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Cold hardiness zone maps: how many versions are there, and how are they different?

By Dan Buckler, DNR urban forest assessment specialist, Madison, daniel.buckler@wisconsin.gov, 608-445-4578

Jack Frost descends upon us all in Wisconsin, but the depths to which he brings the mercury differ depending on your latitude, elevation, and proximity to water or urban areas. These differences are observed in a location’s cold hardiness zone, which represents the average minimum temperature a location is expected to experience.

Cold hardiness zones are well-known decision-making factors for anybody with a smidge of green on their thumb. But did you know that there are multiple hardiness zone maps out there, and that where you stand right now might be in zone 6 on one map, but zone 5 on another? Enter the labyrinth, dear reader.

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Feature species: swamp white oak

Paul Wray, Iowa State University, Bugwood.org

Scientific name: Quercus bicolor

Native to: northeastern quarter of the U.S. (including southern Wisconsin)

Mature Height*: 50-60+’

Spread*: 50-60’

Form: broad, wide-spreading

Growth Rate*: slow to moderate; 12”-18” per year

Foliage: 5”-6”; glossy green above, white below; leathery with shallow, irregular lobes; leaves often persist into winter

Fall Color: yellow-brown to orange-brown

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Be on the lookout for beech leaf disease

By Elly Voigt, forest health lab assistant, Fitchburg

Beech leaf disease (BLD) is a relatively recently discovered, destructive disease of beech trees in the US. It was first observed in 2012 in Ohio and has since spread to areas of Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Ontario, Canada. BLD affects our native beech species, American beech (Fagus grandifolia) and ornamental beech species, including European beech (Fagus sylvatica). The disease has not yet been observed in Wisconsin but could become an issue in the future.

Overhead view of beech leaves show puckering of leaf segments.

Symptomatic leaf puckering of a beech tree with BLD. Credit: Ohio State University.

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Feature species: hackberry

Credit: Steven Katovich, Bugwood.org

Scientific name: Celtis occidentalis

Native to: east-central U.S. (includes Wisconsin)

Mature Height*: 30’-60’

Spread*: 30’-50’

Form: broadly and irregularly oval, approximately the vase shape of American elm

Growth Rate*: medium to fast; up to 24”-36” per year

Foliage: 2”-5”; lopsided oval with serrated edge

Fall color: yellow-green to yellow

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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.

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

Nightcrawlers have reddish-pink bodies and can be 6-8 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