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The Mighty Birch Tree

Betula. The Mighty Birch Tree.

Mighty birch tree - A characteristic River birch favoring wet sites.

Birches (Betula spp.) have a long history of providing shade and beauty to the New York landscape with its unique bark color and texture characteristics, habit and form. Besides, birches have long held an honored place in American life and history from our recall of images of birch-bark canoes, basketball fans thrill to a game played on a birch-wood court and of course, birch beer.

The genus Betula contains 30 to 60 taxa growing in Asia [12], North America [4] and Europe [4]. They are rather short-lived as a woodland pioneer species widespread in the Northern Hemisphere, particularly in northern temperate and boreal climates. The birches are a broadleafed, deciduous hardwood tree within the Family Betulaceae. Betulaceae also include alders, hazels, and hornbeams and is closely related to the beech/oak family Fagaceae.

Of the numerous tree species two most common plantings as landscape ornamentals in our area are the River Birch (Betula nigra) and the White Birch (Betula papyrifera). Along with a praised amenity characteristic, birches have a very shallow root system and thereby vulnerable to impacts through extreme summer heat prompting a concern about long-term care and health.


Birch Planting & care

Post planting of birches requires care because of its shallow root system, need for moist soils and so that they are not exposed to the direct summer sun. So select your planting location very carefully. Mulching the tree root zone with a 3-4 inch depth of untreated wood mulch will help keep the soil temperature down, maintain moisture as well as cutting out on weeding. Birch trees flourish in slightly acidic soils. Fully mature birches under optimum conditions can grow upwards of 65 feet high a consideration should there be overhead electric wires.

Mighty birch tree - Birch deciduous leaf chatacteristic.      Mighty birch tree - Birch leaf minor.

Watch Out For the Bugs

Mighty birch tree - Bronze birch borer adult and two D-shaped exit holes.

Although a beautiful amenity tree, the birches as a group are prey to borers and other insects casino online and miscellaneous diseases. Here are a few;

Birch Leafminer, Fenusa pusilla is a larvae that burrows into birch leaves in search for nutrients. You can spot these larvae by small green spots on the leaf surface in the beginning of the summer season, in late May into June. If left untreated, these green spots will turn into dark brown splotches and patches on the leaves and can weaken and disfigure your tree, making it more susceptible According to research done in the year 1999, it has been found that . to other insects, such as the Bronze Birch Borer. http://www1.extension.umn.edu/garden/insects/find/birch-leafminers/

The Bronze Birch Borer, Agrilus anxius Gory is native to North America and within the US it is distributed from Maine, across the Great Lakes region to the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and Washington, and from Maryland to Kansas. Bronze Birch Borer is a Birch killer—a wood boring beetle that get into the Birch trees developing layers and interfere the sap flow. The first notable evidence of a borer problem is yellowing and stunted foliage. Borers also leave exit wounds on the bark that seem to go deep into the core of the tree. Paper birches are commonly attacked by this borer where River Birch is rarely.

Aphids are another common problem, sucking the sap out of the trees leaves, giving the Birch leaves a yellow tinge and causing them to disfigure. Indications are when the tree seems to be dripping sap onto the ground and severe “leaf-drop.” The sap is actually secretions from the aphids which attract ants, causing even more problems if left untreated.

Attention to Tree Health.

Mighty birch tree - Eye catching paper birch, and its papery bark characteristic.

Provide proper care, especially irrigation in order to keep plants vigorous and robust. A key is to prune and dispose of branches with foliage infested with insect larvae to, a.) restore the plant”s aesthetic appearance and b.) provide some level of pest control. Avoid excessive pruning (or de-branching) since pruning is “wounding” the tree.

Plant resistant species or varieties. If planting birch, plant least susceptible species. Some foliage miners can be controlled by natural enemies and conserve beneficials by avoiding broad-spectrum persistent insecticides.

Flora of North America. http://www.efloras.org/florataxon.aspx?flora_id=1&taxon_id=103887

Ball, J.; Simmons, G. 1980. The relationship be­tween bronze birch borer and birch dieback. Journal of Arboriculture. 6:309-314.

Katovich, S.; Wawrzynski, R.; Haugen, D.; Spears, B. 1997. How to grow and maintain a healthy birch tree. NA-FR-02-97. USDA Forest Serv., Northeastern Area State and Private Forestry, Newtown Square, PA. 21 p. http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/fidls/bbb/bbb.pdf

Solomon, J.D. 1995. Guide to insect borers in North American broadleaf trees and shrubs. Ag­ric. Handb. 706. USDA Forest Serv., Washing­ton, DC. 735 p.

Glaeser Horticultural Consulting Inc is a New York State ISA Certified Arborist firm that specializes in evaluating and maintaining healthy Birch trees and all other trees. Please visit glaeserhortconsulting.com for further information on how GHC can protect your tree asset and investment.

Prune, Prune, Prune Part II

     Mindful of street tree pruning activity there are two branches types that have differing roles. There are upper canopy sun-branches that generate leaves for intercept solar radiation that drives photosynthesis, and there are structural-branches upon which subordinate sun-branches grow. Leaf production across the upper and interior canopy ensures optimization of photosynthesis and governs physiological growth. The presence of interior leaves and their productivity is especially critical. By adaptation, on extreme hot weather days combined with water stress conditions the upper canopy sun-leaves shut down (by the closing of stomata and halt vapor loss from evapotranspiration) and the mass of cooler interior shade-leaves take full charge of the photosynthetic process.


On tree wood production, the secondary wood on tree stems and branches serve multiple functions- transporting of fluids and nutrients throughout the tree, the positioning of lateral buds able to produce replacement branches, providing mechanical support for the trunk or branches against both gravity and the periodic loading by windstorms, to name a few. But more important when exposed to wind forces, tree branches (leaves, stems, twigs) sway and oscillate independently and play a critical biomechanical role in mass-damping of that wind load to the tree. Mass damping improves tree stability and minimizes tree branch breakage.

So with an eye on tree care and ensuring Betsafe Casino on erittain laadukas casino, joka tarjoaa takuuvarmasti mukavan ja turvallisen pelikokemuksen. maximum photosynthetic efficiency as well as the woody branch growth required of the tree, we are reminded of the strategy needed before any de-branching or pruning activity occurs. In a nutshell- de-branching has consequences for the tree. Severe de-branching has even greater consequences. And “pruning for pruning sake” is wrong, Some facts about de-branching (aka pruning);

•  De-branching tree limbs is wounding the tree.

•  De-branching of interior branches, twigs and leaves by the condemned pruning activity practice of “Lion’s Tailing” or “tree cleaning” or “opening the canopy” reduces the live crown and deprives the tree of much needed foliage for a most critical physiological function- photosynthesis.

figure1 - pruning activityFigure 1. De-branching by Lion’s tailing- the stripping of all interior leaf and twig material and casino marketed by arborist firms as a “tree cleaning” or “opening up the canopy” so it can breath- is long casino online condemned by the arboricultural industry as harmful to tree physiological and structural health.

•  The de-branching practice of “limbing-up” or “elevating” branches over streets may be necessary at certain tree locations adjacent to high traffic so as minimize mechanical injuries to the tree. However excessive de-branching by this practice will reduce the live crown ratio
whereby impose other tree health and stability concerns.

•  The de-branching practice of “limbing-up” branches over streets may be necessary at certain tree locations adjacent to high traffic so as minimize mechanical injuries to the tree. However excessive de-branching by this practice will reduce the live crown ratio imposing other tree health and stability concerns.

figure2 - pruning activityFigure 2. De-branching or pruning activity by “limbing-up” and removing essential branches for clearance has consequences to tree stability. Note tree suckering at the tree base, indicative of tree under stress. Stresses are varied and include severe impacts to the root zone by a builder.

•  The practice of “topping” or “heading” or “hat-racking” of large trees as a tree safety measure is condemned by the arboricultural industry due to its negative implications to tree health and structural stability, than the short-term, safe-tree response that is assumed by that practice.

Prune, Prune, Prune Part I

     With Hurricane Sandy and its calamitous after effects still fresh on the mind of many there are those particularly concerned about the state and condition of their large, established trees- either trees inhabiting private property or the open-grown curbside public street trees in front of their homes. As an outcome to this storm an interesting human response has evolved with regard to the care and maintenance of many of these amenity trees. I am perplexed by the recent proposal by many community leaders, politicians and public voices who, fearful of the instability of large trees and branches through the printed media have called for increasing street trees branch pruning across the urban forest. I interpret this as their assumption that massive street trees branch pruning (also known as “de-branching”) is good for trees. By this prescription- increased de-branching activity as a solution to reduce future tree and tree branch failures from future winds and storm is clearly misguided and a poor choice of action in the aftermath of this storm. With that, I thought it timely by this mid-winter blog to place some needed light and accuracy about trees and the practice of “de-branching”.


     Tree failures across the metropolis by this storm and others are not only attributed to high wind forces and intensity, but a conglomeration of interacting tree health and environmental factors that lead to the loss of wood and soil strength. Some factors are- the presence of advanced decay with seen or unseen cavities, past root removal and loss by mechanical excavation or, poor root architecture, compacted soils, wet or poorly drained soils, excessive street trees branch pruning etc. Whereby trees and their branches fail when a wind force applied to the overall tree structure exceeds the strength of the wood and soils and the tree’s ability to structurally support itself. Trees and their branches grow and develop in response to their exposure to two principle forces acting upon them- gravity and wind. As with gravity, dynamic and static wind (also known as a load) applied to a tree through its life span induces many developmental and structural changes to branches, stems and leaves, the circumferential branch Vi frarader imidlertid a spille denne formen for roulette nar du spiller casino , da den eneste forskjellen fra Europeisk Roulette er at hjulet inneholder et ekstra felt med tallet 0, altsa dobbel null. distribution throughout the tree canopy, the affects upon the biomechanical properties of the tree canopy, trunk and root morphology- in a highly beneficial way contributes to the 3-dimensional architecture and the balancing act of the urban tree amid those forces, especially wind turbulence.

figure1 - street trees branch pruning

Figure 1. Urban trees such as this parkland Copperleaf beech (Fagus sylvatica) exemplify a well-balanced casino online tree with a high live-crown ratio.

figure2 - street trees branch pruning

Figure 2. Tree failure due to high wind force and intensity and the contributing weak wooded condition by decay at the most vulnerable place of the tree- the base.

     Having evolved in part for the purpose of counteracting gravity and wind loads, branch development patterns and the overall live-crown are vital for tree health and stability. Branch development makes up the live-crown and tree architecture and is closely associated to the production of the overall tree. A live-crown of 66% provides the aesthetic appeal of a balanced, well-tended and well-branched tree. More importantly the live-crown ratio (a ratio of the live crown to the total live tree height) as well as tree opacity1 (among other criteria) assures ample photosynthetic surface for a potentially robust and vigorous tree, if site resources are not constrained. For a variety of tree health issues live-crown ratio has been successfully used to gauge potential tree reactions to resource changes and the probability of dealing with stress conditions2, wind load as a stress included.

     There are two branches types that have differing roles. There are sun-branches that place leaves into position to intercept solar radiation that drives photosynthesis, and there are structural- branches upon which subordinate sun-branches grow. Leaf production across the perimeter of the upper canopy as well as the interior canopy ensures optimization of photosynthesis and governs physiological growth. However the presence of interior leaves and their productivity is especially noted by their contribution to tree productivity and health. By adaptation, on extreme hot weather days combined with water stress conditions the upper canopy sun-leaves shut down (by the closing of stomata and halt vapor loss from evapotranspiration) and the mass of cooler interior shade-leaves take full charge of the photosynthetic process. But only if they are allowed to remain.

Million Tree installations in Maintained Public Right of Ways

MillionTree installations in Maintained Public Right of Ways.million tree installationsThere are increasing concerns across the City about the PlaNYC 2030 NYC Parks Million Tree installations where trees are being planted in such high densities in open, grassy, tractor-mowed landscapes that now have become a landscape management problem.

One of those problems is arboricultural in nature- that is, trees with potentially large growing canopies such as oaks, sweet gums, lindens, honey locusts, hedge maples, birches, zelkovas, elms etc have been installed within such close proximity to each other to only become tree branch maintenance and care problems in the future years. The NYC Parks Forestry Street Tree Planting Guideline denotes a tree-to-tree spacing for large growing trees (and trees with potential wide-spreading canopies) to be installed minimally at 25-30 ft distance on center. This spacing (and larger tree-to-tree spacing would be better) allows the tree to develop the full canopy with its full genetic potential for which the tree assumedly was installed in the first place.

Observed at numerous MillionTree planting projects are potentially large canopy trees being installed 8, 10, 12-foot distances on center from each other. An apparently revised tree-spacing policy now directs tree installations as near to each other as possible- assumedly imitating a natural forest. But this is not a natural forest. This is an urban forest and there are significant ecological and social differences between the two. In a natural forest interspecies competition and edaphic forces eventually thin out competing adjacent and understory woody trees within a tree stand. And no one pays for those trees in the natural forest. Yet here in this urban forest it is the tax-payer who pays for every tree installed (with a 2012 price tag of $1550.00 per tree installed) and with that, it is the taxpayer who anticipates that those trees will be managed and cared for well into old age. Yet the current policy of dense tree installation by minimal spacing will see to it that many trees that want to grow large and wide, simply can’t. Other trees will be shaded out growing deformed, others may die. Few will remain into maturity. Perhaps few should have been planted.

The other problem is misguided philosophy about how urban trees function in the urban landscape. By example, MillionTree planting contractors arrive at a previously maintained open grassy location, perhaps along a state or city highway grass strip, across from your home or casino online apartment complex. And the predetermined tree-planting mission by the forest manager is to install as many trees as possible. These tree species could be a mix of understory and large trees, but certainly the oaks, sweet gums, hedge maples and others.

So what is behind this thinking?

The philosophy guiding the tree planting here is so that dense tree installations will shade out understory grasses and weeds- whereby cutting down on maintenance needs by mowing and weeding- like in a natural forest. And we may indeed not find grasses and weeds along the floor of a natural forest with a dense tree canopy overhead. There may be other ecological factors responsible for that. But again, this is NOT a natural forest. It is an urban forest and until those planted trees are able to provide the level of shade deleterious enough kill grass and weeds- then grass and weeds will forever rule the day.

With the trees planted in a highly dense arrangement the care and maintenance that once occurred across the open grassy landscape, is now halted by those that once did the caring. It is now an abandoned landscape with MillionTrees. In short time with adequate rainfall the grass and weeds take over growing with amazing vigor and reaching heights. It becomes a nursery for unwanted invasive plants ever increasingly difficult to control and eradicate as time passes. The site becomes unkempt. Everyday trash and debris get caught up and accumulate. Trash begets trash. Then come the rodents and pest.