Tag: tree

Trees and Shrubs For Midwestern Clay Soils

Most of the Midwestern area is comprised of clay soils. Never fear! This is a much better situation to have than sandy soils. Clay soils maintain more minerals and moisture than other soils.

Sometimes clay soils can be bad, such as in conditions where there are more problems than just the soil. If while digging in the soil, it looks blueish-black and smells kinda off, this is because of poor drainage and the smell is from rotting organisms. The area should be assessed for drainage problems before anything else is done.

If the clay is a redish-orange, this is perfect as the soil is holding all the minerals plants crave.

With regards to planting woody plants, be sure to plant these correctly and never lower than the top of the roots of the rootball. If you’re at all concerned about the clay content of your soil, plant you woody plant a bit higher. Trust me, they will love you for it!!

  • For perennials for clay soils ~ CLICK HERE

Trees for Clay Soils

Scientific Name Common Name Grow Zone
Abies balsamea Balsam fir 3
Abies concolor White fir 4
Acer freemanii Freeman maple 4
Acer ginnala Amur or ginnala maple 3
Acer platanoides Norway maple 4
Acer rubrum Red maple 3
 Acer saccharinum Silver maple 3
Alnus glutinosa European alder 4
Betula nigra River birch 4
Carpinus caroliniana Blue beech 4
Carya cordiformis Bitternut hickory 4
Carya ovata Shagbark hickory 4
Celtis occidentalis Common hackberry 2
Crataegus species Hawthorn 3-4
Fraxinus nigra Black ash 3
Fraxinus pennsylvanica Green ash 3
Ginkgo biloba Ginkgo 4
Gleditsia triacanthos Common honeylocust 4
Gymnocladus dioicus Kentucky coffeetree 4
Juglans cinerea Butternut 4
Juglans nigra Black walnut 4
Larix decidua European larch 4
Larix laricina Tamarack 2
Malus species Apple, crabapple 3
Phellodendron amurense Amur corktree 4
Picea abies Norway spruce 4
Picea glauca var. densata Black Hills spruce 4
Pinus nigra Austrian pine 4
Pinus strobus White pine 3
Pinus sylvestris Scots pine 3
Pinus ponderosa Ponderosa pine 4
Populus species Aspen, cottonwood 2
Pyrus species Pear 4-5
Quercus bicolor Swamp white oak 4
Quercus macrocarpa Bur oak 3
Salix species Willow 2
Syringa reticulata Japanese tree lilac 4
Tilia species Linden, basswood 3
Ulmus species Elm 4

Shrubs for Clay Soils

Scientific Name Common Name Grow Zone
Amelanchier species Serviceberry 4
Aronia melanocarpa Chokeberry 3
Caragana arborescens Siberian peashrub 3
Cephalanthus occidentalis Buttonbush 4
Cornus alba Tatarian dogwood 3
Cornus alternifolia Pagoda dogwood 4
Cornus racemosa Grey dogwood 3
Cornus sericea Red osier dogwood 3
Diervilla lonicera Dwarf bush-honeysuckle 3
Elaeagnus commutata Silverberry 2
Euonymus alatus Burning bush 3
Forsythia x ‘Meadowlark’ ‘Meadowlark’ forsythia 3
Forsythia x ‘Northern Sun’ ‘Northern Sun’ forsythia 3
Hamamelis virginiana Witch hazel 4
Ilex verticillata Winterberry 4
Juniperus species (most) Juniper 3
Physocarpus opulifolius Common ninebark 2
Potentilla Fruticosa Potentilla 2
Rhus species Sumac 2
Ribes alpinum Alpine currant 2
Ribes odoratum Clove currant 2
Rosa rugosa Rugosa rose 2
Salix species Willow 2
Sambucus canadensis American elderberry 3
Spiraea species Spirea 3-4
Symphoricarpos albus White snowberry 3
Syringa species Lilac 2
Thuja occidentalis Arborvitae, white cedar 3
Viburnum dentatum Arrowwood viburnum 3
Viburnum lentago Nannyberry viburnum 2
Viburnum opulus European cranberry bush 3
Viburnum sargentii Sargent viburnum 4
Viburnum trilobum Highbush cranberry bush 2

© The Naturarian

Signs of Spring in the Midwest: Yellow Willows (Salix)

One of the first signs of spring (to me) is when the willows start to turn bright yellow. You can’t miss them in the dreary, white, Midwestern landscape.

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Some Facts About the Willow (Salix):

  • When compared to other trees, life span of a weeping willow is shorter because of its fast growing nature, some don’t thrive past 30 years.
  • They need to be grown in full sun.
  • Their height and width can be 30 to 55 feet. Willows can grow 10 inches in a good growing year.
  • The fruit of the tree is a small brown capsule. It is around half-inch long.
  • The tree is very brittle because it grows quite rapidly.
  • The bark turns reddish/brown during the winter and yellow/green in the spring.
  • Pests like aphids and tent caterpillars can destroy the tree quite quickly. You should frequently check for conditions like powdery mildew, crown gall, and canker.
  • You may cut some branches in spring, remove the bottom leaves and put them in a jar of water. Keep the jar out in the sun. Roots will grow within 15 to 20 days. However, if you want a specific variety, it is better to buy it.
  • Historically, beautiful baskets are woven using willow stems.

Country folk have known the healing properties of willow for a long time. They made an infusion from the bark as a remedy for colds, fevers, and to treat inflammatory conditions such as rheumatism. Young willow twigs were also chewed to relieve pain. In the early nineteenth century, modern science isolated the active ingredient responsible, salicylic acid, which was also found in the meadowsweet plant Filipendula ulmaria. From this the world’s first synthetic drug, acetylasylic acid, was developed and marketed as Aspirin, named after the old botanical name for meadowsweet, Spirea ulmaria. Botanists love to change the names of plants!

Most willow species grow and prosper close to water or in damp places, and this premise is reflected in the legends associated with these trees. The moon too recurs as a theme, the movement of water being intimately connected with and affected by the moon. For example, Hecate the powerful Greek goddess of the moon and of willow, also taught sorcery and witchcraft, and was ‘a mighty and formidable divinity of the Underworld’. Helice was also associated with water, and her priestesses utilized willow in their water magic and witchcraft. The willow muse, called Heliconian after Helice, was sacred to poets, and the Greek poet Orpheus brought willow branches on his adventures in the Underworld. Apollo also gave Orpheus a lyre, and it is interesting to note that the sound boxes of harps used to be carved from solid willow wood.

© The Naturarian

Vines Growing on Trees – Good or Bad?

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Trumpet Vine

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English ivy and other evergreen vines can cause problems in trees, along with fast growing deciduous (lose their leaves in winter) vines like Kudzu. However, not all vines do harm to trees.

Problem Vines:

  • English ivy (Hedera helix)
  • Boston ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata )
  • Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica)
  • Chinese/Japanese wisteria (Wisteria spp.)
  • Kudzu (Pueraria spp.)
  • Euonymus  (spp.)

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These are just a few of the bad vines to allow to grow on trees. Evergreen and fast growing vines should be avoided or removed if possible. All vines can cause structural problems – The added weight can break branches along with the vine catching more wind, snow or ice than the tree is used to receiving, possibly causing it to topple. Some vines that start as a groundcover (such as ivy), form a dense mat covering the tree’s buttress or root flare. The vine often causes leaves and debris to pile up against the root collar and traps moisture against the trunk and root flare. This can cause many fungal and bacterial type diseases, as well as potential structural decay at the base of the tree. Deciduous vines aren’t necessarily any better than their evergreen counterparts. They, too have the capability of shading out the tree’s leaves, adding weight and even girdling (strangling) the tree’s limbs and trunk. Some common vines in this category; Chinese/Japanese wisteria, trumpet vine and pipevine. Trumpet vine and pipevine are native to the Midwest and usually confine their growth to trees at the edge of woods or those that are standing alone. Therefore, they don’t represent a threat to the forest overall, but they can take their toll on individual trees. It comes to personal preference if you want to go down this road.

Leave Them Be Vines:

Vines that are smaller and grow more slowly that can usually be allowed to grow on trees.

  • Clematis species
  • Virgin’s bower (native clematis – Clematis virginiana)
  • Crossvine (Bignonia capreolata)
  • Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quincifolia)
  • Carolina moonseed (Cocculus carolinus)
  • Maypop / Purple Passion Flower (Passiflora incarnata)
  • Poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans)

Although Virginia creeper and crossvine can grow quickly and get large, I’ve never seen any tree so overgrown with them as to pose a problem even though crossvine can be evergreen. The clematis vines (including the native), Carolina moonseed and maypop climb by twining, however do not strangle the tree. Crossvine, Virginia creeper and poison ivy climb by using their aerial roots. People often confuse Virginia creeper and poison ivy. Just remember this little ditty:

“Leaves of three, leave it be. Leaves of five, leave it alive (or let it thrive).”

And before anyone jumps down my throat about the poison ivy, I would like to remind everyone that the Audubon Society considers poison ivy to be one of the top food sources for song birds, with about 63 species feeding on the berries. It’s so important, that nature has essential plant foods for birds. However, I digress. … Should you decide to let a smaller, slower-growing vine grow up a living tree, be prepared to manage the vine by cutting it back to keep it confined to the trunk and not allow it to grow on the limbs which could add weight and change the tree’s center of gravity as well as shade the tree’s leaves. Make sure that fallen leaves and other plant debris don’t collect at the bottom of the vine against the host tree or diseases may follow. Should a tree that is hosting a vine show signs of stress, the vine will have to go for the health of the tree. One last thought. Dead trees that are left standing (snags) can be used for vines. Just remember that this arrangement will be temporary, as the snag will eventually decay to the point of falling. Just make sure it won’t hit anything when it comes down.

© The Naturarian

Hey Neighbor, We Need to Talk….

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If my neighbor’s tree branches hang into my yard, can I trim them?

Yes. By law, you have the right to trim branches and limbs that extend past your property line, nothing further into the neighbor’s yard. You may not go onto the neighbor’s property or destroy the tree. If you do harm to the tree, you could be found liable for up to three times the value of the tree. Most trees have a replacement value of between $500 and $3,500. Some are considered ornamental or landmark trees and can have an astonishing values of between $20,000 and $60,000. Be sure to use extreme caution when tree trimming!

If my neighbor owns a fruit tree and the branches hang over my property, can I eat the fruit?

No. The fruit of the tree belongs to the owner of the tree, so don’t pick any unless you’ve asked! Courts are divided on who can have fallen fruit, however. Be sure to check your local laws to see if you can eat any fruit that falls from the tree.

If my neighbor’s leaves keep blowing into my yard, could I file a nuisance claim?

No. Leaves are considered a natural product. Even if the leaves cause damage, like clogging your gutters or pipes, you have no legal claims against the owner of the tree.

However, if the tree branches that are shedding the leaves are hanging over your yard, or the tree trunk is encroaching on your property, then you have a right to trim those branches up to your property line.

You could also consider building a fence. Fencing that is built on your side of the property line may help those leaves from blowing over into your yard. Ever heard the saying, “Fences make better neighbors”?

Most of a large tree hangs over my yard, but the trunk is in the neighbor’s yard. Who’s tree is it?

The neighbor owns the tree. So long as the tree trunk is wholly in the neighbor’s yard, it belongs to the neighbor.

When the tree trunk is divided by the property lines of two or more people, it is referred to as a “boundary tree”. In the case of a “boundary tree”, all of the property owners own the tree and share responsibility for it. Tree removal without the consent of all the property owners is unlawful.

My neighbor dug up his yard, and in the process killed a tree that’s just on my side of the property line. Am I entitled to compensation for the tree?

Yes. In this situation, the tree owner has the right to sue for damages. Anyone who engages in tree removal, tree cutting, or injury to the tree without the owner’s permission is liable for compensating the tree owner. In many cases, the tree-owner has been compensated by up to three times the value of the tree. If you will be excavating near any trees, be sure to consult an arborist.

A storm knocked down my neighbor’s tree limb onto my property, damaging my house, car, and yard furniture. Is he responsible for the damages?

It depends. The court will probably apply a reasonable care standard. If your neighbor took reasonable care to maintain the tree branch and the tree branch did not seem to a reasonable person to be threatening to fall, then probably not. If a reasonable person could not have avoided this from happening in any way, then it will be deemed an Act of God, and the neighbor will not be liable.

If, after applying this reasonable care standard, however, the court finds that a reasonable person would have or should have known that the tree branch posed a danger of falling, or that the neighbor never did reasonable inspections to maintain the tree branch, then the neighbor could be found liable of negligence, and therefore responsible for damages to your property.

My neighbor’s tree looks like it’s going to fall on my house. What should I do?

Landowners are responsible for maintaining the trees on their property. Legally, they have two duties: make reasonable inspections and take care to ensure the tree is safe. Therefore, if a reasonable inspection shows that the tree could be dangerous, your neighbor is responsible for the tree removal. If your neighbor does not remove the dangerous tree, and the tree does in fact cause damage, your neighbor can be held liable.

If you have spoken to your neighbor about the tree issue, and he has not done anything about it you do have laws that protect you. The tree may constitute a nuisance, by interfering with your use and enjoyment of your own property. You could file a nuisance claim, and if the court finds that the true is a nuisance, the court may order the tree removed. Having a professional arborist write a letter describing the condition of the tree will help.

Hopefully, you will not have to go that far. Most cities have ordinances prohibiting property owners from keeping dangerous conditions on their property. If you call your municipality, they may remove the tree themselves or order your neighbor to do it.

Utility companies may also have an interest in the tree’s removal if the tree’s condition threatens any of its equipment. A simple call to a utility company may prompt them to remove the tree themselves.

The spreading of tree roots on my land damaged my neighbor’s septic tank. Do I have to compensate my neighbors?

It depends. You will need to check with your specific state laws, as each state is different. In most states, the bothered neighbor can engage in the tree trimming or root cutting herself, and does not have a claim against the tree owner. Other states provide that neighbors may sue if the following conditions are met:

  • Serious harm caused by encroaching tree limbs or tree roots may give rise to a lawsuit. Serious harm usually requires structural damage, such as damaged roofs or walls, crushed pipes, cracked foundations and cracked or clogged sewers.
  • If an encroaching tree was planted, not wild, the neighbor may sue.
  • A neighbor may only sue if the tree is noxious. “Noxious” means that the tree must be inherently dangerous or poisonous, AND the tree must cause actual damage.

Still other states are not as straightforward, but lawsuits have been successful when the tree does cause substantial damage or interferes with the neighbor’s use and enjoyment of her property (constituting a nuisance claim).

The bottom line is that you need to check your own state’s laws regarding who’s responsible for tree related damage. However, why wait? If you see a tree on your property or a neighbors, hire a professional arborist to check it out. She will bring you piece of mind and may even avert a hefty claim on your homeowners insurance!

Personal Story:
I was reminded of a story regarding this tree… If you look at the left side of the tree, about a third of the way up, you’ll see a large stump. This limb had snapped, was touching the ground, but not completely severed from the tree. In forestry, these are called ‘widow makers’. There is a similar term in heart attacks when a specific area of the heart is effected, as the result is the same. A widow is made.
I saw the snapped limb the next morning after a storm. I had actually heard the crack the night before, although couldn’t see it. Later on that day, I heard a chainsaw fire-up and went out to investigate. My neighbor had his ladder against the tree and his wife was at the end of a rope that was attached to the limb to pull it out of the way when it detached (silly human – Woman=160# and Limb=1500#). I started to run for the fence… It was too late. Before I could either film the possible death of my neighbor or yell for him to stop. The limb gave way.
I’m no physics major, nor slept in a Holiday Inn the night before, so in layman’s terms, the tree was pulled back like a slingshot when the limb fell, and when the limb was cut free, it ‘sprang’! His ladder was propelled backwards with him on it. His chainsaw fell, since he chose to hang onto the ladder instead. Luckily, the wife was clear. Although he was able to lean and send the ladder back forward towards the tree, the location he had rested the ladder originally had shifted and he fell forward, while the ladder feet slid out with the top rung of the ladder scraping down the trunk of the tree. A helluva ride down!!
This all happened in 5 seconds.
This man has already had a heart attack 4 years ago.
Hopefully, the only bad outcome to this was he had to change his pants…


© The Naturarian