Archive for the 'Trees' Category

Jul 12 2016

Gone But Not Forgotten

Cicada damage on an oak tree (photo by Kate St. John)

Cicada damage on an oak tree (photo by Kate St. John)

After weeks of roaring in late May and June, the 17-year periodical cicadas (Magicicadas, Brood V) are gone but not forgotten.

During the mating frenzy the females used their ovipositors to slit the bark near the ends of twigs and deposit up to 600 eggs per slit. Weeks later the adults are dead but they’ve left their mark on the trees.  The slits killed the leafy branch tips.

Everywhere you go in cicada country the trees are green inside and brown at the tips.  (This is called “flagging.”)

Cicada damage on an oak tree (photo by Kate St. John)

Cicada damage on an oak tree (photo by Kate St. John)

The trees look as if someone has sprayed defoliant on this year’s new growth.  Fortunately that’s not the case!

Cicada damage on an oak tree (photo by Kate St. John)

Cicada damage on an oak tree (photo by Kate St. John)

The trees will be fine.  They have plenty of time to recover before Brood V reappears in 2033.

If you lived through the cicada invasion this summer, you won’t soon forget their roar.

If you missed them, your next big chance near Pittsburgh will be Brood VIII in 2019.

 

(photos by Kate St. John)

4 responses so far

Apr 16 2016

Buds Bursting

Horse chestnut bud bursting, 13 April 2016 (photo by Kate St. John)

Horse chestnut bud bursting, 13 April 2016 (photo by Kate St. John)

Last week’s cold weather was deadly for flowering trees but good for those still in bud.

A hard freeze on April 5 —  23 o F — wiped out the early-blooming trees in Schenley Park.  Most of the eastern redbuds had already flowered so Schenley’s redbud display this year is anemic.

On the other hand, buds that were closed 10 days ago are in good shape now.  On Wednesday I found a horse chestnut bud about to burst (above) and one with leaves and flower stack already emerged (below).

Horse chestnut leaves and flowers stack emerged from bud, 13 April 2016 (photo by Kate St. John)

Horse chestnut leaves and flowers stack emerged from bud, 13 April 2016 (photo by Kate St. John)

 

Even the hickories are getting into the act.

Mockernut hickory bud opening, Schenley Park, 13 April 2016 (photo by Kate St. John)

Mockernut hickory bud opening, Schenley Park, 13 April 2016 (photo by Kate St. John)

 

Check out your neighborhood for emerging leaves and flowers. Buds are opening fast in this weekend’s warm weather.

 

(photos by Kate St. John)

6 responses so far

Apr 13 2016

Pittsburgh’s Redbud Project

Published by under Books & Events,Trees

Redbud blooming (photo by Dianne Machesney)

Redbud blooming (photo by Dianne Machesney)

Imagine that Pittsburgh was as beautiful in the spring as Washington, D.C. during the Cherry Blossom Festival.

That’s the vision that local landscape architect Frank Dawson had when he proposed planting eastern redbud trees along Pittsburgh’s riverfronts.

This spring the dream is starting to come true.

Thanks to a grant from Colcom Foundation, the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy is launching the Pittsburgh Redbud Project.  From now through Spring 2017 they’ll plant 1,200 eastern redbud and other native trees in Downtown Pittsburgh and along the city’s riverfronts.  Everyone who helps through May 12 will get a free seedling. (They’re giving away 1,500 of them!)

Eastern redbuds (Cercis canadensis) are understory trees in the Pea family that bloom in early spring.  Native from southern Pennsylvania to eastern Texas, they’re cultivated for their beauty because their rose-pink flowers open on bare branches before the leaves.

Come to the Redbud Project’s Launch Event on Tuesday, April 19 at 10:00am at the Three Rivers Heritage Trail near the Mister Rogers statue.  Students and volunteers will plant 60 trees along the riverfront.  Attendees get a free redbud seedling.  (Click here for more information, here to RSVP.)

Here’s a planting along River Avenue to give you an idea of the beautiful results.

Redbud trees along River Road, Pittsburgh, April 2016 (photo courtesy Western PA Conservancy)

Redbud trees along River Avenue, Pittsburgh, April 2016 (photo courtesy Western PA Conservancy)

More events and volunteer opportunities are coming in the weeks ahead. Click here for a list.  Get a free tree!

Soon our Downtown and riverfronts will be transformed.

 

(photos: redbud flowers’ closeup by Dianne Machesney. Row of redbud trees on River Avenue, courtesy Western Pennsylvania Conservancy)

7 responses so far

Dec 26 2015

From A Different Angle

Bare trees from a new angle (photo by Kate St. John)

Bare trees from a different angle (photo by Kate St. John)

When my camera couldn’t capture this horizontally, I turned it sideways to photograph the trees.

I like them this way better than in the “normal”orientation.

Put your left ear on your left shoulder to see what I mean.

 

p.s. I took this photo four years ago but didn’t label it.  Based on their bark I think these are sugar maples … but their branches don’t look right.

(photo by Kate St. John)

4 responses so far

Dec 06 2015

Now’s The Time To Look For…

Hemlock wooly adelgid (photo courtesy Sarah Johnson, The Nature Conservancy)

Hemlock wooly adelgid (photo courtesy Sarah Johnson, The Nature Conservancy)

Last week Sarah Johnson at The Nature Conservancy reminded me that early November to late March is the time of year to be on the lookout for hemlock wooly adelgid.

The Nature Conservancy, Pennsylvania DCNR, and the US Forest Service are tracking the advance of hemlock wooly adelgid (HWA) in hemlock conservation areas and the High Allegheny Plateau of northwestern PA and western NY.  They need your help.

Hemlock wooly adelgid (Adelges tsugae), originally from Japan, kills eastern hemlocks in 4-20 years by sucking the lifeblood out of them.  A hemlock with an adelgid infestation like the one above is doomed.

By knowing where HWA has newly arrived, the survey may be able to treat key trees until a winter-hardy biological agent is ready.

So if you’re out birding in Pennsylvania’s north woods(*) and you see these white wooly balls at the base of needles on the undersides of hemlock branches, it’s the dreaded adelgids.  Note your location and contact one of the folks on this list.  Do NOT take a sample.

If you’d like to participate in the official survey, call or send email to Sarah Johnson at sejohnson@tnc.org, 717-232-6001 Ext 231.

 

(photo of hemlock wooly adelgid courtesy Sarah Johnson, The Nature Conservancy)

(*) The survey location runs from Cook Forest to New York’s Allegany State Park.

3 responses so far

Nov 28 2015

Anyone Home?

Published by under Musings & News,Trees

Anyone home? (photo by Kate St. John)

Hole in a sugar maple in Schenley Park (photo by Kate St. John)

When I see a hole like this I wonder if an animal is inside.

In the winter it could be sheltering chickadees or tufted titmice.  If it’s big enough it may hold a squirrel … or something even better.

When you’re in the woods on a cold sunny afternoon, look for tree holes.  You might see an owl peeking out of one.

Anyone home?

 

(photo by Kate St. John)

2 responses so far

Nov 06 2015

What Happens At A Clearcut?

Tree removal project at Central Catholic, 30 Oct 2015 (photo by Kate St. John)

Before I retired from WQED in September 2014, this was the view outside my window … except there were trees.

Last month contractors removed all the trees on the hillside between CMU’s new Tepper Quad and Central Catholic’s football field.  By the time I saw it a week ago it looked like this.

Hillside denuded by tree removal project at Central Catholic, 30 Oct 2015 (photo by Kate St. John)

To give you an idea of what it used to look like, here’s a view of the remaining trees behind WQED.

Trees remaining on hillside behind WQED, 30 Oct 2015 (photo by Kate St. John)

In the grand scheme of things this was a small woodlot surrounded by parking lots and an astroturf field, host to many invasive species.

Does it matter that humans removed this small landscape?

It does to the animals who lived there.

In the remaining woodlot behind WQED two squirrels fought a territorial battle. The loud one said, “This is mine! You have to leave!” The other cowered but stayed nearby. Probably a refugee.

Winter or a predator will determine who survives.

 

(photos by Kate St. John)

p.s. Does anyone know whose project this is (CMU or Central Catholic?) and why it was done?

UPDATE:  I haven’t been back to the site for a week but friends confirm that this is a CMU project and that all the trees are gone now.  Every single one.

7 responses so far

Oct 06 2015

Food For The Extinct

The "monkey ball" fruit of the Osage Orange tree (photo from Architect of the Capitol via Wikimedia Commons)

The “monkey ball” fruit of the Osage Orange tree (photo from Architect of the Capitol via Wikimedia Commons)

Why is the Osage orange (Maclura pomifera) “monkey ball” such a prolific fruit when almost nothing eats it?

Why is the avocado seed so large?  (Persea americana)

Open avocado showing huge seed (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Open avocado showing huge seed (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

 

Why does the honey locust (Gleditsia triacanthos) have huge thorns on its trunk?  And…

Honeylocust thorns (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Honeylocust thorns (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

… large seed pods that no one eats?

Honey locust seed pod (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Honey locust seed pod (photo by Andrew Dunn from Wikimedia Commons)

These fruits are food for giants that are now extinct.

Just 13,000 years ago the Americas were inhabited by mammoths, horses and giant ground sloths whose diet included “monkey balls,” avocados and honey locust pods.  Only a giant could eat such large fruit in one gulp and pass the seeds through its digestive track.

The giant ground sloth (Megatherium) for instance weighed 4 tons (8,000 pounds) and could reach 20 feet up when he put his paw on a tree trunk and stood on his hind legs.  He could also damage the trees so the honey locust evolved big thorns for protection.

Megatherium, extinct ground sloth (illustration from Wikimedia Commons)

Megatherium, extinct ground sloth (illustration from Wikimedia Commons)

He’s been extinct for 10,000 years, but the tree remembers.

 

For a fun 5-minute video about the fruits that point to missing mammals, watch below.

 

 

(photos from Wikimedia Commons. Click on each image to see its original)


Notes and links:

2 responses so far

Sep 13 2015

This Tree Is Stepping Out

Published by under Trees

A white pine with a "knee" root (photo by Kate St. John)

White pine with an arched root (photo by Kate St. John)

While hiking the Asticou & Jordon Pond Path at Acadia National Park, my husband and I encountered an unusual tree.

This white pine used to grow on top of something that disappeared, perhaps a decaying log.  The main stem looks solid but I’m sure the tree needs the “h” for support.

Do you know the name of this root formation?

 

p.s.  I ask because I don’t know what to call it.  A “knee” is a root that emerges from the ground near the trunk but is not attached to it — as in cypress knees.  This root is different from a cypress knee.

(photo by Kate St. John)

3 responses so far

Aug 23 2015

The Tuliptrees Respond

Published by under Trees

Tuliptree responds to anthracnose by growing new leaves, August 2015 (photo by Kate St. John)

Tuliptree responds to anthracnose by growing new leaves, August 2015 (photo by Kate St. John)

In June’s wet weather, Pittsburgh’s tuliptrees were attacked by anthracnose, a fungus that turned most of their leaves brown.  Click here to see.

July and August were very dry so the fungus died.

The tuliptrees responded.  They’ve grown new leaves!  It doesn’t matter that August is so close to autumn.  They need leaves to make food.

Photosynthesis is restored.

 

p.s.  The first time I saw trees grow new leaves in the fall was after Hurricane Bob stripped the leaves from the trees on Cape Cod on August 19, 1991.  It was very odd to see spring-like trees on the Cape in early October.

(photo by Kate St. John)

One response so far

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