Thursday, 29 October 2020

UMISC 2020 Pathways to Success

Image of UMISC 2020 logo

Next week, November 2 – 6, 2020, groups from across the upper midwest will meet online for their biennial invasive species conference, UMISC 2020. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this conference will be a virtual event. One of the principle sponsors is the Invasive Plant Association of Wisconsin (IPAW). This group includes academic researchers, DNR invasive species experts, land managers, and private landowners who share the latest information.

I will be attending this year and will bring you updates on presentations each day. In following weeks, I will follow up with selected presenters to get additional insights for property owners.

The UMISC 2020 covers both land and water borne invaders. My posts will focus on land based species. Check out the UMISC 2020 program to see a listing of the conference events.

Included this year are tracks for terrestrial and aquatic species, as well as a track specifically focused on forest health. In addition, there in an interdisciplinary track that covers topics like public outreach. Special event sessions this year including several by the Woody Invasives of the Great Lakes (WIGL) Collaborative. WIGL is funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) program.

If you want to attend, there is still time to register for the conference. Cost is $95 for regular attendees, $75 for IPAW members (as well as member of other sponsor organizations), and $55 for students.

Stay tuned and pass on any questions by using the comments section at the bottom of each post.

Monday, 19 October 2020

Wetlands Conference Helps Students Shine

The 2021 Wetland Science Conference is taking place virtually on February 16-19, 2021. It is sponsored by the Wisconsin Wetlands Association. For more than a decade, the WWA have produced one of the premier wetland conferences in the nation. While COVID-19 changed its format, the upcoming even promises to once again offer the newest wetland research and from leading academic institutions and industry practitioners.
Do you know a student who would like to attend the annual Wetland Science Conference? Let them know about WWA student scholarship opportunities!
Wisconsin Wetlands Association offers a limited number of student scholarships that will cover the full cost of registration in exchange for a nominal amount of volunteering during the conference.
They also offer a student presentation competition with cash prizes. Students must submit their abstract for presentation at the 2021 conference by November 15, 2021.
Submit student scholarships applications no later than January 13, 2021. Click here to complete the student scholarship application.

Wednesday, 14 October 2020

Plant Cover Crops Now!

Image of four inch oat sprouts used as cover crops

Cover crops are a great way to protect young native seeds and prevent soil erosion over the winter.

Cover crops are among the most valuable tools in the private landowner’s toolbox. They build healthy soil while protecting against erosion. The next week or two are pretty much last chance for those in central and southern Wisconsin to plant yet this fall.

Lots of Benefits

Cover crops are a fantastic companion crop when planted ahead of a late fall or early winter native seed planting. Oats, and rye are a great choice as they will hold the soil, preventing erosion over the winter. The will also provide a place for native seeds to settle into the soil during winer freeze and thaw cycles. Here is a short cover crop video from the NRCS East National Technology Support Center.

Another valuable service cover crops provide is as a green manure. They build organic mater in the soil, and because Wisconsin winters kill them, these plants will not re-emerge in the spring to compete with newly sprouting native species.

Soil contact is important. If you do not have access to a seed drill, try breaking up hard soils with a lawn aerator, raking the cover crop seeds in lightly after seeding. If the planting list not too big, cover newly seeded area with straw. Water newly planted seeds daily for a week, if possible. Otherwise, try to time seeding for just before a forecasted rain.

Image of native seed mix bag

There are native seed mixes to help solve a variety of soil management problems

Solving Problems

Native seed mixes fit into many conservation plans and they pair seamlessly with cover crops.  Whether on a high rocky ridge, woodland or wet meadow cover crops help establish native species that will greatly improve the conservation value of your property. Better wildlife habitat

In my case, there its a small drainage near our house that was not graded correctly during construction 25 years ago. When we moved in this spring, correcting the problem to keep water from flowing toward the foundation while reducing runoff was a priority. Native grasses and wildflowers with their deep roots made perfect  sense to remediate the lousy clay fill hauled in during construction.

September 2020

Monday, 28 September 2020

Identify Tree Pests

image of people learning to identify tree pests

Landowners learn to identify tree pests. [photo credit: UDFS Northeastern Area State and Private Forestry,]

There are plenty of brochures to help landowners identify tree pests. I have a file folder full of publications pests like emerald ash borer. If you are like me, I see something that does not look quite right and want to know what’s going on. It may be nothing, but then maybe it is a real problem — time to figure out which.

Bring in the Experts

Fortunately, for those of us who live in Wisconsin, the UW Madison has experts whose job it is to diagnose tree problems for Wisconsin residents. The Plant Disease Diagnostics Clinic has an experienced plant pathologist who specializes in plant disease diagnostics. Additionally, the Wisconsin Insect Diagnostic Lab handles plant pests like insects, bugs, aphids, caterpillars. Questions or images can be sent to the Wisconsin bug guy, PJ Liesch:

Many of us prefer the do-it-yourself approach when dealing with tree pests. We want to know what we are seeing in the field without sending off samples and waiting for results. If you are like me, knowing for myself is better than having to depend on somebody else. I contact these folks for touch calls; they are great. I just do not want to load them down when I can figure the problem out for myself.

Do It Yourself

The Inventory Pest Evaluation and Detection (IPED) method provides an effective way to diagnose tree pest or disease problems. You can use this clear, simple and accurate way to detect and monitor pests wherever you live. The IPED Field Guide will help you identify the signs and symptoms of tree stress, insect pests, and diseases, letting you to make informed decisions. This guide is not intended to be used for diagnostic work, but rather as a resource guide to help you use the i-Tree Streets application at: is external).


August 2020

Wednesday, 12 August 2020

Kiss Your Ash Trees Goodby

Image or ash trees whose crowns are partially and fully defoliated by Emerald Ash Borer.

Nobody wants the crown layer of their woodland to look like this.

Wisconsin’s woodlands are changing. Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) is causing the greatest die-off of trees in the state since Dutch elm disease arrived in the 1960s. If you have ash trees on your property, you must learn to recognize EAB damage and quickly take action. In Wisconsin, that means black, green or white ash. Time is not your friend; indecision will remove any options. The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) has a website that shows where EAB is prevalent.

First, cruise your timber. Early detection is your best and only defense. Check out the Wisconsin DNR for website for woodlot owners. Treatment must be made to individual trees and completed before 1/3 if the crown is lost.


One of the best ways to identify emerald ash borer damage is through the “D” shaped holes emerging insects leave in the bark. Unfortunately, these holes are approximately 3/16 inch in diameter and may first appear rather high in the tree. The cream colored larvae living under the bark can be 1½ inches long. These are exit holes for the larvae that are emerging to morph into adults.

Most landowners will first spot the infestation by observing leaf loss in the crown. This crown thinning can easily be overlooked or written off as storm damage. By the time the damage is obvious, it is probably too late.

Image of green ash tree with significant bark blonding

Outer layers of bark begin to fall off an ash as EAB larvae eat their way through the sapwood.

Bark blonding takes place when the bark of an infested tree shards to shed the outer layer of its bark. The tree is essentially dead at this point. Blonding occurs because the sapwood below the bark is dead and outer layers of bark are drying out and stuffing off. 

Image of debarked ash trunk with EAB tunnels

Peal away the bark of an infested ash tree and you will find tunnels in the sapwood created by the EAB lava.

The EAB lays it eggs under the bark. When the eggs hatch, they spend two years developing in the cambium layer of the ash tree. They eat the sapwood, burrowing tunnels are they feed. The tunnels interrupt nutrient flow. Eventually, limbs and even the trunk die as tunnels completely cut the supply of sugars and water.

What’s Next?

If tree you want to save is less than 47″ around at chest height, you may be able to treat it yourself. You can apply a liquid soil drench homeowner product for about $20-35/year. An arborist should treat larger trees or those with special circumstances. Their treatments involve directly injecting trees under the bark. Those treatments typically cost several hundred dollars and must be repeated every 2-3 years.

The cost or removing dead ash trees start at $1,000 and more, depending on size and location. Your only choice, if you have too many trees to treat, may be to conduct a timber harvest.

More Informaiton

The Emerald Ash Borer Information Network has the latest information about he pest and how to control it.


Sunday, 02 August 2020

Wisconsin’s World of Cranes

image of sandhill cranes flying in formation

Sandhill cranes gather into flocks for the spring and fall migration. [Photo courtesy of ICF.]

Nearly every Wisconsin landowner is familiar with Sandhill Cranes. Even if your property sits on a hilltop like mine, there is no mistaking their incredibly beautiful trumpeting, as well as the way their massive wings seem to blot out the sun as they fly low over the treetops. Those who are lucky enough to have wetlands may well host these magnificent birds. Likewise, properties without nesting pairs can host spring and fall migrants. A new webinar series from the International Crane Foundation (ICF) aims to peak your interest in cranes, those we know and those that might be less familiar.

Most of us have at least heard the stories of how wildlife managers are working to re-introduce the lovely white whooping cranes back to Wisconsin. While still rare, whooping cranes are making a comeback in several locations across the center of the state. Unlike their sandhill cousins, whoopers completely disappeared from Wisconsin in the middle of the last century. Most whooping cranes are nesting in the USFWS reservers with established whooping crane management programs. Some, however, are nesting in sites of their own choosing.

Giving Cranes Helping Hand

You may not know that the recent success of crane is no accident. Wisconsin has invested heavily in wetland restoration especially in the middle of the state. Our secret weapon, however, is a small non-profit organization outside Baraboo called the International Crane Foundation.

picture of early ICF crew.

[Photo courtesy of ICF.]

Two Cornell University students, George Archebald and Ron Sauey set up the first of its kind crane facility on the horse farm George’s parents owned. The International Crane Foundation was created from its beginnings with the ambitious mission to conduct research, breeding, reintroduction, management and education for the world’s fifteen crane species.

Today 74 researchers, land managers and ecologists from the International Crane Foundation can be found in 50 countries across five continents. They work with host governments and local non-profits to save and protect all fifteen crane species. This international effort makes ICF the leading protector of crane worldwide.

The ICF headquarters facility is now 300 acres, housing approximately 100 cranes which represent all fifteen crane species. Until the COVIT-19 pandemic stopped public access, their facility annually hosted 25,000 visitors. Even more unfortunate is that the facility just completed a major renovation that promises to greatly improve your experience.

image of the "From the Field Series" of ICF webinars.

From the Field webinar series logo. [Photo courtesy of ICF.]

Becoming a Better Crane Neighbor

You can join this series of webinars every Thursday beginning at 11:00 AM central time. Each seminar is recorded and available to stream from their site, as well. This library of presentations spans different crane species, a variety of research topics, as well as Q&A sessions with international crane experts. While you are at the ICF site, check out their other educational offerings and events.

The International Crane Foundation is yet another reason why Wisconsin leads the nation in land stewardship. ICF is a blessing to those of us who are lucky enough to own a piece of Wisconsin’s natural heritage. They teach and inspire us to improve crane habitat on our land. Find out how you can make cranes more welcome on your property.

For more information contact: 

International Crane Foundation
E11376 Shady Lane Road
P.O. Box 447
Baraboo, WI 53913 USA



July 2020

Wednesday, 08 July 2020

Tackling Woody Species Woes

WIGL Launch Graphic to help tackle invasive woody species

Green is not always as good as it first appears. Walking you land, you may think of a lush tangle of shrubs and vines as a sign of good health. It does not take long to discover that a green wall does not produce a healthy woodland. Soon enough tackling woody species on your property moves to the top of your todo list.

Clair Ryan is the Coordinator of the Midwest Invasive Plant Network and the new Woody Invasives of the Great Lakes (WIGL) Collaborative. According to Ryan, “Often, especially near urban and developed areas, forests and other natural areas are clogged with invasive woody species that damage wildlife habitat, block trail access, and harbor larger populations of ticks that spread disease to humans,”

The WIGL Collaborative developed a website to help landowners and others learn to identify the woody invasive plants around them and start controlling them on their properties. Their website,, contains a wealth of information about how to identify woody invasive species and tell them apart from similar beneficial plants. The site contains an interactive map showing how Great Lakes governments regulate these species. In addition, it has detailed management approaches, and non-invasive alternatives.

Besides the website, WIGL is also sponsoring a free two-day Woody Invasives of the Great Lakes Collaborative Summit on November 5-6, 2020. 

The Problem

WIGL was formed because invasive trees, shrubs, and woody vines pose a serious threat to natural areas in the Great Lakes region. They out-competing native plants and damaging wildlife habitat. Forests are a primary water source to the Great Lakes. If the forests aren’t healthy, it will be very difficult for the lakes to be healthy.

Image of the woody species Japanese barberry

Japanese barberry may be a great choice for your yard, but it becomes a menace when released into woodlands.

The current problem has actually been a long time in the making. Most of the region’s most common invasive woodies came to North America more than one hundred years ago. Among these early arrivals are buckthorn, autumn olive, and bush honeysuckle. Growers sold them either as ornamental garden plants or for erosion control. We recognized the problems posed by wood invasive species only after our woodlands became choked and almost unusable.

Birds eat the fruit of these invasive woody plants and spread their seeds. Over generations, seeds can reach even relatively pristine natural habitats. Growers sold them because of their toughness and adaptability to less-than-ideal conditions. However, this a resilience lets invasive plants out-compete native species that would grow in similar habitats.

Most of the woody invasive species listed by the WIGL collaborative are no longer sold in nurseries and garden centers. However, some invasive species like Callery pear, Japanese barberry and winged burning bush are all still available. As a result, your can find them in just about every big box store. 
The WIGL Collaborative joins several other regional invasive species collaboratives funded through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI). The federal government funds the GLRI with broad bi-partisan support.

Doing Our Part

As private landowners, timber stand and wildlife habitat improvement are important to our stewardship ethic. Protecting the natural heritage or our property often begins with managing those invasive woody species. Tackling woody species takes good advice; GLRI has what it takes.

June 2020

Friday, 12 June 2020

Buckthorn Blaster Rocks Brush Clearing

Image of Buckthorn Blaster with gloves, loppers and pruners

Meet a revolution in cut stump treatment … in a 4 once bottle.

Some ideas are incredibly obvious, once you see them. The four once Buckthorn Blaster is just that kind of product. This simple herbicide applicator will change the way you cut and treat invasive brush on your land. If you are like me, you hate using spray bottles to apply herbicide to the cut stumps of wood brush. Most of us use the best two dollar squirt bottle we can find and curse a few weeks or months later when it quits working. I hate going home at with blue fingers on my gloves. I swear under my breath too many times every day when I pull the trigger and nothing comes out only to have the next pull shoot a stream of chemical out; most of which misses the stump. Expensive pressurized sprayers are bulky and must be frequently pumped up. The Buckthorn Blaster is a simple four ounce plastic bottle with a dense foam stopper that applies chemical to cut stumps much like a liquid shoe polish applicator. If you can polish you shoes, you can treat stumps with the Buckthorn Blaster. I use a 1:3 tryclopyr to bark oil mix, which is hotter than some folks but not as strong as others prefer. Both the herbed and bark oil are expensive. A 24 ounce spray bottle of cut stump mix cost around $10.00. It is common to go through half of that bottle during the course of a day. During the two hours I used the Buckthorn Blaster, I used just two ounces of chemical mix. The Buckthorn Blaster reduced the chemical use by one third. The number of stumps increased at the same time. Again, because the chemical only lands on the target stump I got more stumps treated between refills. More stumps with less chemical means 2-3 better invasive control in the woodlot. My spray bottle will often drip a little, especially when it tips over on uneven ground. The Buckthorn Blaster never drips. It only puts chemical on the stump where it is pressed. That means no off-target damage of nearby native plants. The small four once size makes it easy to carry in one hand while wielding a hand pruner in the other. When using loppers, I can hold the bottle while simultaneously cutting brush. Being more efficient means clearing more brush in less time. The bottle comes with three dense foam tips and a tool for changing tips.  Removing the tip to refill the bottle takes some care and can be a bit messy. That is my chief complaint but paper towels make the job fairly painless. The Buckthorn Blaster can be used with any cut stump liquid herbicide mix. I keep my bottle in a ziplock bag and toss it in my daypack, along with hand pruners, whenever I walk the property. It rides in the thigh pocket of my chaps when doing chainsaw work. What could be more convenient for taking care of that nasty shrub that pops up along the trail?

“More stumps with less chemical means 2-3 better invasive control in the woodlot.”

Finally, while the $8.49 price tag is a bit steep for what it is, the money goes to support the work of a really great organization. The North American Invasive Species Management Association (NAISMA) supports those battling invasive species of all types. They are a key sponsor of the Play, Clean, Go program that educates boaters about aquatic invasive control. For private landowners, Play, Clean, Go provides boot cleaning stations at public trailheads; encouraging hikers to clean their boots. That helps prevent the spread of garlic mustard and Japanese hedge parsley seeds. The NAISMA biennial conference brings together academics, practitioners, landowners and land managers to share the latest information about invasive plants and animals across the US and Canada. Consider joining NAISMA when you buy your buckthorn blaster. Tap into their deep well of conservation management experience.

[Update 8/9/2020] NAISMA now sells five packs of Buckthorn Buster replacement tips. I don’t know about you, but I treat hundreds of stumps from large boxelder to tiny buckthorn sprouts during a single day. the rough surfaces and jagged edges take their toll on the foam. The Buckthorn Buster ships with three tips, however, I find myself replacing tips daily when treating tiny sumps that poke holes in the foam. Fortunately replacement tips cost $3.99 for a five pack.

Tuesday, 09 June 2020

Suburban Ready Cordless Mower

Image or Greenworks 80 volt cordless mower

This cordless mower is ready to take on its gasoline powered competition.

Greenworks has marked a cordless mower that is powerful enough to take on suburbia and beyond. Our five acre woodland property has nearly an acre of mowed lawn. There were tight spaces, tall grass, uneven ground, steep slopes, and saturated soils; in short, all the good stuff. The GLM801601 was more than up for the challenge.

Initial assembly was a snap. Just popped on the handles and plugged in the 80V battery. The mower comes with two batteries and charger that takes only 30 minutes. In practical terms, that means the second battery was charged in the time it took me to use up the charge on the initial battery. So, it should be possible to keep mowing; stopping only once every half hour to swap batteries. That compares favorably with filling the tank on a gasoline mower.

Operation could not be easier. Press the start button and pull back on the dead-man handle. The cordless mower starts a second later taking only a couple seconds to reach full speed.

The GLM801601 has a 21″ cutting width, which is standard for most walk behind mowers. It has two power settings, based on the the thickness of the lawn. The mower switches automatically between normal and overdrive when encountering thick grass. [Caution: overdrive drains the battery much faster so be prepared to cover less lawn on a charge.] The cordless mower did not seem to down-shift back into normal operation as quickly as I would have liked. I found myself several times stopping and re-starting the mower after it left the heavy grass, to make the battery last longer.

There are three operating modes for the GLM801601. A rear bagging attachment easily drops into place after lifting the rear discharge door. The grass catcher is sturdy and easy to empty. a side discharge shoot snaps into place under the side discharge door. It did not take too much of a bump to knock the shoot off — easy on; easy off. This could be annoying if you regularly find yourself bumping into obstacles or the right. The final mulching mode chops up grass clippings and leaves them on the lawn. For our lawn, the mulching option works just fine, especially as we mow high and tend to leave clippings as natural fertilizer.

Image of 80 volt battery and charger

The heart of the Greenworks high end tools are its 80V battery and quick charger.

One big advantage is that Greenworks makes tools that share batteries. Those tools can be purchased as “bare tools.” So, the batteries you use for the mower can also power your snow blower, leaf blower, string trimmer and even a chainsaw. While the Greenworks battery chainsaw will not replace my Stihl 361 for felling trees, it will work great for clearing brush and small trees like buckthorn.

Monday, 08 June 2020

All About the Show

Image if showy orchid

While not the biggest, the showy orchid makes in color and beauty for its relatively modest size.

If last week was all about the squirrel farm damage and chaos caused by invasive plants, this week was the flip side of the coin. 

Gone to Seed

Image of garlic mustard in seed

Garlic mustard in full seed is especially impressive by the light of dawn. Soon those pods will burst; each plant casting hundreds of invasive seeds.

This is crunch week for clearing garlic mustard. Plants are done blooming and ripening seed heads. In a week or two, pods will dry and split open. As they do, seeds will be thrown several feed away. Many will take root and begin growing within weeks after hitting the ground. Others will lay dormant for up to five years., waiting for favorable conditions.

Image of large construction bag filled with garlic mustard.

Much of the seed will wash downhill with the next rain, spreading the infestation downstream and across property lines. That is why it is so important to pull, bag and remove as many plants as possible before those seed pods burst.


Blooming Trees

Lots of flowering trees made their appearance this week. Among them were three rather similar looking mid-story shrub like trees. The pagoda dogwood, maple leaf viburnum and nannyberry all have clusters of small simple white flowers. All three provide important food for pollinators in the spring while birds eat their berries throughout the summer.