Tree Talk

The colors of summer: Yellow, white and green

By Gary Salmon

June has taken us from the early yellow-green foliage of spring to the more mature dark green canopies that will grace the 6.5 million acres of Vermont’s forest for the remainder of the summer. The goal, of course, will be to keep that color over the growing season in spite of threats on several fronts.

Yellow, as found in this article, is “map yellow.” It is the constantly growing Emerald Ash Borer Circles found on the Vermont Invasives map. They are yellow in color and take up most of the Vermont invasives map with their 10-mile possible infestation radius from a known EAB outbreak. The invasion continues to grow and with it, fortunately, some community interest. Several people this winter expressed interest in inoculating their ash, several more were concerned about possibly having infested trees already on their land, and others have begun asking what the town is going to do. A May 6 Valley News article by Claire Potter provided some insight from Woodstock’s perspective. The article recognized that the central Vermont area is now under threat and noted also that towns have been somewhat reluctant to take direct action (removal or inoculation) until a confirmed sighting occurs in their town. However, the timeline is short between a confirmed infestation and taking action in that it takes about three years for the symptoms to really appear followed by the creation of a very brittle hazardous ash tree followed by a dead one by year five. Several towns are now comparing the relative costs of ash tree removal versus inoculation. Elise Schadler, Vermont’s urban and community forestry program manager has two recommendations regarding EAB management: First, leave ash in the landscape when possible and second, remove potentially hazardous trees before the infestation in your area is too far along. Both require planning. On a brighter note, there is at least one color you can smell – white. What a beautiful day it is when the cut and split firewood for next season gets dumped in the driveway/lawn. It is freshly cut, white-colored, full of moisture, and smells of wood. So with proper stacking and aeration over the summer the white will turn to grey, checks will show up on the ends of each piece as water evaporates, and one can anticipate the smell of burning wood and white chimney smoke for another winter. This firewood mystique has lingered with us since colonial days and remains today as firewood is still the most produced timber product in Vermont on an annual basis and easily exceeds wood pellets or chips as a fuel source.

And finally comes the green. It is everywhere, covering our landscape with green leaves of all shapes and sizes. The sheer volume of leaves keeps food webs active as leaves are sources of food for countless insects and then for the birds that feed on them. Balance is the key to keeping things green and this summer an imalance will create some brown spots. Locally the Castleton area will be defoliated by a spongy moth (formerly called gypsy moth) along with areas along Lake Champlain. Last year’s dry summer lowered the presence of a naturally occurring fungus that kept these voracious caterpillars under control. Hopefully the wetter spring will increase fungal effectiveness and serve as a control minimizing the brown and maximizing the green of our landscape.

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