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Steve Nix

Steve's Forestry Blog

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How to Fight a Wildfire - Things a Fire Fighter Must Know

Saturday May 17, 2014

Wildland firefighters must be able to understand the developing parts of a wildfire and observe its behavior through time and space.  Interpreting the developing fire will determine the plan of attack and any changes that may result as the fire spreads.

This short article defines a developing forest fire and illustrates the parts of a wildland fire that should be of major concern to fighters on the ground. It is based on the Introduction to Wildland Fire Behavior, S-190 which was developed through a cooperative effort by the National Wildfire Coordination Group (NWCG) to train new wildland fire fighter recruits.

Illustration of a Wildfire - NWCG, Introduction to Wildfire Behavior

When...And When Not To Water A Tree

Tuesday May 13, 2014

Scorched Japanese Maple

Water is the single most limiting essential resource for a tree's survival and growth. Most of us understand the need to water trees during dry times, especially in the landscape. But what we often forget is that a tree can also be harmed by too much water. Unfortunately, the symptoms for a water-starved tree can be the same as symptoms caused by water-logged tree roots.

Symptoms for both under-watering and over-watering are wilted and scorched leaves. Both conditions can prevent tree roots from effectively transporting water to the top of the tree and that tree will express these symptoms. In addition, too much tree water can also shut down sufficient oxygen to the roots. Some tree species can handle "wet feet" but many trees can not.

Serotiny and the Serotinous Cone

Sunday May 11, 2014

Pyrescence and the ecology of forest fire-prone lands have influenced all species of flora and fauna that live near fire. In this "presence of fire" all plants, including trees, have biologically changed to exist and even thrive with flame and fire.

Serotiny of some seed plants evolved to use the heat of fire to trigger seed fall and is a major factor in tree regeneration where fire is common. Heated cones drop ripe seed, some that have been stored in canopy cones for decades. These seed are dispersed onto a cool but burnt seed bed where extra light, less plant competition and extra temporary nutrients provide for seedling regeneration.

Image, Serotinous Cones of Jack Pine - Bill Cook, Michigan State University/Forestryimages.org

 

Tree Fertilizing Basics

Sunday May 11, 2014

You need to fertilize trees and shrubs to insure their good health which prepares them to fight off pests, disease, and environmental stresses. A proper fertilization program can't solve all tree problems and over fertilization can do harm. Still, tree fertilizing at the appropriate time and with the appropriate formulation will help your tree(s).

Ideally, growing trees should be fertilized throughout the year. The greatest amounts should be applied during the early spring and summer months. Right now is an excellent time to fertilize trees.

For young trees, good times to put out fertilizer is late March through early June, and while you are at it, proper mulching will aid in proper nutrient and water uptake. When a tree reaches the desired height you may decrease the fertilizer application to only once a year.

National Fire Situation Maps

Monday May 5, 2014

Nation's Latest Fire Situation at a Glance - Maps, Reports and Forecasts

I have created a collection of the most current national wildfire maps online. These fire situation maps display real time forest fires and conditions that are indicators of increased fire risk. It also will link you to daily situation reports on the most severe fires.

Current fire danger map from Wildland Fire Assessment System/USFS

History and Causes of Forest Fire

Sunday May 4, 2014

Even as late as five hundred million years ago, the earth had not yet developed the conditions necessary to support spontaneous spreading fire. Naturally occurring atmospheric fire did not have chemical elements available in the proper mixtures of fuel and oxygen. It took major earth changes to form and make available the chemistry necessary to support what fire scientists call the fire triangle.

According to the geologic coal carbon record, earth's first wildfires occurred during the life-exploding Devonian period. Life on earth created and provided the supporting elements of atmospheric fire. Life adapted to wildfire's presence and much later the first humans learned to use and control fire.

Human fire activity is the primary cause of wildfires in North America and outnumber natural starts (lightning) by nearly ten times. Most of these human fires result from accidental causes but, unfortunately, some are purposely set and cause serious damage to life and property annually.

More via History and Causes of Forest Fire

Invasive Trees Of The Eastern United States - Gang Of 14

Thursday May 1, 2014

Fields, pastures, forests, wetlands and waterways, natural areas, and right-of-ways are being invaded by trees of dubious distinction. Most are non-native trees and also referred to as exotic, alien, noxious, or non-indigenous invasive plants that are impacting native plant and animal communities by displacing native vegetation and disrupting plant and wildlife habitats.

Totally not cool and these trees are of major concern for harming forest health!

Drawing on recent publications by the USDA Forest Service, National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, USDA APHIS PPQ and the Southeast Exotic Pest Plant Council, a great web site covers identification characteristics, distribution, and control options for 14 trees that are invading the eastern United States. Invasive Plants of the Eastern United States: Identification and Control actually lists nearly 100 plants that are intent on changing our native plant communities. Here are 14 trees that Invasive.org feels are rapidly spreading out of control:

Prevention and Control of Tree Root Damage to Water Lines

Thursday May 1, 2014

Tree roots usually invade through water and sewer lines that are damaged and in the top 24 inches of soil. Sound lines and septic systems have trouble with root damage mostly at weak points where water is seeping out. The larger, faster growing trees are the biggest problem trees. Avoid planting these trees near your service and watch very carefully these kinds of trees near your lines.

The University of Tennessee recommends these steps for prevention of tree root damage:

  • Plant small, slow-growing trees near sewer lines.
  • If faster-growing species are desired, plan to replace trees every eight to 10 years.
  • Even slow-growing trees will eventually interfere with sewer lines. These trees must be replaced periodically.
  • When building new sewer lines or improving existing lines, consider landscaping plans and potential root intrusion from trees.

Weeping Trees in the Landscape

Wednesday April 23, 2014

Weeping Higan Cherry

An image of weeping willow (Salix babylonica) is the usual visual association when most people think of a weeping tree. In fact, there are hundreds of tree varieties that express the weeping form - conifers like spruce, hemlock, cypress, cedar and spruce; broadleaves like maple, cherry, birch and willow.

Most weeping plants are the result of grafting a weeping cultivar onto a hardier rootstock. This propagation method make these weepers available at reasonable prices and in many species. Typically weeping-formed trees will occupy a large area and adequate space is required to show it properly. These special trees need special treatment when planting and pruning.

About.com's Landscape (David Beaulieu) and Tree and Shrub (Vanessa Richins Myers) guides make some great recommendations on specific tree hybrids to plant:

Image by Steve Nix, Weeping Higan Cherry

More on Old Man's Beard (Fringetree)

Wednesday April 23, 2014

Fringetree or Old Man's Beard is a beautiful, small tree when it is in full Spring bloom. It can grow nearly anywhere in the continental United States and is native to the lower eastern U.S. and coastal states to New York. It's white flower color kicks in just as the dogwood blooms are fading.

Although fringetree does well in shade, it never attains its full potential for height and diameter growth without full sunlight. An open-grown fringetree at George Washington's Mount Vernon in Virginia has attained a near record at 32 feet tall with a trunk of 17 inches in diameter.

Wild Fringetree in Alabama - Photo by Steve Nix, Licensed to About.com

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