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Mariton: Band Aids for Chestnut Trees

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

American Chestnuts have issues. Since the early 1900’s a fungus that results in Chestnut Blight came to North America with Chinese Chestnut trees.  It infected and nearly wiped out American Chestnuts on this continent.  Some barely resisted the blight.  Some died, but continue to send up new shoots from old root stock.  Mariton is blessed with some of these so called stump sprouts that grow, get the blight, die, and then resprout.  These wild trees offer hope if they can survive long enough for humans to discover a way to combat the blight and return full grown American Chestnuts to our forests.

For the past several years I have been working with volunteers Mike and Kieu Manes, who are volunteers with the American Chestnut Foundation. We have planted chestnut seeds (and blight resistant hybrids) at Mariton.

Blight affecting a young chestnut sapling.

Recently we have been trying an experimental technique to fight blight on young saplings. We call it the band aid technique.  The theory uses the fact that the fungus that causes the blight cannot grow in soil.  We wrap the area where blight is starting with black plastic and then fill the wrapping with soil.  We seal up this band aid for 2 months and then remove it.  This “smothers” the fungus and the tree can keep growing blight free a little longer.

Mike Manes (l.) and Tom Levendusky (r.) performing the treatment.

We first performed this technique in 2015 on a shoot that was badly damaged by blight when we found it. The band aid did stop the blight, but the damage to the tree was too extensive, and it died last summer.  Last fall, I discovered that blight was just beginning on that sprout’s “twin” (they are both sprouting from the same stump, so genetically identical).  This week we put a band aid on the new sprout.  Stewardship Assistant, Tom Levendusky, helped out with the procedure.

Mike, Kieu and Tom with our latest experiment. The area by the shovel handle was treated in 2015.

We will know better in two months, but I am hoping we caught it early enough to extend this sapling’s life a few more years.

Mariton: Lean On Me

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

This gracefully arching rhododendron (Rhododendron maxiamum) is located along the Main Trail just past the intersection with the Woods Trail.  (You can see the photo was taken on a cold day, because the leaves are rolled up to conserve water.)  It is a magnificent specimen, and around 100 years old.  Over the years this tree has sagged lower and lower.

I can’t bear to cut it yet. I prop it up because the tractor’s roll bar is about a foot higher than the bough. I often travel this way with the tractor to perform trail maintenance.  Without the prop for elevation, the roll bar would rub off the bark.  The prop doesn’t harm the tree, and has been a good compromise between the two of us.  I really hope this rhodie is still at Mariton long after I am gone.  (On the other hand, I hope it falls of its own volition before something else happens.  I don’t want to be the one that has to cut it.)

Mariton: Seeing Things Differently

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

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From now until the spring I see things in new ways. The leaves drop off and reveal things that have been hidden for several months.  Even things that I have walked by thousands of times can suddenly look new and interesting.  Like this hole in a Hackberry tree along the River Lookout Trail.  I have walked by it numerous times and admired it.  Then one day in the right light I recognized Edvard Munch’s The Scream.

Mariton: Looking at Fall

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager.  Photos by Carole Mebus.

Shagbark Hickory

Shagbark Hickory

The last Tuesday Nature Walk of the season. It was a little breezy, but no gnats.  We knew it would be a good day for watching raptors in the fields on top of the hill, but we decided spend more time in the woods.  Right now, the various hickories have a golden glow.  The spicebush (Lindera benzoin) is a kodachrome yellow.  The Tuliptree leaves on the trail “echo” the color with a little more orange.  Even on a cloudy day it is like “walking on sunshine.”

Tupelo Tree

Tupelo Tree

I have trouble identifying Tupelo, or Black Gum, (Nyssa sylvatica) by its bark, but at this time of the year its brilliant red is apparent from a distance.   I didn’t realize how much Tupelo was growing at Mariton until I started looking for it in the fall.

Witch Hazel Blossom

Witch Hazel Blossom

Right now is when the Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) begins to bloom.  This delicate yellow flower is a highlight of fall for me.  This sub-canopy, gracefully arching tree is often overlooked until this time of year.

Tuliptree seed pod

Tuliptree Seed Pod

 

Mariton: Tree Flowers

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

Everyone know that trees like Magnolias, Cherries and or Dogwoods have flower blossoms, but all trees have flowers*. I often tell people that seeds come from flowers and flowers make seeds.  While this may not technically be true, for children and most adults it makes people aware of a flower’s real purpose – reproduction.  Some flowers also provide nectar to entice pollinators, and coincidentally feed butterflies and hummingbirds.  But all flowers have pollen, some is carried by the wind, some by insects, some by other animals.  A flower’s main job is reproduction.

Going back to flowers make seeds, most people don’t think about tree flowers if they aren’t showy like a Magnolia’s Blossom. Oaks, in fact, have flowers.  They aren’t very showy, but they produce acorns.

Sassafras blossom

Sassafras blossom

So here are some trees that some don’t think about flowering. The Sassafras (Sassafras albidum) has a delicate small yellow flower that lights up Mariton’s forest edges in spring.

Pawpaw

Pawpaw

The Pawpaw (Asimina triloba) has this brown-purple flower that develops into a tasty fruit (that of course holds seeds).

*Gymnosperms ( trees like pine, spruce, cedars and ginko) technically don’t have flowers. Their seeds are naked, and angiosperms (true flowers) seeds are surrounded by an ovule. But gymnosperms have unisexual reproductive parts that serve similar purposes.  Gymnosperms have male cones that produce pollen, and female cones where seeds develop.  Gymnosperms’ seed come from cones that serve the same basic function as a flower.  This is more technical than most people (including me) care to know, so I don’t feel guilty when I say that seeds come from flowers.

Mariton: American Beech

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

American Beech trees (Fagus grandifolia) are really remarkable trees (but then I think all native trees are remarkable).  Their seeds can germinate in extremely low light, so Beech is a species that can move into old forests.  Because their roots sucker, they can form dense stands.  Beech leaves aren’t particularly big, but they are thick and numerous.  That means that they provide a lot of shade.  The shade makes it hard for other trees to get started once they move into a corner of forest.  Their seeds (Beech Nuts) are loved by lots of birds including Turkeys, Ruffed Grouse, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Chickadees, ducks and woodpeckers.  Mammals like bear, deer, fox, raccoons and squirrels also relish the sweet nuts.  The smooth bark is very unique.  (And I love that it is a homophone.)

Beech leaves in April

Beech leaves in April

American Beech is one of the deciduous trees that holds its leaves longer than most. Here it is mid-April and the trees are still holding their leaves from last fall.  Amazing.

American Beech is the only native member of the Fagus genera, but the Beech Family (Fagaceae) is huge, including the Chestnuts (Castanea), Oaks (Quercus), Chinkapins (Castanopsis), and Tanoaks (Lithocarpus) Genera.  Trees in the Beech Family are known for providing for wildlife.  The seeds/nuts, flowers, leaves and bark all provide food and shelter for a variety of insects and thus birds and other animals.

Mariton: Lumbering Along

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

Log on the mill, ready to start.

Log on the mill, ready to start.

Josh and I have been using NLT’s Woodmizer (a portable saw mill) to mill logs into lumber. The logs we are milling fell during Hurricane Sandy in 2012.  They were located in areas that I didn’t want the heavy machinery going when the salvage loggers came to Mariton.  I used the tractor to haul out the  logs with minimal disturbance.  Fortunately, the wood is still good after all of this time lying in the forest.

Ready to roll over.

Ready to roll over.

We are mostly milling Tuliptrees (Liriodendron tulipifera), but also milled some Black Walnut (Juglans nigra) and White Ash (Fraxinus americana).  I like to have a supply of tulip (many people refer to this as poplar or tulip poplar) for all sorts of projects, including bird boxes.  It saves Mariton money, because I don’t have to drive to the lumberyard when I need boards.  Besides its availability, it saws easily and can be nailed easily (which isn’t true of a lot of hardwoods).

All squared up and cutting boards.

All squared up and cutting boards.

If you have visited Mariton you have seen examples of tulip lumber that I have milled over the years. The most notable example is the tulip paneling in the Nature Center.

Tuliptree paneling in the Mariton Nature Center.

Tuliptree paneling in the Mariton Nature Center.

Another example is the Bird Blind. That was a project early in my career at Martion.  In this case the siding is mostly tulip, with some white ash.  People will say that tulip doesn’t stand up well in outside applications, but the bird blind is about 20 years old.  I stained the siding and have tried to minimize contact with the soil and splash.  I think it has held up very well.

The bird blind siding after 20 years.

The bird blind siding after 20 years.

The boards I am cutting will need to air dry in the shop for about a year. This is not finished lumber; it is still rough sawn, but for most projects I don’t need smooth boards.  If I did, I would borrow a planer from another preserve.

It is rewarding when I build a nest box (or even check one) knowing that it came from a tree that fell in the forest that I am passionate about, and that I manage.  Knowing that I hauled the tree out of the woods and milled the lumber is a very special feeling.

The many rewards of being a steward of the land.

The many rewards of being a steward of the land.

Mariton: Butternut Rebirth

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

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Photo by Nathan Pritchard

In October, I met Paul Felton during a walk that I led. Mr. Felton has been a member of Natural Lands Trust since 1967, one of the our longest serving members. Paul was a state forester and is still passionate about trees and forests . One of the species that he champions is the Butternut, or White Walnut (Juglans cinera). Butternuts are handsome trees that produce delicious nuts. Unfortunately, Butternut Canker Disease is quickly killing this species.

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Butternut saplings in blow down area.

Soon after the walk I received a bucket of nuts and five established saplings from Mr. Felton. He has a healthy tree and wants to spread the joy. Mariton’s last butternut died a few years back and just recently toppled over.  So, I was thrilled to get Mr. Felton’s gift. Josh and I planted the saplings in one of the blow down areas, and protected them from deer with Tubex.

Butternut Seed Nursery

Butternut Seed Nursery

The seeds were another matter. I needed to protect them from squirrels while they germinated. I started out by cutting several Tubex in thirds and then planted them in our old (deer-proof) garden. After 20 seeds were planted, I still had dozens of seeds in the bucket. I asked Tom Kershner, my colleague at Gwynedd, for ideas. He suggested planters with loose soil so the seedlings could be transplanted easily.  I commandeered several of Maureen’s planters from the basement. Josh planted the remaining seeds, and then wrapped the planters with chicken wire to prevent squirrels from stealing the seeds. We will nurse the seedlings that germinate, and then transplant them to help reestablish this interesting component of Mariton’s forest.

Mariton: More Natural Sculpture

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

Alphabet character?

Alphabet character?

I walked by this Sassafras tree countless times before I noticed it from just the right angle on one of our Tuesday Walks this fall.  Sassafras trees are very sunlight oriented.  We get some interesting growth patterns at Mariton as the forest grows around them and they seek little windows of light.  It is the cause for some very interesting natural sculptures.  Seen this way, it reminds me of an alphabet character from another language.  Do you know it?

Upside down, perhaps a heart?

Happy Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine’s Day

How about a lapel support ribbon?

Show your support.

“May the forest be with you.”

 

Mariton: Fall Flowers

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager.  Photos by Carole Mebus.

Witch Hazel Blossoms

Witch Hazel Blossoms

A delicate and long lasting flower is found on Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana)  at this time of year.  Witch Hazel is a large shrub or a small tree depending on who you talk to.  Most would consider it a shrub as it doesn’t grow upright, but generally has a graceful arching form.  I think of it as a small tree because even bent over, it can reach 20 feet above the ground.  So, it provides another horizontal layer in a healthy forest.

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There are a number of places at Mariton where you can find this beautiful tree.  What I really like about witch hazel is that after the leaves fall off the delicate yellow blossoms will persist casting yellow halos in the woods.  If you notice a faint yellow glow in the early winter woods, chances are it is coming from a witch hazel.

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