Remember those Magic 8 balls where you would ask a question, shake the ball, and get an answer? I wish life were that simple.

Extension agents get a lot of questions. Some say we are notorious for always answering with “well, it depends.” As an Extension agent I’m as guilty as anyone of using “it depends”, and not because I want to dodge your question. Usually there is more than one answer; more information is needed; and ultimately, you are the one who will be able to answer your own question after more a more thorough evaluation. Here is a sampling of inquiries I’ve received by phone, email, or Ask an Expert over the past few weeks, to illustrate this. Continue reading

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

Our tour hosts (left) with local Extension forestry agent Paul Oester

Last week I traveled to sunny Eastern Oregon for the OSU Extension Forestry team’s annual planning meeting. To kick things off, our group spent an afternoon with Tom and Cindy Beechinor, who are active forest landowners, Master Woodland Managers, and dedicated Extension supporters in the Blue Mountains above the town of Milton-Freewater. We toured the family’s 640-acre property and learned much about how they care for their land and some of the challenges they face. Some observations: Continue reading

Mist nets are set up in the pre-dawn light where birds move around during normal feeding activities
Mist nets are set up in the pre-dawn light where birds move around during normal feeding activities

 

By Brad Withrow-Robinson, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension, Benton, Linn & Polk Counties

I often try to write stories that make a connection between the birds you find in a place and the habitat conditions there. Because habitat is something we can create or alter by our forest practices, this illustrates an opportunity for interested landowners to manage their properties to improve woodland habitat conditions for particular birds. While we focus on birds, it is an illustration that applies to all woodland fauna. Animals tend to be quite responsive to habitat conditions.

Birds are fun, abundant and easy to observe by watching and listening, which makes them a good group of animals for landowners to key in on. In fact, lots of what we know about birds, and how they use different places (migratory arrivals and departure, where the feed and nest) has been gained through careful observation.

But capturing and banding birds is another important tool available to researchers that lets them add another layer of information. By capturing birds, we can learn about their general condition (weight, fat reserves) gender and age distribution, that gives insight on things such as general health or their readiness for breeding or migration. And when lucky enough to recapture a banded bird, we learn valuable details about how they have moved and fared in the time between captures. Continue reading

By Amy Grotta, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension, Columbia, Washington & Yamhill Counties, and Paul Wilson & Linda Farris, Columbia County Master Woodland Managers

Flowering currant seedlings awaiting transplant. Photo: Paul Wilson
Flowering currant seedlings awaiting transplant. Photo: Paul Wilson

When Paul Wilson and Linda Farris bought their small property about 10 years ago, it was a reforestation failure. But they have succeeded in beating back immense Scotch broom and other invasives and have planted a diverse mix of trees. Not stopping there, they continue adding diversity by releasing native shrubs that don’t get in the way of their planted trees, and by planting more native shrubs and herbaceous plants to occupy gaps where the invasives used to be.

Paul and Linda propagate most of their own plants from seed and cuttings, having learned over time what methods work for different species. They shared their experience on a recent Twilight Tour, and afterwards agreed to write up and share their propagation tips (in the rest of this article). Thank you Paul and Linda. If you want to try your hand at this, fall is a good time to start.

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Large purple plastic triangular boxes illustrate monitoring activity
Large purple plastic triangular boxes illustrate monitoring activity

by Brad Withrow-Robinson, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension, Benton, Linn and Polk Counties and Wyatt Williams, ODF Invasive Species Specialist

A large purple box hanging in the trees along Airlie Road last year caught my attention at 55 mph. Pulling over I recognized it as a monitoring trap for one of the current invasive species threatening Oregon’s woodlands. Luckily ODF and others are watching out.

The emerald ash borer (EAB), an invasive insect from Asia, has killed an estimated 100 million trees and caused more than $3.5 billion dollars’ worth of damage and property value losses in the eastern U.S. since its arrival in the 1990′s. All 16 North American ash species are threatened with extinction, including our native Oregon ash. The furthest west population yet detected is in Boulder, Colorado – a day’s drive or so from Oregon in a motor home. Originally introduced to the U.S. via wood packaging material, it is now spread across the continent in infested firewood.

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by Chal Landgren, OSU Extension Christmas Tree Specialist

Anyway it is spelled- Yellowjacket, Yellow Jacket or Yellow-Jacket, these insects are feared and hated not only by picnickers, but by many working in the woods, and in Christmas trees.  For Christmas tree growers they can inflict physical and economic pain, since they are unwanted hitchhikers in many shipping destinations.

First some biology- These are not honeybees. Rather, two predatory insects in the genus Vespula, whose common names are the Western Yellowjacket and German Yellowjacket. The Western

Comparison of queens.  Photo courtesy ODA
Comparison of queens. Photo courtesy ODA

Yellowjacket (V. pensylvanica) is a common native.  Yes, they are predators, but also scavengers, which makes them a pest at summer BBQs and picnics.  The German yellowjacket (V. germanica)  is an uncommon non-native species (not wanted in Mexico).  Both these insects feed on other insects as well as nectar, honeydew and fruit.

Queens will overwinter in protected locations above or below ground and emerge in May. After the queen emerges she will begin her colony which eventually can include hundreds to thousands of workers. Fertilized queens will emerge again in October or November. Males (stingless) begin to emerge in large numbers in late July. Continue reading

A ratty-looking incense-cedar near Corvallis
A ratty-looking incense-cedar near Corvallis

by Brad Withrow-Robinson, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension, Benton, Linn and Polk Counties

You’ve probably noticed that incense-cedar (Calocedrus decurrens) is looking pretty ratty in the mid-Willamette Valley this year.
Driving around, I am seeing many trees showing a mosaic of healthy and dead foliage. The dead foliage is reddish to muddy brown and may be individual fronds or small branches. It often seems to be in the lower parts of the tree. Symptoms seem to vary dramatically between trees, even adjacent ones.
So what is going on? Quite likely any of several things.
Incense-cedar rust  is a common and familiar foliar disease. It is most recognizable in the spring, when it produces orange gobs of jelly-like goo on the infected fronds. It commonly kills small sprays of leaves and causes a loss of tree vigor in severe cases. Continue reading

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

It is shaping up to be another exciting year in forest health here in northwest Oregon. Fortunately, neither of the two defoliating insects currently on the scene are serious threats to forest or human health, but they are certainly causing a stir.

Right now, Columbia County is in the midst of the largest documented western tent caterpillar outbreak that Oregon has seen in two decades, according to the Oregon Department of Forestry. I first noticed a few tent caterpillar clusters on one site in the area two years ago. Last summer, our Extension office received many calls as the caterpillar population built up.  Aerial surveys done a few weeks ago show that at least 13,000 acres are affected in the county this year.

Map and aerial view showing extent of western tent caterpillar defoliation, early June. Affected areas are brown in the photo. Source: Oregon Department of Forestry
Map and aerial view showing extent of western tent caterpillar defoliation, early June. Affected areas are brown in the photo. Source: Oregon Department of Forestry

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

In the past, I’ve written about various smartphone “apps” of interest to woodland owners (if you missed them, you can read these past articles here).  Here is another, released last week just in time for the peak of our spring wildflowers.

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The Oregon Wildflowers app helps the user to identify and learn about nearly 1,000 wildflower species found in our state. There are two main ways to use the app. If you think you know the plant’s common name, you can find it in an alphabetical listing and then view photos and a description. Or, to identify an unknown plant, you can narrow it down by choosing the geographic region, habitat type, flower color, leaf traits, and other characteristics to arrive at a few options. Continue reading

Winter storm damage
Winter storm damage

Storm damage may lead to beetle problems in ponderosa pine

By Brad Withrow-Robinson, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension – Benton, Linn & Polk Counties

 

Not to be a fear-monger, but there is talk about last winter’s storm damage leading to some future beetle problems for ponderosa pine in the Valley.

Now, bark beetles are generally weak predators of trees.  Damage is often limited to marginal sites, with beetles usually attacking trees weakened by other stresses, such as drought or flooding.  Generally this does not pose a great  threat to the other, healthier trees in the area.

But I recently spoke to a couple landowners concerned about bark beetle attacks in their ponderosa pine.  Continue reading