Jul 23 2020

Conservation Corner: How a Tree Grows

In my yard I have a massive old maple tree.  There’s a hole in this tree that gets bigger every year.  My wife and I are waiting for the tree to fall and looks like it will land in a place that won’t damage too much.  Visitors to our place always ask how it’s still alive with such a big hole in it.

Well, I thought I’d take a minute to explain how it’s still alive.  It begins at the roots. When a seed germinates, it sends out a tiny root that anchors to the soil and starts water intake. Trees grow several kinds of roots; taproots and lateral roots. Tap roots grow deep into the soil, and the lateral roots are shallow and closer to the ground.  About 85% of a tree’s roots are within 18″ from the top of the ground and these lateral roots extend almost two times the branch length of a tree? 

These taproots and lateral roots are big and strong, containing cells for the storage of sugar (food for the tree made by leaves). As these roots spread out, they branch into smaller roots called rootlets. Rootlets are covered in tiny hairs that actually suck in water and nutrients from the soil, needed for tree survival. These are tiny but mighty roots as they will cling to the soil and protect from erosion. 

Within a tree’s trunk, are tubes made of cells. These tubes are like pipelines that conduct water and nutrients absorbed by those tiny but mighty roots, up to the leaves. There are two major tubes of cells. The phloem (inner bark) serves as the sugar pipeline, carries sugar made by the leaves back down the trunk. The Xylem or sapwood are the pipeline that carries water up the trunk to the leaves. 

Tree stems grow vertically while their branches grow horizontal at their tips, as well as a tree’s roots. This is because of cell division at the tips, called the meristems, which are zones of intense activity. They are where all new cells are formed and where they expand. But what about cell division that takes place for the tree to grow in diameter? Cell division is also still happening inside the tree stem in an area called the cambium. This layer is in between the bark and the wood. New cells formed in the cambium move outward to become phloem cells, other new cells formed will move inward to become xylem cells. This layer of new cells creates new wood on side of the cell, and new bark on the other. This is increasing the tree’s internal girth as the cambium moves outward, pushing the bark. Each spring and summer the cambium makes these new cells and wood layers. The wood formed in the spring grows fast and is lighter because of the cells are big and filled with moisture. 

The wood formed in summer grows slow and is darker colored because there is less moisture filled in the cells, therefore the cells are small. That’s why when you cut a tree, you see light and dark alternating rings. 

Of course, we all know that not all trees are the same, therefore, they do not all grow the same. There are differences between habitats, temperate zones, and between deciduous and evergreen species. A tree’s maximum height is more related to its longevity than its annual growth rate when young. Also, different species grow faster at different times. Some species are fast growers when young, like Aspen, whereas other species may grow slower when young, such as Oaks.  Environmental factors contribute to growth rates such as the amount of moisture, temperature changes, nutrients found in the soil and injuries to the tree.

Conservation Corner is a weekly article produced by the Forest County Land &Water Conservation Department. For more information contact Steve Kircher, County Conservationist-Land Information/GIS Director at 715-478-1387 or by e-mail at lcc@co.forest.wi.us.

May 29 2020

Conservation Corner

From Wisconsin Woodland Owners Group:

Living in a technology world gives us some great tools and resources at the touch of a button or the touch of a screen. Apps on our smart phone or tablet can make our lives a bit easier and organized. 

Here are some apps to help us in our woods, whether to help us with identification or safely spend time in our woods… “There’s an app for that!”

Plant Identification

  • Wisconsin Wildflower– Includes over 2,500 species of plants found in Wisconsin. You give the app specific information about the plant, and key it out with the help of the app.
  • Leafsnap– Identify all types of plants with a quick snap of a picture!
  • Mushroom ID– Easily identify mushrooms from a picture.
  • VTree– From Virginia Tech, it contains tree identification for species across North America with in-depth information.


  • All Trails– Your guide to the outdoors. Discover all types of trails whether you are hiking, running, or biking, you’ll find a trail for you.
  • Geocaching– Join the largest treasure hunting community! Go on an adventure and find your first, or your 100th geocache with all the tools needed with this app.
  • Oh Ranger! Park Finder– Find State and National Parks near you! Get it at Apple Store

Wildlife & Insects

  • Hunt Wild Wisconsin– Find new public lands to explore, see regulations, track your hunt and more!
  • iNaturalist– Discover new species near and far. Record your own observations and connect with naturalist who can help you learn about nature.
  • Picture Insects– Identify insects in a flash by taking snapshots or uploading your own photo.

Safety First!

First Aid

  • American Red Cross– Get first aid help, find hospitals and more!
  • OSHA Heat Safety– Get heat alerts from OSHA and find out if it’s too hot to be working outside.

GPS tracking/Emergency Contact

  • Cairn– This app took to the top of our list, fast. This app is especially helpful for those who have large areas of land to walk through. GPS tracks your hike through your woods, and if you haven’t reached a set destination or returned back home by a certain time, this app will alert your loved ones with either text messages or emails. It also will let your loved ones know if you had cell service and your phone’s battery level. We tested it ourselves!

May 13 2020

Conservation Corner

Conservation Corner is a weekly article produced by the Forest County Land &Water Conservation Department. For more information contact Steve Kircher, County Conservationist-Land Information/GIS Director at 715-478-1387 or by e-mail at lcc@co.forest.wi.us

Spring has arrived in Northern Wisconsin, and pretty soon the leaves will be emerging, greening up the Northwoods!  There are many tools to help us become experts at identifying trees.  I’ll share some of my favorite tools and resources.

If you’re new to tree identification or just getting started, don’t worry.  I have an easy guide with basic terminology for identifying trees:  https://www.uwsp.edu/cnr-ap/leaf/Documents/7-8%20Tree%20ID%20Terms%202012.pdf  This is a document from UW-Stevens Point LEAF program.

LEAF is a Forestry Education Program and they have an excellent online Dichotomous Tree ID tool:  https://www.uwsp.edu/cnr-ap/leaf/Pages/TreeKey/treeToIdentify.aspx  to easily and quickly identify the tree.  To identify trees by twigs, especially in winter, you can also use LEAF’s Winter Tree ID Key:  https://www.uwsp.edu/cnr-ap/leaf/Documents/LEAFWinterTreeIDKey.pdf

If you’re out in the woods, there’s an app for that too.  You can download the Leafsnap App for your Iphone, Ipad https://apps.apple.com/us/app/leafsnap-plant-identification/id1487972880 or Android device https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=plant.identification.snap&hl=en_US

Apr 30 2020

Conservation Corner

This week, I read a Blog from Bill Gates and his thoughts about the Coronavirus.  I’ll try to summarize what he says in dealing with the ‘first modern pandemic.  

Gates begins by stating that the coronavirus pandemic pits all of humanity against the virus.  This is like a world war, except in this case, we’re all on the same side. He sees global innovation as the key to limiting the damage. This includes innovations in testing, treatments, vaccines, and policies to limit the spread while minimizing the damage to economies and well-being.  The global collaboration on these issues is impressive and we should know a lot more by the summer.

Is the disease seasonal or weather dependent? Almost all respiratory viruses (a group that includes COVID-19) are seasonal. This would mean there are fewer infections in the summer, which might lull us into complacency when the fall comes. Because we see the novel coronavirus spreading in Australia and other places in the Southern hemisphere, where the seasons are the opposite of ours, we already know the virus is not as seasonal as influenza is.

Which activities cause the most risk of infection?  Judgements will have to be made about different kinds of gatherings like classes or church going and whether some kind of spacing should be required. In places without good sanitation, there may be spread from fecal contamination since people who are infected shed the virus.

Who is most susceptible to the disease?  We know that older people are at much greater risk of both severe illness and death. Understanding how gender, race, and co-morbidities affect this is a work in progress.

Vaccines have saved more lives than any other tool in history. Smallpox, which used to kill millions of people every year, was eradicated with a vaccine. New vaccines have played a key role in reducing childhood deaths from 10 million per year in 2000 to fewer than 5 million per year today.

Short of a miracle treatment, which we can’t count on, the only way to return the world to where it was before COVID-19 showed up is a highly effective vaccine that prevents the disease.

If you’d like to read the full memo, it can be found by Googling ‘GatesNotes’.

Feb 05 2020

Conservation Corner

This week I’d like to present a couple funding programs that are available to Forest County Landowners.  The first program is the Environmental Quality Incentives Program or (EQIP).   The tentative application deadline for the next round of funding for this program (EQIP) is February 28, 2020.  The EQIP is a voluntary conservation program that provides technical and financial assistance to rural landowners.  Common projects include the development of erosion control and water quality improvement, wildlife habitat development, and tree planting, thinning, and other forest stand improvement activities, as well as the development of forest management plans and fish & wildlife management plans. A full list of eligible conservation practices and financial assistance payment rates may be downloaded from the national NRCS State Payment Schedules webpage.

Special EQIP initiatives are offered for the establishment of honey bee and other pollinator habitat, including woody and herbaceous plantings; wildlife habitat development and invasive species control, within the Great Lakes watershed; soil health, including cover crops and no-till farming; organic farming; energy conservation; and High Tunnel Systems (aka “hoop houses”).

Another program is the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP).  Applications are being accepted for on a continuous basis.  Farmers and forestland owners may apply at any time, for the next round of funding, with an application deadline anticipated in late winter or early spring.  The CSP is essentially a conservation rewards program, for working agricultural lands, which provides financial payments for operators’ existing level of conservation, plus incentives to implement additional conservation enhancement activities.  The minimum annual payment is $1,500 per operator.

Similar to EQIP, a full list of eligible CSP conservation activities and financial assistance payment rates may be downloaded from the national NRCS State Payment Schedules webpage.  Additional information, including CSP job sheets is available at the national CSP website.  For more information contact Steve Kircher, County Conservationist-Land Information/GIS Director at 715-478-1387 or by e-mail at lcc@co.forest.wi.us.

Jan 22 2020

Conservation Corner

Lately in Wisconsin media there has been a lot of talk about PFAS.  I did some research and would like to share my findings.

What are PFAS and Why are They a Problem?
PFAS is a catch-all term for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, which is a group of more than 5,000 synthetic chemicals.  They can make surfaces non-stick or waterproof, so these chemicals are used in furniture, carpets, paper products, textiles, cookware and cosmetics. They are also used in firefighting foams, chrome plating and in the production of fluoropolymers like Teflon.

Why should you be concerned about PFAS?
PFAS has drawn a lot of attention because of concerns about human and ecosystem health.  There is also some evidence that ties PFAS to cancer, primarily among people who lived or worked near contaminated manufacturing locations.  

Where are PFAS found?
PFAS are not just a Wisconsin issue.  PFAS are commonly associated with military sites and airports due to the use of firefighting foams.  The contamination near Marinette is associated with activity at the Tyco Fire Technology Center, which has led to high PFAS concentrations in private drinking water wells as well as nearby drainage ditches.

What is Wisconsin doing about PFAS?
At the state level, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is working on multiple fronts to determine the extent of PFAS contamination in Wisconsin.  In Forest County, we are fortunate that Northern Lake Service has the method to test for PFAS and did the testing for the contaminants found in the Rhinelander wells.  Given the active interest in PFAS and the persistence of these chemicals, Wisconsinites can expect to hear much more about them in the years to come.

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