Why You Should Care About Trees

The Michigan Arbor Day Alliance (MADA) is a coalition of organizations and agencies dedicated to the promotion and celebration of Arbor Day throughout Michigan. Our dedication comes from our belief in the importance of trees and their role in community health and well-being. So, why are we so passionate about spreading the word about trees? Let’s be honest: everyone cares about statistics and finances. Ever wonder what can a tree offer you?

Image result for house built around treeOver a 50-year lifetime, a tree generates $31,250 worth of oxygen, provides $62,000 worth of air pollution control, recycles $37,500 worth of water, and controls $31,250 worth of soil erosion. A single tree produces the cooling effect of 10 room-sized air conditioners running 20 hours a day; when that tree is properly planted near buildings, that means saving money. The cooling effect of trees is not limited to only buildings, but entire urban areas can benefit! More trees mean more green space, which helps reduce the “heat island” effect cities experience in the hottest months of summer.

Studies have shown that trees improve our communities by attracting businesses and tourists. People linger and shop longer while traveliRelated imageng along tree-lined streets, and apartments and offices in wooded areas rent more quickly and have higher occupancy rates. Recently, several studies have come out showing how much trees and green spaces can help our mental, emotional, and physical health. So when you think about it, trees are a lasting legacy, an investment in the future in every sense!

In ONE year, a mature tree will:

  • Absorb 36,500 gallons of water– Reducing stormwater runoff, flooding, and soil erosion, and releasing that water back into the air.
  • Produce 260 pounds of oxygen – Two mature trees can provide enough oxygen to sustain a family of four.
  • Absorb 48 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) – Trees are natural air filters, taking not only carbon dioxide, but small metal particles, dust, ozone, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxides out of the air we breathe. One acre of trees can absorb the amount of CO2 produced by driving a car 26,000 miles! (For reference, an acre is about ¾ of a football field.)

Image result for urban forestSince MADA was founded 25 years ago, we have helped plant enough trees to absorb 73,000,000 gallons of water; produce 520,000 pounds of clean oxygen, enough for 1,040,000 people, or the entire population of Rhode Island; absorb 96,000 lbs of carbon dioxide; not to mention the urban cooling effect and aesthetic values!

Planting trees also increases plant diversity in our communities. MADA stresses planting a variety of trees that are native to Michigan. Having multiple plant species can help an area recover faster from incidents of disease or natural disaster, provide a wider range of ecosystem services (nutrient storage, food and shelter for wildlife, aid in pollination and pest prevention, etc.), and can support recreation and tourism by offering a wider range of aesthetic qualities.

Fall is a great time to plant trees. They can get their roots establish over winter without the threat of drought, and be ready for spring. What will you plant?

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Quercus: The Oak Trees of Michigan

The Oaks of Michigan

When it comes to trees, there are a few that most people can recognize. Maples, Pines, and Walnuts are usually an easy tree to identify, but the mighty Oak is almost always a dead giveaway! What you may not know is that there are multiple species of Oaks that call Michigan home. This will hopefully distinguish the differences for you!

White Oak
Large tree, growing 25m (82ft) tall and 120cm (47in) in diameter. Forming a short, thick trunk with stout, horizontal, far-reaching limbs and a broad, open crown. Alternate simple leaves, 20cm (7.5in) long and about half as wide, with 5-9 rounded lobes. Common to abundant in the Lower Peninsula, especially the lower half; rare in the Upper Peninsula.

Swamp White Oak
Medium tree, growing 21m (68ft) tall and 100cm (39in) in diameter. Forming a rather open, rugged, rounded crown of ascending upper branches, lower branches are retained and droop. Alternate, simple leaves 18cm (7in) long, and 12 cm (4in) wide; coarsely wavy toothed, but rarely lobed. Occasional in the southern half of the Lower Peninsula.

Bur Oak
Large tree, 25m (82ft) high, and 120cm (47in) wide. Spreading branches for a broad, rugged, rounded crown with epicormic branches often found on the lower trunk. Alternate, simple blades 25cm (9in) long and nearly half as wide; wedge-shaped at the base with 5-9 lobes. Common in the southern half of the Lower Peninsula; locally in the northern half, and rare in the Upper Peninsula.

Chinkapin Oak
Medium sized tree, 15m (49ft) high and 60cm (23in) in diameter. Trunk straight, extending far into the crown, tapering at the base. Shorter branches form a narrow rounded crown. Alternate, simple leaves 16cm (68in) long, 8cm (3in) wide. Oblong shaped and sharp notches. Occasional, confined to the southern half of the Lower Peninsula.

Red Oak
Large tree, 30m (98ft) high, and up to 100cm (39in) wide in diameter. Forming a broad, rounded crown of a few large wide-spreading limbs and slender branches. Alternate simple leaves 23 cm (9in) long , 15cm (6in) wide with 5-11 coarse tooth loved tapered from broad bases. Common in the southern half of the Lower Peninsula; frequent in the northern half and Upper Peninsula.

Black Oak
Large tree 24m (78ft) high and 120cm (47in) in diameter. Slender branches and stout branchlets for a wide spreading, often irregular rounded crown. Alternate simple leaves 20cm (7.5in) long and 15cm (6in) wide; oblong and usually 7 lobed. Common in the southern half of the Lower Peninsula, occasional in the northern half, and not yet known in the Upper Peninsula.

Scarlet Oak
Medium sized tree 21m (68ft) high and 60cm (23in) long. Long, slender branches form a rather open, rounded crown. Alternate simple leaves 15cm (6in) long and 13cm (5in) wide. oval shaped with 5-9 lobed with deep and wide sinuses. Frequent in the southern third of the Lower Peninsula.

Northern Pin/Upland Pin/Hill Oak
Medium sized tree 18m (59ft) high and 60cm (23in) in diameter. Forming a rather narrow, oblong-cylindrical crown of upright and horizontal branches. Alternate, simple leaves 13cm (5in) long and nearly as wide, with narrowly 5-7 lobed with deep and round sinuses. Occasional in the southern part of the Lower Peninsula, locally common in the northern half of the Lower Peninsula; rare in the Upper Peninsula.

Pin Oak
Medium sized tree 20m (65ft) tall and 60cm (23in) in diameter. Straight trunk reaching high into the crown forming a pyramidal crown of many upright spreading, slender branches. Alternate, simple leaves 15cm (6in) long, 10cm (4in) wide with 5-7 deep, wide, rounded lobes. Locally frequent in the southern two tiers of counties and in southeastern lower Michigan.

Shingle Oak
Medium sized tree, 18m (59ft) high and 60cm (23in) in diameter. Forming a rather open, rounded crown of slender, horizontal branches. Alternate, simple, leaves 18cm (7in) long and 7cm (2.5in) wide. Oblong oval shaped without lobes. Rare in the southernmost Lower Peninsula, reaching the northern limit of its distribution in southern Michigan.

Shumard/Red Swamp Oak
Large tree, 28m (90ft) high and 100cm (40in) in diameter. Forming a broad, rounded, and open crown of a few massive, wide-spreading branches. Alternate, simple leaves 20cm (7in) long and 15cm (6in) wide have 5-11 lobes that are coarse-toothed with bristle tips. Rare in southeastern Michigan, restricted to the Maumee Lake Plain.

Quercus - The Oaks

The Most Amazing Thing About Trees

Image result for grandmother willowTrees are an incredible organism! There are so many amazing fun facts, its hard to choose which one is the most amazing! To most folks, trees just stand there and look pretty. Some people find it hard to think of them as a living thing, after all trees don’t have a face, or talk, or move, or run and play. But they are in fact living! Scientists have discovered ways that trees communicate with each other. They may not talk, but they can send out pheromone warnings to neighboring trees, and they have been known to share nutrients with each other in times of need. But that’s not the most amazing thing!

While modern scientists are still trying to figure out exactly why this occurs, Leonardo da Vinci was the first to realize that [almost] all the branches of a tree at every stage of its height, when put together, are equal in thickness to the trunk. In other words, if a tree’s branches were folded upward and squeezed together, the tree would look like one big trunk with the same thickness from top to bottom. The most common hypothesis for this phenomenon is for the tree to be more structurally sound and stable, and to withstand windstorms with the least amount of damage. What’s more is that the carbon content of woody matter (stem, branches and roots) and that of leaves is approximately 50% of their biomass. But that’s also not the most amazing thing!

The very first trees looked more like giant TRelated imageruffula Trees from Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax more than anything that resembles most of today’s trees. But when trees did start to diversify and new species of trees were created, in a time where there weren’t many animal species breathing out carbon dioxide, trees were actually too efficient at removing carbon dioxide and they actually started the first ice age. The fungi that breaks down the dead wood and releases the carbon dioxide had also not evolved yet. These Cladoxylopsid, or first trees, also were mostly wood-less and did not have growth rings. Instead these early trees quite literally ripped themselves apart and stitched themselves together in order to grow. That’s still not the most amazing thing!

So what is the most amazing thing about trees? Personally, we think it has to do with their inner workings in regards to water. Trees need water – that’s no surprise. But what is surprising is how they manage to transport water from the ground to the topmost leaves of the tree. Now those that know a thing or two about trees will say that water is sucked up by the roots and travel through the xylem within the tree to the parts that require water. What you may not realize is that water can only be sucked 10 meters up a tube before it reaches a perfect vacuum at 1 atmosphere. If it surpassed that, the water would spontaneously begin to boil…not something you want inside a tree. For a tree to suck water up 100 meters, it would need to create a pressure difference of 10 atmospheres. So how does the water reach the top of a 100 meter tree?!? It’s not through transpiration, or a complete vacuum, or osmotic pressure, or even capillary action (although those things play a small role)! In fact, water in a liquid state can go lower than zero pressure and actually get a negative pressure. As the water evaporates as it’s traveling up the tree, it reaches a pressure of -15 atmospheres. The super tiny xylem waterways ensure water’s high surface tension, so the water helps get pulled up and prevents the water from boiling. Check out this video to hear it explained!Image result for water in a vacuum tree

Wild animals poop in the woods, so why can’t my dog?

Image result for pick up after your dog signIt’s a beautiful day, so you head to the woods for a hike. You grab your dog and pack a lunch, along with a leash, extra water and a bowl for Fido, and last but not least, the poop bags. But if you’re hiking in the woods, and no one is around to see that you didn’t pick up after your dog, does it really matter? After all, the deer, squirrels, birds, and bears all poop in the woods, and no one picks up after them. So what gives?

Well, the first and foremost reason is safety of other visitors. Assuming your dog just did his duty on the trail, the next person to come down the trail shouldn’t have to dodge his landmines. You wouldn’t want someones kid to step in that, or for our own child to step in someone else’s dog feces. Therefore, they must be picked up and deposited at the nearest poop station. True, poop is not exactly an environmental threat on the order of carbon pollution, nuclear waste, or a Superfund site. Still, the risk from poop can be more than just a mess on your shoes. Dogs can harbor lots of viruses, bacteria and parasites — including harmful pathogens like e coli, giardia and salmonella. A single gram of feces contains an estimated 23 million bacteria! Studies have traced 20 to 30 percent of the bacteria in water samples from urban watersheds to dog waste. Just two to three days of waste from 100 dogs can contribute enough bacteria, nitrogen and phosphorous to close 20 miles of a bay-watershed to swimming and shellfishing, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. It also can get into the air we breathe: a recent study of air samples in Cleveland, Ohio, and Detroit, Mich., found that 10 to 50 percent of the bacteria came from dog poop.

When it comesRelated image down to actually being responsible, only about 60 percent of dog owners pick up after their pets. Among the excuses offered by the 40 percent who don’t pick up: “Because eventually it goes away;” “too much work;” “small dog, small waste;” “it’s in my yard;” or my personal favorite “it’s in the woods, and that’s where other wildlife poop.”

There is some truth to this last statement…wild animals do go to the bathroom in the wilderness. It’s clear that the scat from wildlife provides an essential benefit to the ecosystem. Wild animals are consuming resources and nutrients from the ecosystem, and then promptly returning those same resources and nutrients. Essentially, the system is a closed loop with no net gain or loss in nutrients or resources. In fact, some research as shown that seedlings are much more likely to germinate after passing through a bear’s internal system compared to simply dropping off the plant. This is because seeds from plants like Chokecherry have a thick, durable seed coat that needs to be broken down for the seed to germinate – a service the bear’s stomach performs remarkably well.

Image result for animal poop with seeds   Image result for wild animal poop with seeds   Image result for wild animal poop with seeds    Image result for deer droppings

When we start adding in nutrients from pet waste, the ecosystem balance is thrown out of equilibrium. Our dogs likely aren’t eating wild-grapes, Chokecherry, or other native plants from the ecosystems they leave their waste in, but instead eating nutrient heavy pet-foods designed to give them a complete and healthy diet. Unfortunately, these same pet foods result in excess nutrients in our outdoor spaces if pet waste isn’t picked up.

Pet waste adds excess nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus to the environment. Excess of these nutrients in many ecosystems creates unstable conditions that allow algae blooms to cloud our rivers, lakes, and streams, and create an easy habitat for invasive weeds to grow. Although it’s easy for us to say, “Well, it’s only my dog pooping in the woods,” across the US, 83 million pet dogs produce 10.6 million tons (that’s 21,200,000,000 pounds) of poop every year, each pound adding excess nutrients to the ecosystem if the waste isn’t disposed of properly.

Responsible pet ownership means doing our “doody” to pick up our pet’s waste. Pet waste needs to be bagged and packed out. Or if you are adamant that you don’t want to carry a baggie of dog feces for the remainder of your hike, pack a small trowel with you and in back-country environments, pet waste (and even human waste) can be deposited in a 6-8″ deep hole at least 200 feet (70 big steps) away from any water sources. Always remember to leave no trace and pack out what you pack in.

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Crayfish of Michigan: Which ones to be on the lookout for?

A few weeks ago in Port Huron, the Department of Natural Resources officers in partnership with boarder control were able to stop a truck that was carrying more than 2,000 lbs of live crayfish in it’s cargo. Now these 55 bags weren’t filled with just any kind of crayfish, they were filled with the invasive Red Swamp Crayfish! The Michigan DNR said that it’s the agency’s largest aquatic invasive species seizure!

These invaders are highly aggressive feeders, out-compete the local crayfish, and burrow their homes up to 6 feet deep into the sides of the bank, resulting in increased shoreline erosion. An invasive plant or animal is characterized by by non-native and causing harm (economically, ecologically, or to our health). While the invasive Rusty Crayfish has been here for a few years, Red Swamp Crayfish was only first detected a a year or so ago. There is also concern that these crayfish could eat fish eggs and curtail species like the smallmouth bass. The red swamp crayfish grow larger than the native Michigan crayfish, meaning they can out-compete their closest thing to rivals. Since they burrow, it makes it harder for birds to kill them. In other words, they reproduce quickly, have few predators and could damage the ecosystem on Michigan lakes if they start to pop-up in other bodies of water — the good news, so far, is that the red swamp crayfish seem to have an affinity for soft bottom ponds rather than sandy beaches and lakes. The bigger concern is that red swamp crayfish can travel more than two miles without water, meaning they can hop from pond to pond until they make it to larger bodies of water. While the DNR is working constantly to check reports of red swamp crayfish, so far they have found populations in Novi, Farmington Hills and Kalamazoo.

While this sounds awful, biologist are actively working on chemical and biological control methods. You can always trap the invasives and cook up a crayfish boil! And while there are two invasives, there are eight local native crayfish that reside in Michigan lakes and streams. There is the Devil Crayfish, Paintedhand Mudbug, Big Water Crayfish, Digger Crayfish, Calico Crayfish, Northern Clearwater Crayfish, Virile Crayfish, and the White River Crayfish. Be sure to report any invasive species to MISIN and to follow all DNR fishing regulations!

crayfish of MI

*this poster is slightly outdated. Red Swamp Crayfish are now found in Michigan.



Go ahead and let your little ones climb trees…it’s prepping them for school!

Summer is half over, and your children are at different structured events: summer camp, sports camp, daycare, and structured daily routines. While this is all fine, and kids need structure in their lives, they also reap the benefits of unstructured play! Unstructured play is defined as  a category of play (as opposed to a type of play) in which children engage in open-ended play that has no specific learning objective. Unlike structured play, unstructured play is not instructor-led, so parents, teachers, and other adults do not give directions. Common examples of unstructured play are drawing a Image result for little kid in a treepicture, playing with building blocks or legos, making up a silly song, turning a fort into a magic castle or a pirate ship, imaginary tea parties or sword fights, and anything else that makes you think ‘kids will be kids’. The best example of unstructured play is as simple as climbing a tree! Children as young as two can begin climbing simple trees with many hand holds. A good rule of thumb is if they can’t get up the tree, they aren’t ready for it yet. Keep an eye on the children, but let them experiment with their own strength and agility from a safe distance. Once they have successfully (and repeatedly) climbed a simple tree, let them try a new, slightly harder tree, until they have mastered that one as well.

Climbing trees helps children gain hand and finger dexterity, prepares muscles for writing, builds confidence, hones hand-eye coordination, develops kinesthetic awareness, improves problem solving skills, teaches about gravity, and helps kids learn to face fear and assess risk; all things that are needed for school. Some more ways that kids benefit from climbing trees include:

Problem Solving and Creative Thinking – Climbing trees inspires kids to think ahead while navigating from branch to branch.  Determining the best path to take up, and then subsequently the safest way to climb down, develops both critical thinking and problem solving skills. Spatial awareness also comes into play as children experiment with fitting and moving their bodies into tight spaces.Image result for preschoolers climbing a tree

Social Skills – Children enjoy climbing trees with their friends, and it takes the ability to take turns and share in order for them to climb the same tree together. Cooperation is encouraged as kids maneuver and squeeze into their favorite spots along the branches.

Physical Development – The physical challenge of climbing a tree is no joke. It’s hard work being able to manage arms and legs while reaching for hand and foot holds. Tree climbing helps kids develop muscle strength, hand and eye coordination, and the ability to assess their own physical abilities.

Self-Esteem and Confidence – There’s always a huge sense of accomplishment and pride that goes along with tree climbing. The ability to conquer a difficult tree provides children with a great confidence boost. Kids get a different perspective on the world, as so much of their young lives have been spent looking up. Being up high and looking down at the world below can be very empowering.

Image result for thinking in a treeConcentration and Patience – Kids can’t rush when climbing trees. It takes time and extended periods of concentration to maneuver through a tree’s limbs, not to mention a strong focus on the task at hand.

Reducing Stress – Research has shown that spending time outdoors provides many calming benefits, such as lowering blood pressure, supporting cognitive function and increasing resilience. Outdoor play and discovery provide children with a great way to get some fresh air, relax, and enjoy their time in nature.

Scientific Discovery – Spending time in nature is a wonderful way to foster a child’s interest in science. Children are naturally curious about the world around them. The viewpoint of a tree’s branches gives kids the opportunity to observe so much about the animals, plants, and natural environment surrounding them. Climbing trees is an activity that encourages a child’s inner scientist as he or she explores and discovers the natural world.

And climbing trees isn’t just a summer activity! In some areas, you can take your class of Middle Schoolers out into the forest to explore the forest canopy from up in it. Watch as these students climb trees using ropes and describe their experiences! Who knows…maybe your child will grow up to become a professional tree climbing arborist!


And remember, you are never too old to climb a tree! Happy climbing!

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Rain on the Way?!?!

Hot and dry conditions across much of the state are leaving many trees drought-stressed and in need of water, a situation that can lead to challenges for trees now and in the future. Drought may not kill trees outright, but it will make them weak and vulnerable to pests and disease.

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Most of Michigan is expected to receive a bit of rain this weekend. The best chance in quite a while of a widespread, useful rain for all of Michigan is coming from Friday through Sunday. Over many parts of Lower Michigan this will be the best rain since the end of May! The top end of the rain will probably be between one inch and one and a half inches, and those amounts may even be common. There may be isolated spots near two inches of rain!

While that may not sound like a lot, farmers, ranchers, gardeners, and your lawn is looking forward to this rain! A mature tree requires more water than you think! The general watering formula is: tree diameter x five minutes = total watering time.

Even if we do get this prospective rain storm this weekend, don’t forget to keep your trees healthy by watering them!
-Make newly planted trees and high-value trees a priority.
-Provide long, slow soakings to saturate the soil to at least 10 to 12 inches deep.
-Water newly planted trees weekly and established trees every two to three weeks.
-Water under the tree’s dripline (from the trunk to the edge of the tree canopy).
-Retain water by applying 3 to 4 inches of organic mulch under the tree canopy, but not touching the trunk.
-Do not water in the middle of the day or use mist sprinklers; they lose water through evaporation. Watering frequently and lightly doesn’t benefit trees much, either.
-Do not use fertilizer. It can injure tree roots when conditions are dry.

Don’t forget to keep yourself hydrated as well!