Statewide Forest Health

Fighting Invasive Plants

Invasive plants are a major threat to Wisconsin’s forests, highlighted in the forest health chapter of Wisconsin’s Forest Action Plan. Invasive plants limit tree regeneration, reduce plant diversity and increase management costs. Recent Forest Inventory and Analysis data from the USDA Forest Service found that more than half of forest sites surveyed in Wisconsin had two or more invasive plant species. Forest landowners should learn to recognize common invasive plants like buckthorns, honeysuckles and garlic mustard. Mobile applications are a handy tool for landowners to learn to identify the plant species in their woods (e.g., PlantNet, iNaturalist) and report invasives (e.g., EDDMapS). For information about the regulated invasive plants in Wisconsin visit the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) Terrestrial Invasive Species page.

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Climate Impacts On Forest Insects

Climate change may impact forest insects in a variety of ways that will likely put stress on the forest. Warmer temperatures, altered precipitation patterns, more frequent extreme weather events and longer growing seasons are a few consequences of climate change that may shape the effects of insects in future forests. A changing climate may impact insects as:

  • Warmer temperatures accelerate larval development and increase insect populations.
  • Extended growing seasons allow for more generations of insects each year.
  • Altered leaf chemistry modifies insect host plant preferences.
  • Extreme weather events damage and stress forests, resulting in attacks by native and non-native insects.
  • Warmer temperatures allow insects to expand their range and occupy new areas.

Many examples of insects responding to climate change have already been documented. Two examples are:

1) Mountain pine beetle expanding its geographic range in the western U.S. and infesting a new host tree species during the most recent outbreak; and

2) Eastern larch beetle having an additional generation each year that has resulted in an unprecedented 20-year outbreak in Minnesota. Continue reading “Climate Impacts On Forest Insects”

Statewide Forest Action Plan Strategies

Forest health experts from federal and state government, tribes and universities worked together to create the two goals and numerous strategies featured in the forest health chapter of Wisconsin’s 2020-2030 Statewide Forest Action Plan. Many goals and strategies in other chapters are also relevant to forest health efforts.

These goals are high-level statements about the desired future conditions of Wisconsin forests. The forest health chapter goals are:

  1. Forested land and ecosystem functions are maximized, while losses due to forest health threats are minimized
  2. Forest health threats are identified and managed in a fashion that is adaptive and responsive to multiple values

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Forest Health In The Statewide Forest Action Plan

The forest health chapter of Wisconsin’s 2020-2030 Statewide Forest Action Plan, completed in June 2020, highlights the impacts of insects, diseases, invasive plants and worms in Wisconsin’s forests.

Forest health experts from government agencies, universities and tribes worked together to evaluate these current impacts. They then developed goals and strategies to help the forestry community refine how it will invest state, federal and partner resources to address major forest health management and landscape priorities over the next ten years.

Forest health is a critical component of the plan because native and non-native pests increase tree mortality to a level that negatively affects forest stocking levels, clean water, wildlife habitat and raw material for wood products. This causes economic losses and undesirable management outcomes. Continue reading “Forest Health In The Statewide Forest Action Plan”

Acorn Weevils Make Acorns Float

Article By: Linda Williams, DNR Forest Health Specialist, Woodruff or 920-360-0665

Have you seen small round holes in acorns? These holes are a sign of acorn weevil damage that can occur in all Wisconsin oak species.

In a pile of brown and tan acorns, two have small round pencil-tip sized holes caused by acorn weevil larvae burrowing out from the inside.

Two acorns show exit holes of acorn weevils. / Photo Credit: Wisconsin DNR

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Take Action! Look For Gypsy Moth Egg Masses

Article By:  Bill McNee, DNR Forest Health Specialist, Oshkosh or 920-360-0942

In 2021, gypsy moth populations increased for a second consecutive summer due to favorable weather conditions. Populations typically increase with an average or mild winter, below average spring precipitation and above average May through June temperatures.

Regional variation in weather can result in significant differences in populations. If weather conditions are favorable again in 2022, the most noticeable increase in caterpillar numbers would likely occur in southern counties, where conditions were driest during this past spring and summer.

Populations experience the fastest growth rate and are first noticed on:

  • Dry sites with sandy soil and abundant oak
  • Mowed lawns with preferred tree species (oak, crabapple, birch, etc.)
  • Large oaks (bur, in particular) with rough bark, especially on or adjacent to mowed lawns
Five small gypsy moth egg tan masses on a single tree branch in Walworth County.

Gypsy moth egg masses found in Walworth County in fall 2021.
Photo Credit: Gypsy moth egg masses KMSU













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Fall Webworm Is Active

Written By: Todd Lanigan, DNR Forest Health Specialist, Eau Claire, or 715-210-0150

As we head into September, fall webworm is starting to make its presence known. This native insect feeds on deciduous trees and shrubs and appears every year in yards and forests. Fall webworm forms loose webbing over branch tips and can completely cover a small tree with webbing. You will find both live and dead caterpillars, partially eaten leaves and frass (caterpillar poop) inside the webbing.

Fall webworm larvae inside webbing. Photo Credit: Wisconsin DNR

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Heterobasidion Root Disease (HRD) Found In Fond Du Lac And Racine Counties

By Bill McNee, DNR Forest Health Specialist, Oshkosh, or 920-360-0942

Heterobasidion root disease (HRD), formerly known as annosum root rot, was recently found in Fond du Lac and Racine counties for the first time. Thinned pine stands were surveyed by DNR forestry staff in four eastern counties where the disease had not been previously found (Fond du Lac, Manitowoc, Racine and Winnebago counties).

Counties where Heterobasidion root disease (HRD) has been found as of August 2021 are shown in green.

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Wild Cucumber Will Catch Your Attention

Plants that are pokey, viney or spread quickly across the landscape sometimes seem alarming when you discover them in your backyard or woods or when they’re spotted along the highway. Wild cucumber has all these characteristics but is not as ominous as it seems.

Wild cucumber (Echinocystis lobata) is a vine native across the U.S. and found throughout Wisconsin. It has maple-like star-shaped leaves and has pale greenish-white flowers from July through September. A single plant is self-fertile but can also be pollinated by bees, wasps and flies. It produces a pod-like fruit with spikes resembling a cucumber which is unsafe to eat. Each pod produces four seeds that fall to the ground when the pod is ripe. The pods may persist into the winter and become thin brown shells.

Star-shaped leaves, pale flowers, and cucumber fruit of wild cucumber. Photo: Bugwood

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What is growing on that oak tree?

By Todd Lanigan, DNR Forest Health Specialist, Eau Claire, or 715-210-0150

This time of year, you may be noticing some large growths on oak leaves. You are either seeing oak apple gall and/or wool sower gall. These galls are formed by a small, stingless wasp, known as a Cynipid Wasp. 

For the oak apple gall, when the female lays her egg, she injects a growth regulator that causes the leaf tissue to form around the egg. When the larvae begin to feed for the wool sower gall, this causes the gall to form. The galls in both cases protect the developing wasps from the elements and predators. 

Oak apple galls are round and initially are green in color. Eventually, the gall turns brown as the wasp larva matures inside.

Oak apple gall growing on the underside of a leaf.

An oak apple gall

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