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

Many readers are aware of the interest in, as well as the importance of pollinators. Pollinators include many kinds of insects, and even some birds and mammals.  But the pollinators attracting most of the attention are our native bees. 

The Master Gardeners are great advocates of pollinator stewardship and do popular trainings on caring for mason bees and growing pollinator gardens.  The potential and also the need for supporting pollinators in urban/suburban settings, as well as in a larger agricultural landscape is clear.

But what about all the forestlands in Oregon? 

Well it turns out that many forest and woodland properties can and do provide native bee habitat.  Sometimes very good habitat that many of us would not even recognize.  So what does it look like? 

A new planing in a clearcut or other open area can have a great mix of nesting and flower resouces. Photo B Withrow-Robinson

The building blocks of native bee habitat are places to nest and flowers for food, located close enough together for bees to reach both. 

Most of our native pollinators nest in the ground, many preferring bare mineral soil to dig their tunnels.  Others nest in wood, in pithy centers of stems and branches and other woody debris.  Flowers that provide nectar for the bees to eat and pollen to feed their brood are a clear requirement; but that we need a procession of flowers over the season is easily overlooked.

So, open areas with a mix of bare ground, some woody debris and an abundance of flowers blooming throughout the season nearby is a pretty good thumbnail sketch of awesome pollinator habitat. 

Family forestlands in our area are often pretty diverse places.  You can generally expect to find a variety of woodland conditions from dense conifer stands, to hardwood areas.  There are often also a variety of open spaces like meadows, road edges and landings or recently harvested areas. In short, local woodland properties often have all the building blocks of great pollinator habitats.

Keep in mind that a thriving community of pollinators needs resources not for just one species of bee but for many kinds.  It needs a wide range of conditions:  different nesting substrates, and a wide variety of flowering plants that produces different shapes and sizes of flowers, in an ongoing succession of bloom from early spring into fall. 

Big leaf maple s an important and abundant early flower. Photo B. Withrow-Robinson

How about your place?  As a woodland owner you likely have some bee habitat already and can probably do some easy things to keep it or improve it.  It is often best to start with knowing what you have.

Take some time to thik about this, then take stock next spring and summer.  Pay attention to what is flowering on your property, as well as when and where it blooms.  Note (and identify) what you have in abundance, and pay attention to things that are particularly popular with a variety of insects. Channel your inner child, or better yet, involve your kids or grandkids in this! This would be a great journaling activity, combining observations, note taking, drawing and photography. Great fun! 

Ocean spray is an attractive summer flowering shrub important to pollinators. Photo B. Withrow-Robinson

Once you know what you have, you can think about ways to protect or improve it.  I’ll be back next time with some resources and ideas about that. 

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

Spring is the key time to tackle many non-woody weeds.  These non-woody (also called “herbaceous”) plants  include grasses and many common flowering plants including clovers, thistles, oxeye daisy, tansy ragwort and groundsel.  There are many native and also non-native herbaceous plants in the fields and forests of Oregon.

Taking care of unwanted plants/weeds in often an important part of taking care of your land.  Herbaceous weed control if often part of these common objectives:

  • Successfully planting tree and shrub seedlings
  • Reducing fine fuels defending against wildfire
  • Enhancing forest diversity/improving wildlife habitat
  • Easy access and enjoyment of your property
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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

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

Taking a walk through my NE Portland neighborhood recently, I came across something new in our local park. Portland Parks and Recreation is renovating an underutilized section of Alberta Park as a “Nature Patch”.

Alberta Park was part of a Homestead Act land claim over 150 years ago, and became a park in 1917. (Check out a local historian’s writeup for the details.) So over 150 years of human use, the land is far from the forest that once grew there. The Nature Patch could be thought of as a re-engineering project. Continue reading

By Amy Grotta and Brad Withrow-Robinson, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension

Through a creative and carefully planned harvest, this mature forest has undergone a structural diversity makeover.

Continuing our series, we’ll now look at steps that woodland owners can take to enhance structural diversity in their forests.  Recall that “structural diversity” refers to the amount of three-dimensional variation in the forest. In other words, a structurally diverse forest has trees of different sizes arranged in uneven patterns across the site.

Why do we care about structural diversity? Structural diversity is important to creating an “older” or “natural” forest look that many people want on their property.

Structural diversity is also a very important part of wildlife habitat. Continue reading

By Amy Grotta and Brad Withrow-Robinson, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension

Our previous installment of this series introduced the key elements of forest diversity. Species diversity (a.k.a. compositional or biological diversity) is one of those elements.  So how do you achieve it, especially if what you are starting out with is a plantation forest with only a few species? The transition to an older forest with many plant species will not happen quickly. However, at every stage in a forest’s life cycle, there are opportunities and choices one can make to move the needle to a more species-rich forest.

The rest of this article and the accompanying infographic takes us through these choices, stage by stage. Continue reading

Brad Withrow-Robinson and Amy Grotta, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension.


Many landowners are interested in growing a diverse forest as discussed in the previous post.  Their reasons may include having an attractive woodland retreat, providing habitat for wildlife or having a more resilient forest.  Whatever the reason, knowing what different parts of forest diversity look like is a key step towards getting it.

There are several key parts to diversity: those things that grow and live in a forest, how those things are arranged and when those things happen. Each is shaped or influenced by the physical environment (like soils or elevation) and natural processes (like competition, storms or fire).  Many kinds of diversity can also be enriched by us.

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Brad Withrow-Robinson and Amy Grotta, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension.

We often hear from landowners that that they want a diverse, natural-looking forest. Their reasons vary.  Some folks are aware of the many ecological benefits that diversity brings to a woodland property, while others may have been inspired by the beauty of an old growth forest.

Old growth forest at HJ Andrews Experimental Forest, Blue River OR

Of course, it takes centuries for an old growth forest to develop and many of our readers have young stands planted within the last decade or two that may look more like this:

Young D-fir plantation in foothills of the Coast Range

So how do you move from one situation to another?

Happily, a landowner has many ways to influence and encourage diversity in their woodlands. Even if you have just bought some recently cut-over land, it does not have to remain a simple timber plantation if you do not want it to be.  You can grow a diverse forest.  And it can be done within decades rather than centuries.  No, it will not be old growth, but it may help reach many of the diversity-related objectives landowners commonly mention, including an attractive forest setting, better habitat for a variety of animals and a resilient forest.

A network of paths leads from any starting point in a woodland’s development. Each crossing is an event or decision that leads in a different direction and towards a different woodland condition.

In this series, we will be exploring the pathways to a diverse forest in western Oregon. These ideas also apply to an oak woodland, a riparian forest as well as an upland conifer-dominated forest.  In our next post we look at what makes a forest diverse and why it matters.  In later posts we will consider turns you can take throughout the life of the forest to restore, enhance and maintain woodland diversity to match your particular objectives.

Another view of pathways, incorporating competitive zones leading to certain outcomes.


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

Picture 1160

In a previous article , I wrote that many folks in NW Oregon are growing too many trees in young stands given some common family forest landowners’ objectives, including doing a selective thinning harvest when the trees are in their mid-20s.  While on their way towards a variety of longer-term objectives and stand conditions, most people are hoping that their initial harvest will at least break even (when it is sometimes called a commercial thinning).  So we need to focus on reaching that first thinning harvest in a timely manner and leaving the stand in a good condition to meet future objectives. Let’s begin by looking at what it takes to have a successful thinning harvest.

My contacts in the business around the mid-Valley tell me that while the first thinning harvest should provide a mix of saw logs and chip logs, most of the surplus trees removed in the thinning need to produce a sawlog or two if you hope to break even or make a little money (a mix of around 2/3 saw logs and the remaining 1/3 chip logs is a rule of thumb used by some). Too many small logs and the operation is costing money. That sawlog will vary according to the mill it is headed to, but is generally 20 feet to 32 feet long with a 6 or 7 inch top. Smaller wood goes to chip and saw or pulp.

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


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photo: VMRC

Last month I spent a morning at OSU attending the annual science meeting of the Vegetation Management Research Cooperative (VMRC). It was well worth the time.

The VMRC’s mission includes conducting applied reforestation research of young plantations from seedling establishment through crown closure and, to promote reforestation success. The VMRC’s research has an emphasis on practical, operational vegetation control, and their research is broadly relevant and readily applied to the needs of family forest landowners, so I do try to keep up on their work.
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