landowners

Pennsylvania Invasive Plant Information

Penn State Extension has released updated guides to the invasive plants of Pennsylvania — these are excellent free info for landowners struggling with non-native plants taking over their properties.  

A synopsis of the threats posed by these invasive plants, from the Invasive Plant Sheet Series announcement:

The term “invasive” is used to describe a plant which grows rapidly, spreads aggressively, and […] degrade native environments by causing a decline in native plant species diversity. They degrade wildlife habitats for native insects, birds, and other wildlife and threaten rare species. In addition, invasive plants have been shown to inhibit forest regeneration success, and slow or halt natural succession. Once well established, invasive plants require large amounts of time, labor, and money to control or eradicate.

Invasive Plants of Pennsylvania

Japanese Knotweed - Invasive Plant in Pennsylvania - photo by Dave Jackson
Japanese Knotweed - Invasive Plant in Pennsylvania - photo by Dave Jackson

Once Pennsylvania landowners learn how to ID these invasive plants, they can effectively “implement control measures to help prevent further spread and habitat degradation,” hopes David Jackson, Penn State Forest Resources Educator, and co-author on many of the species sheets.

Direct links to the species most problematic in the Cook Forest State Park area are in the bullet list above – or find an links to all the invasive plant species fact sheets via the button above.   

Even MORE information, including the most effective methods of control, are indexed at the Penn State Extension Invasive & Competing Plants page

Plant Propagation Resources

Plant Propagation Resources - Cook Forest Conservancy & DCNR

Save money and multiply your favorite heirloom plants for your yard and to give to friends — hardwood cutting techniques are simple and inexpensive to do at home, once you’re familiar with the procedures.  Ty Ryen, PA DCNR Bureau of Forestry Service Forester and Certified Arborist, compiled a list of recommended resources:

Books (these are Amazon affiliate links, so the CFC receives a small commission if they lead to purchases  – at no additional cost to you):

Online Resources:

Supplies:  You can usually use things you have on hand – just disinfect all potting vessels (pots, nursery flats, etc) with hot water and dish soap, or a 10% bleach solution, to protect cuttings & seedlings from disease.  Make sure your pruners are very sharp, and disinfect these as well between cuttings – the ARS, HP-130DX 7-Inch Ideal Light Pruner is excellent, and should be about $30.  The CFC also uses the 7″ ARS HP-VS7XZ Heavy-Duty Hand Pruner, but this is likely overkill for propagation cutting. Buy or mix a high-quality planting medium, ideally also sterile.  >> Click this link for a PDF listing recipes for recommended soil and soilless mixes for seedlings and cuttings <<

We’re sorry to have had to cancel the March 2020 propagation seminar in Cook Forest, but are hoping to reschedule for the autumn, when conditions are optimal for propagation success.  If you have questions, please contact Ty Ryen, Service Forester for Forest & Venango Counties, at 814-677-8076, or (omit the spaces in the email address): tryen @ pa.gov

Woods not Lawns for Water Quality

Penn State Forest Stewards series article – written by Jim Finley, Professor Emeritus, Forest Resources Management, Center for Private Forests at Penn State.

It’s January and perhaps your thoughts are already turning toward summer activities. For many Pennsylvanians, mowing and maintaining lawns is either a larger or small part of their summer routine. Lawns, as we know them, are part of American culture and history(1). An Internet search on lawn maintenance suggests creating the perfect lawn is a major industry very dependent on labor and chemical inputs.

Annually we spread millions of tons of insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, and fertilizer around our homes to have the envy of the neighborhood – a perfectly green lawn(2). Interestingly, as interest in organic foods increases, there is a disconnect about using despised chemicals where our children and pets spend quality time. At the same time, water quality suffers as excess nutrients from lawns and agricultural fields are one of the largest sources of non-point pollutants impacting water quality in our streams, rivers, lakes, and the Chesapeake Bay.

Penn State’s Center for Turfgrass Science estimates that Pennsylvanians maintain about 2 million acres of grass (about 7% of the state’s surface area), and 1.4 million acres of this are home lawns (about 5% of the state). About two-thirds of Pennsylvania is in the Chesapeake Bay watershed and contains an estimated one million acres of lawns. 

Pennsylvania has set a goal of converting 10,000 acres of these lawns to woodlands or meadows. This seems like a small target and maybe you can help by learning how to convert lawns to woodlands and meadows by participating in a Penn State Extension Winter Workshop series entitled “The Woods in Your Backyard: Learning to Create and Enhance Natural Areas Around Your Home.” This webinar-based education program will use a full-color, 108-page publication by the same title to guide you through the process of developing and implementing projects to enhance your land’s natural resources. Register by Saturday, 18 January 2020 via the link above, or call 877-345-0691.

A principle focus of the workshop series is to learn about what happens to the rain and snow that falls on your land. There is a very strong link between land use and our water resources. Buildings, pavement, lawns, fields – human changes to the landscape – have affected natural water movement and water cycles Water now moves across the land and into streams in different ways and carries with it nutrients and pollutants.

Interestingly, most lawns are very poor at absorbing water – in fact, they are only a little better than pavement! Your lawn, because of grass root structure and soil compaction, can only absorb about 2 inches of water per hour compared to a forest that can handle 14 inches or more in the same time frame. In the ideal scenario, water does not move across the land – instead, it should move into the soil.

Service Foresters

PA DCNR service forester program for landowners

DCNR service foresters – at no cost to the landowner – will walk your property, and give sound advice on the following:

  • Woodland review & improvement 
  • Tree planting
  • Control of forest pests & invasives
  • Wildlife – habitat & management
  • Woodland recreation
  • Educational & cost-share programs
  • Forest management 
  • Timber harvest 
  • Riparian & water quality practices 

Under the Cooperative Forest Management Program of the DCNR Bureau of Forestry, a Service Forester will assist you in understanding and planning the care and management of your woodland – a service to help you gain the maximum in benefits and enjoyment from this resource acreage.  While they can’t mark or sell timber, and don’t compete with private consulting foresters, they provide an educated, disinterested opinion and help you progress to the next step of managing your woodlot wisely and sustainably. 

To connect with your county’s service forester, contact: 

Clarion, Jefferson, Armstrong, Butler, Beaver, Lawrence & Mercer counties: 

Clear Creek Forest District 8
158 South Second Avenue
Clarion, PA 16214
(814) 226-1901
fd08@state.pa.us

Forest, Venango, Warren, Erie, & Crawford counties:

Cornplanter Forest District 14
323 North State Street
Warren, PA 16365
(814) 723-0262
fd14@state.pa.us

Simplified Trespass Posting in PA

PA Trespass Law Update - purple blaze paint

A new law simplifies some of the confusion & cost of posting Pennsylvania property as private and off-limits to both hunters and general trespassers. Rather than posting plastic or metal signs, which deteriorate and can be unsightly as well as expensive, landowners can now paint border trees with purple paint. It also eliminates the debate over whether such signs must be signed to be effective (they do not, but it apparently once was a requirement).

To comply, the purple stripes must be:

  • vertical lines at least 8 inches long and 1 inch wide
  • 3 to 5 feet off the ground
  • readily visible to a person approaching the property, and
  • no more than 100 feet apart

The law goes into effect following the winter 2019-20 hunting seasons, and applies everywhere in PA, except in Allegheny County and Philadelphia.

Scouting for deer browse

Penn State Forest Stewards series article – written by Dave Jackson, Forest Resources Educator, Penn State Extension and Matt Russell, Associate Professor/Extension Specialist, University of Minnesota

Many woodland owners take to their woods in October to begin scouting for deer season. A good way to learn more about where white-tailed deer might be found is by understanding what they’re eating. A deer’s diet consists of a variety of crops, herbaceous and woody vegetation, fruits, and nuts. A healthy diet will consist of a variety of different foods. A deer requires an estimated 6 to 8 percent of their body weight daily in forage to stay healthy. For a 150-pound deer, that’s up to 12 pounds of food every day!

PAFS series - Dave Jackson on Deer Browse

Too much browsing pressure, eating twigs and young shoots, from deer can kill or limit the growth of tree seedlings, a fact that foresters and woodland owners know very well. Over decades, deer populations can greatly impact the look of woodlands. Knowing which tree seedlings are growing in your woods and which ones are browsed can give you more details on a deer’s diet.

In Pennsylvania, tree species that rank high on a deer’s list include a number of hardwood trees. Red and white oaks are two of the primary hardwood species that deer prefer to browse, while blackgum, hickory, and yellow poplar are also very high on the preference list. As you move north, species like maple (red and sugar), white ash, and basswood become more preferred species where they are more abundant.

While deer prefer these tree species, they also avoid certain plants. Deer will start by browsing the most preferred or palatable trees first. If there are high populations of deer in an area, preferred plants will see more browsing which can lead to other plants, that deer don’t prefer, taking over.

So what does it mean if deer are browsing beech seedlings/sprouts? Likely that deer are getting desperate and other food sources are limited. Evidence of high deer populations can be seen in a woodland that is dominated by beech brush, striped maple, black birch, black cherry, mountain laurel, ferns (primarily hayscented and New York) and invasive exotic plants. Deer avoid browsing these plants because they are not as digestible compared to other vegetation.

More evidence of deer browse impacts is the presence of a browse line on all understory trees, where there are no green branches until about five or six feet up. Another sign may include the presence of seedlings that are severely hedged and not able to grow above 1-foot in height, as well as understories dominated by species that deer avoid. Deer do not readily eat species like ferns, striped maple, beech, ironwood, mountain laurel, blueberry, and spicebush. As a result, we see these species dominating the forest understory in many areas.

To have a healthy woodland, tree seedlings need to develop into healthy, mature trees. As an example, consider a browse-sensitive species like oak. First, it can take over thirty years for an oak tree to produce acorns. Second, acorn crops only occur every two to five years and truly “bumper” crops much less often. In these good crop years, acorns can make up the majority of a deer’s diet in the late fall. If oaks can never make it from acorn, to seedling, to sapling, to healthy mature tree, the habitat quality for deer can suffer in the long term as oaks are replaced by other, potentially less desirable, species.

Knowing which species are being browsed can also give you insight into which methods can be used to protect seedlings. Although costly, fencing can be constructed around individual trees or larger areas several acres in size. Protecting tree seedlings ensures that you have healthy trees for the future while steering deer towards other food sources.

You may also consider harvesting additional antlerless deer. The Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP) helps landowners meet their forest management goals by allowing hunters to harvest additional antlerless deer from a property during the regular hunting seasons.

Areas with low deer browsing pressure provide diverse wildlife habitats. They support healthy understories, preparing the forest for future replacement following natural tree mortality or planned timber harvests. Habitat repeatedly damaged by over-browsing continues to decline, losing its ability to support additional deer and other wildlife. It is important to reach a proper balance between desired habitat conditions and deer populations.