Thursday, September 29, 2016

Forest to Frame

The choices we make about the materials used as we develop the built environment have long-term effects on our society and the environment. Choose wood. It's beautiful, strong, versatile and renewable. With innovations in wood technologies, wood is now the wisest choice for more and more building applications, including mid-rise and even high-rise structures.

Wood is good.......especially when lots of it is used in construction projects. A video produced by the Oregon Forest Resources Institute highlights the environmental benefits of wood construction and using wood products sourced from sustainably managed forests. 

The new 5 minute "Forest to Frame" video seeks to enhance public understanding of how building more structures with wood helps address such pressing global challengges as population growth and climate change. Wood stores carbon, meaning increased use could help fight climate change, said OFRI director of forest products Timm Locke.

"Half of the dry weight of wood is carbon," Locke said. "Wood buildings are essentially huge carbon storage units. This fact alone is causing more and more architects, engineers, developers, and policymakers to take a fresh look at building with wood." 

To learn more about the benefits of mass wood timber construction visit

The Forestry Sources, August 2016, Vol.21, No. 8

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Trees and Drought

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.

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. 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. 

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.

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

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Invasive Species Highlight: Japanese Barberry

The invasive shrub, Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii) was first introduced from Japan around 1875. This species has been a favorite ornamental shrub in yards, as hedges, and along highways because of its scarlet fruit and orange-red autumn foliage.

Japanese barberry is a compact, spiny, deciduous shrub with arching branches of dense foliage. It commonly grows from two to three feet tall and has been known to reach heights of six feet. Branches also root freely when they touch the ground; thus single plants can become quite large. The plant regenerates by seed and creeping roots.  

Small, rounded, smooth edged leaves are clustered in tight bunches close to the branches. Small yellow flowers bloom in May singly or in small clusters and form bright red oblong berries that mature in mid-summer and persist into winter. Single spines approximately ½" long occur along the stems. The inner bark and roots are yellow.

 It typically grows in locations with partial sunlight such as woodland edges. However, it can survive well under the shade of an oak canopy. In young forests it can form thorny thickets that shade out and limit the growth of native plants. It is also often found along roadsides, fence rows, old fields, and open woods.

Herbicides are suggested to control plants that are difficult to remove mechanically by pulling. Glyphosate (e.g., Accord XRT II) is effective when applied as a foliar treatment. Foliage can be sprayed up until the leaves begin to change color in the fall. Best results are achieved during periods of active growth and full leaf expansion. Triclopyr ester (e.g.,
Garlon 4 Ultra) has also proven to be effective at controlling barberry when applied as a basal stem or cut stem treatment. Basal bark treatments are effective in early spring when the barberry and other invasive shrubs first leaf out. The spray wand can be moved around the base of plants and individual stems sprayed from the root collar up to a height of one - two feet. More information on identification and control can be found in the following two fact sheet from Penn State.

Penn State Extension Invasive Plant Fact Sheet: Japanese Barberry
Penn State Invasive Species Quick Sheets: Exotic Shrubs

In addition, the University of Minnesota Extension has produced a new 3-minute video on the invasive Japanese barberry

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Workshop: Interference with the Regeneration of Hardwood Forests

This sounds like a good one, and very applicable to Pennsylvania.  If you have time and can get away, plan to attend. 

Come to Cornell’s Arnot Forest on September 30, 2016 for a day-long workshop that will (i) provide foresters and woodland owners information about the ecological role of American beech (and other interfering vegetation) and deer in limiting forest regeneration, and (ii) review herbicide, organic and fence management strategies to ensure effective regeneration. This workshop will help participants understand the ecological principles that underlie the complications of forest regeneration, especially the interaction of deer and interfering plants.  Management strategies that limit exposure to deer impacts may reduce the need for herbicidal control of beech, and without deer control more vegetative control may be necessary. Addressing neither of these issues in a practical and viable manner will likely result in a failed attempt to regenerate an acceptable new stand.

Deer browsing interacts with interfering and invasive plants to complicate the management of woodlands for owners and foresters.  Deer preferentially browse desired species and avoid browsing undesirable interfering plants such as beech, fern, black birch and striped maple that constrain forest regeneration. These species can shade desirable species, slowing their growth and making them more vulnerable to deer browsing.  Successful regeneration requires some combination of controlling the impacts of deer, limiting the abundance of interfering plants, and using sustainable silvicultural practices.

The workshop will mix classroom and field lectures with presentations by Dr. Paul Curtis, Dr. Peter Smallidge, Brett Chedzoy and Kristi Sullivan. Registration starts at 9:00AM with light refreshments, and the workshop starts promptly at 10:00AM.  Final session concludes at 4:20PM. Bring a bag lunch.  Bottled water will be provided. Visits to field sites will be by carpooling.  Field stops will include limited but quick walking on level terrain regardless of the weather.  Pre-registration is required and is $20.  Online registration closes September 28.  Visit

This workshop has been approved by NYSDEC Bureau of Pest Management (Pesticide Certification) for 3.75 credits in category 2 (Forest).  Participants desiring pesticide recertification credits must bring the pesticide card and should arrive by 9:30AM. This workshop is pending approval by the Society of American Forests for CFE credits.  A detailed agenda is available as a blog at 

Location – Cornell University’s Arnot Teaching and Research Forest, 611 County Road 13, Van Etten, NY 14889 (Schuyler County)

Registration questions – Diana Bryant, 214 Fernow Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853. 607-255 2115.

Program questions - Peter Smallidge, NYS Extension Forester, Cornell University Cooperative Extension, 219 Fernow Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14889. (607) 592 3640.

Peter J. Smallidge, Ph.D.
NYS Extension Forester
Director, Arnot Teaching and Research Forest

219 Fernow Hall, Department of Natural Resources
Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853

(607) 592 - 3640

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Spotted Lanternfly Update

Spotted lanternfly adults on Ailanthus

The spotted lanternfly is an invasive insect that was first found in Pennsylvania in 2014.

This insect is a potential threat to several important crops including grapes, peaches and timber trees. Many sites within the infested area have high populations of spotted lanternflies. Every landowner who effectively uses control measures will help to reduce the potential for this insect to spread to new territory.

As of August 22, 2016 confirmed populations of the spotted lanternfly are known to exist in only the following Pennsylvania municipalities in the United States of America:
Berks County: Amity, Colebrookdale, Douglass, District, Douglass, Earl, Hereford, Longswamp, Oley, Maxatawny, Pike, Rockland and Washington townships and the boroughs of Bally, Bechtelsville, Boyertown, Kutztown and Topton.
Bucks County: Milford Township and Trumbauersville Borough.
Chester County: South Coventry Township.
Lehigh County: Lower Macungie and Upper Milford Townships, and the boroughs of Alburtis, Emmaus and Macungie.
Montgomery County: Douglass, New Hanover and Upper Hanover townships and the boroughs of East Greenville, Pennsburg and Red Hill.

Spotted lanternfly egg mass
If you find a spotted lanternfly in a municipality where it is NOT known to exist:
You should try to capture it and put it into a vial filled with alcohol to kill and preserve it, or at least take a good picture of it. Report it to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) by emailing to: or call the Invasive Species Hotline at 1-866-253-7189. Your discovery could add additional municipalities to the quarantined area.

If you find spotted lanternfly in a municipality where it IS known to exist:
You should try to kill it. This insect is considered a threat to crops and many people are working to try to prevent it from spreading. Soon the females will begin to lay eggs. Each female will lay up to 100 eggs or more this fall, so by destroying even one female, you are reducing the potential population for the future.

In the late summer and fall, the spotted lanternfly prefers feeding on Ailanthus altissima,commonly known as the "Tree of Heaven." They can be found feeding on other plants and trees, but if you have Ailanthus altissima, you should start searching for spotted lanternfly on those trees. The spotted lanternfly is not known to bite humans. You can kill spotted lanternflies mechanically, by swatting or crushing them. However, when you threaten them, they are able to quickly jump far away from you, so mechanical control is not easy to achieve.

Are there any natural enemies of the spotted lanternfly?
Birds don’t seem to like to eat them, and researchers have not found predatory or parasitic insects that are making a great impact on the population yet. Over time, natural enemies often do find invasive insect species, but for now this does not seem to happening on a level that is making a difference.

Can you kill spotted lanternfly using pesticides?
In Pennsylvania, pesticide regulations require that a product may only be used according to the directions on the label. The label must list the site (or location) where a pesticide (in this case an insecticide) may be used. There are insecticides available with labels that list ornamental trees as an allowed site. It is legal to use them on ornamental trees, including Ailanthus altissima, to try to kill insects, including the spotted lanternfly. You can check at your garden center to see what they offer. Some of these products may be more effective than others, so you should take note if the product you tried works well or not.

Things to consider before you purchase an insecticide
In some infested properties there are thousands of spotted lanternflies and many of them are very high up in trees. It will be difficult to reach the insects with a small can of spray or even a backpack sprayer. In this case you might consider hiring a professional tree care service to do the application.

Also, when the canopy of a tree is sprayed, the insecticide can come into contact with beneficial insects including pollinators and other creatures. People are looking for more specific approaches to pest management to minimize off-target exposure. This type of strategy is known as Integrated Pest Management (IPM). The PDA has been using an IPM strategy for spotted lanternfly infestations, and landowners may consider using the same IPM strategy on their properties, or hiring a professional service to do it.

IPM strategy for the Spotted Lanternfly
·         Locate Ailianthus altissima trees on the site. For reasons not understood, spotted lanternfly seem to prefer some individual Ailanthus altissima trees over others. Try to identify the specific Ailanthus trees that are most attractive to the insects, based on how many are feeding on them.
·         Destroy approximately 90% of the Ailanthus altissima trees, leaving only a few that are most attractive to the insect. They will serve as "trap" trees. It is recommended that you try to kill all the female Ailanthus altissima trees, because they produce seed and contribute to the spread of this invasive tree.
·         Be careful handling Ailanthus altissima wood, leaves and branches. Chemicals in the sap of this tree can cause headaches, nausea and possible heart problems. Wear gloves and protect yourself from exposure.
·         When you cut down Ailanthus altissima trees, they will sprout profusely from the stumps and can grow back in a few years. Because they regenerate so easily, it is recommended that you treat the stumps with an herbicide to kill them and prevent them from sprouting new shoots.
·         Herbicides that are labelled for this use usually contain one of the following active ingredients triclopyr, dicamba, imazpyr or glyphoshate. Use the herbicide carefully and according to directions on the label. Alternative methods for using herbicides to kill Alianthus altissima trees include foliar sprays, basal bark applications and a method called frill application or "hack and squirt".
o   The Penn State Extension publication—Herbicides and Forest Vegetation Management, has more information about these methods. Whichever method you choose, remember that you will have dead Ailanthus trees which may eventually have to be removed.
·         Treat the remaining Ailanthus altissima trees with a systemic insecticide that will move throughout the tree. The insecticide must be applied according to the label and at the right time of year for the trees to absorb it. When spotted lanternflies feed on correctly treated trees, they will die. Systemic insecticides that are labelled to treat ornamental trees usually contain the active ingredients dinotefuran or imidacloprid. The PDA is using dinotefuran in their IPM strategy.
·         Treating only a few trap trees with a systemic product can reduce the amount of insecticide released into the environment and may help conserve beneficial insects.

Avoid spreading the spotted lanternfly
·         It is important for landowners in the affected area to avoid spreading the spotted lanternfly. One good practice is to avoid parking your vehicle under trees because spotted lanternflies that are living in trees will lay eggs on the cars underneath.
·         Inspect items, including the wood from killed Ailanthus trees, and destroy any living spotted lanternflies or egg masses before you move them out of the area. If you must move items from inside the affected area, complete this checklist to be in compliance with the quarantine.
·         More information about the biology of the spotted lanternfly, most current distribution, volunteer opportunities, quarantine regulations and compliance.

Contact Information:

Emelie Swackhamer
Penn State Extension Educator
Phone: 610-489-4315