Tree of the Month

Tree of the Month

Crabapple, malus

by: Lesley Bruce Smith, ISA Certified Arborist

Photos by Lesley Bruce Smith

Crab trees are to the Chicago area what Southern Magnolias are to the State of Georgia, one of our most ubiquitous flowering trees. The amazing show of spring color that the Crab trees in the midwest display are among our most treasured garden treats. The Crabapple trees and all species of the rose family, of which they are a part, are the most cultivated tree species in the horticulturist’s palette. We have over 500 different varieties of Crab trees and that doesn’t even include all the Malus species that include the eating apples we have cultivated. But who can blame us, for the riotous spring explosion after our long hard winters and the long history of their use as food.

Read More

Trees Need Birds

Trees Need Birds

Backyard Wisdom
by Gilbert A Smith, ISA Certified Master Arborist

Every one knows that the birds need trees for protection, perches, for hunting grounds and to nest and raise families in. Did you know that trees need birds? Of course they do. This symbiosis or mutualism doesn’t just apply to worms, ants, people and trees it also is the case for birds. When you hear the knock knock knock of a woodpecker you’re hearing a bird mining a tree for insects that may be harming the tree. Some experts estimate that 17% of the Emerald Ash Borer are eaten by wood peckers. Unfortunately that’s not enough to keep the Borer from killing our Ash trees. Because it was introduced without its natural controlling insects and diseases the borer has gone wild and with it the population of wood peckers has soared.

Read More

April is Arbor Day Month

April is Arbor Day Month

Mother Nature’s Moment

by Lesley Bruce Smith, ISA Certified Arborist

Did you know that Arbor Day was first instituted by Julius Sterling Morton, in April of 1872, in the state of Nebraska. Mr. Morton, who was then a recent pioneer to the state of Nebraska from his home in Michigan, missed the beautiful green of trees. Nebraska was a prairie state and devoid of trees in the 1800’s. On that first Arbor Day in Nebraska, over a million trees were planted, many by the school children of the state. During the later 1870‘s other states passed legislation to observe Arbor Day and the tradition to observe it in schools nation wide began in 1882.

Read More

Tree of the Month

Tree of the Month

Tuliptree • Liriodendrum tulipifera

photos and text by: Lesley Bruce Smith

The Liriodendrum tulipifera was named by Linnaeus, the father of our binomial naming system, and it is a lovely name that means “lily tree bearing tulips”. It is a name that fits it perfectly. The Tuliptree is one of those trees that has many common names, Yellow Poplar, Tulip Poplar and was called Canoe Wood Tree by the native people of Eastern America where this tree originates. All these names point to some characteristic of the tree that was appreciated. The tulip references the beautiful pale yellow flowers that come out in our area in about June.

Read More

The Remarkable Lifting Power of Trees

The Remarkable Lifting Power of Trees

Backyard Wisdom

by: Gilbert A Smith, ISA B. Certified Master Arborist

Did you know that trees are weight lifters, and that they use that super human strength to get water to their leaves which are sometimes hundreds of feet above their roots?

Simply put, trees are like giant straws and the sun energy sucks the water up from the roots hundreds of feet to the leaves, just like we use a straw to suck water from the bottom of a glass.

Read More

Landscaping for Wildlife

Landscaping for Wildlife

Mother Nature’s Moment

text and photos by: Lesley Bruce Smith, ISA Certified Arborist

A few weeks ago I attended a workshop sponsored by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources on the management of our landscapes for wildlife. When we think of wildlife in “our habitat” areas we often think of raccoons, chipmunks, deer, squirrels, rabbits, maybe even coyotes. You may be surprised to know that we have 159 species of mammals in Illinois, mostly rodents, but almost three times the number of bird species.  By my count, we have 448 bird species that have been found in Illinois.

Read More

Tree of the Month • Weeping Willow, Salix babylonica

Tree of the Month • Weeping Willow, Salix babylonica

by: Lesley Bruce Smith, ISA Certified Arborist

Weeping Willows are one of those tree species that have captured the imagination of artists down through the centuries. This is a tree native to China, yet Linnaeus named the Weeping Willow, Salix babylonica to honor the willows mentioned in the Bible. The Hebrews, exiled to Babylon:  “wept when we remembered Zion (and) we hanged our harps upon the willow in the midst thereof”.

Read More

Traveling South with the Arborsmiths - Part 3

Traveling South with the Arborsmiths - Part 3

Backyard Wisdom

by Master, ISA certified arborists  Gilbert A. Smith

Driving south in October the fall color was in its early stages. In Wisconsin the colors were dramatic but the Tennessee trees had time to dawdle.  However, just south of Birmingham Alabama the fall color stopped altogether and we crossed over into the land of eternal summer.

Read More

The Good that Trees Do

The Good that Trees Do

Mother Nature’s Moment

by: Lesley Bruce Smith, ISA certified arborist

All of us know that trees and plants are important for our survival. We remember our grade school science lessons about photosynthesis and the gift of clean fresh air (O2) that trees provide.  But trees quietly perform so many important functions for us that often go unappreciated and unrecognized.

Just three to four strategically located shade trees around a house can cut summer cooling costs by 30%-50%.

Read More

2015 Winter Snowfall Alert!

2015 Winter Snowfall Alert!

The significant snowfall we are experiencing can create real problems for our homes.  Ice dams that accumulate on the edge of the roof can cause water back ups that do interior damage creating the need for expensive repairs.

This can easily be prevented by getting the snow off the overhanging eaves of the roof as quickly as possible.  The ice dams form at the eaves because snow melts on the area of the roof where heat is escaping and then freezes in the cold when it gets out over the unheated eaves.  

Read More

January Wisdom from the Trees • Tree of the Month

January Wisdom from the Trees • Tree of the Month

Red Oak, Quercus rubra

text and photos by:
Lesley Bruce Smith, ISA certified arborist

The Red Oak is one of our more common and beautiful native trees in the Oak family. Although susceptible to Oak wilt, a fungal pathogen that is potentially fatal, the Red Oak species are an important part of our urban forests. I love their fall color especially. Yet they have much to commend them all through the year. They have a long history of ethnobotany, the scientific study of the relationship between the use of plants by people. The Iroquois people had an interesting use of Red Oaks for healing ruptured navels. Callus bark or the rounded healing growth that appears when a tree is wounded would be scraped off the tree. This was then dried and powdered into a fine dust and then probably made into a paste and applied to the navel to assist in healing.

Read More

Traveling South with the Arborsmiths, Part 2

Traveling South with the Arborsmiths, Part 2

Backyard Wisdom by Gilbert A. Smith, ISA Board Certified Master Arborist
all photo credits: Lesley Bruce Smith

In Northern Illinois the dominant species, the king of the prairie, remains the giant Burr Oak. Standing strong where most trees fail. You can see it on hill tops and out crops from Chicago to Rockford and all the way through Iowa. Burr Oak still grows down south but it becomes far less prominent, while the Red and Shingle Oak, Sweet Gum, Red Maple and of course Sycamore are the trees we notice at 60 MPH.

The Flowering Dogwood, in October, was in burgundy fall color taking over the understory. In May before the big trees foliate, when the Dogwoods and Redbuds dress the forest in white and pink lace it is wonderful to behold the Tennessee and Kentucky woods. Though it is one of the best known flowering trees in the country I’d never even seen a flowering Dogwood until I was 17, when I left Illinois.    

Read More

Can You Tell if a Tree is Alive in the Dead of Winter?

Can You Tell if a Tree is Alive in the Dead of Winter?

Mother Nature’s Moment January 2015

photos and copy by: Lesley Bruce Smith
ISA Certified Master Arborist

This is one of the most common questions we get asked this time of year as arborists.  We know that the buds for next spring’s flush of new growth got formed last summer when the sun’s energy was really strong. It takes a lot of energy to push out all those lovely flowers and fresh green leaves each spring and trees are smart!  They take advantage of the sun’s energy when it’s hot.  Any branch on a tree, or an entire tree, that does not have live buds right now is obviously dead, and those that do have plump juicy buds waiting for spring’s longer warmer days, is alive.

Read More

December Wisdom from the Trees 2014

December Wisdom from the Trees 2014

Live Oak

The Live Oak is so named because it is a tree that is native to the southern climates of the United States and is actually “evergreen”.  We encountered this tree, up close and personal, for the first time, while on our bike ride through Louisiana this fall. Often graced with the softening effects of the spanish moss that hung from its branch tips and the ferns that would grow along its massive horizontal branches, it is without question a quintessential example of enduring arboreal beauty.  While riding one day I stopped and photographed the tree shown here and paced off its size.  It has a 125 foot branch spread and its trunk was 10 feet in diameter!  It made me reflect on the fact that it was alive and probably quite large at the birth of our nation.  A conservative estimate of its age would be between 350 and 450 years old and I felt quite humbled standing below its massive canopy.

The Live Oak was used for ship building and starting in 1799 large stands of southern land covered in Live Oak were purchased by the federal government for naval purposes. The Oak, it has been said, can be compared to our dog friends in its place as man’s companion. Throughout Europe and North America the Oak has a long history of deep religious and magical significance.

Read More

September Wisdom from the Trees 2014

September Wisdom from the Trees 2014

Mother Nature’s Moment
by: Lesley Bruce Smith, ISA certified arborist

Team Tyler Rides

From time to time it is good to come to you not just as your arborists but as fellow human beings.  Eleven years ago this December we lost our 15 year old niece, Tyler Rebekah Byrd Smith to a rare form of germ cell cancer.  Sadly the funding for cancer research for pediatric cancers is only 4% of the national Federal totals.  This is the case even today, in spite of the fact that more children die of cancer in this country than AIDS, asthma, cystic fibrosis, congenital abnormalities and diabetes combined.  

Gil’s brother, Jon, and his wife Kim, Tyler’s parents, are riding their bikes across the USA, over 3000 miles, from San Diego, CA to St. Augustine, FL.

Read More

July and August Wisdom from the Trees 2014

July and August Wisdom from the Trees 2014

Tree of the month
Cucumbertree Magnolia  • Magnolia acuminata

Gilbert A Smith, ISA Certified Master Arborist

It’s a funny sounding name that doesn’t really capture this tree unless, of course, you’re just looking at the flowers and fruit, which must have been what the botanist that named it was looking at.  The hardiest of all the Magnolias the flower isn’t showy, white or pink the way you’d expect.  Flowers born on the upper parts of the tree, which grows 60 to 80 feet, you generally don’t know that you are looking at a magnolia at all.  If you look real hard the fruit does look a little like a cucumber.  I recommend it as a replacement for Ash trees and it’s among the best.

Read More

June Wisdom from the Trees 2014

June Wisdom from the Trees 2014

Tree of the Month
Hawthorne • Crataegus sp.

by Gilbert A Smith
ISA Certified Master Arborist

Thirty five years ago this month Lesley, my pretty young bride, stepped out from behind a Hawthorn and right there we were married in the middle of a grove of Downey Hawthorns in full flower. Every year when the Downeys dress up in their creamy, white clusters of daisy like flowers, we remember that happy day. If you were to pin me down I might say that the Downey Hawthorn is my favorite tree.

Here are the other reasons I like it...

Read More

May Wisdom from the Trees 2104

May Wisdom from the Trees 2104

Tree of the Month

Sycamore • Platanus occidentalis

O the moonlight’s fair tonight along the Wabash From the fields there comes the breath of new mown hay Through the Sycamores the candle lights are gleaming  On the banks of the Wabash, far away”

Maybe you recognize the state song of Indiana

The Sycamore tree is a standout, both because of its large size and it’s mottled white bark, that earns it the names of White Tree and Lacewood Tree. The bark of the Sycamore is too rigid to split or furrow as the tree expands (which is what most other trees do). Instead, “plates” of Sycamore bark break off and fall away revealing lovely, massive, white, mottled trunks.

Read More

April Wisdom from the Trees 2014

Tree of the Month

Apple • Malus

by Gilbert A Smith 

ISA Certified Master Arborist

Photos by Lesley Bruce Smith

Photos by Lesley Bruce Smith

There is so much to say about the wonderful Apple tree, but alas, all we have time for is a brief fly over.

Apples originated between the Black and Caspian Seas.  Archeological records find dried Apples used as food in 6500 BCE during the stone age. Indeed they are so important a food source that apples and humans seem to have co-evolved, each one depending on the other for the propagation and dissemination of our respective species.  Apples were the favorite fruit of the ancient Greeks and Romans so we find reference to apples more than any other fruit in western literature.  

AppleOrchard_Arbormsith.jpg

A private Apple Orchard in Long Grove, IL“As American as apple pie?”  Actually there were no native Apples in North America only their small, tart, uncultured relative the Crabapple.  The earliest European settlers brought live trees, not seeds because only live trees would produce the large juicy apples that we love.  Remember the co-evolution I was talking about?  The earliest writings of China, Egypt and Babylon show that people understood grafting (cloning) of fruit trees.  If they had brought seeds as Johnny Appleseed did, the genetic make up of the new tree would be completely different than the parent and usually a big disappointment.

 At first  Apples didn’t produce very well in the new world because the native bees didn’t pollinate the imported Apples.  Remember the co evolution?  Only after the Europeans brought Honeybees in 1622 did the Apples consistently bear fruit.  

Arborsmith_AppleTree.jpg

John Chapman or Johnny Appleseed (1774-1845) was a Swedenborgian (as was once the author of this article), who wanted to serve God and who’s dream was for the land to produce so many Apples that no one would ever go hungry. He collected seeds from cider mills and gave them to anyone going west.  For 40 years he planted these seeds in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Iowa. Didn’t Johnny know, as the Babylonians did, that non grafted Apples yield fruit that is sub standard and usable only for making hard cider? Remember co-evolution? Johnny’s Apples may not have been edible but his seed spreading gave the Apple a vast genetic storehouse in this country that never would have been achieved if we only grew grafted trees. From this genetic bank Apple breeders have selected all of the delicious varieties that we enjoy today.

Apple trivia:

A medium size apple takes the energy of 50 leaves to produce, has only about 80 calories, is fat and sodium free and if you eat it with the peel it has 5 grams of the fibre pectin, as well as lots of powerful disease fighting antioxidants.  "An apple a day really does keep the doctor a way".

Americans consume about 21 pounds of Apples every year, they are the second most valuable fruit grown in the US, and one out of 4 is exported, maybe because Europeans annually eat 46 pounds of Apples.

Apples are #1 on the list of the "dirty dozen" fruits that if you are concerned about pesticides in your food you should eat organic.  This is because conventional orchards do a lot of pest control with highly toxic organophosphates that remain in the fruit in trace amounts.

Guess What’s In Flower This Month?

Backyard Wisdom by Gilbert A Smith 

ISA Certified Master Arborist

White Oak flowers and new spring leaves

White Oak flowers and new spring leaves

It’s the shade trees that are flowering. What? You’ve never noticed?  You’re not alone. Many people are surprised when we tell them that their Maples, Oaks and even Pines are in flower.

The reason that we don’t see shade tree flowers is that they don’t need to be showy or fragrant to attract insect, bird or bat pollinators. What they need is something that we have plenty of in April, WIND. In addition, there are no leaves this month to inhibit the wind from doing its cross pollinating job.

White Birch Flowers

White Birch Flowers

There are some species where both male and female reside on the same tree and yet they have clever mechanisms to prevent the tree from pollenating itself. These are called monoecious, and include Alder, Birch, Beech, Oak, Hickory, Spruce, Pine, Arborvitae and many others. Unfortunately, their pollen may cause an allergic reaction.

Some tree species have the male and female flowers on different plants to insure cross pollination. They’re called dioecious and include, Maples, Ash, Poplar, Willow, Yew, and Juniper. If you are allergy sensitive you want to promote the female of these species, which are the ones that bear fruit, and avoid the male plants because their pollen is more numerous, lighter and tends to cause more allergic reactions.

Norway Maple flowers and new spring leaves

Norway Maple flowers and new spring leaves

It is a curious and sad fact that with the purpose of eliminating messy berries, pods or seeds, landscape committees and tree planning commissions have unwittingly mandated the planting of those male, dioecious trees which are the worst allergy producing trees.

So why is cross pollination so important? Cross pollination creates genetic variation so that trees have a variety of resistance to diseases, insects and adaptability to changing climatic conditions. Trees, like people, have survived down through the ages because of genetic variation. So even though it causes a reaction for allergy sufferers, cross pollination is a very good thing.

Silver Poplar Flowers

Silver Poplar Flowers

Did you know that most of our municipal street trees are cloned? That means that they are all exactly genetically identical. This is kind of scary. Trees, plants, and animals have survived because they’ve had a variety of strategies to deal with the many challenges faced in their long history. Tree cloning shrinks and drastically reduces a tree’s ability to survive in a changing world. It is important to note that there is a direct connection between over planting one species and epidemics like Dutch Elm Disease, and Emerald Ash Borer.

Weeping Willow flowers

Weeping Willow flowers

So what survival lessons can we learn from the trees and their wind flowers?

  • The most obvious lesson is that plants have survived because of diversity. When we select a tree for our home landscape or street-scape, plant something different than the trees that we are familiar with. Check Arborsmith’s list of replacement trees on our website.
  • Use native plants whenever possible to promote diversification and health.
  • If you are an allergy sufferer, request a female tree when planting a new replacement.
  • This spring, look for the tiny but beautiful flowers that are the evidence of millions of years of tree survival.

The Power of the Organic Landscape

Mother Nature's Moment

by Lesley Bruce Smith ISA Certified Arborist

Gil & Lesley with Jeanne & Verd Nolan

Gil & Lesley with Jeanne & Verd Nolan

Last weekend, Gil and I co-taught a new class with Jeanne and Verd Nolan of the Organic Gardener at the Chalet Nursery for their spring lecture series, titled The Power of the Organic Landscape Garden.  It was a spectacular success so I thought I would share some of the juicy bits with all of you!  There is a lot of confusion about what it means to be organic. The US Department of Agriculture actually certifies food growers to carry the label “organic”  which means they have gone through a pretty rigorous process to prove their production meets a strict set of guidelines (you can read all about it here: http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/nop.

StrongHealthyPlants_LesleyBruceSmith.jpg

Strong plants are healthy plants, our goal is to keep plants strong.So few of our landscapes would ever qualify as organic, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make a difference!  Everyone in midwest America lives in the Mississippi River watershed.  What that means is, that what we do here matters pretty much everywhere on the globe, because our water all ends up in the Atlantic Ocean!  When it comes to growing our fruits and veggies, organic is the best way to go, but when it comes to our ornamental landscapes we need to work towards as much of an earth friendly environment as we can.  Things we can do that can make a big difference towards making our landscapes as earth friendly as possible include:

SpringFlowers_LesleyBruceSmith.jpg
  • Mulching under our trees to preserve water, nutrients and provide great root growing environments
  • Mulching under our trees also saves time mowing the lawn which preserves the use of fossil fuels, reducing pollution, in addition to eliminating the need for the use of many artificial fertilizers or pesticides because it increases the tree’s natural ability to fight off invading insects and diseases.
  • Trimming using horticulturally sound techniques, the only ones Arborsmith uses ;-), to prevent the creation of disease and ill health.
  • Eliminate the use of pesticides and herbicides on our lawns.  There are lots of ways to tackle the weed problems in our lawns without the use of herbicides but maybe the most important one is to remember that perfectly dandelion and clover free lawns are not normal natural or healthy and those “weed” flowers are great honeybee and butterfly oasis food.
  • Compost our vegetable matter from the kitchen and our green waste from the yard.

There is so much more to say but if you would like an evaluation of your property to move towards a more earth friendly landscape check out the Conserve Lake County Conservation@home program or give your earth friendly Arborsmiths a call.  We would love to consult with you on how to save your little corner of the world and make it a more healthy place for us all.

March Wisdom from the Trees 2014

Tree of the Month • White and Paper Birches

Betula papyrifera, Betula alba

by Lesley Bruce Smith

ISA Certified Arborist

All photos: Lesley Bruce Smith©2014

LesleyBruceSmithPaperBirch.jpg

A Betula papyrifera, Paper Birch located in Northern Door County, WI on the edge of a meadow.The Birch tree is a favorite among North American trees. It likes the colder and more moderate temperatures along the northern shores of the Great Lakes. The English language is filled with poems referencing birch trees, I am sure because their distinctive powdery smooth pale colored bark make them a standout in the forest and the landscape. Even in their favorite environment, Birch trees do not live very long, only about 80 years, and are pioneer species. This means they are the first ones to establish themselves into areas of land that have yet to create forest, like the once newly glaciated plains of the midwest, or freshly burned prairies of the central states. Birch trees find their homes on the edges, the edges between prairie and forests, the edges of water, the edges of short lived (grasses) and long lived (forest) species, the edges of light.

LesleyBruceSmithWhiteBirch.jpg
LesleyBruceSmithCanoeBirch.png

Their Sanskrit name, bhrag, meant shining and I am sure it is because these distinctive species are full of light.A Betula papyrifera, Paper Birch or Canoe Birch located in N. Door County, WI in summer on the edge of a meadow. They have airy crowns that dapple the sunshine on their light colored bark with beautiful artistry. That light colored bark contains a substance known as betulin, a crystalline substance making it pale as well as waterproof. President Thomas Jefferson wrote to Meriwether Lewis recommending that he use birch bark paper for his field notes as it was “less liable to injury from damp than common paper”. However, birch trees have been serving humans long before writing. The buds and sap and even the bark could be eaten, and early New Englanders fermented birch sap for beer. They have been used to make shelter, clothing, cooking and eating utensils, dolls, baby cradles, and of course, because of the waterproof nature of the bark, the beautiful canoe. Longfellow has immortalized this in his epic poem Song of Hiawatha:

A White Birch along the shore of Northern Lake Michigan in January against an electric blue sky.“Give me of your bark, O Birch-tree!

    .................

I a light canoe will build me Lay aside your cloak, O Birch Tree! Lay aside your white-skin wrapper!

    ..................

And the tree with all its branches

LesleyBruceSmithRiverbirch.jpg

Rustled in the breeze of morning,

Saying with a sigh of patience,

‘Take my cloak, O Hiawatha!’”

Their are many kinds of Betula species including the Yellow, Silver, Downy, Water, Asian, and one of our Chicago hardy favorites, the River. The Birches have a long history of use and association with sacred rites and ceremonies, as their “light” makes them somewhat magical, mysterious and extremely well loved.

“One could do worse than be a swinger of birches” wrote Robert Frost.  As swingers of Birches, we agree.

The White Birch’s cousin, the Riverbirch is a favorite of ours because it is hardy in the Chicago area and has a beautiful cinnamon colored exfoliating bark that gives interest all year long. After this winter, any plant that can look good in the winter gets extra points. Read more about it in September 2012 tree of the month.

Sweet gifts from the trees

Backyard Wisdom by Gilbert A Smith 

ISA Certified Master Arborist

Ojibwa woman gathering Maple sap for sugaring.  

Ojibwa-woman-father-maple-syrup.jpg

photo credit from: http://firstpeoples.org/wp/maple-syrup-threatened-by-climate-change/The celebration is a month later this year than last but it is finally here.  When the daytime temperature is in the 40s and at night it descends into the 20’s a uniquely American festival begins, lasting a month or more. Some of the Native Americans who first celebrated it, called it Sugar Moon Festival during which they did a Maple Dance, you guessed it, it’s Maple Sugaring time.  

Maple Sugaring is not an European import. The Algonquin people cut a “v” shape into Maple trunks and used a reed to drain the sap into wooden tree trunk buckets. They showed the Europeans how to concentrate the sugars by putting hot stones into the sap to boil off the water or by letting the sap freeze and removing the ice.

The chemistry behind this phenomena is not completely understood but here is my version. In the summer, the tree converts the sun’s energy into sugar and stores it in the trunk and roots, as a starch.  In late winter the tree converts the starch back to usable sugar. The higher concentration of sugar inside the tree creates osmotic pressure, pulling water from the soil and pushing it throughout the tree.

LesleyBruceSmithSugarMaples.jpeg

"Sugar Bush" is the term used for a high concentration of Sugar Maples.  

Sugar Bush at the Ryerson Conservation Area, Riverwoods, ILThe tree uses this sugar energy to grow or respire and like people the tree gives off carbon dioxide when it respires.  I’ll bet you thought trees only breathed in carbon dioxide and breathed out oxygen. You’re right, when a tree is photosynthesizing it uses carbon dioxide and gives off oxygen. However, at night when there is no sun, the tree is also using oxygen and giving off carbon dioxide.  

What we have then, is carbonated sap, much like a carbonated drink, when the temperature rises this time of year it forms bubbles that create pressure which drives the sap up into the tree tops and out any cuts or holes in the sapwood, which is just below the bark. When it cools at night the carbon bubbles shrink, creating more vacuum that pulls water from the soil.  This wonderful process only happens in late winter when the temperature goes just below and just above freezing.

ArborsmithMapleSyrup.jpeg

Here are a few other fun facts about Maple sugaring. If it is done responsibly it doesn’t hurt the tree because it uses only about 7% of the sap.  Each year an average Sugar Maple will produce 17 gallons of sap and it takes about 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of Maple syrup. Maple Syrup is regulated and has to contain 66% sugar. It also contains natural phenols and anti-oxidants and 300 different flavor compounds that make it unique and not duplicatable. There are many imitations that contain mostly corn syrup and which the Quebecois refer to as “syrup de poteau”  or syrup tapped from telephone poles.  Abolitionists used only Maple Sugar because slaves were used to make cane sugar.

So the next time you have pancakes with real Maple Syrup you will have a story to tell about the sweet gift of the trees and the American Indians. 

The Buzz on Bees

Mother Nature's Moment

by Lesley Bruce Smith ISA Certified Arborist

LesleyBruceSmithBees.jpg

Bees on newly installed sugar in feeder tray, excited to get some extra energy before the next polar blastIt has been a tough winter for all of us, especially for the honey bees.  I am so grateful for my bee mentor, Larry Studer, who came over in January, (yes January!) and helped me check into my two hives.  I was worried about one of them because I did not hear any activity in the hive.  Sadly, we discovered my strongest hive had died of starvation;(.  Not because they did not have enough food stores/honey, but because the temperatures had been so cold for so many consecutive days they could not move around enough to access the honey they had. It was a grievous thing to open the hive and find the cluster of bees all dead and frozen.  This is a year for the stout of heart, both bees and beekeepers.

ArborsmithWeather.jpg

With Larry’s wise help we transferred the extra honey stores in the failed hive to my hive that was still thriving.  This was a hive we had established late in the summer 2013 with a new nucleus (nuc), which is comprised of several (6-8) frames filled with honey and laden with honeybees and their queen.  At that time, we also added bees and honey from my existing stronger hive which was absolutely packed with both.  In this way we were able to get the new hive off to a strong start.  It is still a mystery and a wonder to me how those wise little honeybees sort it all out. I did not harvest any honey last year in an effort to keep my hives healthy and strong.  During this winter I was very glad for that decision.  

LesleyBruceSmithFrozenBeeHive.jpg
LesleyBruceSmithBeeHive.jpg

Opening the live hive in January to discover a very healthy colony! The bees don’t ever sleep.When Larry came in January, because of my concern, he did something I would have never had the courage to do on my own, as a novice beekeeper.  He opened the hive on a 20F day when the snow was falling, to see what was going on and to install some feeder trays with clumped sugar he had prepared before hand to provide supplemental food. What a sad thing to open the hive and find the once vibrant cluster of bees all frozen and dead. This was just before the second polar vortex creeped down from the fridged north.

LesleyBruceSmithBee.jpg

Beginning the transfer of honey stores to the living hive on the left from the dead hive on the right. The “dirt” on the snow are the bees from the frozen hive.After thoughtfully inspecting the hive colony we set to work to carefully move the remaining honey stores into the still active hive.  We placed the honey stores as close to the live cluster as we could manage without hurting them.  They were feisty, even in the cold, and managed to sting Larry several times.  I was stung a few weeks later, on another just below freezing day, while adding additional sugar to their stores.  As smart as they are, I wish those girls understood I was their friend, not a foe.  I am happy to report that as of mid-March, they are active and healthy and I am praying we can get them into the real spring weather, surviving until their natural flower food supplies are in full swing.  Won’t that be a welcome time for us all!