Tag Archive | trees

Burr Oak Sketch

We recently went to the Vintage Wine Fest in Utica, Illinois, and camped at a favorite campground, Hickory Hollow. Sadly, the newly built sand mine next door has sent folks elsewhere to camp as it is very noisy, along with blasting throughout the day. Another sad note is that the owners want to retire. They had hoped to find someone to purchase the campground and continue to run it as one, however no such luck. The sand mine gave them an offer they couldn’t refuse and they accepted. The mine is allowing them to stay in business until October of 2017, right after wine fest, a big weekend for them.

We have been camping here for the last 10 years. We’ve been on many different sites, however site H0 is our favorite. There is a large, burr oak on the site that is just magnificent. I am besides myself to know that this tree will be killed to be able to remove the sand it’s roots have been in for over many years (give or take 100, my guess). I’m very sad. =-(

I, of course, had to try my hand at preserving the memory of the grand ‘ol tree.



I hope some of the acorns I grabbed will continue on the heritage of this wonderful tree.

© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Monday Memories

Ah, April. A great, transitional month where you never know what weather you’ll be blessed with. It was 73F/23C the other day and then 34F/1C a few days later. Sigh.

I hope these Monday Memories are interesting or just a ‘LIKE’ and move on.. 😉 There are just so many things to watch for in the landscape and small windows to treat in, you don’t want to miss them.

imageIlex VS Pine Bark Borer

If any of your evergreens look a bit brown this time of year, it’s time to investigate why the tree looks this way. If you don’t see any pen tip sized holes in the trunk, then there is another reason other than borers that the tree died. However, if you see holes, these dead trees need to be removed before mid-April, when the adult borers emerge and fly to other trees. I’d highly suggest doing this if you have other pines and spruce on your property.


Ilex VS Zimmerman Pine MothZimmerman pine moth's pitch tube on pine.

Insecticides should be applied during the two vulnerable times in the ZPM cycle. These times are late to mid-April, as the over wintering caterpillars become active, and in August, when the female moth has just laid her eggs and the caterpillars are searching for over wintering sites. Indicator plants for these spray times are when the saucer magnolia is in pink bud to early bloom, or in mid to late summer when panicle hydrangea is pink. Preventive insecticide sprays should be applied as a drenching spray to trunks in mid to late April.


pineIlex VS Diplodia Tip Blight

Managing Diplodia tip blight focuses on tree health, sanitation and fungicide applications. Providing proper care  helps suppress the disease. Removal of diseased cones from the ground helps, but is not practical in large stands. Pruning of infected tips will aesthetically improve the tree, but will do little in the stop of the disease. Severely infected trees should be removed. A fungicide spray program needs to be implemented in the spring and includes at least three applications. Make the first application just prior to bud break.

Ilex VS Oak WiltOak Wilt

The “rule of thumb” for the Upper Midwest is to avoid pruning or wounding oaks during the months of April, May, and June. Nitidulids, carrying spores of the fungus, can be attracted to fresh wounds on oak trees. When nitidulids visit these wounds spores can be transferred to the oaks, initiating oak wilt disease infections.  To avoid infection, all necessary wounds to an oak in the spring should be treated immediately with wound dressing or paint. (this is the ONLY time I will recommend wound dressing, normally a no-no!!) New symptoms of oak wilt disease usually are apparent in July and August.



Phriday Photo Phavorites – Part Two

Last Friday, I decided to start sharing favorite photos.
I hope to share some oldies with my longest friends and share some old stories with my new friends. Enjoy!

Doors. Why do they fascinate me so? I can’t handle not knowing what’s on the other side.. My mind goes wild with the possibilities! This one was at a Wollersheim Winery.

I still haven’t IDed this one, however I just love the symmetry of it.

This is leaf borers in columbine leaves. These work in the same manner as bark borers, however not even close as destructive.

When I first saw these guys, I thought they were hummingbirds, I’m sure you’ll agree there are similarities! I shot video and figured out later these are Humming Bird Moths (Hemaris thysbe). They are sucking on Jewelweed, a cure for poison Ivy! Crush leaves and rub on rash.

This is a Circumhorizontal Arc or Rainbow Halo. They are supposed to be common here in the Midwest, however this is the first time I’ve seen one.

Scabiosa. This was my beginning steps of learning macro photography. Macro meaning Reeeeeeallly close-up!

This is the Kishwaukee River that runs through a favorite, nearby campground.

Oreo sporting a tiara. Shhh, don’t tell him I posted this!!

This view is from the Mafolie Hotel in Saint Thomas Virgin Islands… See the cruise ships in the distance? We eloped here!

This was a shot from our room.

This is my Brothers dog Raven. Such a cute mug!!

Phriday Photo Phavorites

Winter is upon me and my post materials are starting to dry-up a bit. =-( I’ve got my ‘brain hamster’ running on high to think of something interesting to post for my loyal followers… I haven’t done any RaNDoM PhOtO PoStS the whole season! I think I will take the opportunity to search my media folder and share some of my phavorite photos phrom the past!!

Butterfly magnolia – I’m so getting one next spring.

Here’s my Calamondin (miniature orange). I think I was trying to mimick an eclipse….

We built this while camping at Illinois State Beach Park. This was inspired by other rock stacking artists with much more talent and time on their hands!!

Bleeding Hearts are in my top ten fav perennials. This shot was almost my home page photo, however it wasn’t fitting in there just right.

This gardenia is probably the best, quality photo I’ve ever taken, IMO. I’ll say that even to this day. It is so perfect on it’s own and I just got lucky to capture it.

These Douglas Fir cones are so unique. The Indian legend about this tree is equally interesting.

Aaaaand here is my avatar, full view. Again, this blanket flower is in my top 10 fav flowers.

Bernies fountain
My husband made this fountain for a friend of ours. I love the reuse of the copper pots in this piece.

I awoke one morning and this is what my cantaloupe plant looked like. I’ve not seen it do this since.

Not sure exactly what the fascination was with this one. . I think it is because of where this is located. This is in a forest preserve near my home. I walk here often and see this during my hike. I think it is just the familiarity of the area that draws my attention. Sadly, there is purple loosestrife in the photo, which is a very invasive plant here

Platanus occidentalis – The Sycamore Tree


The American Sycamore Tree (American sycamore, eastern sycamore, buttonwood or buttonball tree) is native to the central and eastern United States, growing in all states east of the great plains except for Minnesota.


Sycamore leaves resemble maples, however the branching is alternate and maples are opposite.

It’s botanical name, Platanus occidentalis, originates from “platy” Greek for broad, and “occidere” Latin for “to set, as in the sun,” meaning of the west. Sycamores are generally regarded to be the most massive tree indigenous to eastern North America.
Sycamores grow quickly and can live for hundreds of years.


This tree was fairly young, so the bark was just starting to grow into its camouflaged skin.

Their bark have a camouflage pattern of peeling bark, like tan, gray and brown puzzle pieces which eventually turn to a smooth white on mature trunks and branches. They have large, stiff leaves resembling maples in shape, and make excellent shade trees for urban settings. Sycamores prefer sandy soils along streams, flood plains and rivers.


This tree gives the winter landscape such grand texture.

The non-showy, monoecious flowers appear in small rounded clusters in April. Male flowers are yellow / female flowers red. In fall, fuzzy, long-stalked, spherical fruiting balls ripen to brown in October and persist into early winter. Each fruiting ball contains numerous tiny seed-like fruits called achenes. Fruiting balls slowly fall apart as autumn progresses, scattering their seeds in downy tufts in the wind.


It looks like Christmas ornaments are hanging from the branches.

Native Americans used the hollow trunks for dugout canoes and the wood, though somewhat difficult to work, was used in the past for tubs, casks, wooden washing machine parts, and cisterns. One use that survives today is for butchers’ blocks, where sycamore’s notorious resistance to splitting is not a defect but an vital feature.

I loooove folklore. Here is a story from the Cherokee Indians, retold by Ms. Judson.

By Katharine Berry Judson in 1913
In the beginning there was no fire and the world was cold. Then the Thunders, who lived up in Galun’lati, sent their lightning and put fire into the bottom of a hollow sycamore tree which grew on an island. The animals knew it was there because they could see the smoke coming out at the top, but they could not get to it on account of the water, so they held a council to decide what to do. This was a long, long time ago.
Every animal was anxious to go after the fire. Raven offered. He was large and strong, so he was sent first. He flew high and far across the water, and lighted on the sycamore tree. There he perched, wondering what to do next. Then he looked at himself. The heat had scorched his feathers black. Raven was so frightened he flew back across the water without any fire.
Then, little Wa-hu-hu, the Screech Owl, offered to go. He flew high and far across the water and perched upon a hollow treeAs he sat there looking into the hollow tree, wondering what to do, a blast of hot air came up and hurt his eyes. Screech Owl was frightened. He flew back as best he could, because he could hardly see. That is why his eyes are red even to this day.
Then Hooting Owl and the Horned Owl went, but by the time they reached the hollow tree, the fire was blazing so fiercely that the smoke nearly blinded them. The ashes carried up by the breeze made white rings around their eyes. So they had to come home without fire. Therefore they have white rings around their eyes.
None of the rest of the birds would go to the fire. Then Uk-su-hi, the racer snake, said he would go through the water and bring back fire. He swam to the island and crawled through the grass to the tree. Then he went into the tree by a small hole at the bottom. But the heat and smoke were dreadful. The ground at the bottom of the tree was covered with hot ashes. The racer darted back and forth trying to get off the ashes, and at last managed to escape through the same hole by which he had entered. But his body had been burned black. Therefore he is now the black racer. And that is why the black racer darts around and doubles on his track as if trying to escape.
Then great Blacksnake, “The Climber,” offered to go for fire. He was much larger than the black racer. Blacksnake swam over to the island and climbed up the tree on the outside, as the blacksnake always does, but when he put his head down into the hole the smoke choked him so that he fell into the burning stump. Before he could climb out, he, too, was burned black.
So the birds, and the animals, and the snakes held another council. The world was still very cold. There was no fire. But all the birds, and the snakes, and all the four-footed animals refused to go for fire. They were all afraid of the burning sycamore.
Then Water Spider said she would go. This is not the water spider that looks like a mosquito, but the other one — the one with black downy hair and red stripes on her body. She could run on top of the water, or dive to the bottom.
The animals said, “How can you bring back fire? ”
But Water Spider spun a thread from her body and wove it into a tusti bowl which she fastened on her back. Then she swam over to the island and through the grass to the fire. Water Spider put one little coal of fire into her bowl, and then swam back with it.
That is how fire came to the world. And that is why Water Spider has a tusti bowl on her back.

About the Author: Excerpted from the book Myths and Legends of the Great Plains, by Katharine Berry Judson, 1913.


© Ilex – Midwestern Plants

Why Tree Inventories Are Important

WP tree invTrees are an essential part of the human world as they provide us food and shelter, clean our environment and calm our restless spirits. Many municipalities have not embraced the benefits of trees into their economic sphere, which hurts cities from receiving grant monies and federal or state funds, which would better the community.

Tree inventories are one way of keeping track of the benefits trees give back to the earth, along with records to aid in the maintenance, upkeep and diversity of the monitored forest. Urban forest inventories provide a unique advantage to foresters, as many of the trees are within an area where many people live.  Information is easier to obtain when more people are involved. Armed with information such as; reduction of air pollution, carbon storage, energy savings, functionality,  and monitory worth, urban foresters could influence unaware politicians to the monitory worth of trees. When trees (or anything) become worth money, more people pay attention to them.

People do care about trees in one way or another, some care for their beauty and values; others are only concerned if they will fall on their home. The information gathered during an inventory could make homeowners’ properties more valuable and species data could warn homeowners of potential failure due to a pest or disease. Whatever the reason, it would be to a municipalities benefit to conduct tree inventories to satisfy both sides and to improve the urban forest.

Although there are many ways to conduct an inventory (partial, complete or sample), within a municipal forest, a complete inventory should be a goal. To achieve the goal of a full inventory, a city must try to involve the people living within the community in conducting it. Nonprofessionals can also utilize the inventory tools currently used by professional, urban foresters.

Handheld GIS (Geographic Information Systems), smartphones and android apps have made tree identification, location and inventory easier for all involved; and all are inexpensive. Combining these tools with community outreach programs to inform the public about the benefits of trees can gain funds useful to all the citizens in the area.

In the past, many citizens have voted for tax monies to be invested into forest preserves, reforestation of local parks and right of ways. Another possible process to produce a complete inventory (though it is a slow one) would be to add a tree survey requirement along with the land survey done when a property is selling. Opposed to enacting a tax, funding could possibly be raised from grants to offset the cost.

Ilex VS Zimmerman Pine Moth

Zimmerman pine moth's pitch tube on pine.

Zimmerman pine moth’s pitch tube on pine.

Last year’s drought caused Austrian, Scots, and red pines of the Midwest to be susceptible to the Zimmerman pine moth (Dioryctria zimmermani). White, tan, or rust colored resin flowing on the trunk could indicate the presence of the moth’s caterpillar like larva. Finding one or two boring points is usually of no concern. Heavier infestations could cause weakened trees that topple in strong winds, and the tree will act like a nursery for the moths infecting nearby, stressed trees. These heavier infested trees should be removed.

It is critical to understand the life cycle of the Zimmerman pine moth [ZPM] for proper management. The tiny caterpillar over-winters in a silken cocoon-like structure just under the bark. Now, in the early spring, the caterpillars feed on the bark for a week or two, then tunnel into the main trunk, usually in a whorl area. Resin is pushed out by the insect causing a ‘pitch tube’. Fresh pitch tubes are white to tan, the consistency of lard, and have a shiny appearance. Old tubes are yellow to grey, crystallized and hard, with a dull appearance. It is important not be confused by old tubes and new, which all together, may look like an infestation.

In mid summer, the caterpillars pupate either inside the external resin or within their tunnels. At this time, it may be possible to kill the pupa by hitting the resin with a rubber mallet. I love organic cures!

The adults emerge as small grey moths in mid to late August. These moths fly at night and are rarely seen. Females lay their eggs on the trunk under the bark, thus beginning the cycle.

Management of ZPM begins with tree care including proper mulching, watering, pruning, and fertilization. Healthy trees do not get attacked.

Insecticides should be applied during the two vulnerable times in the ZPM cycle. These times are late to mid-April, as the over wintering caterpillars become active, and in August, when the female moth has just laid her eggs and the caterpillars are searching for over wintering sites. Indicator plants for these spray times are when the saucer magnolia is in pink bud to early bloom, or in mid to late summer when panicle hydrangea is pink. Preventive insecticide sprays should be applied as a drenching spray to trunks in mid to late April.  Spraying branches and foliage is not necessary & wasteful.  Permethrin or bifenthrin are preventative sprays that are available for use by homeowners. Spraying at any other time is inefficient, as it has no effect, and the insecticide may kill predators of the Zimmerman pine moth.

© Ilex Farrell

Silver Maples Budding 3-16-2013


My silver maple (Acer saccharinum) is budding out. The temps are about 10 degrees lower than it should be…  Ah Illinois. Last year it was 80 degrees!
I also noticed a small about of twig falls forming on a group of branches. These type of galls are generally only an aesthetic problem and not a danger to the tree.
I’ll need to write more on this gall topic soon!