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All about earthworms: nightcrawler edition

By Bernie Williams, invasive plants and earthworms specialist, Madison, Bernadette.Williams@wisconsin.gov, 608-444-6948

As the weather warms up and more of us are out in our gardens digging around, it seems like a good time to learn a few things about those fascinating and beautiful worms you keep encountering. Keep reading for the first installment in a series about invasive worms.

Close-up of nightcrawler shows its reddish-pink body in detail.

Nightcrawlers have reddish-pink bodies and can be -8 inches long when mature.

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What’s that orange goo?!

By Mike Hillstrom, forest health specialist, Fitchburg, Michael.Hillstrom@wisconsin.gov, 608-513-7690

What’s the orange goo on that tree?!

Should I fight or should I flee?

I bet forest health staff can ID!

Close-up of orange gelatinous gall growing on cedar caused by cedar apple rust.

The spore-producing, slimy, orange gall caused by cedar apple rust fungus.

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Mouse, rabbit and squirrel damage from winter

By Todd Lanigan, forest health specialist, Eau Claire, Todd.Lanigan@wisconsin.gov, 715-210-0150

With the onset of spring and snow melt, you may have noticed bark missing at the base of trees and shrubs. This is most commonly noticed on sections of bark that were below the snow line. This damage, known as girdling, was caused by mice and rabbits feeding on the bark during the winter.

Girdling damage at base of tree surrounded by older greyish black wound.

Mouse girdling damage at base of tree surrounded by older greyish-black wound.

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Celebrate Arbor Day using social media (check out our suggested posts below)

To keep everyone safe and healthy during this pandemic, the Arbor Day Foundation is suspending the requirement to hold a public Arbor Day celebration in 2020. Communities will be able to maintain their Tree City/Campus/Line designations without meeting this standard.

As an alternative to a public gathering, we encourage you to use social media to celebrate trees and their many benefits. Social media is an excellent tool for spreading the message that trees and tree care/management are vitally important to our communities. You could design your own campaign on a theme such as the health benefits of trees or how to properly plant a tree, or you could simply copy one or more of the messages below.

Feel free to cut and paste the following text and photos for your own social media campaign for Arbor Day – or any day of the year!

Message #1: (only valid through Arbor Day, April 24th): Celebrate Arbor Day by planting a tree from your couch! Post a photo of your favorite tree on social media, tag @arborday, and use the hashtag #arbordayathome. The Arbor Day Foundation will plant a tree on your behalf. Learn more at celebratearborday.com.

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Visit the forest outside your door

By Olivia Witthun, DNR regional urban forestry coordinator, Plymouth, Olivia.Witthun@wisconsin.gov, 414-750-8744

Are you going stir-crazy stuck inside your house or apartment?   Take a visit to the forest outside your door!  Step outside to enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of the trees and nature around you.  It’s good for your mind, body and soul.  Research shows exposure to nature reduces depression, anxiety and stress!  Plus, we all know physical activity keeps your body healthy and boosts your mood. 

Eighty percent of American adults are afflicted by stress.  Forty million are affected by anxiety disorders, and nearly sixteen million experience major depression each year. If you live in the city, those numbers are even higher. Urban dwellers have a 20% higher risk for developing anxiety disorders, 40% for mood disorders and double for schizophrenia.  Stress has become a constant in people’s everyday lives, and the COVID-19 just adds even more.  The cumulative effects of chronic stress can have serious health consequences over time, including: depression, anxiety, heart disease, high blood pressure, chronic pain and type 2 diabetes. 

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Learning at home

Our thoughts are with the families who are grappling with school closures, while balancing work and facilitating their children’s school days. There have been many online sources for continued education for all levels of schooling and we encourage you to check them out in addition to those provided by your local schools.

We’ve recently become aware of The Forest Where Ashley Lives, a wonderful children’s book (free online), explaining various urban forestry concepts in a fun, engaging way. To find the story, go to https://www.uwsp.edu/cnr-ap/leaf/Documents/ForestWhereAshleyLives.pdf

Severe spruce needle diseases expected in 2020

By Bill McNee, DNR forest health specialist, Oshkosh, bill.mcnee@wisconsin.gov, 920-360-0942

Wet weather in 2019 created ideal conditions for Rhizosphaera kalkhoffii and other needle cast fungi to infect spruce needles. Since it takes about a year for the needles to show symptoms, heavy and widespread needle diseases are expected to be seen on spruce trees in 2020. 

Lower branches of an infected spruce tree have lots of missing needles and some that are browning.

Loss of older needles on an infected spruce.

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Common tree myths – and why you shouldn’t believe

By Kim Sebastian, DNR urban forestry coordinator, Milwaukee, Kim.Sebastian@wisconsin.gov, 414-294-8675 

Click on “continue reading” or scroll down for the truth about these common myths:

Myth #1: A tree’s root system is a mirror image of what is above ground.

Myth #2: Tree roots are responsible for damaging and blocking sewer lines.

Myth #3: When removing a branch, cut as close (flush) to the trunk as possible.

Myth #4: The branches on a tree move up as the tree grows taller.

Myth #5: Topping is a necessary evil – otherwise the tree will get too big.

Myth #6: If a little fertilizer is good, a lot is better.

Myth #7: After a pruning cut, wound dressing (pruning paint) is necessary.

Myth #8: All newly planted trees must be staked.

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From asthma to ADHD: statistics on the health benefits of trees

Looking for some hard numbers on how urban trees affect health conditions such as asthma, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and ADHD?

Click on the links below to read the original research studies:

•     An increase of 888 street trees per square mile is associated with a 29% lower rate of childhood asthma. Children Living in Areas with More Street Trees Have Lower Prevalence of Asthma, 2008.

•     Loss of trees to the emerald ash borer is associated with an additional 15,080 deaths from cardiovascular disease and 6113 deaths from lower respiratory disease during the study period (1990- 2007). The Relationship Between Trees and Human Health: Evidence from the Spread of the Emerald Ash Borer, 2013.

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Snow fleas spring to surface in early December

By Todd Lanigan, forest health specialist, Eau Claire. todd.lanigan@wisconsin.gov; 715-210-0150

Snow fleas are a species of springtails that are active during winter and are generally found in groups where their dark-colored bodies stand out against the white snow. While often observed in late winter or early spring, they also come to the surface on warm winter days, making an early December appearance in west central Wisconsin something to note but not altogether unusual given the relatively warm weather in the area. 

Tiny flecks against an impression in snow are hundreds of snow fleas at surface.

Easily mistaken for specks of dirt or debris, snow fleas are tiny soil-dwelling animals that gather on the surface of snow on warm winter and spring days.

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