Sunday, December 22, 2013

Back in the day.

I just started getting into the book 'Tree Disease Concepts' by Paul D. Manion.  The book has been out of print for some time, but Dr. Glen Stanosz mentioned it as a good resource at his talk during the recent TCI Expo here in Charlotte, NC.  By some serendipitous alignment of the stars, a retiring arborist friend of mine had given me the book just weeks beforehand.

The book begins with a historical perspective of plant diseases.  Around 300 B.C.E. the philosopher Theophrastus, known to many as the father of botany, 'recognized that wild trees were not liable to the ravages of disease, whereas cultivated plants were subject to an array of devastating diseases.'  This seems very interesting to me.  Since ancient times humans have, with the best intentions, been trying to grow plants, but missing the big picture when caring for them in the landscape.  The battles of poor cultural management we arborists fight on a daily basis, have probably been taking place for eons!  Imagine mulch volcanoes on olive trees planted around the Acropolis.

Another thought; we are members of a global economy.  Because of shipping and imports, numerous tree diseases and pests have been introduced to the US.  Around the time of Theophrastus Greece was the center of a global economy.  One may wonder how many of the diseases ravaging the urban trees of Ancient Greece were introduced from afar.

Theophrastus, the father of botany.
Pic borrowed from Wikipedia (you should donate to Wikipedia)

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Where they headin'?

Recently, a study by US Forest Service Researcher Christopher W. Woodall reported that 70% of 'northern' tree species are regenerating significantly further north and/or at higher elevations than their mean biomasses (where most of the mature trees of that species historically grow).  If the current trend stands, many northern tree species' biomass may migrate up to 62-miles (100-kilometers) over the next century.  Other species' range appear to be decreasing all together, though they may be thriving in Canada since this study only sampled trees in the United States.  While northern tree species are retreating northward, southern species are having greater seedling success at higher latitudes, and some signs show that some southern species may begin invading even more southern latitudes.

Bob Dylan said 'the times they are a-changin,' and many researchers would agree.  Now we can debate whether climate change is real, and whether its causes are natural or man made, but for the sake of argument let's agree something is happening with our climate.  Our question is 'what about our urban and landscape trees?'  The affects of climate change on tree species may be somewhat predictable.  Decline diseases on sensitive tree species may become more pronounced, thus shrinking the area suitable for them to grow.  While other, more adaptable, species may thrive in greater ranges.

We can look at this as both a challenge and an opportunity.  The challenge will come from trying to preserve some well-loved and traditionally planted landscape species.  Pest and disease ranges will likely change as well, and so our management strategies will need to adapt.  But in some instances, there will be opportunities to introduce and diversify our landscapes with new plant species/varieties.  I know I wouldn't mind having some nice flowering oleander (Nerium oleander) in my, for now, zone 7 garden.

Check out your hardiness zone.