Author Archive

Two videos: Natural disturbance-based silviculture and restoring late-successional structure

Back in June 2009, someone named Tom posted a great question about applying the Dauerwald concept in Minnesota.  In a nutshell, the Dauerwald approach involves intensive management designed to maintain a high diversity of tree species and ages.  This approach can be attractive to those interested in active management but less comfortable with more extensive harvests such as clearcuts or shelterwood treatments.

This month we feature a two-part video response to Tom’s question and the ensuing discussion from Tony D’Amato, silviculturist at the University of Minnesota’s Department of Forest Resources.  Tony’s first video addresses the concept of natural disturbance-based silviculture.  His second video addresses a somewhat related concept, of active management to restore late-successional structure. Tony discusses how ecological forestry can complement other approaches like production forestry and multiple use sustained yield forestry on the landscape.

Ecological forestry: Natural disturbance-based silviculture


Ecological forestry: Restoring late-successional forest structure


Your turn

How does (or doesn’t) ecological forestry fit into your woodland plans?  Why or why not?  Leave a comment below or add to the initial discussion begun by Tom.

November 10, 2009 at 6:05 am Leave a comment

Emerald Ash Borer Update

MDA survey finds 59 St. Paul trees infested with emerald ash borer

A multi-agency survey found 59 trees infested with emerald ash borer in and around the St. Anthony Park neighborhood where the pest was first discovered in May.  All 59 trees are within a half mile of the first infestation site.  Crews have already removed the 59 trees.  Read the recent news release.

Monitoring efforts using purple cardboard traps and “trap trees” is underway.

Homeowners are asked to join the effort by watching their ash trees for signs of infestation. These signs include:

  • dieback of leaves in the upper third of the tree’s branches
  • heavy woodpecker activity
  • D-shaped exit holes in the bark
  • S-shaped tunnels under the bark
  • water shoots on the trunk

Think you might have it?

If you think you might have Emerald Ash Borer use his checklist(pdf) to determine if you should get in touch with an EAB First Detector.

Minnesota Department of Agriculture Quarantine

On May 15th, 2009 the quarantine (previously applied to Houston) added Ramsey and Hennepin counties to prevent the spread of Emerald Ash Borer to new areas through the movement of infested wood and tree parts.  Besides applying to all ash tree parts, the regulations apply to all non-coniferous firewood.  Read more about the quarantine(pdf).

Don’t remove your healthy ash trees

MDA reminds homeowners that it is not necessary to remove healthy ash trees. Homeowners with questions about disposing of ash tree material should contact their city forester for guidance. Improper disposal of infested ash material could accelerate the spread of EAB.

What does EAB mean for the woodland owner?

Should you try to harvest your ash as quickly as possible? How should you manage your forest? Should you just let nature take its course? There are no simple answers to such questions, but the Michigan State University Extension put together a helpful publication to help woodland owners prepare for EAB.

For more information

University of Minnesota Emerald Ash Borer Page

Minnesota Department of Agriculture Emerald Ash Borer Site

Information for homeowners from

June 9, 2009 at 12:50 am Leave a comment

Building Fences and Partnerships

By Julie Miedtke, University of Minnesota Extension-Itasca County

Early in May, Grand Rapids High School Students and Woodland Advisors took to the woods to install a deer exclosure at the Forest History Center.  Working side by side students and volunteers cleared vegetation, dug holes using post hole diggers, and by mid-afternoon the fence was raised.

Roxy Knuttila with finishing touches on the fence with students.

Roxy Knuttila with finishing touches on the fence with students.

Keith Matson, a man who wears many hats: US Forest Service-retired, Woodland Advisor, and Itasca County Private Woodland Committee, organized the activity and remarked “these students certainly had ample horse power for the job and we enjoyed getting to know them and hear their interests in forests, wildlife and being outdoors.  We certainly hope to continue this partnership with these future landowners.  This activity has been a good experience for everyone”.   Other woodland advisors helped with the project including Jim Columbus, Floyd Hovarter, Roxy Knuttala and Ralph Olson.

The Forest History Center has several ancient Eastern white pines (Pinus strobus) scattered throughout the site.  Many of these conifers are “super canopy trees” standing taller than any other trees in the area and you can find many of the reigning monarchs growing on the banks of the Mississippi River.  The Woodland Stewardship Plan written by Dan Hertle-DNR –Forestry, indicated that the site was favorable for growing white pine and suggested the project.

The fence was installed in a very visible location along a primary trail leading down to the Mississippi River.  The purpose of the fence was to prevent deer from browsing young white pine seedlings that have naturally seeded into the area.  And the project will also demonstrate to folks how a growing deer population is impacting forest vegetation.  Given the high deer population in the area, it is expected that there will be a noticeable difference in the shrubs and tress within a few years.  Materials used for the fence were purchased locally.

Growing white pine

Landowners that are looking to increase the conifer component on their land can hand plant white pine seedlings—an obvious choice if your land doesn’t have any. Landowners that have white pine may enjoy working with Mother Nature.  White pine will generally produce a good seed crop every three to five years with the seed capable of traveling 200-700 feet or more.  Scarifying the soil prior to seed dispersal will create a seedbed for natural regeneration.   Once established, white pine will continue to need care to ensure their growth and survival.  Competing vegetation (grasses and shrubs) and management of the overstory keeping some shade on the site are two important considerations for young trees.  While growing, white pine will need to be pruned to help reduce damage from white pine blister rust and help to improve the quality of the timber.  Growing white pine is the preferred tree of choice for active folks that enjoy being out in the woods.

June 4, 2009 at 10:31 am Leave a comment

Can’t see the flowers for the trees?

By Philip Potyondy, University of Minnesota Extension

The giants and their tiny flowers

black locust blooming on Midtown Greenway in Minneapolis, MN

Black locust May 31st, 2009 Midtown Greenway in Minneapolis, MN

The scent of spring wafts into our nostrils and affirms spring is here.  Is that quinte-scent-ial smell rising from below our knees or is it falling from the heavens?  Maybe a little of both.  High above our heads in the tops of trees flourish a multitude of flowers.  This sounds a bit … well… flowery … but it is true.  In the tops of our colossal statuesque canopy forming titans are sprightly little flowers fit for a pixy.

“…And the flowers and the trees…”

The Birds and the Bees, Jewel Akens 1965

Red maple female flowers April 23, 2007 Brainerd, MN.  These showy red flowers are insect pollinated. (image by esagor)

Red maple female flowers April 23, 2007 Brainerd, MN. These showy red flowers are insect pollinated. (image by Eli Sagor)

One of the hallmarks of spring is when the crab apples and other fruit trees are in bloom.  In about the second week in May In the Longfellow neighborhood in south Minneapolis, many of the streets are lined with brightly colored and honey scented crab apple trees this time of year.  Without going too far down the botany lingo path of gymnosperm, angiosperm, carpel, and sporophylls with fused margins, consider that in order for trees to reproduce (make more trees) they’ve got to make a seed.  And before many trees, or any kind of plant, can make a seed it needs to make a flower.  And that flower needs to be pollinated.  The majority of flowers on trees are pollinated by the wind or by insects; a few are pollinated by hummingbirds.

The size, color and shape of a flower is linked to how it gets pollinated.  Wind pollinated trees depend on the wind to move a pollen grain from a male flower to a female flower. It is most effective for them to put energy into making a lot of flowers, pollen, and eventually a lot of seeds versus making a big colorful flower.  If a tree is trying to woo a specific insect to carry its pollen directly to another flower, it is a good use of plant energy to make a larger attractively colored flower.  It is also worth the plant’s energy to make enough pollen so that the friendly little bug gets a meal in exchange for courier services.  You can make a guess about how a flower is pollinated based on what the flower looks like.

American elm flower April 19, 2009 Minneapolis, MN.  The large bud in the upper left is less than an inch long and will eventually open as the leaves expand.  The flowers are wind pollinated.

American elm flower April 17, 2009 Minneapolis, MN. The large bud in the upper left is less than an inch long and will eventually open as the leaves expand. The flowers are wind pollinated.

Fresh cut flowers

By the time some of the more showy flowers bloom, like magnolias, crab apples and lilacs many of many less noticeable flowers have already bloomed in yards, in the woods and on boulevards.  Many of these flowers come out before the leaves.  One way to view and observe the more dainty specimens is to bring them into your home.

Prune off some approximately pencil thick branches off a tree in your yard.  Low hanging branches or water sprouts growing from a previous pruning cut are fine candidates for harvest since they will potentially be pruned soon.  You can display them, much like cut flowers from the florist, with water in a vase.  Place your piece of spring in a location you will see often, like where you eat breakfast.  American elm is a great tree to take a cutting from early in the spring.  Watch the buds early in the spring and collect a cutting just after you notice something starting to emerge from the buds.  The cutting on your table will develop and bloom at about the same rate as the flowers up in the tree’s canopy.  This is a great way to watch up-close how the flowers develop and change in a short amount of time.  Use a magnifying glass or hand lense to get an even better view.

American elm flowers April 19, 2009 Minneapolis, MN.  Freshly emerged winged fruit is called a samara.  Each samara holds one seed.  Seeds are wind dispersed using those wings to float in the slightest breeze.

American elm flowers April 19, 2009 Minneapolis, MN. Freshly emerged winged fruit is called a samara. Each samara holds one seed. Seeds are wind dispersed using those wings to float in the slightest breeze.

Pursuing petals

Viewing tree flowers, especially the smaller ones, is not as easy as noticing large brightly colored flowers.  It takes a bit more observation and focus but is rewarding.  It can be hard to see the details on branches of large trees.  Look for low hanging branches.  Yards and natural parks are good places to find branches that haven’t been pruned up too high for viewing.  One way to view details in the crown of a tree is to use binoculars.  You can view from the ground or even from an upper story window in your house.  Another use of the binoculars is to look through one of the lenses the wrong way to see the detail of a little flower up close.  You need to have the object you are viewing almost touching the glass on the small end and your eye on the big end.  The best way to notice when a tree is blooming or changing in some way is to look at trees that are part of your daily routine.  Glance at the tree or shrub nearest to your front door when you get home.  Check the tree at your bus stop when you arrive at work.  Trees are always changing and can be enjoyed through watching these subtleties.

Bur oak flowers and leaves May 13, 2009 St. Paul, MN.  These male flowers are known as catkins.  They are wind pollinated. (image by Eli Sagor)

Bur oak flowers and leaves May 13, 2009 St. Paul, MN. These male flowers are known as catkins. They are wind pollinated. (image by Eli Sagor)

Floral calendar

Seasonal changes in a plant, including blooming, is determined by a number of factors.  One way plants regulate when they bloom is by measuring the length of the night.  Plants are also impacted by temperature and other environment factors.  Botanists use growing degree days(GDD) to predict when a plant will bloom.  This system calculates blooming dates by measuring daily temperatures but variations in temperature from year to year make it difficult to put blooming times on a specific date on a calendar.  See the table below for approximate times to look for selected tree flowers.  If you are wondering about other species check out the resources below or simply keep a keen watch on your tree.

Enjoy discovering tree flowers.  This is a fine activity to do on your own, but better yet share your excitement with a friend, neighbor, or family member.

Share your favorite tree flowers and when you saw them blooming in the comment section below.

Further investigation

May 29, 2009 at 11:28 am 4 comments

Minnesota Conservation Funding Guide from MDA

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture just launched a web-based tool to assist farmers and ag professionals regarding conservation programs and practices. Here is the announcement from Barbara Weisman below:

The Conservation Funding Guide is a one-stop, online tool Minnesota farmers and other landowners can use to learn about conservation practices, programs, and payments. It provides a wealth of information all in one place, complementing the advice available to landowners from ag & conservation professionals. It also makes a handy reference for professionals & policy makers.

For more information check out the Minnesota Conservation Funding Guide.

April 22, 2009 at 10:14 am Leave a comment

Infuenced by Stewardship: the Danson family

By Julie Miedtke, UMN Extension Itasca County

I often wonder what motivates people to work on their land.  Sometimes a conversation with a friend or neighbor may spark an interest.  People can be inspired by a motivational speaker, a book with glossy images or filled with facts.  Recently I had a conversation with Oren and Andrea Danson and learned that they were inspired by a postcard from the Itasca Soil and Water Conservation District.  The little postcard asked if they were interested in improving wildlife habitat and managing their land.   The landowner survey card led to a conversation and a Woodland SteOren and Andrea Dansonwardship Management Plan.  In a recent conversation Oren said “Our Woodland Stewardship Management Plan has definitely influenced our lives.”

Oren grew up on the family farm south of Grand Rapids that was purchased by his father in the 1920’s.  In 1974, Oren was able to purchased 40 acres from his Mom.  At that time, the Danson’s were absentee landowners and the small field was used for hay production for a number of years.  The land idled until the management plan was written in 1998.

Stewardship Activities

In 2001, the Dansons harvested over mature Aspen and Balsam Fir working with a consulting forester.  Reiger Logging harvested the timber that generated substantial income. In 2002, the land was enrolled in the Sustainable Forest Incentive Act (SFIA) which has helped ease the burden of property taxes.

Oren commented on the positive aspects of having a Woodland Stewardship Plan and the opportunity to network with natural resource professionals and that he has enjoyed learning from them.  He shared his experience of working with the District Conservationist with the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) about planting a couple of rows of trees in the field.  He was then connected to Quintin Legler who helps folks with management activities.

Quintin and Oren spent time walking the land and talking about planting trees.  Oren shared his conversation with Quintin stating “Why should I plant trees?  I am sixty four years old!!  Quintin simply told me that it was a chance for me to leave my legacy and because taking care of your land is the right thing to do.  That little conversation hit the nail right on the head for me.”

In 2004 the entire field was machine planted with 14,000 Norway Pine.  The seedlings were monitored and many were lost during recent droughts and the field was replanted twice.  Oren eliminated competing grass, investing in a three wheeler to literally run up and down the rows applying a herbicide.


Danson's chest

The Danson’s enjoy working with their hands.  Andrea creates fanciful quilts and artful handwork, and Oren is a woodworker.   Oren has crafted many projects with wood harvested from his parents land that has been sawn, planed to create heirlooms for his children and grand children.  Oren said, “That way the kids can have a piece of the land even if they are living in distant places.”

Reprinted with permission from the January 2009 Itasca Woodlands newsletter. To learn more about the Itasca Woodlands Committee, which publishes the newsletter, call Sheila at (218) 327-7486.

March 8, 2009 at 10:15 am 1 comment

The Ulschmid family woods: Thinning red pine

By Philip Potyondy, University of Minnesota Extension

I recently visited the Ulschmid family woodland outside of Detroit Lakes, MN.  I brought a little video camera and had a conversation with Tom and Scott Ulschmid and Minnesota DNR forester Kent Wolf.  We talked about thinning red pine and making management desicions in a woodland.

This is MyMinnesotaWoods’ first in a series of woodland visits.  It was a chilly day and my first time making a video.  Watch the video to learn why many landowners choose to thin their red pine plantations, how to know when it’s time to thin, and where to find help.

Thinking about thinning your red pine? We suggest you start with our page on Thinning and Timber Stand Improvement, then pick up the phone to find a professional forester who can help.  Here are two great places to start:

February 10, 2009 at 9:28 am 1 comment

Poem of the month: Winter Haiku

Winter solitude–
in a world of one color
the sound of wind.

The winter storm
hid in the bamboo grove
and quieted away.

The winter sun-
on the horse’s back
my frozen shadow.

Matsuo Basho (1644-1694)


Cover my head
or my feet?
the winter quilt.

Calligraphy of geese
against the sky-
the moon seals it.

Lighting one candle
with another candle-
spring evening.

Yosa Buson (1716-1783)


The snow is melting
and the village is flooded
with children.

Crescent moon-
bent to the shape
of the cold.

Face of the spring moon-
about twelve years old,
I’d say.

Kobayashi Issa (1763-1827)

February 9, 2009 at 11:37 pm 2 comments

Nontimber Forest Products: Character wood

Long winter months offer prime time opportunities for exploring forests.

Frozen soil conditions allow access to some of the more intriguing, ‘off the beaten path’ places in the woods. It’s a great time to visit bogs & swamps, swales, and islands that may seem out of reach during much of the year. Winter excursions can be memorable and invigorating, but most of all it will inspire greater appreciation of forests.

Continue Reading February 9, 2009 at 2:00 pm 4 comments

About this blog

News and information of interest to Minnesota woodland owners. Sister site to

In the news...