increase natural diversity.

Trees, woodlands, and forests are important to us in varying ways. As we move along a spatial continuum from the individual tree to a functioning forest, the decisions and considerations become increasingly complex. We know that people have and will continue to influence forest growth and development. To ensure that our forests remain healthy and have the capacity to meet our myriad needs, recall the 3-Rs of forest health -- Resilience, Resistance, and Response. We owe it to ourselves and all those who benefit from our good forest stewardship.

John Elders wrote in a 1997 essay entitled Inheriting Mount Tom that “We must conceive of stewardship not simply as one individual's practice, but rather as the mutual and intimate relationship extending across generations, between a human community and its place on earth.� We need to care for the trees individually and together to ensure that they provide benefits from our stewardship.

The Pennsylvania Forest Stewardship Program provides publications on a variety of topics related to woodland management. For a list of free publications, call 800 234 9473 (toll free), send an email to RNRext@psu.edu, or write to Forest Stewardship Program, Natural Resources Extension, The Pennsylvania State University, 416 Forest Resources Building, University Park, PA 16802. The Pennsylvania DCNR Bureau of Forestry and USDA Forest Service, in Partnership with Penn State's Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, sponsor the Forest Stewardship Program in Pennsylvania.

Jim Finley
Ibberson Professor of Forest Management
Phone: 814-863-0401
Email: fj4@psu.edu


Pennsylvania Private Forest Landowners and Future Plans

University Park, PA -- November 26, 2013 -- Forest stewardship is wisely caring for and using forest resources to ensure their health and productivity for years to come. Stewardship challenges us to look beyond our immediate personal needs so we can leave a lasting forest legacy for future generations. Pennsylvania has an estimated 738,000 private forest owners who together make stewardship decisions on about 11.5 million acres, or about 71% of all the state’s 16.8 million acres of forestland. Granted many of these current owners have small parcels; an estimated 500,000 individual woodlots are smaller than 10 acres, averaging just less than 3 acres. Relatively few, about 25,000 woodlots, are 100 acres or larger. Nonetheless, together these owners make decisions about one out of every eight acres of our state’s private forests.

On average our state's woodlot owners hold their land about eighteen years, which is not quite a generation. When woodlands change hands at the end of an ownership, there are often direct decisions made that affect many of the values these lands provide to the owners and to society. Often the current owner harvests timber prior to selling to gain the maximum value out of their land. The next owners harvest timber to recoup the cost of the purchase. Those who inherit harvest trees or subdivide and/or sell all or part of the woodland to pay estate or inheritance taxes, or because they’re just not interested in being forest landowners. This is not to say that harvesting is bad; rather, it should be part of a longer term plan and not be tied to ownership change processes where connections to the land are severed or formed.

From a forest landowner study undertaken by researchers in Penn State's Department of Ecosystem Science and Management in 2010, we learned about Pennsylvania woodland owner's future plans. Fourteen percent plan to sell their forestland "as is." Twelve percent plan to establish trusts that will pass their forestland to their families. Nine percent plan to put conservation easements on their forestland to prevent future development, and nine percent plan to subdivide and sell off part of their property. Fifty-seven percent of forest landowners say it is important to them that their forestlands remain in the family. Yet very few are taking concrete action now to make that transfer to the family happen with ease.

The study began by interviewing landowners to learn about how they decided to: 1) subdivide and sell their lands, 2) put a conservation easement on their land, or 3) what landowners are thinking about and planning for when they have not yet formed a plan about the future of their forestland. In the second part of the study they surveyed forest owners in thirty-five counties to learn more generally about their plans for their woodlands.

From the interviews, the researchers learned that each group had different perceptions of their relationship to the land. For some landowners conversations about the land had an attachment or connection theme. For others the land was an enabling entity -- having it, selling off part of it, allowed them do things important for them. For landowners who had subdivided and sold part of their forestland they reflected on the influence of outsiders on that decision, for example family members or fulfilling obligations. They also perceived they had no alternative to subdividing and selling. It was the fastest and easiest way to a desired or necessary end result. For those who had placed an easement on their land, their conversations about the decision included strong elements of control. They wanted to influence what happened in the future on that land and advocated for its continued conservation. Those who had yet to take concrete action talked about the unknown -- not wanting to tie up the land as both a resource and an asset, but still wanting to be good land stewards.

Bottom line, the study learned that the process of deciding about the future of forests is incredibly complex, and that many decisions about the future of the forestland are not economic driven. Emotions play a large role in the decision-making process and, where families are involved, those family dynamics strongly influence what happens next.

If you are woodland owner, what do you do? Clearly there is not a one-size fits all solution, because everyone’s situation, relationship to the land, and family dynamics are different. Landowners can start the process by having conversations now with each other, with heirs, if they’re present, with conservation organizations, if that’s a desired end goal. Being a good steward of the land means caring for and wisely using the land now, but always with an eye towards the future -- not compromising future generations of owners� abilities to care for and wisely use the resource as well.

If you are ready to begin considering the future of your forestland but don’t know where to start, Penn State Natural Resources Extension has created some materials � resources guides, conversation starters, and other tools to help you think through your own vision and begin to engage those you hope to come after you. Visit extension.psu.edu/legacy to learn more.

The Pennsylvania Forest Stewardship Program provides publications on a variety of topics related to woodland management. For a list of free publications, call 800 234 9473 (toll free), send an email to RNRext@psu.edu, or write to Forest Stewardship Program, Natural Resources Extension, The Pennsylvania State University, 416 Forest Resources Building, University Park, PA 16802. The Pennsylvania DCNR Bureau of Forestry and USDA Forest Service, in Partnership with Penn State's Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, sponsor the Forest Stewardship Program in Pennsylvania.

Allyson Muth
Forest Stewardship Program Associate
Phone: 814-865-3208


Jim Finley
Ibberson Professor of Forest Resources Management

Email: fj4@psu.edu

For Immediate Release

Wow! Pennsylvania is full of trees!

University Park, PA -- October 23, 2013 -- Literally Pennsylvania means Penn's Woods. A grant from King Charles II to William Penn in March 1681 established the colony founded on Quaker principles for religious freedom. Sylvania is a Latin word that means "forest land." Penn recognized the value of the Pennsylvania forests and, shortly after receiving the grant as payment of debt owed his father, issued his Charter of Rights. In this document he ordered colonists to leave one acre of trees for every five acres of land cleared.

As reported in the recent USDA Forest Service forest inventory publication, trees and forests still dominate Pennsylvania’s landscape. In the past statewide forest inventories conducted by the US Forest Service were periodic -- every 10 to 15 years. Starting in 2004 the data are collected annually and reported on a five year cycle. The most recent 2012 report on Pennsylvania’s Forests (2009 data) provides useful insights into the health and condition of the state’s woodlands.

Pennsylvania’s forest land area is stable, with some parts of the state gaining while others are losing forest cover. This has been the case since the mid-1960s as the forest recovered from heavy cutting in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Land use patterns suggest that the forest land area stability is a function of offsetting of development in the southern tier as agriculture declines in the northern tier counties. The amount of forest cover has relatively constant at about 59 percent or about 16.7 million acres.

Most of this forest land, about 71 percent, is held privately by individuals, families, partnerships, and other entities not in the business of harvesting and using trees. A recent Penn State study estimated there are 738,000 individual private ownerships in the state. Most of these ownerships are small parcels; oftentimes, they come with the home. In fact, about 420,000 of these ownerships are smaller than 10 acres, and about 25 percent of the private forest is in ownerships of less than 20 acres. Statewide there are only about 25,000 privately owned forest tracts larger than 100 acres in size. This study and others suggest that the average size of our privately owned forest is decreasing.

Just how many trees are there in Pennsylvania’s forests and woodlands? First, forest, by the USDA Forest Service definition, has to be at least an acre in size, with a minimum width of 120 feet (fencerows and narrow strips don't count), have tree cover of at least 10 percent, and not be maintained as lawn. Using this as the basis for the count, there were an estimated 8,168,796,257 trees one inch and larger measured at diameter breast height (a foresters term for measuring the diameter 4.5 feet above the ground, abbreviated DBH) growing in our woodlands. In absolute terms, this is about 3.4 percent fewer trees than we had in 2004. Most of these trees (68.2%) were 4.9 inches or smaller DBH, trees 5 and up to 11.9 inches DBH represented about one of four trees (25.6%), and the remaining trees were 12 inches and larger (6.2%).

While the number of trees might have dropped a small amount, the estimated volume of trees growing in the state increased. Between 2004 and 2009, the average volume per acre of Pennsylvania forest increased by 60 cubic feet from 2,138 to 2,198 cubic feet. If you consider this from a cordwood perspective, that means that the average acre of woodlands in the state now holds about 27 cords of wood and increased in volume by just under a cord in the five years between inventories. A cord, by the way, measures 4 feet X 4 feet X 8 feet and contains 128 cubic feet of volume, but only about 80 cubic feet of this volume is actually wood. Hence, if you are familiar with the cord measure, you might have questioned this math.

From a removal perspective, Pennsylvania is still growing more wood than it uses. Forest industry harvests trees for many uses and it is a major part of the state's rural economy. The 2009 data finds that the growth to remove ratio is 2:1 for timberland -- the forest is growing twice as much than is harvested. Specifically, the overall growth-to-removals for public and private ownerships were 2.7:1 to 1.8:1 respectively. Stocking, a measure of the number and size of trees on an acre, is changing most on privately held timberland.

Not everything is rosy. Sixty-seven percent of the forest land lost during the inventory period, which was primarily offset by agricultural abandonment, was converted to essentially nonreversible uses. Landowner study data finds that much of this loss is the result of parcelization, the process by which land areas are increasingly divided into smaller parcels. This affects habitat and management options and drives further parcelization, which threatens many forest values.

The report conveys concerns about potential impacts from non-native insects and diseases that are increasingly affecting forests. Among these are gypsy moth, hemlock wooly adelgid, emerald ash borer, Asian long-horned beetle, thousand cankers disease, sudden oak death, and the list goes on. Added to this are the rapid invasion and expansion of non-native exotic plants that are filling our old fields and woodlands with aggressive competitors. That list, too, is long and growing.

A truly problematic concern is the continuing failure to establish adequate tree regeneration (the next generation of trees) in woodlands disturbed by harvesting and other events. Using guidelines developed by the USDA Forest Research Lab near Warren, Pennsylvania, the 2009 inventory assessed adequacy of tree regeneration. When there was canopy disturbance sufficient to initiate and sustain seedling growth and development, only four of ten acres had sufficient desirable regeneration to replace the overstory. Desirable species are those important to product manufacturing and wildlife (e.g., oaks, maples, ashes, hickory). If the list of species was expanded to all commercial species (i.e., add birch, beech, blackgum, elm, black locust, aspen), only half the forest is in good shape. If the list expands to include all woody species (e.g., sassafras, invasive ailanthus, dogwood, striped maple), the situation only improves to 54%.

Forest regeneration issues are not new to the state. Repeatedly, research has pointed to regeneration concerns caused by white-tailed deer, competing plants (e.g., ferns, grass, beech, striped maple) and to this list we now a host of exotic species, and acid deposition. On the horizon are concerns about changing climate conditions and parcelization that make it easier for competing plants to gain access to woodlands and may reduce our ability to manage deer populations.

The 2012 Pennsylvania's Forests report sheds some light on opportunities and concerns related to keeping our forests healthy and working � providing social, economic, and ecological benefits to all citizens. Clearly, it is important for woodland owners to practice stewardship if we are to continue to meet the needs of future generations. William Penn understood the importance of forests and admonished colonists to use the resource wisely. We should do no less.

If you wish to review the Pennsylvania’s Forests 2009 report, visit http://www.fs.fed.us/nrs/pubs/rb/rb_nrs82.pdf.


Forest Stewardship News

Forest Resilience and Private Forest Landowners
By Allyson Muth, Forest Stewardship Extension Associate and Forest Leaves Editor, Penn State

On August 26 and 27, Jim Finley, Ibberson Professor of Forest Resources Management, and I attended a workshop in Washington, D.C. on “Engaging Private Forest Landowners on Issues Related to Climate Change.� This conference, hosted by the National Academy of Science Board on Science Education and Board on Environmental Change and Society, brought together natural resources professionals from federal agencies, state agencies, Cooperative Extension, and the private sector. While some participants were also landowners, most of us wore our resources professional hats.

The workshop goals were to:
1. Identify threats from climate change to privately owned forests.
2. Characterize family forestland owners in general, and to the degree possible, in regard to attitudes and dispositions related to forest management and climate change.
3. Discuss the science of two-way communication, adult learning, and engagement that would be relevant for connecting with family forestland owners on the topic of climate change directly or indirectly.
4. Synthesize the previous goals and identify strategies that extension agents, foresters, and consultants can utilize to successfully engage with family forestland owners on issues related to climate change and forest management.

The two days were filled with presentations from experts from forestry, sociology, communications, and others who had experience implementing outreach activities for private forest owners. We heard about practical experiences with climate change and other “harder to hear� messages. The main focus was to hear from social scientists about reaching out to private forest landowners.

But the consensus of the group was that climate change is not a message that resonates with landowners. Despite 97% of scientists agreeing that climate change is occurring, there are still many perceived variations on the causes, effects, and responsibility to act. Creating a message around climate change and forestry that addresses these three issues for landowners is particularly challenging, as each person is unique with their own experiences and value systems.

But here’s the thing: forest landowners who actively care for their woods (and by actively care, I mean, make well-informed decisions about actions they undertake or don’t take on their properties) are already doing the right thing! There’s not a lot more they can do to the land. There are landowners who need to hear about reforestation (replanting or naturally regenerating forests where forests had once been) and afforestation (planting areas to trees that hadn’t been in forest), but for the most part, forest landowners desire to be good stewards of their land, and they’re doing a great job.

Regardless of personal beliefs about climate change and probable causes, I think we can all agree that we are watching our forests change. Change is an important component of the forest landowners� experience. We hear about new threats from invasive insects and diseases. We hear about new markets for wood products. We watch native and non-native invasive plants become established and spread. We watch the ebb and fl ow of wildlife species and their impacts on and needs from the woods. We pay attention to the weather and maybe see a change in the overall climatic pattern. To embrace all of this, maybe we should instead talk about Forest Resilience.

What is Forest Resilience? To my mind, it means having species diversity so that when one comes under attack, there are others there. A diversity of age structures across the forest so that the next forest is already planned for or underway. Responding to disease and insect outbreaks, where feasible, and based on the type of threat, removing trees or treating them, or just knowing when to let them be. Resilience means mitigating for change. If the climate does warm, if rainfall patterns do change, is there a diversity of species that can survive higher temperatures, more or less rain, etc.? If forest stewardship is taking care of and wisely using the forest now, without compromising the needs of future generations, then forest resilience falls under the taking care part. Being good stewards implies caring about what happens beyond your tenure. The goal for all of us is keeping forests as forests, healthy and diverse, and able to respond to threats.

So now it’s your turn. As you’ll read, Forest Leaves is undergoing some change. We’d like to invite you to contribute more to this publication and share practical experiences you’re having on your land. What are you seeing change? What’s staying the same? What threats are you addressing? What opportunities are you taking? What are your experiences with stewarding your land?

We’re introducing a new space for you (the Forest Leaves Log, or if you have a better suggestion�). We hope you will take the time to write in and share what you’re seeing. You are the best hope for fostering forest resilience across Pennsylvania’s private forests. Tell us about what you’re doing and together we can all learn more about how to better keep forest as forests.


Allyson Muth
Forest Stewardship Program Associate

Citizen Science Opportunities: Landowners Contributing to Research

University Park, PA � July 30, 2013 - What is that insect? Haven’t seen that plant before? Is it early for frost? Is that bird more common in the south?

Are you a keen observer and inquisitive about things outdoors? Maybe you should become a citizen science supporter. More and more scientists are benefiting from data provided by people who take the time to share their observations through various websites.

Observational data is a tremendous research tool. It can tell scientists about extent and spread of populations (both floral and faunal). It can tell scientists about timing of occurrence or appearance. In the case of non-native species, it can help scientists understand introduction and conduits of travel. And in light of continuous change to landscapes, climate, and our forests, whether anthropogenically or ecologically driven, observational data can tell how species react to change.

As a forest landowner, or someone just interested in the forests, you have the ability to contribute to research through citizen science. If you are a birder, or know someone who is, you've likely heard of, or participated in, the Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count (http://birds.audubon.org/christmas-bird-count). The Cornell Lab of Ornithology (http://www.birds.cornell.edu) with their Citizen Science program hosts the Great Backyard Bird Count, Project FeederWatch, and several other programs around bird species, populations, and extent of range. These are great citizen science programs and it is easy to contribute to the data.

There are two other citizen scientist opportunities that help scientists understand landscape level response to change. The first, the National Phenology Network’s Nature’s Notebook program, tracks the calendar of events -- when trees bloom, when birds nest, the last frost, the first snow -- through observations of plants, animals, and weather. The second, the Early Detection and Distribution Mapping System, records observations of invasive plants and efforts to mitigate their presence. Both programs generate long-term and widespread data useful for research and practice.

National Phenology Network: Nature's Notebook (https://www.usanpn.org/natures_notebook) is a national, online program where naturalists record observations of plants and animals. Phenology is the study of plant and animal life cycle events and how these may be influenced by weather and habitat.

Participating in Nature's Notebook requires weekly visiting a site you select for about ten minutes and observing specific species that you choose from their list. For Pennsylvania, there are 444 species of plant and animal available to report on. You would spend about two minutes observing on your chosen plant or animal (or multiples thereof), making note of weather, etc., and recording the data according to the programmatic guidelines. You then enter the data via the website or your smartphone where it is aggregated with other reports to understand timing of emergence, nesting, fall color, egg laying, hibernation, and myriad other activities and how that changes over time and landscape.

Monitoring invasive plants, their spread, and control is vital, no matter the invasive species. One way that many landowners and resource professionals are monitoring the extent and spread of invasive plant species is through the use of online, citizen-science reporting tools. The Early Detection and Distribution Mapping System (EDDMapS) is one such tool (http://www.eddmaps.org/). This web-based (with apps available for your smartphones) system for documenting distribution of invasive species is easy to use. EDDMapS documents the presence of invasive species. A simple, interactive Web interface engages participants to submit their observations or view results through interactive queries into the EDDMapS database.

To use, simply enter information from your observations into the standardized on-line data form, which facilitates adding specific information about the infestation and images. Data entered is immediately loaded to the website, allowing real time tracking of species. EDDMapS also encourages users to participate by providing Internet tools that maintain their personal records and enable them to visualize data with interactive maps. As invasive species become more widespread, and new species make their appearance, monitoring and action become even more important. Anyone with an interest can help advance the knowledge of species range and spread in hopes of mitigation and control.

Citizen science lets the average interested individual contribute to the larger understanding of our natural world. As our actions impact the world around us, either at a local or global level, recognizing the extent of change helps determine practices to mitigate or adapt. Through these citizen science tools you learn about the place you care about and inform the larger community. These are just a few of the offerings out there. There are many more tailored to your own interests and passions. Have fun and thanks for contributing!

The Pennsylvania Forest Stewardship Program provides publications on a variety of topics related to woodland management. For a list of free publications, call 800 234 9473


August Is Tree Check Month!
Allyson Muth

University Park, PA � July 30, 2013 - With invasive pests and diseases threatening the diversity of Pennsylvania's woods, it's incumbent on landowners and the general public alike to keep watch over the trees that contribute to our state's beauty. The US Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA APHIS) has declared August "Tree Check Month." It’s the right time to get out into the woods and watch for signs of diseased and dying trees.

In Pennsylvania, we already see the impacts of Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) and the dead and dying ash trees throughout the state (EAB has been confirmed in 39 counties, but the entire state remains under quarantine and the insect is expected to spread throughout); Hemlock Woolly Adelgid (HWA) and the dead and dying hemlocks on mountainsides and along streams, soon to impact water quality and temperature; and the native forest tent caterpillar and non-native gypsy moth, which have been and continue to be part of Pennsylvania's forest ecosystem. And while there are practices, chemical, and biological control methods that can help mitigate the spread of these insects, the task is daunting. It’s a sad time for our forests.

Now with two more threatening insects, one with an associated fungus, on our borders or in isolated areas of the state, it is imperative that we all become more vigilant about dead and dying trees.

The Asian Longhorned Beetle (ALB), Anoplophora glabipennis, is a non-native insect first discovered in Brooklyn, New York in 1996 and detected in Chicago in 1998. In the 2000s, it was found in New Jersey, Massachusetts, and most recently discovered in southeastern Ohio. While not yet found in Pennsylvania, ALB is one of the more aggressive invasive insects that could easily make its way here. ALB kills trees as the larvae feed in the branches and stems. ALB grows, reproduces in, and kills up to thirteen genera of trees, including maple, birch, horse chestnut and buckeye, poplar, willow, elm, ash, and alder.

Asian Longhorned Beetles are large, shiny, black insects with random white spots. They measure 1 to 1 ½ inches long, with black and white banded antennae as long as (females) or twice as long as (males) their bodies. Adults are active from mid-May until early August. The females scrape a small notch in the bark to lay eggs. The larvae bore in to the branches and trunk to feed in the wood and cambial layer of the tree. Mature larvae pupate within the galleries they have made, and adults chew their way out leaving round, dime-sized exit holes. August is a peak emergence time for the adult beetles and a time when landowners and members of the public can help to check trees for the beetles.

In 2011 Thousand Cankers Disease, a disease complex that attacks black walnut (Juglans nigra) made up of a native (western species) walnut twig beetle (Pityophthorus juglandis) and a native fungus (Geosmithia morbida), was found in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Until recently this disease primarily affected eastern black walnut planted outside its native range in Western States. In the summer of 2010, it was first noticed in Knoxville, Tennessee, well within the native range of black walnut and it has begun to spread. In 2012 the walnut twig beetle and the fungus were identified in southeastern Ohio.

To kill the tree, as the beetle feeds on black walnut branches, it creates numerous galleries beneath the bark. The adult beetles carry the fungal spores and introduce them into the phloem when they construct the galleries. Small cankers develop around the galleries, which then enlarge and coalesce to completely girdle the branches. Trees die as a result of the canker infestations at the thousands of beetle attack sites. Usually the first sign of infestation is thinning crowns in the black walnuts, yellowing or wilted leaves on limbs, and then branch death.

The most important thing you can do to protect your trees is to check them regularly and encourage others to do so too. You don't have to wait for August to roll around each year to do these checks. Learn about other symptoms and signs of infestation and disease. Early detection is crucial to maintaining Penn's Woods. For more information on these and other insects, visit the DCNR Bureau of Forestry’s Forest Pest Insects and Disease website, at: http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/forestry/insectsdisease/index.htm.

To report possible infested trees in Pennsylvania, contact the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture at 1-866-253-7189, the DCNR Bureau of Forestry, Division of Pest Management at: 717-948-3941 or email: Badbug@pa.gov.

The Pennsylvania Forest Stewardship Program provides publications on a variety of topics related to woodland management. For a list of free publications, call 800 234 9473 (toll free), send an email to RNRext@psu.edu, or write to Forest Stewardship Program, Natural Resources Extension, The Pennsylvania State University, 416 Forest Resources Building, University Park, PA 16802. The Pennsylvania DCNR Bureau of Forestry and USDA Forest Service, in Partnership with Penn State's Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, sponsor the Forest Stewardship Program in Pennsylvania.


News Release (and Event Calendar)

James C. Finley
Ibberson Professor of Forest Management

Multiflora Rose: The Mixed Blessings of Rose Rosette Disease

University Park, PA - July 30, 2013 - Increasingly across Pennsylvania, it seems that the ubiquitous patches of multiflora rose are displaying symptoms of rose rosette disease. This disease, first described in Canada, California, and Wyoming in the 1940s, has slowly worked its way across the range of introduced multiflora rose. Landowners and managers who have battled this invasive plant for years celebrate; rose growers lament.

Multiflora rose was brought to North America in the 1700s from Asia as rootstock for grafting ornamental roses. It was not too long, though, before it was recognized for other values. From the 1940s through the 1960s, many conservation agencies touted the "living fence" for its many benefits. For sure, planted along pasture margins it kept cows and horses confined. But more importantly, here was the ultimate conservation plant. It was easy to grow; it grew well almost anywhere -- even strip mines. It held the soil. It provided plentiful and nutritious hips. It created wonderful dense wildlife habitat. Many wildlife species flourished with its presence. Some departments of transportation thought the tangles of thorns were useful as crash barriers.

Before too long, though, it was apparent that multiflora rose had the potential to dominate landscapes with its rapidly growing canes. As the name multiflora implies each rose bush is capable of producing hundreds if not thousands of rose hips, and each of these hips contains, on average seven seeds. These highly viable seeds can lay dormant for a long time, up to at least twenty years, waiting for the right conditions to germinate. Birds and other animals that readily eat the hips can quickly spread the seeds across the landscape.

Fortunately or unfortunately, rose rosette disease is becoming more common. It has slowly spread through native, wild, and multiflora rose populations arriving in southwestern Pennsylvania sometime in the 1990s. Researchers at the University of Arkansas finally isolated the rose rosette virus in 2011, although it had been present for many years. The disease moves by an eriophyid mite or by grafting, and multiflora rose is very susceptible. Mite populations are lowest in the spring and build through the summer, becoming most abundant in September. Here is the challenge: cultivated roses planted downwind of infected multiflora rose are especially at risk when wind currents move mites. Once infected, roses can show signs of the disease in as few as four weeks. There is no known treatment or cure for infected plants.

Rose rosette disease has many symptoms. It is most often recognized by a rapid elongation of new shoots, which often form clusters of small branches or "witches brooms." The leaves on these brooms are often small, distorted, and often red in coloration. The canes where brooms occur will often be soft and pliable, even the thorns have these characteristics, at least for a while. Flowers forming on these canes may also display deformities. Infected plants often die in one or two years; however, some plants may live as long as four years. Some researchers report that infected canes are more susceptible to damage from low temperatures.

While some landowners will celebrate the loss (reduction) of multiflora rose. Its loss is not a reason to reduce vigilance. At least one study has shown that the void left by its demise is rapidly filled by bush honeysuckle and, perhaps, autumn or Russian olive. Some people suggest that we give up the fight against burgeoning invasive plants; others argue that we have to encourage more indigenous plants to support native insects, which feed our native species. If you want to keep invasive plant species at bay on your land, the sooner your act, the better. It is much easier to control a few plants.

The Pennsylvania Forest Stewardship Program provides publications on a variety of topics related to woodland management. For a list of free publications, call 800 234 9473 (toll free), send an email to RNRext@psu.edu, or write to Forest Stewardship Program, Natural Resources Extension, The Pennsylvania State University, 416 Forest Resources Building, University Park, PA 16802. The Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry and USDA Forest Service, in Partnership with Penn State’s Department of Ecosystem Science and Management sponsor the Forest Stewardship Program in Pennsylvania.


December 17, 2012

Winter Leaves that Hang On

We are near the Winter solstice, and hardwood trees are mostly bare, stark against the sky, without their leaves. The only hint of summer's green trees are the conifers scattered about yards and forests. Here and there, though, brown, dried leaves clothe some hardwood trees. Two small trees in our yard, a white oak and a shingle oak, both in the white oak group, rattle in the winter winds, holding fast to summer's leaves.

On winter woodland sojourns, you may have noticed hardwood trees holding fast, sometimes all winter long, to their spent and dried leaves. Marcescence, the term used to describe leaf retention, is most common with many of the oak species, American beech, witch hazel, hornbeam (musclewood), and hophornbeam (ironwood).

Normally, as deciduous trees (which include hardwoods and some conifers) prepare to shed their leafy summer coats, cells at the interface between the twig and the end of the leaf stem release enzymes and form an abscission layer that "unglues" the leaf -- separating it from the vascular bundles, allowing it to fall free. All trees shed leaves, even conifers; however, they generally retain their needles for more than one year. Leaf drop benefits deciduous trees by reducing water loss and allows them to develop leaves that efficiently use available sunlight during warmer seasons.

Sometimes, early cold weather or frosts may interrupt the abscission process or "kill" leaves quickly. In these cases, the occurrence of marcescent leaves may increase. Lacking killing frosts, why would trees "decide" to retain their leaves? It is impossible to ask the trees, but we can speculate.

Marcescent leaves are often more common with smaller trees or more apparent on lower branches of larger trees. In the case of smaller trees, which in forest conditions would be growing beneath taller trees, the reduced sunlight might slow the abscission process. By doing this, the understory tree leaves and the leaves on lower branches of larger trees would also have the opportunity to continue or even increase their photosynthetic process as upper leaves fall. Then, perhaps, leaves lower in the canopy are "caught" with cold temperatures and their leaves hang on.

Some people speculate that retained leaves may deter browsing animals, such as deer. The dried leaves may conceal buds from browsers or make them difficult to nip from the twig. Researchers have found that the dried leaves are less nutritious. At least one study, conducted in Denmark, found that deer offered hand-stripped twigs preferred those to marcescent twigs, especially of beech and hornbeam, but not so for oak. Nutrient analysis found the protein content of oak twigs was higher and the dead leaves had less lignin. The protein content of beech and hornbeam twigs was about equal to the leaves; however, the lignin content was nearly half again higher in the leaves. Maybe there is something to the leaves protecting the twigs.

The other reason trees might give for holding onto their leaves relates to nutrient cycling. Leaves that fall in the autumn would join others on the forest floor and begin to decay. As they decay, released nutrients could leach away and be unavailable to "feed" trees the next growing season. This might be especially important to small understory trees with smaller root systems. By holding onto their leaves, they retain and recycle their nutrients to themselves.

Regardless the reason for marcescent leaves, when growth begins next spring the expanding buds will push them off and clothe the branches with new greenery. Until that happens, enjoy the waving brown leaves and the texture they add to forest and yards. Then, too, think about the bit of shelter they provide for wintering birds as they perch among the rattling leaves, away from winter’s wind.

The Pennsylvania Forest Stewardship Program provides publications on a variety of topics related to woodland management. For a list of free publications, call 800 234 9473 (toll free), send an email toRNRext@psu.edu, or write to Forest Stewardship Program, Natural Resources Extension, The Pennsylvania State University, 416 Forest Resources Building, University Park, PA 16802. The Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry and USDA Forest Service, in Partnership with Penn State's Department of Ecosystem Science and Management sponsor the Forest Stewardship Program in Pennsylvania.

Written by: Jim Finley
Email: fj4@psu.edu


Your Woodlands: Making Good Forest Stewardship Investments
Stewardship is about both today and the future. It involves taking responsibility for something, caring for it while you can, and ensuring it well serves those who will hold it in the future.

Woodlands provide an excellent opportunity for describing stewardship. Most woodland owners find real value in their land -- they either have or develop a concern for the trees, wildlife, water, beauty, and solitude afforded them by their land.

A steward, according to some definitions, is a person who has the responsibility of caring for someone else's property. If forest stewardship is about ensuring the future values of woodlands, the current owner is in fact a steward. By looking forward to a time beyond the current owner's tenure, a steward cares for the land for those who will steward the land in the future. A woodland steward generally wants to protect, enhance, and ensure the continuance of those values they place on the land. To purposefully degrade those values through soil erosion or poorly conceived or conducted timber harvests is not something they would do intentionally. Rather, the intent is to improve the land -- to make it better than when it was acquired. Caring for land ensures it will continue to provide desired values, such as habitat, water, timber, beauty, and solitude.

Pennsylvania has an estimated 738,000 private forest owners who together make stewardship decisions on about 11.5 million acres, or about 71% of all the state's 16.8 million acres of forestland. Granted many of these current owners have small parcels; an estimated 500,000 individual woodlots are smaller than 10 acres, averaging just less than 3 acres. Nonetheless, together these owners make decisions about one out of every eight acres of our state's private forests. For these owners, their small woodland parcels are more likely part of their residence and the decisions they make do affect current and future values. Think backyard habitat, water quality, and invasive plants, for example. On an individual basis, each parcel seems small -- "Why should I worry about that? I only have two acres?" However, cumulatively these lands account for much of our urban and community forests and provide many more public values than just a setting for a home.

The nearly 250,000 holders of 10 acre and larger parcels have the potential to really influence Pennsylvania's forests through their stewardship decisions. Yet we find that many of these woodland owners are passive about their stewardship role. The land is there, they enjoy it, and, when it is appropriate, they engage active management -- maybe they invest in a road, harvest some firewood, or, perhaps, conduct a commercial timber sale. We often hear that Mother Nature does not need our help. Yet, human impacts have introduced threats that our forests have not adapted to. Think about invasive pests such as the emerald ash borer, Asian long-horned beetle, or hemlock woolly adelgid. These threats were brought in by global trade and introduced into a landscape where there is ample food, but few to no predators. We find that, in many ways, we must undertake action to help mitigate or improve the forest health and protect it from introduced threats.

Active forest stewardship, especially if it does not create income, is sometimes difficult. Finding funding and resources to invest into the care of forestland, especially when that investment will extend beyond a given tenure of ownership, demonstrates a long-term commitment to stewardship. Across Pennsylvania, in every county, there are forest stewards who consistently make such investments. They harvest trees that compromise the health of their forest stands, even if these trees are smaller and have no economic value; they plant riparian buffers with white pine and mixed hardwoods to ensure long-term stream cover when the hemlocks die from the adelgid; they reclaim old fields from invasive plants to ensure that early successional habitat is available to wildlife species which require specific forest structure to breed and thrive. These landowners may not see the benefit in their lifetime, but are instead working to improve the forest for the future.

There has been much talk about today's tight economy. For many woodland stewards, finding resources to invest in the future of a forest is difficult; however, sometimes, with careful planning and help from confident forest resource managers, it might be possible to make improvements with little or no investment, maybe there is even the potential to reap some income. Sometimes fortunate woodland owners find windfall income -- something unexpected --perhaps an estate gift or income from a gas lease or royalties. Maybe it would be prudent to invest some of those resources into the stewardship of woodlands and to demonstrate forest stewardship. If the windfall is large there may seem to be little reason to plan for, manage, and harvest woodlands. The income in the short term is not important. Yet, as forest stewards, consider how you remain responsible for the care of woodlands and its future owners.

Many woodlots across the state have been poorly managed in the past. With poor understanding, inadequate planning, or the need or desire to create income, some harvesting practices have led to less than sustainable outcomes. Sometimes, past practices have shifted tree species composition, or competitive plants and white-tailed deer have limited tree regeneration, especially for desirable species.

In these and many other cases, active, future-focused stewardship would call for planning, investing in practices, and harvesting trees to establish future opportunities and options for owners yet to come. Good stewardship in many woodlots is not stopping activities; rather, it involves making decisions to move forward. If you are fortunate enough to have the fiscal resources to invest in your woodlands, consider giving the future generations of Pennsylvanians a healthier and more sustainable forest that they can carry forward for the next generations.

To learn more about how you can steward your woodlands, request copies of Forest Stewardship Bulletin 1: Our Link to the Past-Our Legacy to the Future; Bulletin 6: Planning Your Forest’s Future; and Bulletin 9: Understanding and Conserving Biological Wealth in Our Forests.

The Pennsylvania Forest Stewardship Program provides publications on a variety of topics related to woodland management. For a list of free publications, call 800 234 9473 (toll free), send an email to RNRext@psu.edu, or write to Forest Stewardship Program, Natural Resources Extension, The Pennsylvania State University, 416 Forest Resources Building, University Park, PA 16802. The Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry and USDA Forest Service, in Partnership with Penn State's Department of Ecosystem Science and Management sponsor the Forest Stewardship Program in Pennsylvania.

Written by: Jim Finley
Email: fj4@psu.edu
Phone: 814-863-0401


December 4, 2012

Chronic Wasting Disease

You may have heard that Chronic Wasting Disease has recently been found in Pennsylvania. Two captive deer located at a deer farm in Adams County have been found to contain the disease and the deer from that farm have been traced to numerous other deer farms around the state. The disease is not new and has been found in twenty-one other states to date including Maryland, West Virginia, and New York.

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a disease that affects the brain and nervous system of cervids which include deer, elk and moose. It is part of a group of diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies and is caused by an abnormal protein called a prion. When a deer is infected with CWD, the disease attacks the brain and creates small lesions which will eventually result in the death of the animal.

While there are a lot of unknowns regarding how CWD is transmitted from animal to animal, research has shown that the disease can be passed by direct contact among animals. The disease can also be transmitted through contact with bodily fluids such as saliva, blood, and urine, as well as feces. The prions may remain in the soil for many years which means that transmission by environmental contamination may also be a possibility. Areas of high deer populations and areas where artificial feeding by humans occurs may create an environment that is very favorable for disease transmission.

Animals that are infected with CWD may not show signs of the disease in the early stages, which could last for several years. As the disease progresses animals will become skinny and appear malnourished, display abnormal behavior, lose their coordination, and eventually die. Other signs include excessive drooling, holding the head in a lowered position, and teeth grinding. Often times animals infected with CWD are found near water supplies.

It is important to note that many of these symptoms can also be caused by other diseases as well. The only way to diagnose CWD in an animal is to look at brain and lymph nodes samples under a microscope to identify the CWD prion. The samples must be taken from freshly killed deer to be effective. Unfortunately there is no quick test that a hunter or meat processor can perform to detect the disease.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission and the Pennsylvania Department of Ag are working hard to monitor the CWD situation in Pennsylvania and have taken several steps to prevent the spread of the disease into the wild deer population in the state. I encourage you visit the Pennsylvania Game Commission website at www.pgc.state.pa.us to find more information about CWD as well as the new restrictions that have been put into place regarding movement of deer parts.

Article submitted by:
Scott Weikert, Extension Educator,
Forestry and Natural Resources




August 20, 2012

Brown Leaves and Bags in Trees

This has been an interesting summer. Across Pennsylvania, temperatures have set new records, while, depending on where you live, rainfall has either exceeded or not reached expectations. In some places, trees and grass show signs of recovery, especially during the past couple of weeks as temperatures and rainfall moderated. This certainly is not the case across the larger regional landscapes, but that is another issue.

Recent travels into the central parts of the Ridge and Valley Province raised questions. Many of the hillsides displayed splotches and patches of subtle brown foliage. It was not that heavy brown of a dead oak or maple. It was more of a lacy brown; you could almost see through it. Along roadsides and field edges it was easy to see that locust leafminer had been busy hollowing out the inner workings of individual black locust leaves. Surprising was the distribution of locust across the forested landscape -- they often extended from the easy to see places up the hills to show where, maybe, there were once fields.

Black locust is an interesting tree. It grows in diverse places and often seems to tolerate relatively hostile conditions -- strip mines to dry stony old fields. Often, it seems to produce its leaves late in the spring and lose them early, even before fall begins. Locust leafminer often terminates its growing season. That is to say, the browning of black locust leaves is common in Pennsylvania. It seems to happen, to some extent, every year. If you time it right, you can actually watch the larvae of the leafminer as they feed between the outer leaf layers. What seemed unusual this year was the timing and extent of activity. It seemed to reach a peak several weeks earlier than usual and it was, at least in some places, very heavy. Maybe you noticed the work of the leafminer where you live -- watch for it every year.

The fall webworm is currently busy decorating trees across the state. This is another late summer insect. Normally, they begin to show up about the middle of August, and they may have been evident a week or two earlier this year. You will see their webs on the tips of many branches, especially on black walnut, apples, and birches. Their brown webs, or bags, seemingly weigh down branches. The webs, while unsightly, are not a big deal for the trees they affect. By this time of the year, trees are really beginning to slow down in preparation for casting off their leaves. That is to say, their most productive growing days are behind them. If there were heavy webworm feeding every year, it might challenge individual trees, but that seldom happens.

Many people, especially with yard trees, want to remove the webs, which is relatively easy to do when they first begin to form. Simply snip off the twig and place it in the trash. This effectively removes the feeding larvae as they only feed inside the web, expanding the web over time to reach new leaves. Before you take them all away, spend a few minutes watching them feed in their protective homes. It is not likely you will find them so intriguing that you keep them around, but you might learn to appreciate their house building skills.

Many entomologists and ecologists pay close attention to when insects begin to feed. The timing of events like black locust browning and fall webworms provide clues to how conditions change over time and how we might need to respond to adapt or mitigate their impacts on our forests. Watch for changes in plants and insects where you live and recreate. Note, even mentally, the changes you see and try to follow them from year to year. It is fun to look forward to even brown leaves and bags in trees.

Written by: Jim Finley
Email: jfinley@psu.edu
Phone: 814-863-0401


The Season for Ticks

Summer is in full swing and many people are busy enjoying the warm weather in a variety of ways. It doesn’t matter whether you are busy working on your land, fishing, or hiking through the woods, ticks present a potential risk to all of us. While there are several species of ticks found in Pennsylvania, the Deer Tick (also known as Black legged Tick) is the only one that can pass on a disease known as Lyme disease. Other ticks found in Pennsylvania can transmit several other diseases including Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Lyme disease can affect your health not just for short time, but for your entire life if it is left untreated. Rocky Mountain spotted fever is less common in Pennsylvania but potentially more dangerous. Learning how to protect yourself from ticks, and the symptoms of the diseases spread by these blood thirsty insects is something every person who enjoys or works in the outdoors should know.

Ticks thrive in areas of heavy brush, long grass, and woodlands. Deer tick larva and nymphs tend to feed on birds and small mammals such as squirrels and mice while the adults prefer to feed on deer. Deer Tick nymphs have been found in high density within the leaf litter on the ground while the adults seem to prefer higher, brushy vegetation. Walking through narrow paths, such as a deer path, in the forest increases the chance of picking up adult Deer Ticks. There are several things that a person can do to help protect themselves from ticks. Wear light-colored protective clothing including long pants, long sleeves, and socks to help keep ticks from gaining access to your skin. The idea is to cover as much of your body as you can with clothing, including a hat. Using repellants that contain DEET offer considerable protection against ticks. DEET can be safely applied to the skin and clothing and will offer protection for several hours. Permethrin is another chemical that can be used but it is not safe to use on skin. Only apply Permethrin to clothing and shoes. Even if you take all of these precautions, they are not 100% effective so always perform a tick check after being potentially ex-posed to ticks. Be sure to check under and around your arms, ears, face and hair. Also be sure to check around the upper and lower portions of your waist and behind your knees and lower legs.

If you find a tick, remove it as quickly as possible. If it has already latched onto the skin, use a fine-tipped pair of tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible. Pull upward with steady and even pressure making sure not to twist or jerk the tick as this can cause the head or mouth to break off under the skin. Once the tick is re-moved, be sure to clean the bite area with rubbing alcohol, iodine scrub, or soap and water. Keep an eye on the bite area for a few days after removing to tick to see if symptoms of disease begin to appear.

Symptoms of Lyme disease can appear from 3 to 30 days after receiving a bite from a deer tick. These include a red, expanding rash that looks similar to a bull’s eye as well as fatigue, chills, fever, headache, swollen lymph nodes, and muscle and joint aches. If there are any indications of Lyme disease seek medical attention immediately. If Lyme disease is left untreated the long-term health effects include arthritis, muscle and joint pain, cognitive defects, and chronic fatigue. Symptoms of Rocky Mountain spotted fever include a red-purple-black rash, usually on the wrists and ankles, which appears from two days to two weeks after infection. Fever, headaches, and malaise also are characteristic. Again, seek medical attention as soon as possible.

In addition to Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever there is several other diseases that can be spread by ticks. For more information regarding ticks and the diseases they spread go to the following web page: http://ento.psu.edu/extension/factsheets/ticks. More information about Lyme disease can be found here: http://ento.psu.edu/extension/urban/lyme-disease. Taking the necessary precautions to protect yourself against ticks will help to make each trip outdoors enjoyable and safe.

Article submitted by:
Scott Weikert, Extension Educator, Forestry and Natural Resources


June 7, 2012
For Immediate Release

Adapting or Mitigating: Climate Challenges in Forest Management

Is global climate change real? Is it human caused? The arguments advanced by both sides of the debate are complex and divisive; however, whether you believe the climate is changing or if humans are causing change is not important. If you are a woodland owner or just enjoy woods for their many values, know that our forests are truly under stress.

Some historic and current forest stressors occurring in Pennsylvania are clearly human-caused. Consider how insects and diseases brought to our forests from other places have, in a relatively short time, taken from us important tree species and threaten others. A hundred years ago, chestnut blight from China began extirpating American chestnut across its range. American elm was soon added to the list of species impacted by an imported disease. Then, in the 1930s, gypsy moth began to take its toll on our oak forests.

In recent years, other problems have come to our forests. Pennsylvania's state tree, the Eastern hemlock struggles with hemlock wooly adelgid and elongate scale, which in a few short years will greatly reduce the presence of this important species that shades our streams and provides important habitat. Similarly, emerald ash borer is rapidly extending itself across our forests and will likely eliminate all native ash species. The next major threat to myriad tree species is the Asian long horned beetle, which will play havoc with oak and maple species. In sum, there are mounting issues affecting individual tree species.

The invasion of exotic competitive plants adds to the mix of issues affecting forests. In much of Pennsylvania, it is difficult to remember or to imagine what our woodlands looked like without multiflora rose, bush and Japanese honeysuckle, autumn and Russian olive, barberry, and privet adding their touches of green and, occasionally, colorful flowers. Canopies, especially along woodland edges, are filled with native grapes and Oriental bittersweet. Invasive tree of heaven, paulownia, mulberry, and buckthorn are not uncommon, especially along forest edges, roadsides, in old fields, and even sometimes, they make up many of the stems in our native woods.

Consider how our spring woods now take on displays of color that only a few years ago were uncommon. There is the white of garlic mustard flowers, the purples and lavenders of dames' rocket, and the soft greens of Japanese stilt grass. Later in the year, other shades of green compete for light and space with native plants. Increasingly Japanese knotweed and mile-a-minute, or tearthumb, fill in forest openings and provide little but aggravation.

In sum, the loss of native trees, competition from native and non-native plants, and changing weather conditions -- think about warmer summers in the past few years, shifting rainfall, storms -- are affecting the composition of our forests and their health. Clearly, the complexity of native plants is changing because of the aforementioned threats. In the end, this leads to a simplification of forests -- there are fewer native species.

Simplicity may mean that some plants will move into voids left by the loss of a given species. Consider that in the early 1970s red oak was the most common tree in Pennsylvania, then, because of myriad reasons, red maple took over number "one" in the most common tree species. Over time, as species composition becomes simpler and these fewer species dominate more of the landscape, resilience changes. An insect, for example Asian long horned beetle, comes to the forest; its opportunity to wreak havoc is high; and overall resilience declines as yet another species enters a spiral of decline and there are fewer species to fill-in the niche that has opened.

As we look at forests, it is apparent that to maintain their health it is important to adapt to changing conditions. Clearly, there are many imposed change agents affecting forests -- insects, diseases, competitive plants, and maybe climate change. All of us will have to adapt to a landscape that will be imposed upon us and consider how we can, through our management and actions, help forests adapt to change. What can we do to help threatened species, how might we guide the replacement of one species with one or more native species that fit into our changing conditions? If one of the variables is climate change, what species, maybe one on the edge of its range, might be introduced to the forest?

Active participation in adaptation logically leads to making mitigation decisions. In the forests, some activities will mitigate some threats -- leading to better conditions and increase resilience. The mitigation activity might focus on a specific threat. Eastern hemlock decline might provide a mitigation scenario. To protect streams losing hemlock cover and threatened with increased water temperatures and detritus from non-native plants, which do not "feed" native stream insects, a mitigation step would be to increase native white pine regeneration, maybe introducing another species such as rhododendron to provide cover and shading for streams.

Mitigation might extend further by making social decisions about how you might reduce your carbon footprint to address climate change, even if you are uncertain about its reality. Your individual decision might not seem to make much of a decision, but it could be simply a statement about your stewardship of the forests and the environment. Stewardship, in its simplest form, is living in a way today that you help conserve resources and options for future generations.

Hopefully, as you consider this discussion you can think about our forests, your relationship to them, and begin to make decisions that help them adapt to change. To learn more about sustaining forests, contact the Renewable Natural Resources Extension Office (contact information below) and ask for a copy of Forest Stewardship Principles for Landowners.

The Pennsylvania Forest Stewardship Program provides publications on a variety of topics related to woodland management. For a list of free publications, call 800 234 9473 (toll free), send an email to RNRext@psu.edu, or write to Forest Stewardship Program, Forest Resources Extension, The Pennsylvania State University, 416 Forest Resources Building, University Park, PA 16802. The Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry and USDA Forest Service, in Partnership with Penn State's Forest Resource Extension, sponsor the Forest Stewardship Program in Pennsylvania.

Written by: Jim Finley
Email: fj4@psu.edu




Winter Silhouettes

When snow covers our landscape, winter can provide stark contrasts -- black or shades of gray against a background of white. Although not seen as often as they were in earlier generations, silhouettes were a common way of "picturing" a child or ancestor. Every person's silhouette has subtle, yet quickly recognizable differences.

Silhouettes are common in our winter landscapes. Trees stand barren and dark against the snow covered hillsides or open fields. Just like silhouettes of people, trees standing against the snow or winter sky (an alternative as snow has been lacking) provide wonderful, engaging images to explore and serve to enhance identification skills.

To successfully identify trees by their profiles there are few tricks that will enhance your skills. First, it is best if you are seeing the tree as an individual. As more trees crowd your view, it is difficult to discern individual features.

Second, learn where trees naturally occur in your landscape. Some trees are common in fencerows, abandoned fields, stream bottoms, or even our yards.

Third, what do you look for as you study silhouettes? Every part of the "image" provides information. The trunk, branch angles, twig thickness and arrangement (alternate or opposite), seeds and fruits, seed stems, flower buds, and even leaves, which may hang on until spring (for example pin oak and beech), add information to the silhouette.

Maples are common yard trees. In silhouette, they show lots of variation. When you are relatively close, their opposite branching pattern is clear among the twigs. (Relatively few of our native Pennsylvania trees have opposite branching. They include maples, ashes, dogwoods, viburnums, which are mostly shrubs, and horse chestnut and buckeye.) Maple limbs and twigs, for the most, are uplifting, reaching toward the sky; however, box elder, also called ash-leaf maple, tends to have drooping or erratic branching patterns, but these are most often near wetter areas -- another clue. Norway maple, a non-native tree has similar patterns, but twigs are heavier and, often in winter, the stems from last year's seeds remain.

Ash, another opposite-branched tree, sends its twigs at the top of the crown straight toward the sky, and the twigs are clearly coarser. Here, too, you might see the stems from last year's fruit still hanging from twigs, and if it is a male tree (yes there are both genders), the male flowers may appear as clumps on the end of branches. A common tree that shares a profile similar to ash is yellow poplar, whose branches lift up, but the twigs are alternate in arrangement. In this species, the winter crown often retains some conelike structures that held last year's seeds in the canopy pointing straight up.

Using both location and shape is one way to identify a silhouette is sumac, an easy tree to learn, which often stands along field edges. Its twisted stems, along with its few, coarse, uplifting branches topped with large seed heads are very evident. A more difficult tree to discern in the field edge might be black cherry; sometimes its trunk is curved and twisted and often doubles or triples originating from one stump. In this location, it is not like its forest grown cousin. Its branches are fine and very dark; they appear to intertwine and cross back and forth. Those twigs toward the ends of the branches seem to sweep or point toward the ground. Black walnut is also common in fencerows. Its stems, at a distance, might look a bit like those of cherry, but the branches are heavy, thick, and uplifting, giving the tree an open appearance.

Learning trees in the winter landscape is challenging even when you are close to them and have opportunities to study individual tree structures. Many people are content to enjoy the varying shapes and forms of trees silhouetted against the snow. We have all enjoyed seeing that solitary white oak, black walnut, or sugar maple standing alone in a field against the snowy white. Knowing "who" it is, adds another dimension to your understanding and appreciation.

The Pennsylvania Forest Stewardship Program provides publications on a variety of topics related to woodland management. For a list of free publications, call 800 234 9473 (toll free), send an email to RNRext@psu.edu, or write to Forest Stewardship Program, Forest Resources Extension, The Pennsylvania State University, 416 Forest Resources Building, University Park, PA 16802. The Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry and USDA Forest Service, in Partnership with Penn State's Forest Resource Extension, sponsor the Forest Stewardship Program in Pennsylvania.

Contact: Jim Finley
Email: fj4@psu.edu
Phone: 814-863-0401


Tell Your Woods Story with and to Your Heirs
December 2011

A recent study by the Penn State School of Forest Resources showed that many of the PA's private landowners are thinking about the future of their forest-land. Our state's forest owners express concern over what will happen to their land when they pass it forward to the next generation; however, we see few taking meaningful actions to plan accordingly. In the 2010 Exploring the Private Forestlands of Pennsylvania study, 53% of the current owners said they intend to leave their land to more than one heir. Under this scenario, land that was cared for to meet one or two person's values suddenly becomes subject to many more voices making decisions, and these voices don't often sing the same song.

With the holidays approaching and families and friends gathering, perhaps now is the time for you to take a walk in the woods with your heirs. Talk about your land and what's important to you. Studies show that heirs want to maintain the legacy of previous generations, but often they don't feel included in the cur-rent decision-making and lack preparation for becoming the next forestland owner.

As a forest landowner, talking with your heirs about what's important to you about your land is both challenging and rewarding. Start with what you love. Tell your family why your land is important to you. Relate a funny or moving story. And ask them to do the same. You may find in your conversation that your land is just as important to your heirs as it is to you. And maybe planning for its future becomes a more shared and engaged process for you, your family, and heirs than just wishing them luck when your will is read.

There are many resources available when one is ready to engage the estate or succession planning process. Forest Stewardship Bulletin #13: Estate Planning is one offered by Penn State Renewable Natural Resources Cooperative Extension. Visit http://pubs.cas.psu.edu/FreePubs/pdfs/uh105.pdf to download a copy. A simple Internet search on forests and estate or succession planning will provide many other resources.

The most important step for the future of your woods is communication and having the gumption to start the conversation. Land is a finite and valuable resource. Its future depends upon the actions and aspirations of the current holders. Tell that story to those who you hope will care for it after you.

Written by Allyson Muth


Fall Woods Cleaning
September 2011

Fall. What a great time of the year to be in the woods! Whether you go there to hunt, bike, walk, or whatever, the aesthetic appeal of fall flowers, colored leaves, earthy smells, and comfortable temperatures (sometimes) invite you to kick back and enjoy the experience.

Depending on your demeanor and preferences, some woods might look messy -- they might seem to be begging for a cleaning. Your personal tolerance for "messiness" will vary, and as well, your understanding of "messiness" will sway your acceptance. Sometimes woodland mess means health, vigor, and renewal; other times, though, it could mean just the opposite.

Year after year in every woodlot there is a cycle of death and birth. In the autumn, annual plants die and then sprout in the spring to repeat the cycle. Some plants, which are biennial, take two years to cycle through birth and death. Every living thing has a cycle that leads to change and renewal. Trees are perennial; they exist for years, maybe even centuries, but they too die. The plant residue created when soft tissue annual plants die is short-lived; in a year or two it decays and contributes its nutrients to perpetuate cycles.

When trees die their "pieces" can linger for years. It doesn’t matter how the tree died; whether it was cut to make furniture or flooring, died from a wind burst or storm, was killed by insects or disease, or just succumbed to old age, its residue remains and can, depending on your perspective, clutter the woods. The temptation is to "clean it up," to make the woods tidy.

Dead trees in woodlands, because they do linger for years, provide important structure, habitat, food, and even aesthetic appeal. They are actually pretty remarkable. On the forest floor, at least nineteen kinds of salamanders and twenty-six species of reptiles make some use of logs, stumps, bark, and slash piles in Pennsylvania’s woodlands. Freshly fallen trees, with their odd branches still reaching up, provide hunting perches for insectivorous birds. As a rule of thumb, the bigger the fallen log, the longer it lasts and more benefit it provides over the years. As these logs decay they become increasingly better homes for wildlife as insects and fungi break them down.

Standing dead snags and cavity trees are also critical habitat components. Cavities in live or dead trees are used by thirty-five species of birds and twenty species of mammals in Pennsylvania. While dead standing trees can be hazards, they are important to retain for wildlife. Sometimes, too, they are some of the most interesting trees in the woodlot with their bare skeletal stems and branches, interesting colors, cracks, folds, and cavities. Big dead trees have the potential to develop larger cavities and to stay in the woodlot longer. At least thirty species of birds commonly use standing snags for perches.

As you look at a woodlot, consider it messiness; consider the importance of that mess. Wildlife are an important part of the woodlot ecology. Providing habitat and structure through dead wood on the forest floor, cavities in live trees, and standing dead snags may actually improve woods health.

As you clean up woodlands, maybe by cutting firewood, know that where two types of habitats come together dead wood, snags, and cavity trees are particularly important. These might be where an area of pine trees abut a hardwood woodlot, a woodlot forms a field edge, or along a stream or lake shore. Leave hollow trees and limbs on the ground, and retain existing logs on the ground in varying degrees of decomposition. Sometimes these are the easiest places to "clean up" but should be the places left most messy. Once you clean up a messy place, it might take decades for it to become messy enough for many wildlife species.

So, take the day off. Walk in the woods and celebrate the messiness that is nature. Know that you are doing the right thing by letting those dead trees lay as part of your gift to the wildlife and the future.

To learn more about Dead Wood and Wildlife, request Pennsylvania Woodlands Number 7 from Renewable Natural Resources Cooperative Extension or download it from http://pubs.cas.psu.edu/freepubs/pdfs/XH0030.pdf.

The Pennsylvania Forest Stewardship Program provides publications on a variety of topics related to woodland management. For a list of free publications, call 800 234 9473 (toll free), send an email to RNRext@psu.edu, or write to Forest Stewardship Program, Forest Resources Extension, The Pennsylvania State University, 416 Forest Resources Building, University Park, PA 16802. The Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry and USDA Forest Service, in Partnership with PennState's Forest Resource Extension, sponsor the Forest Stewardship Program in Pennsylvania.

Contact: Jim Finley
Email: fj4@psu.edu
Phone: 814-863-0401

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Trail Camera Basics
By Scott Weikert, Forest Resources Extension Educator, Penn State Cooperative Extension

Many landowners enjoy monitoring wildlife on their property. Some just like pictures of wildlife on their property, while others want to learn more about wildlife species they see. Landowners with a wildlife management plan may want to monitor wildlife to learn how their plan is working. Of course, some landowners want to monitor game species habits, such as deer and turkey, to increase their odds during hunting season. Some wildlife species are easily viewed during the day while others are active at night. Trail cameras can help landowners view wildlife day or night at multiple locations. They are an effective tool for monitoring wildlife on your property.

“Trail cams� are not new but the technology they use has improved tremendously. The fi rst trail cameras used 35 mm fi lm and had incandescent fl ashes. The fl ash provided color pictures at night, but used more energy and increased operating cost. They required developing fi lm and often the pictures were not clear or only showed part of the animal. Many of the pictures were of little or no value. Old technology 35 mm cameras are inexpensive but the drawbacks make them cost more over time.

Today most trail cams use digital cameras. Digital cameras have many advantages including: more pictures taken and stored on the camera, unwanted pictures are easily and cheaply deleted, pictures are easily e-mailed, and photo editing is an option. Some digital trail cams can send pictures directly to your mobile phone or a website for viewing.

Trail cams take images when animals “trip� sensors. The passive infrared (PIR), which detects both heat and movement, is the most common type. They sense a rapid change in the amount of heat and trigger the camera. Some trail cams still use incandescent fl ash for night photos. While these work well and provide color night photos, they require more energy and may frighten some wildlife. More commonly trail cams use infrared fl ash for nighttime images. These fl ashes cost more initially, but they are invisible to most wildlife species and they accommodate video recording. All video and images taken with infrared fl ash are black and white, a drawback for some users.

Mentioned earlier some trail cams send images wirelessly to computer base stations up to two miles away, or cell phones. Other options include solar chargers, security boxes, image viewers, and other conveniences. Many cameras can add date, time, moon phase, and temperature to the photos. To learn about available options, do your research before choosing the right one for you.

To capture quality wildlife images, camera placement is obviously very important. Try to place cameras along trails, or near buck rubs, food plots, water sources, bird feeders, and other places you know wildlife frequent. Make sure to aim the camera toward expected approaches. Along trails, do not set the camera perpendicular to the trail; rather set it so it angles along the trail. This will keep the animal in the detection zone for as long as possible. It is important to know that trail cams have a delay of up to 5 seconds after sensing an animal before they “snap� the picture. Doing this you will have fewer images of animal “parts.� Know too, the delay may be longer at night when the fl ash needs time to charge up.

It is a good practice to place the cam so it is at least fi ve feet from where you expect the animal to appear. This improves picture quality, getting the entire animal in the frame and reducing fl ash over exposure. When possible, orient the camera in a north or south direction to minimize sun caused quality issues.

Strap the camera to a tree or post that will not move with the wind. Under windy conditions, cameras strapped to small saplings may sense movement and take pictures of nothing. When this happens, your image storage space can fi ll quickly. Clear away vegetation that may interfere with your camera. The camera may take pictures of blowing or moving vegetation. At night, vegetation close to the camera may absorb light from the fl ash. When this happens, the animal may not be lit up enough and the offending vegetation may appear very bright thus decreasing picture quality. Try using baits or lures to attract animals such as fox and coyote.

Camera theft can be a problem. Even on private land, people may take your equipment. I suggest keeping them away from roads, ATV trails, and walking paths to minimize theft.

Trail cams are not just for hunters. They provide a way for landowners to get photos of different wildlife on their property that they may not otherwise see. Try one and you may be surprised at what you fi nd.

“The Basics of Using Remote Cameras to Monitor Wildlife� by Justin Brown and Stanley Gehrt was a reference for this article. You can fi nd the entire reference at: http:// ohioline.osu.edu/w-fact/pdf/0021.pdf
Excerpted from The Woodlander Fall 2010.


Seasonal Decorations from the Woods

Decorating your home for the winter holidays might start with a walk in the woods. Sounds like a surefire way to procrastinate? Well, maybe it is. But your woods are full of traditional and, perhaps, not so traditional plants that can bring a festive air to your home at no cost. In some cases, you might even help your forest's health.

When harvesting native plants, you should exercise care to not take too many from your woods. If you spread your harvesting activities, you are less likely to affect the plant's overall survival. Know too there may be restrictions on harvesting plants from public land, so check locally before taking anything. If your decorating taste can use exotic invasive or competitive plants, then over harvesting may be to your advantage.

So what might you be looking for? A visit to a garden center at this time of the year often finds many examples of grapevine wreaths. Grapevines are common across the state, easy to identify, and easy to work. Start with one vine, and make the wreath, add more to increase volume. Decorate the wreath with other finds.

A recent walk in a local woodlot found many shades of red and green that could brighten your wreath. Multiflora rose, a commonly found exotic hedgerow shrub, had shiny red rose hips and bright green, albeit heavily armored, canes. Bittersweet is another exotic found in forest edges. Its bright orange fruit with light yellowish-tan seed coats that stick out like wings is an easy vine to add to your decorations. At the end of the season, assign these fruit to the trash rather than spread them outside.

Among our native plants that can add a touch of read are crabapples or hawthorne. And, if you are lucky and live near a low wetland area, you might find winter holly with its bright red fruit on a dark twig.

Cones, from native as well as exotic conifers, are a logical addition to your holiday decorations. Clusters of tiny hemlock cones and groupings of native Eastern white pine are easy to find and to collect. Other cones include the long narrow Norway spruce, or the cones from ornamental Douglas-fir with their forked seed bracts showing from under the scales.

Conifer trees are an easy to gather source of greens. Eastern white pine provides soft foliage that is easy to handle and is quite durable -- lasting through the season. Hemlock with its shorter needles and white bottoms is also an excellent choice. However, it does not retain needles as well as white pine. In some areas, teaberry with its leathery leaves and pink to red fruits can really brighten small decorations. Don't forget about Pennsylvania's state flower; mountain laurel's elongated leaves are relatively easy to find.

A longtime favorite green holiday decoration is Lycopodium, a group of plants related to ferns. In Pennsylvania, Princess Pine is one of the easiest Lycopodium plants to recognize as it looks like a small tree. These plants are ancient, a remnant from long ago, and some of the plants you find in the woods are very old. They spread by surface rhizomes � root like structures that lie on the forest floor � as well as by roots. Be careful not to over harvest your plants and they will be there for generations. You can use Lycopodium for a splash of color, as ropes, or wreaths.

Don't overlook simple twigs. Black birch, one of the most common trees in the state, has long slender twigs that can add structure to your decorations. Their deep purple colored twigs and the prominent lenticels -- breathing structures -- that cross the twig are themselves interesting. Sometimes people "flock" birch twigs to increase their appeal.

So, take a walk in the woods with an eye to brightening your home with festive colors. That walk will pay dividends by providing exercise, an excuse to enjoy the winter landscape, and provide an opportunity to show your artistic talents.

The Pennsylvania Forest Stewardship Program provides publications on a variety of topics related to woodland management. For a list of free publications, call 800 234 9473 (toll free), send an email to RNRext@psu.edu, or write to Forest Stewardship Program, Forest Resources Extension, The Pennsylvania State University, 416 Forest Resources Building, University Park, PA 16802. The Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry and USDA Forest Service, in Partnership with Penn State's Forest Resource Extension, sponsor the Forest Stewardship Program in Pennsylvania.

Written by: Jim Finley
Phone: 814-863-0402
Email: fj4@psu.edu


Take a Kid to the Autumn Woods!

Autumn is a glorious season! Think about those really special times you've spent in the woods at this time of year: cool days; crisp nights; wonderful colors; enticing smells; falling leaves. No bugs! Autumn has so much to offer.

Recall your autumns past. Likely you go back to sometime in your youth, when someone took you into the woods or fields. Perhaps that person took you by the hand or carried you into the outdoors and you reveled in the season and the time you spent together. You might associate autumn with the "skreetch - skreetch" of a rake making piles of leaves to cushion your tumbles. You might recall the cool evenings when a sweater was just the ticket to keep you warm, but you felt the chill on your face as you looked up into a clear sky, full of twinkling stars. There is nothing like walking in woods under a dazzling blue sky, leaves slowly floating like colored snowflakes on a chilled wind, smelling the mold of leaves on the forest floor.

Research repeatedly has shown that we make memories and build affinity to the outdoors through our association with other people who enable the experience. Who took you to the woods? Was it a parent, grandparent, neighbor, or family friend?

The health of our children is frequent fodder in current headlines, news reports, magazines, and books. Research is demonstrating strong links between childhood mental and physical health and time spent in the outdoors connecting with nature. Today's youth spend countless hours engaged in virtual worlds or communicating with "friends" through social media. Where will this leave them in regard to their appreciation and understanding of the outdoors?

There's still time to make a difference, and much cause for hope. You don't have to travel far in Pennsylvania to experience autumn. City parks and streets, local to where you live, can provide an invigorating experience. Or, if you are lucky, there are nearby forested parks or private woodlands you can visit and enjoy. Rather than bemoan the passing of summer, go out and enjoy the changing seasons, and take a young family member or friend with you and introduce them to the outdoors. As you walk, pick up fallen leaves and fruits, see their colors and shapes. Look for autumn flowers; they often come in purples, whites, and yellows.

It's more than likely the child you take along will welcome the chance to explore a real world, one that stimulates all the senses: autumn's chilling air, wonderful smells, bright colors, tactile objects, and unpredictable sounds. Ask and encourage them to experience the outdoors with you.

You can be the catalyst to initiate a time of discovery and memory building and become a partner in discovering an autumn day or night this year. Don't miss your opportunity.
Written by Jim Finley and Sandy Smith


Planting a tree? Make your trees count!

Spring is the time when many homeowners and landowners plant trees. In Pennsylvania, most of the trees we see in our forested landscape were not planted -- they grew on their own. Our hardwoods, absent competitive plants that steal away light and animals that eat seeds and seedlings, are pretty easy to grow. Then, too, many of our hardwood trees often sprout from stumps and roots. Face it, we are lucky to have the tree species we have.

Despite the fact we can grow wild trees, there are times when we need to plant trees. Sometimes we lack the desired seed source. Sometimes we need to put trees in a particular place to stabilize soil, shade streams and other water bodies, provide shade and wind protection to our homes and crops, or just to add beauty to the landscape. When we plant trees we enhance aesthetics, and increase property values. Communities plant trees to improve aesthetics (there’s just something about a tree-lined street), clean air, provide shade to cool buildings and paved areas, increase property values, and help control storm water. Trees provide more benefits than many of us consider.

If you've ever planted a tree, you know there it is a satisfying experience! Who doesn’t feel good about helping the environment today and providing something of value to those who will enjoy the tree tomorrow? People who plant trees are forward thinking and giving forward.

Because trees are so important to our environment and improve our quality of life, Pennsylvania has launched a statewide effort to promote and restore tree cover to Pennsylvania's communities. TreeVitalize is a public-private partnership to help restore tree cover, educate citizens about planting trees as an act of caring for our environment, and build capacity among local governments to understand, protect and restore their urban trees. Begun in 2004 in Philadelphia, it was launched statewide in 2009. Now it has the goal of planting 1 million trees across the Commonwealth (and not just in urban areas) by 2012.

So how can you help out? Plant a tree to help reach the 1 million mark, even if you don't live in a TreeVitalize metropolitan area. Count the trees you plant this spring! Log onto www.treevitalize.net and click on Have you planted a tree? Count your tree. It's good for the environment and your community.

If you're thinking about planting a tree but don't know where to start, the website has useful tips for choosing trees, how to plant, the benefits trees provide, how to care for them once they're in the ground, and links to other tools and resources for homeowners, landowners, and communities. And if you live in Cumberland, Dauphin, Lancaster, or Perry counties, look for the coupon that provides $15 off a $75 tree purchase at participating nurseries. This site has a plethora of information and resources!

TreeVitalize partners include DCNR Bureau of Forestry, Penn State Forest Resources Extension; Pennsylvania Horticultural Society; Western Pennsylvania Conservancy; regional, county, and community government offices; local conservation organizations; private foundations and corporate sponsors. Plant a tree today for tomorrow -- you’ll be giving everyone a gift!

The Pennsylvania Forest Stewardship Program provides publications on a variety of topics related to woodland management. For a list of free publications, call 800 234 9473 (toll free), send an email to RNRext@psu.edu, or write to Forest Stewardship Program, Forest Resources Extension, The Pennsylvania State University, 416 Forest Resources Building, University Park, PA 16802. The Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry and USDA Forest Service, in Partnership with Penn State's Forest Resource Extension, sponsor the Forest Stewardship Program in Pennsylvania.

Contact: Christine Ticehurst
Phone: 717-346-9583
Email: c-cticehur@state.pa.us



The Deer Balancing Act

Wildlife biologists often speak about "balancing" the deer herd. What does this mean? How many of us really know just exactly what it is they are trying to accomplish, how to go about it, or how to know when we have gotten there? Penn State Cooperative Extension is offering several programs this spring on deer and habitat management -- balancing the herd.

Deer populations larger than the habitat can support pose serious problems for homeowners, agricultural producers, woodland owners, and the public. Safety is one issue affecting many people -- from Lyme disease to deer-vehicle collisions. A recent Maryland survey found that 1 out of 6 citizens knows someone who hit a deer with a car. Deer browsing reduces farm crop yields, damages landscape plantings, and reduces forest plant diversity. Managing deer populations so they are in balance with the available habitat is essential.

Research has repeatedly documented deer impacts on tree regeneration and forest herbaceous plant diversity. The ability of a forest to support deer is a function of both deer density and forage availability. By selectively browsing preferred palatable plants, deer influence tree seedling numbers, species composition, and seedling height growth. Because deer are free to move, it is important to consider their management at a landscape level and to understand how concentrated preferential feeding can shift plant communities. As deer feed on one species, another species that is not preferred can become increasingly common. Research findings indicate that when deer numbers exceed what the land is capable of supporting, deer can severely impact the forest’s ability to regenerate itself following natural or man-made disturbances.

Landscape level forage availability relates directly to the ability to support a healthy deer population. When deer populations are out of balance with available habitat, preferred forage species decline and subsequent foraging is even more detrimental to preferred plant species. Preferred plants continue to decline in abundance and may even be locally eliminated from the landscape. In regions where over-browsing for decades has severely depleted food species, even very few deer have major impact and the habitat can only support very few animals. In landscapes with little preferred forage, deer numbers in balance with available habitat must be kept low. To sustainably increase the number of healthy deer the habitat can support, landscape forage availability must increase. It is possible to increase desirable forage through management activities such as controlling undesirable vegetation and harvesting trees.

When deer numbers are out of balance with their habitat, look for obvious browse lines, evidence of severe browsing on non-preferred species such as American beech, striped maple, and black cherry, and forest understories dominated by species deer avoid (e.g., hayscented fern, striped maple, American beech, hophornbeam, mountain laurel, blueberry, spicebush). Across Pennsylvania it is relatively easy to recognize areas where the deer-habitat balance has been upset for years: non preferred plant species, such as hayscented fern, cover the forest floor. Many Pennsylvanians have never seen a healthy forest understory. Can these habitats recover over time? How do we move them from undesirable species to create better deer habitat? What kinds of management decisions will lead to the best solutions? Resource managers have some of the knowledge and tools necessary to improve conditions, but sometimes the answers are evasive.

Web seminars and hands-on workshops offered this spring by Penn State Educators and partners will answer some of your questions. The first webinar entitled "Regenerating Hardwood Forests; Managing Competition, Deer, and Light," is on February 9 at noon and 7 p.m. The second webinar, entitled "Deer Habitat Management," is on March 9 at noon and 7 p.m. For webinar details or to register to participate, visit: http://rnrext.cas.psu.edu/PaForestWeb.html.

Penn State will also offer several hands-on workshops entitled "Deer Density and Carrying Capacity Workshops." These workshops are open to landowners, hunters, and anyone interested in learning more about deer and their habitat. During the session participants learn how to evaluate a given habitat, how its condition relates to deer biology, density, and carrying capacity. For a listing of dates and locations for these workshops, visit the Renewable Natural Resources Extension webpage at: http://rnrext.cas.psu.edu, and click on the "Calendar" Quick Link on the right hand side of the page.

The Pennsylvania Forest Stewardship Program provides publications on a variety of topics related to woodland management. For a list of free publications, call 800 234 9473 (toll free), send an email to RNRext@psu.edu, or write to Forest Stewardship Program, Forest Resources Extension, The Pennsylvania State University, 416 Forest Resources Building, University Park, PA 16802. The Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry and USDA Forest Service, in Partnership with Penn State's Forest Resource Extension, sponsor the Forest Stewardship Program in Pennsylvania.

Written by: Dave Jackson, Extension Forester
Phone: 814-355-4897
Email: drj11@psu.edu

********************************************************** ***


Exploring Your Woods: Thinning Stump Sprouts
By Jim Finley, Pennsylvania Extension Forester

This question is from William Krellner, who wanted to know how to thin stump sprouts, especially black cherry and red maple. This is an important question, as many of our stands, young and old, have many trees that originated from stumps. Knowing when and how to thin these clumps is challenging, maybe even unnerving.

Every forester probably has rules of thumb for dealing with this situation. Some of what they profess comes from research and some from experience. Wanting to get the response right, I delved into the literature and was surprised by the paucity of documentation.

Most of the literature focuses on how sprouts form, how they contribute to stand structure, and how to work with them when they are still relatively small. The process by which they form is fascinating and merits a future article in Forest Leaves. Fortunately, many of our hardwood species (e.g., red and white oaks, red and sugar maple, yellow poplar, black cherry, basswood, ash) will sprout. Many foresters would prefer to have seed origin trees over sprouts, but understand sprouts do contribute significantly to regeneration.

Why thin stump sprouts? Why thin any trees? We thin to reallocate the growth on a given area of forest onto the best trees available. There is only so much growth on an acre. If there are too many trees competing for growing space, individual tree growth is slowed. Therefore, thinning early is advantageous; delays result in lost growth. Some studies have found there are advantages to thinning when the sprouts are 5 years old or less. However, economists caution investing too much time and money too early in the stand’s development will not pay dividends; they suggest waiting long enough that the thinned sprouts provide a product. You have to make this decision for you and your woodlot.

When you are selecting trees to retain, favor those on opposite sides of the stump and having the lowest origin on the stump. As these trees continue to grow, they will form a “U-shaped� crotch. If you choose high origin sprouts, the trees will form a “V-shaped� crotch. If you wait too long and thin “V� crotch trees, the face between them, which is much more prone to rot, will become exposed, and decay may become an issue.

As you evaluate the sprout(s) to retain, consider their straightness, signs of decay, poorly pruned branch stubs, which often introduce rot and decay, evidence of epicormic branches (i.e., those feathery branches that emerge along the stem), and a lack of forks in the first 17 feet or so. Always consider the crown; look to open it so it can expand and become balanced and round. If the decision is to leave two stems, thin them as if they are one � they will compete at their interface but should have room to grow on their individual outer edges. Thinning will slow natural pruning of any stem. While not generally done in commercial operations, consider pruning side branches to a height of 17 feet.

In the process of researching this response, Susan Stout, US Forest Service, Irvine, PA, shared a paper by Jim Redding, retired from the Northern Area Lab, entitled Trees of Stump Sprout Origin. This short paper contains a wealth of information and if you would like to receive a copy, please contact the Stewardship Office at Penn State. We will either email or mail it to you.

Among other things, Jim Redding’s paper specifically addressed maple and black cherry and used science-based research by Alex Shigo, another US Forest Service researcher, to explain how decay affects trees and stump sprouts. Shigo’s work determined trees compartmentalize injuries by building barriers to contain decay and rot. Redding concluded, “In other words, trees do not repair tissue injured by wounds: they wall off invaded tissues, rather than repair and replace them.� The other linkage Redding made from Shigo was that the dark central core found in some northern hardwoods is not true heartwood, but is wound-initiated discoloration, which does not spread unless the tree is further injured. Further, species with ringporous structure, such as oaks, hickory, and ash differ in their susceptibility to decay from diffuse-porous species such as maple and black cherry.

Redding, based on his readings, concluded, �. . . defects in red maple clumps originate from poorly-healed branch stubs 4 to 12 feet above the sprout base. These defects did not pass through the base from one sprout to another, but ended abruptly as they entered the root collar zone.� He continues, �. . . poorer sprouts in red maple clumps can be cut without resulting damage to the remaining sprouts. Even in oak sprout clumps, the potential for spread of decayed wood from sprout to sprout is generally less than was commonly believed.�

In his conclusions, Redding suggests: 1) there is support in the literature to thin clumps to one or two better stems; 2) Shigo’s work sheds new light on decay and rot associated with clump thinning; 3) when thinning clumps take care to avoid splitting when felling trees in clumps (use an undercut); and 4) when initially harvesting, make sure stumps are cut low to ensure low origin sprouts.

Stump sprouts are an important component of a hardwood forest’s natural regeneration. As with all forest management, allocating resources (particularly light) speeds up or slows down the natural process of stand development. Thinning stump sprouts concentrates growth on better stems � improving form, enhancing mast production, and retaining species in the mix. Whenever you are removing any trees in your woodlot, always consider species diversity and your objectives for those trees left behind, be they wildlife, timber, aesthetics. The goal, as with all forest management practices, is to move the forest to a more sustainable place.

As you explore your woods, what questions do you encounter?
Send them to the Allyson Muth, Forest Leaves editor,
abm173@psu.edu. Others may share your curiosity



Enhancing the Experience of Your Woods

What do you like best about being in the woods? What do you remember? Think about it for a moment. You might enjoy the quiet, the peacefulness, the calm of nature. You might enjoy surprises -- the tree you did not see before, the little red toadstool, the glint of water on an unfolding fern frond. After thinking about what you like best, think about memorable forest walks or a special day afield. Do they often involve the unexpected, the glimpse of a fleeing animal, the quiet place, or a view that looks different today than yesterday?

Likely when you are in the woods, you are really looking for the unexpected, the little surprises of beauty, difference, and change. Understanding this, it is possible to manage for and emphasize the unexpected.

Woods have many dimensions. They vary from the ground level to the tops of the trees. They vary from here to there, as you walk through the landscape. And, they vary by time, throughout the day and across the seasons. All this change has the potential to add variety and discovery to the woods.

Can you create a level of discovery? Yes, as you walk down a forest path or woods road, you look ahead, almost anticipating the unexpected. The turn in the path or the bend in the road often obscures our view of what is ahead. What is around the corner? What might be there that will be suddenly seen? The simple act of building a path or aligning a woods road carefully today can provide years of enjoyment tomorrow. Building roads and paths to include turns, places to crest little rises, or using obstructions to block views can create interest and build in surprises. Have you ever taken the turn and seen that fleeing animal, the bird resting on the limb, or the change in light?

Forests inspire grandeur. Entering a woods, our eyes often lift to the forest ceiling. Looking up we marvel at the height; we enjoy the swaying and dancing canopy, the flickering light. Everyone seems to enjoy big trees -- they inspire. However, the solitude of a woods is also enjoyed when the trees close in around you. There is sanctuary in the feeling of protection, a grotto where the ceiling closes in and the walls are closer. One of my favorite places is a tight little stand of white pine and hemlock where trees are young, short, and close. It is a dark place on the edges, but in the center, the light enters from above. In gardens, we often create such places under the sweeping low branches of trees or under arbors of vines. Cutting an opening in the woods and allowing it to fill with small trees can create a special quiet place.

While we love to see the tall big trees reaching to the sky -- they represent growth; however, that giant lying on the forest floor can provide hours of inspection and discovery. In a forest dead trees and plants represent a reserve of nutrients -- unique habitat for many species of insects, fungi, amphibians, reptiles, animals and plants. Many of our woods do not have sufficient large, dead, and standing or down woody debris. Ecologists are learning big dead trees add to biodiversity and a careful observer learns they add to the interest of forests. A log torn asunder by a passing bear looking for a spring snack might stop you in your tracks, but also bring excitement and anticipation to the next walk in the woods. Maybe the next time, you will see something exciting near the log. Woods are often more interesting if we can leave them a bit more messy -- not everything needs to produce products.

A diversity of plants in the woods adds to the experience. Learning the names of plants and other components in the woods adds interest and leads to discovery. Psychologists tell us we appreciate things more when we know what they are called. When you find an unexpected plant in the woods, making the effort to learn its name is fun and rewarding. The unique and unfamiliar plants are often very special. When you walk in the woods look up, down, and all around to learn how the woods changes in the seasons � just a few weeks ago, the spring flowers were in bloom and in full leaf. Now, the flowers are gone, the leaves are dying, and the fruit may be apparent. Knowing how things change heightens our interest in the woods.

As you walk through your woods or the woods of others, take the time to walk slowly, look for the interesting things that surround you. Share your discoveries with others -- especially kids; open your eyes to see the surprises. If you care for the woods, think about how careful stewardship will conserve opportunities for those who follow to enjoy the place as you have enjoyed.

To learn more about discovery in your woods, request Forest Stewardship Bulletin No. 8, Planning for Beauty and Enjoyment, from the Forest Resources Extension Office.

The Pennsylvania Forest Stewardship Program provides publications on a variety of topics related to woodland management. For a list of free publications, call 800 234 9473 (toll free), send an email to RNRext@psu.edu, or write to Forest Stewardship Program, Forest Resources Extension, The Pennsylvania State University, 320 Forest Resources Building, University Park, PA 16802. The Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry and USDA Forest Service, in Partnership with Penn State's Forest Resource Extension, sponsor the Forest Stewardship Program in Pennsylvania.

Written by: Jim Finley
Phone: 814-863-0401
Email: fj4@psu.edu


A Thief in the Woods at Night

Many forest owners already know what it's like to lose trees to theft. Usually we come across the evidence long after the fact and can do little about it other than make a report to local or state police. Too often nothing is ever done about it. This article is about finding one thief still at work and what you can do about it.

The porcupine is North America's 2nd largest rodent and can do an amazing amount of damage in both coniferous and deciduous forests. Many of us have seen porcupines, if only their remains along roadsides. Few get to see them active; mostly we just see the results of their activities. Porcupines are easy to recognize. They have dark brown fur, covered with as many as 30,000 thick barbed quills! The tip of each quill has microscopic barbs or hooks that drive ever increasingly deeper into the flesh of unlucky predators. Porcupines eat the inner bark of many types of trees and bushes and have large orange teeth and strong jaws, just right for their rough, fibrous diet. They also munch on foliage, twigs, fruits, nuts, berries, and flowers. They even gnaw on deer and elk antlers to get calcium. Porcupines can do a lot of damage in forested stands as their munching can girdle trees and ultimately kill them. They are mostly nocturnal but will forage in the day, and under the right conditions can live between 10 and 20 years

Porcupines love wood piles left around log landings and gas wells. These piles of stumps, logs, limbs and dirt are considered excellent den sites, making the “porkers� hard to find or remove from fortified dens. Keep this in mind when negotiating contracts for gas well drilling or logging on your property. Plan to minimize or eliminate these potential future homes to prevent extensive damage to your trees. These sites are especially favored during winter when the cold weather isn’t as appealing as hanging in the trees throughout the day. Because of their slow methodical movement at night, they don’t venture far from chosen den sites.

In the mid-1990s, the Pennsylvania Game Commission, working with Penn State's School of Forest Resources, undertook a research project to reintroduce fisher to our forests. Fishers are the second largest North American member of the weasel family and are one of the few natural enemies of porcupine. The successful reintroduction of the extirpated fisher could help reduce some "porker" damage.

There are a few things you can do to control porcupine damage. If only a few trees are targeted, sheet metal sleeves placed around the trunks prevent porcupines from climbing. The sheet metal should fully enclose the tree base and extend up the tree about 20-30 inches. To avoid causing further damage to the tree, be sure to remove this metal guard as soon as the animal has moved on. It is possible to live trap and remove porcupines. Be sure to use large size live traps to accommodate their large body size. Apples are good bait. Put apple wedges inside and outside the trap to lure them into the trap. If you catch one, move it at least 10 miles away to frustrate its return. While trapping seems very humane, you may well be passing your problem on to another forest owner who will have to deal with the new resident. The last resort is to destroy the animal to prevent tree and crop damage.

Many forest owners grow trees as a "nest egg" for their future; perhaps, to finance their retirement, to build a "dream home" later in life or as a legacy to their children. We know many forest owners produce and conserve wildlife habitat. Having a renewable resource growing on your own land can be a good feeling as it is increasing in value over time. Those with timber stands and those who work to manage timber already know it takes time to grow forest value.

Porcupine damage can be extensive. To resolve the problem takes time and effort. Consider "porkers" part of your forest environment. Tolerate some damage, but when it exceeds your tolerance, know there are things you can do to stop the theft of your forest's future value.

The Pennsylvania Forest Stewardship Program provides publications on a variety of topics related to woodland management for private landowners. For a list of free publications, call 1-800-235-9473 (toll-free), send e-mail to rnrext@psu.edu, or write to: Forest Stewardship Program, Forest Resources Extension, The Pennsylvania State University, 320 Forest Resources Building, University Park, PA 16802. The Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry and USDA Forest Service, in partnership with the Penn State's Forest Resources Extension, sponsor the Forest Stewardship Program in Pennsylvania.

Written by: Denny Nebgen
Email: dennybob@windstream.net


Trees from Cuttings
By Ty Ryen
Service Forester
DCNR, Bureau of Forestry

It is that time of year again. Landowner’s should have made and started to put into action their plans for spring tree planting. Over the last couple months I have received some interesting questions that reflect the influences of these challenging economic times. Where is a good place to gather tree seeds? How do I start my trees from seed? What is stratification? People are trying to cut their planting costs and still practice good forestry. It was surprising to me how many people had no idea what I was talking about when I asked them if they had ever considered doing cuttings instead.

As a youth I can remember thinking of my grandmother as amazing doing her annual spring ritual of taking rose cuttings and placing them under a mason jar to create an entirely new rose bush. I guess being reared on a small Pennsylvania farm and being exposed to practices like grafting fruit trees and growing cuttings from flowers and fruit trees left me with the notion that everyone has been exposed to those practices.

Most people are familiar with growing new plants from seeds, but new plants can also be created by cutting off a portion of an established plant. Propagation from cuttings involves removing certain parts of a living plant and putting them into a growing medium that encourages the “parts� to form new roots or foliage. Cuttings are a good way to obtain new plants, and often create usable plants more rapidly than from seeds.

Cuttings can offer several advantages over planting from seed. Propagating a new plant using cuttings avoids some of the difficulties of propagating by seed. For example, some seeds are difficult to germinate, often take a couple years for the seedling to appear. A new plant grown from a cutting will often mature faster and flower sooner than a plant grown from a seed.

The main types of stem cutting are herbaceous, softwood, and hardwood. Dogwoods, willows, and aspen are good examples of hardwood cuttings. Hardwood cuttings should be taken from dormant, mature stems in late fall, winter or very early spring before any growth has started. Plants need to be completely dormant for this practice to be successful. This does not happen until you’ve experienced a good hard freeze with temperatures have dipped down below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Here in Northwestern Pennsylvania this generally occurs after mid-November.

Make all cuts just above a leaf node (where the leaf comes out of the stem) so you don’t get a lot of stem dieback. The stem should be about the thickness of a pencil. Hardwood cuttings tend to be long, about 6-12 inches, compared to softwood cuttings, about 3 inches. Cut the bottom of the hardwood cutting at a 45-degree angle just below a leaf node. To avoid confusing the bottom with the top of your cutting, cut the top straight across at a 90 degree angle. If you don’t make sure to keep the cutting the right side up, it will not root or survive if it goes in upside-down.

If you collect cuttings in the early spring and decide to plant them at that time; treating them with rooting hormone will increase your chances of success. Before planting, treat the bottom inch or the cutting with rooting hormone. Rooting hormone can be obtained at most garden centers. Always be sure to carefully read and follow label directions. Some species, such as willows, do not require rooting hormone. The success rate for a lot of species will improve with rooting hormone and some species just don’t seem to root without it.

If you are doing hardwood cuttings that you are not going to plant right away; you’ll have to store them for winter to keep them alive. Store the cuttings, bundled together and fastened with rubber bands, in a container (box/pot/cold frame) and cover with slightly moist vermiculite, sawdust, or sand. Avoid placing them in direct sunlight and keep the cuttings cool. Be sure to plant the cuttings with the top or straight-cut ends up, deep enough so that only one or two of the nodes stick out above the rooting medium.

Rooting time varies with the species being rooted as well as environmental conditions. Once rooted, the cuttings may be left in the rooting structure until spring. Over winter the buds will begin to develop and will be quite tender when you dig them up. It is best to wait till the threat of frost has passed before moving them. Newly rooting cuttings should not get transplanted directly into the landscape. Instead you will want to transplant them to outside containers or into an outside bed that is protected from wind and direct sunlight.

Water them on a regular basis; be careful not to over water them. About 1 inch per week is usually sufficient, unless the summer weather is extremely hot and dry. By fall, the cuttings that have survived should be well rooted. They will be ready to transplant into the landscape on your property early next spring before they break dormancy.

When transplanting into the landscape remember, that as with more traditional planting, weed control and maintenance is still essential for good survival and growth. Work with your county service forester or consultant for the best method. Site preparation is just as essential for planting cuttings as it is for conventional plantings. Weeds and grass must be controlled prior to planting and must be maintained for several years after planting. If you are transplanting certain species of hardwood cuttings you will need to use tree shelters or fencing to protect your new transplants from deer and other animal browse. This will call for a certain amount of maintenance to get the most effective protection.

As with many concerns in natural resources management, the decision to plant seedlings, direct seed, or use cuttings is a decision based solely on the landowner’s objectives, time, and available resources. The choice to establish new plantings either by using cuttings or direct seeding may be a desirable and economically attractive alternative to traditional seedling planting. To make this decision, you must carefully evaluate your options and educate yourself so that you can make the best decision to reach your woodlot goals. Ultimately, the decision is yours to make. Since there are so many challenges and options, you will want to seek professional advice and carefully base your decisions on your own individual situation.

For Further Reading

� Bryant, G. 2003. Plant Propagation A to Z-Growing Plants for Free. Firefly Books: Buffalo, New York.
� Dirr, M.A. and C.W. Heuser, Jr. 1987. The Reference Manual of Woody Plant Propagation: from Seed to Tissue Culture. Varsity Press: Athens, Georgia.
� Hartmann, H.T., D.E. Kester, F.T. Davies Jr., and R.L. Geneve. 2002. Hartmann and Kester’s plant propagation: principles and practices. Prentice Hall: Upper Saddle River, New Jersey.
� Toogood, A. 1999. American Horticultural society Plant Propagation: The Fully Illustrated Plant-by-Plant Manual of Practical Techniques. DK Publishing: New York, New York.


Managing Forest Vegetation

June 2008

There is a lot of work involved with properly managing your woodlot. Maintaining roads, controlling grape vines, timber stand improvement operations, etc. all require a strong commitment of time and resources from the landowner to make sure the tasks get done. One of the most important tasks is also one that is often overlooked or gets pushed to the bottom of list. That is controlling unwanted forest vegetation.

Often times people do not think of certain species as being unwanted. Unwanted forest vegetation can come in many forms. Many native plants of Pennsylvania can become unwanted vegetation in a forest setting. A few examples of native plants that can create forest management nightmares include: mountain laurel, ferns, striped maple, and even grasses. These are all native plants and can become a hindrance to forest regeneration if not controlled.

Mountain laurel can form very dense thickets that will shade any regeneration that may be attempting to grow on the forest floor. While this can provide some very good escape cover for animals like deer and grouse, it can become a real problem if forest regeneration is your goal. Striped maple grows very well in the shady understory conditions of forests and deer do not browse on it much. The result is an undesirable tree species with little wildlife value that shades out regeneration on the forest floor.

Ferns can be come a serious problem seemingly over night, especially if there has been a thinning operation in your forest. The hay-scented fern is the most common problem fern in Pennsylvania. This plant is not eaten by deer and not only spreads by spores but also by sending up fronds from their extensive root system causing it to spread even faster. These ferns can form a very dense cover virtually eliminating light from the forest floor and severely hindering regeneration.

There are many non-native invasive plant species as well. A few examples of these include: Ailanthus, Japanese barberry, multiflora rose, and mile-a-minute vine. There are many more non-native invasive plants invading Pennsylvania as well. As good stewards of the forest, attention should be given to these plants to prevent them from becoming a bigger problem than they already are.

If you do not currently have a problem with unwanted forest vegetation, your job will be a little easier. The key is to catch these invasive plants early and deal with them as soon as possible.

On a recent hunting trip to my property in Adams County, I found one Japanese barberry bush growing. On my next trip down I plan to make time to address that issue before it spreads any further. As is often the case, we found several plants on an adjacent property which is most likely where my plant came from. I will be notifying the foresters for that property and hopefully they will address the issue. The point is that I caught it early and it will be no problem getting rid of one plant.

Educate yourself on properly identifying these plants. This can seem like a daunting task when you look at the list of invasive plants in Pennsylvania. Familiarize yourself with a few of the more common plants first. Multiflora rose, ailanthus, Japanese barberry, Russian olive, etc may be a good place to start.

More importantly is to get to know your woods intimately. Take the time to learn how to identify the plants that are currently on your property. When something different shows up make the effort to properly ID that plant as well. If it turns out to be an invasive plant, you will have caught it early.

If you find out you have a major problem with an invasive plant, you will have more work and possibly money involved to alleviate the problem. You may not be able to get rid of it all in one season. You may need to hire professional help to get rid of the problem but it will be worth the time and effort for the long term health of your woods. Applying herbicides is one way to effectively control a large outbreak of unwanted plant species.

Here are a few guidelines to be considered when using herbicides.

1. Make sure you have the proper license to apply the chemical if it is needed.

2. Use the herbicide that is most effective at controlling the target species.

3. Use the herbicide at the lowest labeled rate that will give optimum control.

4. Follow prescribed application methods on label.

5. Apply herbicide at optimum time of year.

6. Follow all label precautions.

Be patient; allow time for the herbicide to work. Results may not be evident until the following growing season.

Penn State has a publication titled “Herbicide and Forest Management: Controlling unwanted trees, Brush, and Other Competing Forest Vegetation�. It provides information on choosing the right forestry herbicide and application methods as well as safety considerations that must be taken into account. You can get a copy by contacting your local extension office. Penn State also has a forest vegetation management website that contains a wealth of information and links to many other sources of information. That website is: http://fvm.cas.psu.edu/

For a list of the many invasive species in Pennsylvania go to the following DCNR web page: http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/forestry/invasivetutorial/List.htm. This web page includes recommendations for control as well as fact sheets with pictures of the plants to help with identification.

By Scott Weikert Forest County Extension Educator


Chain Saw Safety: Choose Well, Prepare Well, Use Well

It may not be lions, tigers and bears one needs to have a healthy fear of when venturing out to the forests and fields to harvest wood. Folks create their own dangers with inappropriate use of chain saws and tractors for cutting, pulling, and hauling. There are plenty of dangers associated with chain saws and tractors. To truly commit to not risking your own limbs and life or anyone else’s, read equipment manuals. In the mean time, here are some reminders.

Chain saws are grouped into three general sizes based on the weight and the length of the guidebar (the guide tract for the cutting chain). If felling trees 12 to 18 inches in diameter and cutting logs, choose a mid-weight saw with a guide bar of 14 � 20 inches. Make sure it feels balanced in your hands. It should go without saying (but it seems we have to anyway) that choosing a saw with all the safety features (and maintaining them) is in everyone’s best interests. A blue label on newer chain saws indicates that they meet low kickback standards.

Choosing a good saw is not the only choice to make. Buy and use good personal protective equipment as well. There are pants, chaps, gloves and boots made with chain saw protective fabric. Steel-toed boots are a must. Non-skid material is useful on the bottom of boots as well as on the palms of the gloves. Complete your gear with a hardhat, safety glasses with side shields and earplugs or muffs (unless using an electric saw), and you are set to go.

Actually, you are set to go only if you have properly prepared the saw and the site. A smooth running saw is a safer saw. Maintain, maintain, maintain. Most machines need to be well lubricated to run well. Know if your chain saw has an automatic oiler and how to use it. Never use reclaimed oil as it doesn’t lubricate well and corrodes the pump. Loose chains fall off; tight chains bind and over heat. Dull chains make a burned smell, crooked cuts and sawdust rather than chips. Learn how to correctly sharpen the saw and carry extra chains into the field. While you are preparing for the field, think about what to take with you beside lunch. A good first aid kit, tool kit, and fire extinguisher are important.

Preparing at the site entails looking for the hazards. Attached vines, leaning trees, young trees pinned by a fallen tree (these can spring when the weight is released), obstacles in the area if you have to get out of the way, utility lines, and heavy branches in the crown are just the beginning. Dead trees lack structural integrity causing pieces to break off. Examine any tree under pressure to get a fix on the direction of that pressure. With care, you can make small cuts to release pressure in a section. “Widow-maker� isn’t just a quaint and clever term for dead branches in the crown of a tree; these pose real danger. Finally, you may need to check for nails and wire in some trees to avoid kickback. Preplan an escape route that is 45 degrees from the direction of the falling tree with no hazards in your path. Have any other people move to at least two tree lengths distance away before you cut.

Always carry the chain saw with the engine turned off. Start it with two hands on the ground. Do not “drop start� a chain saw as you can not maintain control of the machine.

Keep your cuts below shoulder height; it is too difficult to keep full control of the machine with it raised high Working with sharp implements sometimes seems to dull one’s commonsense� otherwise folks wouldn’t stand on the log they are cutting, hold the chainsaw between their legs to make a cut, or straddle limbs while making a cut. Always stand completely to the side of where you are cutting.

The kickback from a chain saw can cut through skin, muscle, and bone, in a matter of seconds, enough to put you in the hospital or the morgue. Kick back is caused when the tip of the guide bar touches an object, by incorrectly starting a bore cut by using the tip of the saw, when the blade nose or tip catches the bottom or side of a saw cut during reinsertion, and when a chain saw gets pinched while cutting. While tip guards, chainbreaks and kickback guards are valuable in controlling kickback, the most important precaution is to know how to use the saw correctly and to take your time.

Tractors in the Woods

Gathering wood might seem like an ideal time for using that old tractor without a ROPS (rollover protection structure) and poorly adjusted brakes. But it’s not! Every year we have one or more fatalities in Pennsylvania involving a tractor in the woods. Trees or large limbs have crushed operators sitting in the tractor seat because the operator was trying to pull or push a tree, tractors have gone out of control while descending hills and slopes because of poor brakes, and tractors have flipped over backwards while pulling a tree down or dragging logs that catch and stop moving. If you have to use a farm tractor in the woods, it should have an enclosed ROPS cab, and safety practices such as using a seat belt, hitching only to the drawbar, and no extra riders should be strictly followed.



Top Ten Timber Harvesting Mistakes
By Dan Snyder, DCNR Bureau of Forestry

#1 Diameter Limit Cutting (High Grading)!
Diameter limit harvests (i.e., cutting all trees above a set diameter) are common because they provide an easy way to describe trees for cutting. Because they tend to remove the larger, more valuable trees, they also provide a high (albeit one-time) economic gain. Diameter limit harvests are a form of high-grading that “takes the best and leaves the rest.� Cutting using these approaches is particularly damaging in the hardwood-dominated forests like those in Pennsylvania. Diameter limit cutting seems to make sense as way to remove the larger “older� trees, and leave the smaller “younger� trees to grow. However, in even-aged stands (which we have a lot of in Pennsylvania due to historic cutting patterns), the smaller trees are not necessarily younger, just slower growing. Frequently these smaller trees are genetically inferior, damaged, or less vigorous species. They are often not the trees you want growing into the next generation. For example: a suppressed hemlock sapling, one inch in diameter, may be 60-80 years old. A healthy black cherry, 16 inches in diameter, may be the same age. Which “young� tree do you want left growing in your woods?

#2 No management plan!
A forest management plan can supply you with the information you need to make sound forest management decisions. Plans vary in detail, ranging from very detailed plans to short and concise. The Pennsylvania Forest Stewardship Program can provide cost-share support for you to develop a plan. You must have at least five acres or less than 1,000 acres of forestland. Waivers for larger owners (up to 5,000 acres) are available through the USDA Forest Service. Developing a plan with the assistance of a Bureau of Forestry service forester and at least one Forest Stewardshiptrained natural resource professional will help you learn about your forest’s resources and how you can maintain and improve them. You can learn how to manage for wildlife, recreation, aesthetics, or timber production. At a minimum, your management plan should contain detailed property descriptions (including property history), map(s), and management activity prescriptions specific for your property. Only after a careful review and analysis of your property can you make sustainable decisions about managing or selling your trees. NEVER be pressured into making quick cutting choices. From a tree’s perspective, there is usually no rush to make a quick decision.

#3 Not using a forester to represent the landowner!
Studies show that 80% of the timber harvests on private forests do not involve a forester representing the forest owner in the sale. Failure to involve a forester in your timber sale decisions can have consequences. Often times, the decision can result in less income and potentially unsustainable outcomes.

Consulting foresters representing the landowner work for a fee, and studies show that they can increase sale income by marking and marketing your trees � their services can greatly help simplify timber selling. A professional forester’s knowledge can help to retain or improve your woodland’s productivity, as well as maintain wildlife habitats, and control erosion by planning logging road and trail layout.

#4 Trees to be sold are not marked! Marking the trees you want to sell or retain would seem like an obvious step in selling timber. Surprisingly, many sales occur without marking or a clear understanding of which trees will be cut. Setting a diameter limit, as discussed in #1 above, is not a good way to designate trees to cut. Without a clear understanding of what to take or leave, it is nearly impossible to establish a fair price, as you have no way of knowing how much volume, and thus value, you are selling. A timber harvesting plan and the resulting prospectus advertising trees for sale should indicate the species, diameter, and number of 16-foot logs offered. This information allows prospective buyers to estimate the timber volume for sale and make appropriate bids.

#5 No knowledge of timber value! Unless you are intimately acquainted with timber markets (both overseas and domestic), with experience in timber scaling, including defect estimation, it is very unlikely you can estimate the value of your standing timber yourself. Timber prices vary with furniture, housing, and overseas markets. In addition, it is unlikely that many forest owners can understand logging costs, access issues, and local competition for standing timber. A professional forester will be your biggest ally in determining timber value.

#6 No competitive bidding! If you talk to only one person about selling your timber, will you know whether or not you are getting a true representation of value? Studies show that knowing what you have to sell and offering it through a competitive bidding process will often secure the best price. Who would sell a house or car without knowing the value and trying to find the buyer willing to pay the price? Taking the time to find the right buyer can pay dividends. If people are approaching you to buy, you likely have something to sell.

#7 No erosion and sedimentation plan or provisions! In Pennsylvania, all earthmoving or earth disturbing activities must have an Erosion and Sedimentation (E&S) Control Plan. By law the plan must be implemented and effective. Soil cannot leave the property. Ultimately landowners have the responsibility to ensure that activities on their property do not degrade water quality.

An E&S plan must identify threats to water quality and describe specific steps to address these issues. As part of the timber sale contract, responsibility for developing and implementing the E&S Plan can be transferred to the buyer. The buyer, the landowner, or a designee can prepare the plan.

#8 Selling on “percentage� or “shares� (For example, 50/50 or 60/40)! Unless you or your designee can follow every truckload of logs that leaves your property, and can assure that the buyer tallies and pays for the volume, you are at risk. Ideally, you should know what you are selling, bid it competitively, and receive payment before cutting any trees. However, there may be tax advantages to retaining economic interest in your trees until they are cut and removed from the property. Check with your forester or tax advisor about this tax issue.

#9 No reimbursement for excessive timber damage! Your contract with the buyer should clearly state penalties for excessive damage to standing residual trees and other property. It is often a good idea to require a performance deposit to ensure that contract terms and requirements are met. The performance deposit is a payment over and above the selling price, held in escrow until sale termination. A certain amount of residual stand damage is to be expected during the harvest. Trained and responsible loggers will take care to minimize such damage.

#10 No contract! A contract is one of the most important elements leading to a successful and profitable timber sale. The contract describes the who, what, where, when, how, and for how long language relating to your sale. The contract does not have to be long or technical, merely thorough and accurate. The contract should name the seller, the buyer, the location of the sale, how much is sold, and the length of the agreement. It should cover the seller’s responsibilities such as guarantee of ownership, rightof- way across the property to the buyer and his agents, and a clause for changing the contract elements if the modification does not alter the basic principles of the contract. The buyer’s responsibilities are more involved and include: payment schedule, excessive residual stand damage penalties, fire protection (prevention and suppression), repair to existing fences damaged during the harvest, bridges, culverts, and roads, operating sequence, performance deposit, road construction, landing construction, voluntary shut down, mandatory shut down, and implementation of the Erosion and Sedimentation Control Plan. Landowners must also realize that should they instruct the buyer to leave stream crossing measures in place, they (the landowners) are responsible for the maintenance and upkeep.

Things to Remember When Selling Your Timber
Don’t be hasty to sell your timber. Take the time to collect and analyze as much information as you can. As far as trees are concerned there is usually no rush to make a quick decision, so don’t be pressured into doing so. Know what you are selling, bid it out to determine the market value, and negotiate a contract that protects your interests.

The Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry has field offices responsible for all of Pennsylvania. Service Foresters can offer advice about selling your timber, and provide additional information. They cannot, except in uncommon circumstances, mark your timber.

If you have timber you want to sell, consider contacting a consulting forester. These professional foresters will help you determine your objectives and mark timber in accordance with your objectives. They have experience, lists of potential buyers, and can negotiate and prepare a good sale contract. Consulting foresters most often work on a commission when selling timber.

One last thought, when you are selling timber, you want the best advice you can obtain, and you can benefit by having a representative concerned about your objectives and the longterm sustainability of your forest working with you.

Taken from Summer 2007 Forest Leaves.

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