By Amy Grotta, OSU Foresty & Natural Resources Extension – Columbia, Washington & Yamhill Counties

Holly foliage usually (but not always) has sharp, prickly lobes.

Rid your land of English holly

Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la

Tis the season to spot holly

Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la

When all the other leaves are gone

Fa-la-la, la-la-la, la-la-la

Holly’s deep green stands out strong

Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la

Ok, there’s a good reason I didn’t become a songwriter. The point I want to make, though, is that this is a great time of year to scout your woodland for a common and nefarious invasive plant: English holly. It stays green all year long, so now that herbaceous plants have died back and other shrubs have lost their leaves, it’s easier to spot. Continue reading

Brad withrow-Robinson, Forestry & Natural Resources Extension agent for Benton, Linn and Polk Counties

As you know I am an outspoken advocate of thinning woodland stands, suggesting that for many (not all) family landowners “thin early, thin often” is the path to the future forest they envision.    Amy and I have posted numerous articles illustrating the many reasons for and benefits that thinning provides to family forest landowners.  This single practice applied with purpose, at the appropriate times, can shape a young forest into a uniform timber stand…. or a complex and chaotic habitat for wildlife.  The choice is really up to you.

 

OSU Extension released a new publication this summer to help landowners better understand, visualize and apply thinning decisions to their properties.  Competition and Density in Woodland Stands  EM 9206  describes in some detail the effects that different levels of competition has on a developing stand of trees, introduces Relative Density as  a way to determine the level of competition, and presents a unique new style of stand density table as a way to apply this information in the field.    The publication provides examples of how the tables can be used in determining if, when and how many trees to remove in a thinning, according to the objectives of the landowner.  It includes printable stand density tables for six different Oregon tree species.

Make this publication part of this winter’s reading list.

 

By Amy Grotta, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension – Columbia, Washington & Yamhill Counties

I’ve been taking part in an OSU Extension program called Oregon Season Tracker (OST) for about five years.  OST is a citizen science program where volunteers keep track of rainfall and plant phenology (seasonal growth patterns) and submit their records to national databases.  OST also connects natural resources managers, landowners, educators, and others in the community with researchers and their science.  At our office in St. Helens, we have an approved rain gauge which we try to check each morning, and a phenology “garden” consisting of two large Douglas-fir trees and some native shrubs.

When I first got involved in OST, my motivation was practical. I thought that having some consistent record of weather and phenology patterns would ultimately be useful in my work in Forestry & Natural Resources Extension.  I wasn’t quite sure exactly how it would be useful. But I figured that since weather affects trees in many ways, something would come of it; and even if not, I would be helping scientists with THEIR research questions. Continue reading

Wildfire has plagued the western US this year. Photo by Dave Powell, USDA Forest Service (retired) Bugwood.com

Brad Withrow-Robinson, OSU Forestry and Natural Resources Extension agent for Benton, Linn and Polk Counties.

This year’s fires in eastern and southern Oregon, and especially California remind us that fire does not occur only in remote forest areas.  It is common in rural areas, can affect farm lands, communities along the wildland-urban fringe, and can even cross the boundary into densely developed communities.

The scale and intensity of fires across the west are increasing for many reasons including historic land management and fire exclusion policies, development patterns and recent climate patterns resulting in many consecutive years of intense droughts.  It is important for people in western Oregon to realize that we too live in a fire landscape, even though it is not as common as elsewhere in the state. Continue reading

An Interview with Cory Garms, PhD Student – Oregon State University

Edited by Lauren Grand, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension Agent – Lane County

Drones are becoming more popular to use in forestry. With recent innovations, small landowners are beginning to gain more affordable access to this useful new technology. I spoke to Cory Garms, a PhD student at Oregon State University, about what small acreage landowners might want to know about using drones to survey their own property.

Continue reading

By Amy Grotta, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension – Columbia, Washington & Yamhill Counties

Often around this time of year, I’ll get a question from a small woodland owner asking whether it’s worth the trouble to try to water their newly planted tree seedlings. My standard reply has always been “No”.  Of course, in most cases, it’s not even a practical consideration, because the logistical challenges of delivering water to hundreds, if not thousands of seedlings on steep or rough terrain far from any water source far outweigh any potential benefits.  I also point out that our Douglas-fir trees are adapted to withstand dry summers. After all, millions of Douglas-fir trees are planted each year in Oregon, and most of them make it without any supplemental water. And, I know one or two woodland owners who have watered trees that they were concerned about, only to have them die anyway.

But this year, after fielding the question of watering young trees again, I started to think a little more about my standard answer. After all, all signs are pointing another drought year. Scientists predict that summers in the Pacific Northwest are only going to get hotter and drier in the future.  In light of these factors it doesn’t seem like an unreasonable question. Continue reading

Brad Withrow-Robinson, Forestry & Natural Resources Extension agent for Benton, Linn and Polk Counties.

Fire Season will soon be in effect in much of the Tree Topics reading area, as declared by the State Forester according to regional fire conditions (usually by early July). Here are some fire season basics to keep in mind:

To find out when an area is declared, you can visit the ODF Wildfire website and click on Forest Restrictions and Closures  section. There you can find links to an overview of the Industrial Fire Precaution Level (IFPL), closures and other information about fire regulations and restrictions.

If you choose the Current IFPL/Public Use (Regulated Closure) Chart you can find the fire level precaution for each of the ODF Forest Protection Districts by clicking on that district. Changes in precaution level and closures will be posted there over the summer, so it is a good idea to monitor this information throughout the season.

Please remember that even a Level 1 precaution requires you to carry fire equipment when in the woods. The motor vehicle or light truck (<=26,000 pounds GVW) requirements are:

  1. A) 1 shovel with a minimum 8-inch wide face and a minimum 26-inch length handle, ready for immediate use.
    B) 1 axe or Pulaski with a minimum 26-inch length handle, ready for immediate use.
    C) 1 approved A,B,C extinguisher, 2.5 pounds or larger (preferably 5 pound minimum), ready for immediate use.
    D) Exhaust system with muffler in good operating condition.
photo: ODF

Be sure you, your family or others using vehicles on your property are aware of this.  I generally make it a habit to carry these tools in my vehicle all summer.

Additionally, if you are using a chainsaw, each saw must have a shovel (meeting above standards), ready for immediate use; an 8-ounce (larger preferred) fire extinguisher, ready for immediate use; the standard exhaust system (spark arrester screen) must be in good operating condition; and the operator must stop the saw before fueling and move the saw at least 20 feet from fueling location prior to starting.

Please be FireWise, alert, aware, and pro-active in fire prevention. Be aware of how and where you park your vehicle, since exhaust system components have been known to ignite dry grass.  We’ve had a number of reminders recently that western Oregon is primed for wildfire each summer.  You don’t want to be part of the next one.

 

Brad Withrow-Robinson, Forestry & Natural Resources Extension Agent for Benton, Linn and Polk Counties

In my previous post, I summarized what I think we know about this ecological whodunit. In this post, I look at what it might mean for landowners in the area.

Now What?

Pouch fungus commonly appear one year after trees are attached by beetles like flatheaded fir borer or fir engraver. Phot by Dave Shaw, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension

We seem poised for another stressful summer. May 2018 has turned out to be one of the driest on record, and we are unlikely to catch up in June. Long term forecasts are for another warm dry summer. We will just have to wait and see how it unfolds. But whatever happens this summer, I think we can expect to continue to see more sick, dying and dead trees. There are several reasons for this.

First, many trees are already stressed or injured by the past hot drought events and are in a vulnerable condition. While not yet lost, this stress makes them less resistant and more susceptible to the insects and diseases that are lurking about. A mild summer, or several mild summers would help. But even then they will not recover immediately. Their earlier stress and injuries also hamper their ability to recover and rebuild their resistance, even under good conditions.

An analogy might be of me falling off a ladder. The injuries I suffered when I hit the ground continued to affect my health and recovery long after I stopped falling (it is harder to exercise with a broken leg). It will take a while to recover, even if I stay out of trouble. It will take longer (or could kill me) if I keep falling off the ladder. For the trees, each of these summers is like another fall from my ladder.

Second, some trees are already lost. It may not be obvious, and they may still have needles, but they have been mortally wounded or have already been attacked by insects and will not recover, however our summer turns out. It is just a matter of time before those losses become apparent. Continue reading

Drought-damaged trees have become a common site in the Willamette

Brad Withrow-Robinson, Forestry & Natural Resources Extension Agent for Benton, Linn and Polk Counties

 

Many of our readers have been tracking this issue over the last several years through the articles on this site. But I imagine many of you are wondering what to expect next, or are being asked by friends and neighbors who are concerned about your trees or theirs. Or just wondering what is going on. What to say?

So, here is a synopsis of what I generally see going on, and the consequences. A bit risky to do, given the role of individual sites and specific conditions. But this is such a widespread phenomenon, it warrants some interpretation, even at the risk of over-generalizing. But I provide the antidote at the end: links to more detailed information.

 

It is hard to miss all the dead and dying trees in the area. I have been getting dozens of calls about them. So what is going on, and what is to blame? It seems time to revisit this sylvan whodunit: What is killing all these Willamette Valley trees?

Who is involved? Douglas-fir is by far the most frequent casualty, along with other conifers such as grand fir and some ponderosa pine. But trees of many sorts are being affected –

Drought symptoms may include dead branches, dead tops and low vigor. Or all of the above. Photo by Dave Shaw, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension.

hardwoods as well as conifers, both native and non-native. Many of the usual suspects – different beetles and fungi- can be found at the scene too.

What is happening? Symptoms often include dying branches and dead tops, low growth and vigor, sparse crowns, what we have called the “Willamette Valley crud”. It is now often progressing to the death of the tree. This may be happening to individual trees or groups of trees. The younger trees are usually the first involved at a site, eventually joined by older trees.

Where is it happening? This is certainly a Valley-wide phenomenon. But within the Valley, we are seeing the most significant damage in certain situations more than others. Sites with seasonally wet, poorly drained soils, or sites with rocky or shallow soils, exposed south facing aspects tend to be most hard-hit. These are places that we think of as marginal sites for most conifer trees. Our conifers are well adapted to the area, but not every site. Continue reading

Brad Withrow-Robinson, Forestry and Natural Resources Extension agent for Benton, Linn and Polk Counties and Amy Grotta Forestry and Natural Resources Extension agent for Columbia, Washington and Yamhill Counties

Black stains may be found by cutting into sapwood with an ax

We recently attended a field tour on Black Stain Root Disease in the Coast Range. The tour was organized by Dave Shaw and Klaus Puettmann (OSU Extension and College of Forestry) and was attended by private land managers, forest health specialists and researchers from state and federal agencies.

Black stain root disease (BSRD) is a native root disease affecting several species across the West, but attacks mainly Douglas-fir in western Oregon. Foresters are aware of several “hot spots” where the disease has been particularly active in recent years, and there is concern that it might be expanding.

The purpose of the tour was to share and compile the field observations and experiences of the participants to test the perception that the disease is expanding in scope or severity and consider management responses. We of course wanted to figure out how that might affect family forest landowners in our area.

BSRD causes a gradual or rapid decline and crown discoloration of infected trees.  Older trees generally do not quickly succumb to the disease. It forms disease centers that gradually spread, much like the symptoms of other root diseases like laminated root rot.

Tree on left shows abrupt change in growth and color typical of BSRD

 

But BSRD is most visible and important in young trees, especially precommercially thinned plantations.  Young trees often show an abrupt change in condition from healthy vigorous trees one year, to stunted and yellowing trees the next year. A characteristic of BSRD.  The disease is named for the black or dark purple staining of the sapwood.  It can be by hacking into the stem (something all pathologists love to do) or in cross section.

BSRD has two means of spreading. This includes root to root contact, as with many other root diseases.  But black stain can also be moved by several pests that are attracted to stressed or damaged trees, such as insects and forest pathologists.  Insect vectors seem to be how it moves from an existing disease center to create new infections.  This creates the potential to spread, and to be affected by management activities that damage or stress trees.  This includes road building, “brushing” roads  (mechanically clearing road edges) and young stand thinning. Young stand thinning is seen as the management activity with the greatest potential to increase this disease.  This is because the insect vectors (weevils and a root bark beetle) are attracted to cut stumps.   The insects infect the stump, and the fungus can then spread to neighboring trees through root contact and grafts.   Activities causing soil disturbance and root damage are also likely to invite spread.

Take Home Message

Our sense at the end of this tour was that BSRD is not something for most family forest landowners in NW Oregon to be very concerned about. It is out there, but not in high concentrations in most areas.  The general consensus of the group was that the recent rise in the visibility of BSRD is mostly due to the gradually shifting pattern of age classes on the landscape that is making the disease more evident, and not a significant expansion of its range or activity.   It is and is likely to remain a much less-significant disease in our area than laminated root rot.    That said, those who are in an area with a significant amount of BSRD do need to pay attention when harvesting and establishing new plantations.  You can find out more about BSRD at these links:

https://www.forestpests.org/acrobat/bsrd.pdf

https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5187236.pdf

 

The symptomatic black stains are irregularly distributed in sapwood, as seen in stump