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         "The Legend of The Texas Bluebonnet"  -  The Devils' Cigar


Global Forests -
Little Known or Interesting Factoids About Trees and Tree Physiology

Karen Rockoff 
Contact:  Cell: 830.955.0304
                     Karen Rockoff  Arborist  - TDA Certified

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My Tree Live Oak Tree

My Tree
Oak Wilt - How Was It First Controlled
Trees give us so much, oxygen, shade, beauty, shelter and value to our
property, it makes good sense to do all we can to protect our trees from harm. 

c) 2001 Frank Oberle
All Rights Reserved


Native Wisdom

Fire - giving life to the earth

Native American knowledge of historical land-management practices.

All life comes from fire. The first fire is the sun giving life to the earth.

First, sunlight energizes a tree, then humans cut the tree down, burn it and release the power of the sun once again, This is the second fire.

Call it photosynthesis. Call it solar radiation, if you like. It’s all about life-giving energy.

Throughout history, native nations used and were aware of traditional ecological knowledge for land-restoration practices. They burned prairies using fire as a tool to encourage good growth and productivity. Tubers, seed plants and medicine plants all germinate after a fire. Native nations have used seasonal burning techniques for hundreds of years to enrich the soil and grow plants with high nutrient value. They understood and lived in harmony with the natural creation and benefits caused by forest fires.

Buffalo, The Lords of the Prairies    
At one time, the prairie was a supermarket for native peoples. They worked in harmony with the seasons to obtain a steady supply of food. To prepare for winter, the people burned prairies behind them as they went into the woodlands for warmth. Since the prairie was no longer a source of food, buffalo migrated to the woods as well. They became food for people during the winter months.
In the spring, the natives would migrate to the prairie that had been burned in the fall. They would find new growth and food high in nutrients as a result of the fire. In working with nature, natives kept what is called “fuel loading” — an overabundance of flammable vegetation — to a minimum.

Insect & Diseases Control

When left to nature, a mature forest gradually declines until a natural disaster such as insect infestation, disease, windstorm or fire, ushers in a period of renewal.

Another less familiar aspect of forest protection involves the detection and control of insects and diseases such as oak wilt, forest tent caterpillars, armillaria root rot, and canker diseases. Minimizing the destructive impact of insects and diseases on the forest is an important aspect of forest management.

A pest management program has been created by the Texas Forest Service to monitor and respond to insect and disease outbreaks. If an infestation occurs, it is surveyed and when possible treated appropriately. The use of improved management techniques plays a key role in the prevention of forest tree diseases.

Oak Wilt - The History

Oak Wilt, Ceratocystis fagacearum, is an aggressive native disease of oaks. It spreads from tree to tree by insects feeding on wounds or through roots connecting diseased trees with healthy ones. The fungus causes spores and  Vascular system becomes plugged. Therefore, the foliage wilts and falls. Oak Wilt began to receive increased attention just after 1940 because of the damage it caused in shade, wood-lot and forest oaks in IA, WI and MN. It is not known how long it has been in the U.S. An epidemic observed in WI and MN about 1913 was ascribed to various causes (climatic conditions, insects, other diseases), but investigators of the WI Agricultural Experiment station and the USDA who established the fungal nature of oak wilt in 1942, believe that the disease may have been responsible for some of the earlier mortality of oaks in that area. The development of the aerial scouting technique and the discovery of the disease in the Appalachians brought greatly expanded survey activities in 1951. Besides the States already mentioned, this disease was found in MI, WV, KY, TN, VA, MD, NC and Continued survey found many new locations in this range of States, with a notable increase in the known centers of infection in TX,OH and PA.  Although the disease is widely scattered through much of our State, the percentage of trees infected is low however, and losses are significant but the situation could become a catastrophe should an efficient vector for the fungus appear.

Guardians of The Forests                                                            
The Power of The Second Fire

Oak wilt has continued to spread throughout Texas at almost alarming rates and has now expanded from 55 counties to 68 counties. This spread is primarily in high density populated areas. The increase spread of oak wilt is also continuing in the northeast and California.

Oak wilt, has damaged and killed live oaks, red oaks, and other oak species in central Texas for over 30 years. The fungus infects the water-conducting vessels in the oak, producing a toxin that causes the tree to wilt and then die--often within a year after being infected. The disease spreads through interconnected root systems at rates of up to 100 feet per year. To stop the advance of infection, barrier trenches are installed to sever root connections in advance of the fungus.

Fires are still used in forest management today for control of insects infestation, disease and to reduce fuel loading of the understory, but with the increase in areas of dense human population, intentional fires now pose a greater risk. The accidental fire also provided a chance to marry the wisdom of the Native American culture and the knowledge of modern technology.

Most people don't realize that some fire is good for the forest, we've almost oversold the message of forest fire prevention to the point that people think all fire in the forest is bad, and it's not. Whether lightning-caused, wildfires were once quite common occurrences throughout the grasslands and forests of the region. These frequent fires maintained an open forest structure in the forest and prevented expansion into the grasslands.

Prairie Grass over shoulder high

Can you imagine east Texas with the great pine forests and central Texas as grassland with grasses reaching shoulder high and the total absence of mountain ashe cedar and mesquite trees. The perimeters of these open grasslands areas were shared by post oaks, black jack oaks, Texas red oaks or Spanish oaks and motts live oaks, and numerous massive live oaks trees.  Along canyon ridges were lacey oaks, wild cherry, and chinquapin oaks along the creek sides. Other native trees and shrubs like the madrone, texas pistache, mountain laurel, persimmon and agarito bush as well as other native plants all blended in with the grasslands and scattered forest areas. That was Texas just over 100 years ago. Keep in mind that the forests were kept clean of dead wood by the native nations and early pioneers as the dead wood provided a source of firewood for cooking fires and to heat their homes. 

A century of human expansion in the Northeast, and Central Southwest has significantly decreased the incidence of high-intensity natural surface fires. The spread of oak wilt has been on the rise for the last century due to the population increases and the reduction of natural forest fires and controlled prescribed burns. Nature usually provides checks and balances to control insects, diseases, and undesirable plant growth such as the invasive cedars and mesquite trees, but when man interferes, nature can not adapt or respond quick enough to maintain these checks and balances.

Only after the human populations moved into the forest areas, the natural forest fires were on the decline due to preventive measures, did we notice the progressing and spread of oak wilt. The Second Fire was the natural control for oak wilt, other diseases, insects and unwanted growth of the understory and provided the balance of forest regeneration in nature. To day ranchers and landowners can not risk control burns of range land areas, which can endanger livestock, wild game, homes and for the liability risks to their neighboring ranches. 

The scientists are now monitoring the growth of the plants and collecting data to determine which species survive best. If native plants thrive and beat out the competition of other vegetation, it will bring back an excellent food source for wildlife and help control insect infestations and diseases. Research in all aspects of this disease continues in hopes of finding better answers to deal with this problem. 

On an oak savannah, Burr Oak trees survive these fires because 
they have extremely thick bark, preventing the fire from damaging
the tree. Other trees were destroyed by these fires periodically

Native Americans made frequent use of fire in their stewardship
of oak  and conifer woodlands. There are numerous accounts of
burning by native Americans in woodlands to enhance habitat for
game species, to improve access for hunting and gathering acorns, 
and to maintain plant materials in an appropriate with form for crafts




Photo by Schoolyard LTER Workshop teachers, Konza Prairie Environmental Education Program

Karen Rockoff 
Contact:  Cell: 830.955.0304
                     Karen Rockoff  Arborist  - TDA Certified


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