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Arbor News - 2003

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Each year as I prepare our latest newsletter is shortly after the Wisconsin Arborists Association Annual Conference. This is always a re-energizing experience with much networking between arborists, and arborist support people from not only Wisconsin, but researchers and speakers from across the country. I think back over the years when I was in awe of what I perceived as the "big shots" of this organization. Now, here I sit as a third term member of the W.A.A. board and newly elected Vice-President, in 2 years I will assume the Presidency. Am I now a "big shot"? No way. Mostly, I'm just older and realize none of us will ever know it all. What I do know is you usually benefit from the efforts you put out, and the W.A.A. has benefited me for years until I decided to give something back, and then even this becomes a benefit to me. God has truly blessed me and I will respond by giving you and your trees the best care I know how.

Researchers Discover Redwoods "Drink" Fog

A few years ago, researchers discovered that California's coastal redwoods can "create" rain by condensing heavy fog, enabling the life-saving water to reach their roots. Now, research has revealed that the tallest trees in the world actually "drink" from the clouds that hover over the coast for much of the dry season.

"You essentially have two ends that take in water-at the top and the bottom," plant ecologist Todd Dawson of the University of California, Berkeley, told The Associated Press. "That breaks all the rules…and may explain how they can achieve these great heights."

Dawson and others surmise that "cloud-drinking" is key to enabling the mammoth trees to grow as high as 37 stores, since current research suggests that a tree's ability to siphon water from its roots to its canopy-against gravity and friction-is one of the most limiting factors in how tall trees are able to grow.

"Theory says you can't transport water that high." Dawson said. "Yet trees do it all the time. We want to understand how." Researchers are studying this phenomenon further to see how much water the trees-some of them 2,000 years old-absorb through their branches and needles.

The closest estimation Dawson has right now is, "It's a bunch."

Fall Webworm

During midsummer, the fall webworm, Hyphantria Cunea, is the common tent-making caterpillar. Its messy web is spun on the ends of branches and can be found on many different deciduous trees. The web resembles dirty rags and is filled with black droppings and caterpillars. The fall webworm is a fuzzy, greenish yellow to tan caterpillar that grows to about an inch long. The pupa overwinters buried under protective debris in the vicinity of previously infected trees. The adult, a nearly pure white moth, emerges in June or July, than mates and lays eggs in masses on the leaves of trees and shrubs. The young caterpillars feed within the loose tent that they produce. Remember, the eastern tent caterpillar makes its nest in the fork of branches and does not enclose leaves like the fall webworm. Eastern tent caterpillars generally are active until early June, while fall webworms are active in July through September.

What's the Latest Thinking on Mature Tree Care?

It's back to basics. Healthy soil is a live, microbiotic soup of tiny organisms that are necessary to facilitate the uptake of nutrients. Soil needs a pH that allows essential chemicals to be in solution and organic material to nourish the creatures in the soup. Mulching is basic to improving the soil, and increases the number of these anonymous organisms. The best mulch is well-rotted wood chips. How long is well-rotted? About nine months to a year, depending about the time of year (faster in warm climates). After a year under mulch, the soil becomes full of earthworms, which in turn deposit their castings, the ultimate organic, to enrich the soil.
Currently, there is re-thinking about whether to reduce large trees and by how much. This is a heated debate still in progress.

De-icing Salts and Trees

Although road salt is an effective way of de-icing highways and improving winter driving safety, it damages more than just the paint on a car. The use of road salt can significantly impair the health and safety of surrounding trees and vegetation.

The Culprit

According to the University of Minnesota college of Natural Resources Extension Project web-site, the state of Minnesota alone uses more than 200,000 tons of salt each winter and over 300,000 tons in particularly harsh winters. A study out of Rutgers University stated that "in the United States, it has been estimated that the annual road salt cost for motor vehicle and infrastructure damage is between $3.5 and $7 billion. These estimates do not include the cost of environmental damage to soil, vegetation, or surface-and ground water."

The salt to which these studies primarily refers is sodium chloride, the most popular type of de-icing road salt. Sodium Chloride is lightweight, easy to store, inexpensive, and effective in melting ice by lowering the freezing point of water and melting solid buildups into water that can run off the road. Road salt has an anti-caking agent that aids in the de-icing process. According to 1994 date from The Salt Institute, 31.5 million tons of salt were used in the United States; 59.8 percent of that salt was used to de-ice roads.

Salt Damage and Symptoms

Salt can damage trees and other vegetation in two major ways. The first is salt accumulation on foliage and branches from splash and spray from the roads. The second is increased salt concentrations in soil and soil water resulting from salt absorption through roots. Cornell University's community Forestry Education Project web-site state that "lower salt levels slow tree growth and vigor by interfering with nutrient availability and uptake in the soil. Higher levels cause young plant tissues to dry out and die."

Most damage occurs when the tree is less than 60 feet from the side of the road. The side of the tree facing the road is also more often damaged from spraying. Branches covered by snow or above the spray area are less likely to suffer damage. Trees and plants placed at street intersections, at lower elevations from the street level, or near major street drainages experience the most injury.

Less Salt, More Alternatives and Planning

While avoiding the use of road salt in the winter might not be a possibility, alternatives exist, and the planning of road salt use can help decrease the number of injured trees.

Research has found another chemical de-icer, calcium magnesium acetate (CMA), effectively melts ice and is safer for groundwater sources and local vegetation. "CMA is the best alternative because it's the least likely to cause plant injury, but it's not the cheapest or readily available."

Road Management Journal reported that mixing salt with other substances such as calcium chloride or abrasive natural materials like sand in extremely cold temperatures helps decrease the amount of salt used. Anti-icing-applying liquid ice-control chemicals before or at the beginning of a storm-also help keep the bond between ice and the road surface from forming, reducing the amount of salt needed later.

If road salt is used, then it is important to treat it in a careful manner in order to avoid excessive tree and plant damage.

To minimize environmental damage, a four-step process to properly manage the amount of salt applies: selection, calibration, application, and management, By selecting the salt, determining how much is needed, applying only what is needed, and managing factors such as large snowpiles containing salt in an area when it wont affect vegetation, salt injury sustained by plants can be kept at a minimum.

With minor modifications to salt application and the area surrounding trees, cities and road management teams can better protect trees from salt injury.

Fungi-Life Support for Ecosystems

Fungi are fundamental to the success and health of almost every ecosystem on earth.

Fungi are perhaps the most unappreciated, undervalued and unexplained organisms on earth. When you ask someone to describe fungus, you will get a variety of descriptions ranging from moldy bread and mildew on the bathroom wall to magic mushrooms and poisonous toadstools. Rarely considered, even in general scientific circles, is that there are many times more fungi than plants on earth., and that each type plays a crucial role in the processes supporting the functioning of major ecosystems. One particularly crucial role of fungi is in the transport, storage, release and recycling of nutrients. Nutrient cycling-the continuous supply, capture, replenishment and distribution of carbon, nitrogen and minerals-is fundamental for the ongoing health and vitality of all ecosystems. As a result, soil organic matter and nutrient availability to plants is entirely dependant on the activity of soil organisms such as fungi.


The transformation of nutrients and their transition from soil into plants is an essential component of ecosystem nutrient cycling that could not be achieved without the fungi. Mycorrhizal associations form fungus-root systems that are far superior to roots alone. The fungi have a mutually beneficial relationship with the plants, thanks to a two-way exchange that occurs in modified roots known as mycorrhizae (literally, "fungus-root"). Networks of fungal hyphae radiate outward into the soil from mycorrhizal roots, forming a vast mycelial infrastructure capable of absorbing soil nutrients far more efficiently than plant roots alone.

Among trees, mycorrhizae are a major part of the strategy for capturing, taking up and recycling scarce nutrients.

Planting a Crab? Choose Resistance to Scab!

One of the most commonly encountered leaf diseases of trees in the genus Malus (apples) is scab. Some flowering crabapples planted as landscape trees may be severely affected. Scab can result in temporary unattractiveness and longer-term deterioration of tree health. Although various practices can lessen the impact of scab to crabapples, intelligent crabapple disease management begins when crabapples with proven scab resistance are planted.

Fungicides are available to be sprayed on leaves and fruit to protect against infection. The production of secondary spores throughout the growing season, however, means that multiple applications often are necessary for effective control of scab.

Planting crabapples that are resistant to scab can greatly reduce or eliminate the need for cultural and chemical management practices. Comparative trials in many states (including Wisconsin) and anecdotal reports have provided valuable information on the relatively resistance of susceptibility of different crabapples to scab. University of Wisconsin-Extension Bulletin A2173 lists the following selections of scab-resistant crabapples: 'Anne E', baccata 'Jackii', baccata 'Walters', "Bob Hope', 'Donald Wyman', 'Floribunda', 'Golden Raindrops', 'Liset', 'Louisa', 'Ormiston Roy', 'Prairifire', 'Professor Sprenger', 'Red jewel', 'Red Peacock', x robusta var. persicifolia, sagentii, sargentii 'Tina', 'Sentinel', 'Spring Snow', 'Sugar Tyme', and 'White Angel'.

Horticultural characteristics of these crabapples vary, of course. Heights range from less than15 to taller than 25 feet; flowers may be white to pink; fruit colors range from yellow to orange to red to purple; fruit may drop in fall or persist through the winter; and tree forms vary from weeping to upright to rounded to spreading. This variation allows selection of scab-resistant crabapples for many situations.

Is This Oak the Next Mona Lisa?

One artist's favorite oak tree has been immortalized in a painting so large, it won't fit in most art galleries.

British artist Adam Bell created the 32-foot-by-22-foot life-size canvas painting as a tribute to his favorite oak tree in West Sussex, southern England.

"I painted on a specially made, weather-proof polyester canvas and used acrylic paint-1010liters of it," the artist told Reuters in an interview. "It took me three months to paint, but the whole project to get planning permission-to have the canvas hung from a scaffold-and to find a sponsor took about two and a half years," the 25 year-old fine art graduate said.

The huge painting hangs outside near Piccadilly Circus in London-too large to find a place in local art galleries.

"It was a very physical way of painting, walking around the canvas which was laid on the floor of a barn," Ball said, adding he used mops as well as brushes to create his mammoth picture.

The artist said the painting has been sold to a private collector. In the meantime, the future of "The Tree" includes a tour of Britain.

Dentist Makes Tree Call

A protester who has lived in a tree for more than a month received a visit from a dentist recently. John Quigly has occupied an oak tree for 39 days in an attempt to save it from a developer's bulldozer.

He had to call a dentist when he broke a molar while eating. The dentist climbed the tree and put a temporary cap on the tooth. Dr. Ana Michel couldn't install a permanent crown while in the tree. Instead she applied a sedative substance that hardened over the break and soothed the pain.

Los Angeles County has called for the oak to be uprooted so Pico Canyon Road can be widened to accommodate future development west of Santa Clarita. The tree was originally going to be cut down. Protest led to a plan to move it, but Quigley and other activists don't think it would survive relocation.

Previous Arbor News Publications

This newsletter has adapted articles from the publications of the following organizations in addition to our original pictures and stories.

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