Give Your Trees a Breath of Fresh Air

Give Your Trees a Breath of Fresh Air

Backyard Wisdom - March/ April 2018
by: Gilbert A Smith, ISA Board Certified Master Arborist

photo credits: Gilbert A Smith and Lesley Bruce Smith
    
Give your trees a breath of fresh air? Normally we think the other way around, that trees give us a breath of fresh air, and they do. Without trees we would soon choke on our Carbon Dioxide (CO2) and die from lack of Oxygen (O2). Thank you trees! But did you know that tree roots breathe just like we do, “in with the O2 and out with the CO2”? Now you can amaze your friends with this myth busting fact. Try it out on your most knowledgable gardening friends. You'll be surprised by how few people, even landscapers, know this.

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Interview With a Tree About Bark

Interview With a Tree About Bark

Backyard Wisdom
by: Gilbert A Smith, ISA Board Certified Master Arborist

I’m speaking with a 60 year old Black Locust, Robinia pseudoacacia, who grows in the village parkway in Wilmette, Illinois.  

Gil: Mr Black Locust I couldn’t help but notice the beautiful flutes and ridges in your bark. I had to stop and talk. Why is your bark so different from other trees, like the smooth bark of a Beech for instance or the white bark of a Birch?  

Mr. Black Locust: Well let me first clear up one misconception you have concerning me.

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Suckers Suckers

Suckers Suckers

Backyard Wisdom, October/November 2017
by: Gilbert A Smith, ISA Board Certified Master Arborist

Sixty years ago when I was a young sprout, my mother taught me to remove all of the little shoots that came up around the base of our French Hybrid Lilac so it would flower well. The lesson from her was that suckers “sucked” the “juice” out of the Lilac. Many old fashioned landscapers still do this.  

When I was being trained as an arborist fifty years ago I was taught to remove all the suckers from the root crown, trunk and branches of the trees because I was taught it is healthier for the tree and that it looked better.

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Anthocyanins

Anthocyanins

Backyard Wisdom - September 2017
Gilbert A Smith, ISA Board Certified Master Arborist

Can you see the red color of the spring foliage on this Burr Oak? It looks like fall color and in fact this is the same dynamic that goes on every fall. The color is a pigment called anthocyanin, which is responsible for red and purple fall color. But what is it doing in the young spring leaf tissue? Red Anthocyanins are one of the 3 plant pigments.Carotenoids providing orange colors like carrots and chlorophyll, which we all know, is green. These three pigments are present in leaves all the time but the green from chlorophyll usually dominates. 

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Witches Broom

Witches Broom

It sounds medieval, or at least Harry Potteresque, I know, but take a look at the picture and you will agree, witches brooming is rightly named. Now, as you drive the expressways in the large northern cities you will begin to have the affliction that Lesley and I refer to as “the arborist’s eye”.  Be careful! Don’t take your eyes off the road, but you can begin to notice Witches Broom everywhere near heavy automobile traffic, especially in the winter when the leaves are notcovering up the ends of branches.

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Evergreen Trees Blown Down

Evergreen Trees Blown Down

BackYard Wisdom
by ISA Master Arborist, Gilbert A Smith

This month we had strong winds that blew several large evergreen trees down, like Fir, Douglas fir, and Spruce. Why did these trees stand for many years and then suddenly blow over? Our clients asked, “Why can’t the roots hold them up?” The answer is this: it is not a problem with the roots, it is a problem with the soil.

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The Trees Are Talking

The Trees Are Talking

October 2016, Backyard Wisdom
by: Gilbert A Smith, ISA Certified Master Arborist

For a few weeks in the early fall you may have noticed some trees partly or fully turning color ahead of their sisters in the same species. This is a trees’ way of communicating. Do you know what its saying?

“I am under extreme stress here! I’ve got to let my leaves go, even though they feed me because I can not support them any longer

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Interview with a tree

Interview with a tree

Backyard Wisdom • May 2016
by Gilbert A. Smith, ISA Master Arborist

Gil: Mr. Redcedar lives near Daniel Wright Forest Preserve looking out over Milwaukee Avenue. I bet you’ve seen a lot of growth and change in your lifetime Mr. Redcedar.  

Red: It wasn’t so long ago that all around Milwaukee Road the prairie was plowed into farm fields. Yes, I’ve seen changes, but I thrive on change. Like your ancestors, I’m a pioneer. That means that when there’s a disturbance, like a road being built, I jump in and grow where other trees can’t. 

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Interview with an Oak Tree

Interview with an Oak Tree

Backyard Wisdom • April 2016
by Gilbert A. Smith, ISA Master Arborist

This month I’m privileged to speak with Mr. Oak, who lives in a ravine along Sheridan Road in Highland Park, IL.

Gil: It’s nice to see you again Mr. Oak. Thank you for talking with us.

Mr Oak: Well I’m glad to. I watch the cars and people go by, always in a hurry and I wish they would stop and say Hi i to me. I have a lot of things I could teach them not the least of which is to slow down and enjoy my shade once in a while.

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Interview with a Sugar Maple 

Interview with a Sugar Maple 

Backyard Wisdom

by: Gilbert A Smith, ISA certified Master Arborist

We do a lot of talking about what is good for trees, but frankly we’re just people who can’t think like a tree. So I thought this year I would ask some of my favorite trees to speak for themselves. If you have questions you would like to ask a tree please send them to Gil Smith at the Arborsmiths, and he will go talk to his friends the trees.

Gil -  Allow me to introduce one of my very favorite trees, this is Ms. Sugar Maple a.k.a. Acer saccharum

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Tree of the Month • Black Locust

Tree of the Month • Black Locust

January 2016 Tree of the Month and Backyard Wisdom (combined)

Black Locust  Robinia pseudoaccacia

by: Gilbert A Smith, ISA certified Master Arborist

In the early 1900’s unscrupulous land speculators sold property in the great plains claiming buyers could “strike it rich” farming the vast grasslands. Originally plains looked green and promising in Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Nebraska, and Kansas because although the annual rainfall was only 10 inches the prairie grasses were well adapted.  Like all grasses, when the rain stops, they simply go dormant and when the drought ends they green up. (Note, this is the same today with our lawn grasses so we really do not need to water as much as we do.)  The native grasses were tough and the thick roots that were so hard to till, held the soil in place. The modern sod busting plow and tractor, they thought, were just the tools to exploit this treasure. Hundreds of thousands headed west to make their fortune.

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Johnny Appleseed

Johnny Appleseed

Backyard Wisdom - October/November 2015

by: Gilbert A Smith, ISA Master Arborist

It’s Thanksgiving and time for apple pie and all good things to eat. So we think about Johnny Appleseed, a real American Folk hero who changed the kind of Apples we eat. Did you know that the apples we eat do not come from trees grown from seeds? In nature all species are kept healthy by sexual reproduction which insures genetic diversity to withstand a variety of challenges, from climate change to disease attacks.

For centuries orchardists have watched for fruit that is large, disease resistant and flavorful. When they find particularly good fruit the only way to reproduce it is asexually, using grafting. This is because seeds contain completely new genetic combinations from the parent tree. So apple seeds produce mostly what are referred to as “spitters”, apples that are too bitter for anything but making hard cider.

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Skunks and Japanese Beetles

Skunks and Japanese Beetles

Backyard Wisdom

by ISA Master Arborist, Gilbert Smith

Have you noticed holes being dug in your lawn this fall? The most likely culprit is skunks. The Skunks are not eating your grass, but they are mining your turf roots for tasty grubs. The grubs are eating your healthy grass roots so we should be thanking the skunks.  In fact, the grubs are actually the larval stage of June Beetles and another beetle grub new to our neighborhood, the horrid Japanese Beetle. So, again, thank you skunks!  When the Japanese Beetle emerges from the grub stage in the summer it is the enemy of Rose gardens, Raspberries, Hydrangeas and Lindens to name just a few. I hate them, but the skunks think they are delicious.

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The Sun is Finally Shining

The Sun is Finally Shining

Backyard Wisdom

by: ISA Master Arborist:  Gilbert A Smith

You may not have liked the weather we’ve had this spring/early summer, the wettest June in Chicago area history. I did not enjoy it either, but your trees love moist cool weather. Have you noticed how verdant they look this year? Trees, even in stressed locations, like in your parkway or parking lots show a good healthy green. Stress related problems like Euonymus Scale or Apple Tree Borer are significantly reduced. This is because trees are getting plenty of moisture with none of the heat stresses. So they take advantage by over producing leaves to harvest as much sunshine as possible.  When it heats up the trees will dump some leaves. Don't be alarmed. The tree is just balancing itself out dumping lower food producers and bracing for the heat.

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Ants and Trees

Ants and Trees

Backyard Wisdom
By: Gilbert A Smith, ISA Certified Master Arborist

Like the parable of the mouse and the lion, teeny tiny Ants can protect mighty trees. The lowly worm gets all the credit for tilling the soil and feeding the trees but the ant does as much good for trees and what does it get?  Stepped on! Ants do all the wonderful worm jobs, they aerate the soil, they open up air pockets so the roots can breathe and water can reach them. They excavate 30,000 lbs of top soil in an acre of land every year which is roughly 10 times as fast as those worms. They eat insects and poop out nutrients that give the trees their vitamins. They even alter the soil PH making it more friendly for tree roots.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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