Here you can find answers to frequently asked questions. Have a specific question? Click on the link below of the category your question falls under and you may find that it has already been answered!
Is your question not here? Check out FNR's Got Nature Blog! There, you can ask your own questions to be answered by our extension specialists.
Aquaculture and Aquatic Resources
How can I get rid of the weeds in my pond?
The shortest answer to this question is; carefully and with proper planning. Weeds in a pond are linked to the total pond environment, taking up nutrients form the pond and surrounding area, creating oxygen and in some cases habitat for aquatic organisms. Any plan to control aquatic weeds should consider the following: Weed identification, Means of control be it Mechanical, Biological, or Chemical. Lastly, some type of preventative measures should be taken to avoid any future problems.
For a more in-depth guide, go to Aquatic Plant Management at https://www.extension.purdue.edu/extmedia/APM/APM_3_W.pdf [PDF 2.5MB]
What is aquaponics?
Aquaponics is the use of both aquaculture, the practive of growing fish in tanks, and hydroponics, the practice of growing plants in a soilless environment, in order to create a cooperative living environment.
Learn more about aquaponics at FNR Extension, search "aquaculture" at the Purdue Agriculture Education Store, or the Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant site.
Forests and Street Trees
When is the best time to plant trees?
Why are my pine trees dying?
The cause of tree decline and death is often complex. Environmental stress may predispose the tree to be attacked by insects or diseases, or kill the tree outright in events like drought or flooding. Exposure to herbicides or road salts can also cause damage or stress. Trees planted on sites that are unsuitable for their long-term growth needs may eventually show signs of decline and may die. Exotic pests or diseases can quickly kill trees that do not have natural resistance. Sometimes we may misinterpret natural cycles in a trees life for disease or death. White pine will often have many yellowing pine needles rapidly dropping in the Fall. These needles are generally on the interior parts of the branches and the color change and dropping is a natural occurrence. If you have health problems with your trees, consult a local certified arborist or your County Extension Office. Publications available: Borers of Pines and Other Needle Bearing Evergreens in Landscapes, Decline of White Pine in Indiana.
Why is my pine tree, that is covered with little pine cones, dying?
One possible answer is the “pine cones” may actually be bagworm cocoons suspended from the tree twigs or foliage. Bagworms build a cocoon made of foliage and twigs from the tree they are feeding on. The defoliation and associated cocoons can begin to show up in June or July, but may not be obvious until later in the Summer when significant defoliation has occurred and the cocoons are quite large and numerous. Control recommendations can be found at: http://extension.entm.purdue.edu/publications/E-27.pdf [PDF 886KB].
I would like to grow trees from seeds.
Will the vines growing in my tree harm it?
Vines growing to the top of the tree and covering the leaves cuts off the photosynthetic process which is vital to the tree. Photosynthesis creates carbohydrates that travel throughout the tree and to the roots. Without this, trees will weaken and die. Vines that cover the bark of the tree block lenticels through which gaseous exchange takes place. Without this exchange, cells in the area will die and weaken. Excessive vines around your tree could also be covering up decay, disease or insect infestations.
For more information, check out the following website:
http://ncrs.fs.fed.us/pubs/ch/ch_6_13.pdf [PDF 22.6KB]
My tree has been struck by lightning. How can I tell if it is going to die?
Death of a tree from a lightning strike is not easily diagnosed. Some trees die immediately from small external damage while others with serious scars may live on for many years. If the tree does not appear to have structural damage from the strike, give it plenty of water and wait to see if it recovers. Publication available: Trees and Lightning.
How do I know if my fruit tree has fire blight?
Fire blight infects ornamental fruit trees such as this callery pear, a popular landscape tree. Symptoms include wilted shoots, cankers on branches and blacked leaves, which give trees a "scorched" appearance. Homeowners can get reputable advice or service from an International Society of Arboriculture certified arborist. A directory of certified arborists is available on the Indiana Arborist Association website or contact the IAA office at (765) 494-3625.
Before pruning a tree themselves, homeowners should review steps outlined in Fire Blight on Fruit Trees in the Home Orchard, a free download is available through Purdue Extension authored by Dr. Janna Beckerman with the Department of Botany and Plant Pathology. Improper pruning can further damage trees or spread the disease. For other Purdue Extension publications view The Education Store.
Does Purdue offer assistance with Forest Management?
The Department of Forestry and Natural Resources has many publications related to planting, maintaining and harvesting forest trees. These publications can be found on-line at The Education Store. Field days, workshops and a series of forest managagement classes are held through out the year. These are posted on the FNR calendar with contact information.
Is it possible to sell good trees that are growing in my yard?
Trees removed from a wooded area for home or building construction can be high quality and well worth processing if they are relatively free of defects, living, and of sufficient size. These trees are essentially woodsgrown trees.
Many trees planted for shade are open grown and have fast growth. They are often not the most desirable lumber species and may contain metal. They may be damaged around the base by lawn mowers and weed whips, and may have wounds on the trunk caused by improper pruning. This damage usually results in localized decay and discoloration of the wood. Because of these problems, careful economic consideration should be given before attempting to process these trees into high-value wood products.
Sawyers can be difficult to locate. They are small businesses and often do not advertise. Check with
equipment manufacturers; some keep a list of individuals who do custom sawing. Check with local foresters, district foresters, extension educators, and others associated with the growing and management of timber, about purchasing timber, or other wood uses. They will usually know who can help.
Do we need to be concerned about Thousand Cankers Disease destroying black walnut trees here in this region?
This fungal disease is spread by a small twig beetle, eventually leading to the death of infected trees. Thousand cankers disease has been found in many Western States. The Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Division of Entomology & Plant Pathology, is activating Indiana's Emergency Rule for Thousand Canker Disease (TCD) of Black Walnut, effective August 30, 2010. TCD disease, endemic in the Western US, was recently identified in Tennessee. A number of factors suggest that this disease could establish in eastern forests: the widespread distribution of eastern black walnut, the susceptibility of this tree species to the disease and the capacity of the fungus and beetle to invade new areas and survive under a wide range of climatic conditions in the West.
Things we can do to help prevent this disease: check your black walnut trees for signs of this disease; report any dead or declining walnut trees to 1-1-866-NO-EXOTIC; don't move firewood of any kind as it spreads insects and diseases; and don't move walnut material from a known infested area.
For more information see http://www.thousandcankers.com/, US Forest Service Pest Alert, Indiana Emergency Rule [PDF 25KB] and Indiana Walnut Council.
There are a lot of ants that appear to be living in my tree. Will they kill it?
The ants are taking advantage of the soft, decayed wood that is already present in the tree. A previous injury to the bark, trunk, branches or roots has allowed disease and decay exist in the tree. Control of the ants will not do anything to improve the health of the tree. You may wish to consult with a certified arborist. A Certified Arborist has completed training and certification in the care of trees. You can find one in your area by clicking on the link above.
For more information see this Iowa State bulleti:n http://www.ipm.iastate.edu/ipm/iiin/acarpintr.html
My ash tree appears to be dying. Will someone come out to see if it is the Emerald Ash Borer?
There are several insects, diseases, and environmental conditions that can cause ash tree mortality. Some of the signs of Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) infestation include tree limb dieback followed by re-sprouting from the larger branches and trunk, small distinctly “D” shaped holes in the bark, woodpecker feeding activity, and “S” shaped feeding galleries under the bark. Check to see if you notice some of these conditions before assuming it is EAB. Information on Emerald Ash Borer in Indiana is available at http://www.entm.purdue.edu/EAB/
If, after checking the tree symptoms, you believe you have Emerald Ash Borer, call 1 888 NO EXOTIC (1 888-863-9684).
What is a certified arborist?
A certified arborist is an individual educated and disciplined in the practice of aboriculure, the study and exercise of tree and woody plant management.
Invasive Plant Species
How do I indentify invasive plant species lesser celandine?
The Department of Forestry and Natural Resources (FNR) and the Department of Botany and Plant Pathology have several resources available to aid in the identification of invasive plant species. For information on this new invasive plant, along with other plant information, view the Purdue University Plant and Pest Diagnostic Laboratory web site. New sightings of lesser celandine and other invasive plants can be reported to the Great Lakes Early Detection Network at www.gledn.org. Be sure to include photos of diagnostic features to assist with verification of your report. For more publications on invasive plant species, along with any Ag related topics, view The Education Store. The Education Store web site includes these great resources: Shrubs of Indiana and Woody Vines of Indiana and the Midwest.
I want to sell my trees. Where can I find out what they are worth?
The value of trees as timber varies by species, quality, size, accessibility, and current market conditions. Values can change significantly as market conditions change. Individual trees also vary greatly in terms of their quality for the production of lumber or veneer. It is not possible to appraise timber without using a professional forester who inspects your timber and estimates its market value. These professionals can also assist you with managing and marketing your timber. Listings of Private Consulting Foresters and Industry Foresters are available at http://www.inwoodlands.org , or you can contact your IDNR District Forester for a referral to a local forester. Your IDNR forester can be located at http://www.IN.gov/dnr/forestry . Prices paid for delivered logs, not trees, are available at Indiana Price Report and Trend Analysis. This report will give you an idea of the wide variation in prices by species and log quality.
Where can I find a buyer for my timber?
Your IDNR District Forester will have listings of timber buyers active in your area. The IDNR Division of Forestry has a complete listing of Licensed Timber Buyers for Indiana . The District Forester's contact information and the list of timber buyers can both be accessed from http://www.IN.gov/dnr/forestry .
Where can I buy Purdue’s patented black walnut trees?
Some companies claim to sell black walnut tree clones developed at Purdue University, however; Purdue University no longer holds patent rights to these trees and cannot endorse the claims made for the genetic character or performance of these trees.
Purdue has supplied seed from our black walnut seed orchards to the Indiana Division of Forestry for their “Select” black walnut seedlings. Some of the parent trees in these orchards are historically patented black walnut, as well as other black walnuts selected for good tree form and vigorous growth. These seedlings are available through the state nursery tree sales program. Order forms are available on-line or from local district foresters, Purdue Extension, and US Department of Agriculture offices beginning in August or September.
The state tree nursery order form can be accessed online at: http://www.in.gov/dnr/forestry .
I have just a few trees to sell. How can I find a buyer?
Selling a small number of trees may only be possible if the trees are very valuable or the sale of your trees can be combined with more trees from another ownership nearby. In either case, your best course of action is to contact a professional forester to help you evaluate the situation. Your IDNR District Forester can direct you to private professional foresters who can assist you, or you can see a listing of private foresters at http://www.inwoodlands.org.
I have some trees to sell and would like to have the names of consulting foresters in my area?
Professional foresters can provide estimates of the market value of timber trees and assist you with managing and marketing your timber. Listings of Private Consulting Foresters and Industry Foresters are available at http://www.inwoodlands.org, or you can contact your IDNR District Forester for a referral to a local forester. Your IDNR forester can be located at http://www.IN.gov/dnr/forestry.
Where can I buy seedlings to plant, that can be harvested in 30 years when I retire?
Some trees with fast growth rates on good sites that might provide saleable products in 30 years include poplars and cottonwoods, tuliptree, silver maple, sycamore, ash, black locust, river birch, and possibly black cherry. Value of these trees will vary widely based on demand, and wood quality and volume. Most of these species are available from state or private nurseries.
However, harvesting trees for high value products in 30 years is not very likely at this time in Indiana. Some tree species growing on good sites with consistent management have the potential to produce small logs in 30 years, but the volume and value of the logs may not make this an attractive investment. A rapid increase in both volume and value of wood may occur if the trees are allowed to grow for 10 to 20 more years. As an example, walnut trees in a well-managed plantation on a productive site might average 0.4 inches of diameter growth each year. After 30 years the trees remaining after the thinnings required to maintain the growth rate would be 12 inches in diameter and might average one 12 foot log with 20 to 25 board feet of lumber per tree. This size of tree is not generally attractive to log buyers. After 40 years the trees are now 16 inches in diameter and may average one 16 foot log with 70 board feet per tree. After 50 years the trees are now 20 inches in diameter. If the log average log length is still one 16 foot log the tree volume is now 130 board feet, or nearly double the volume of only 10 years ago and over 5 times the volume at year 30. Publications available: Nursery Production of Hardwood Seedlings, Planting & Care of Fine Hardwood Seedlings.
I would like to grow trees from seeds.
Starting trees from seed requires knowing the germination requirements for the species you wish to grow. Most native tree seeds require treatments to break seed dormancy before the seed will germinate. These are done naturally by weather cycles, moisture, sunlight, and wildlife in the forest environment. When we collect seeds, we will have to simulate these natural events to germinate the seeds successfully. The Woody Plant Seed Manual, a US Forest Service publication available at http://www.nsl.fs.fed.us/wpsm/ gives detailed germination and nursery culture instructions by genus and species of trees.
A general germination guide for some common tree species can be found here: http://www.ipm.iastate.edu/ipm/hortnews/2000/8-11-2000/germtreeseed.html.
I have sold timber. Where can I get help filing taxes on the sale?
The best source of up-to-date information is the National Timber Tax Website, http://www.timbertax.org . Timber income is always taxable, but it usually qualifies as a long-term capital gain taxed at a lower rate than ordinary income like wages and salary. You may also be able to offset part of your revenue with a depletion allowance.
How can I tell if a snake is poisonous?
Only 6 of the 45 snake species found in the Midwest are venomous; four are found in Indiana, three of which are very rare. Venomous snakes of the Midwest include copperhead, cottonmouth, four rattlesnakes (timber, massassauga, pigmy, prairie). All of these species belong to the pit viper family (Viperidae). Several characteristics can be used to distinguish pit vipers from harmless snakes. All pit vipers have 1) elliptical, cat-like eye pupils; 2) broad, spade-shaped head; and 3) heat sensory pits between the nostril and eye. Of course, rattlesnakes will also have a tail rattle. Be careful, this distinction does not hold true everywhere in the country. For example, the venomous coral snake found in the southeastern United States is not a member of the pit viper family, and thus, lacks these characteristics.
More people die of lightening strikes than venomous snake bites in the U.S. every year. According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine (2002), about 7,000 to 8,000 people are bitten by venomous snakes in the United States each year, and about five of them die. For more information about snake identification and more, see the publications listed below.
Snakes of Indiana http://www.agriculture.purdue.edu/fnr/wildlife/publications/snakes.html
Snakes of the Midwest http://www.agriculture.purdue.edu/fnr/wildlife/enthusiasts/snakes/index.htm
How do I attract wildlife to my backyard?
You can make your backyard more attractive to wildlife regardless of your yard’s size and location. Making minor adjustments in your plant selection and placement is a great start. The key is to have sufficient quantities of the proper food, cover, and water to meet species’ basic needs. Arrangement of these requirements is also important. Planning for backyard wildlife habitat is unique in that you need to supply these basic requirements but it must conform and integrate with your landscape design. Homeowners living in more rural habitats that are surrounded by habitats including woodlands, wetlands, or meadows will be able to attract many wildlife species. Homeowners with smaller lots in urban areas, however, can still attract wildlife including chipmunks, tree squirrels, and some songbirds.
A basic tenet of attracting wildlife is diversity. Maximize the number of plant species in your yard. Favor a mixture of plants with varying timing of blooms and fruit, height, and structure. Intersperse wildlife-friendly trees with other habitat components like shrubs, wildflowers, vines, and water sources.
There are a variety of bird, mammal, amphibian, reptile and insect species that may want to call your back yard home. While each species has specific food requirements, providing an abundance of common food categories, including insects, seeds, green vegetation, fruits, nuts, and nectar will appeal to the broadest array of wildlife species. All animals need some source of water near the place they call home. If a permanent water supply is not present near your yard, the addition of a backyard pond or birdbath can provide this needed feature to your landscape. Favor large trees with cavities in your yard; nest boxes may supplement natural cavities. Tall shrubs and conifer trees around your home will provide nesting habitat and winter cover for many songbirds.
I have a sick or injured wild animal--what do I do?
In Indiana, wildlife rehabilitators have necessary state and federal permits to house and care for sick or injured wild animals. Take note that you should never handle wild animals unless absolutely necessary. Any animal can bite you and many harbor diseases and pests that can be transmitted to people. The Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) Orphaned & Injured Animals web site will help you go through the steps you need to determine the best source of action for the animal.
The following are links related to sick and injured wildlife:
What is stripping the bark off my tree branches?
Bark stripping is a common practice among many species of tree squirrels. Squirrels don't actually eat the bark; they strip away the top layer to get to the sweet, phloem tissue underneath. Bark stripping occurs most frequently in early summer. It can kill trees outright or make them susceptible to insect infestation or fungal pathogens. Squirrels prefer to strip bark from small trees (less than 2.4 inches). Even if trees aren't killed outright, bark stripping can stunt a tree's growth or lead to malformation of the wood. ( Source: R. W. Thorington, Jr., and K. Ferrell. 2006. Squirrels: the animal answer guide. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore. 183 pp. ) Also see FNR 203, Why Do animals Eat the Bark and Wood of Trees and Shrubs?
What do I need to know before I trap nuisance wildlife?
What permits, if any, are required?
Some animals require a permit prior to trapping. Raccoons, skunks, opossums, groundhogs, gray squirrels and fox squirrels are examples of mammals that do not require a permit in Indiana. Resident landowners or tenants can legally capture these species if the animal is causing damage to the property. However, you no longer have to report capture of wildlife to a conservation officer within 72 hours. Perhaps to the surprise of probably most people, rabbits do require a Nuisance Animal Control Permit prior to trapping. The Indiana DNR has a list of permitting requirements.
What do you do with wildlife you catch?
You have two choices of what to do with wildlife you capture – let it go or euthanize it (put to death humanely by injection). In either case, you may not possess an animal for more than 24 hours. If you relocate an animal, you must have permission of the landowner or property manager (even for public lands) AND you may only release that animal within the county of capture. A common question I receive is, “what should I do?” There is no answer for which is best because circumstances differ. Most people probably prefer to let them go somewhere else because they find euthanizing animals unacceptable. They also may think that letting them go allows them to live out their lives but this may not be the case. There has been some research on what happens to translocated raccoon and tree squirrels. In both cases, the animals don’t stay where they were let go. In the case of squirrels, a high number died within 88 days of release. Raccoons removed from structures tended to relocate in another structure.
Other things to consider
- Despite being cute and furry, wild animals are exactly that – wild animals. You should always use caution when handling traps that contain wildlife. Wear thick leather gloves and avoid sticking fingers inside the trap.
- If you transport an animal to be released (assuming you have gotten permission), do not place the trap inside your vehicle. Use a pickup truck to avoid contaminating your vehicle with animal waste and to minimize the spread of disease – wildlife carry many pathogens and diseases that are transmittable to people.
- Animals can roll traps or pull in vegetation from the immediate vicinity. Be careful where you place the trap. Staking box traps is also a good idea.
- Be sure the trap is stable or “bedded” when you set it. Remove rocks and debris from under the trap. You may have to “work” the trap into the ground. Just be sure that debris doesn’t get caught under the treadle. If it does, the trap may not fire.
- You may want to cover your trap by wrapping it with cardboard and wire.
- Check your traps frequently. Indiana has a 24-hour trap check law. It is often a good idea to check them more frequently – perhaps 2 to 3 times a day. This is especially true if you are trapping during extremely hot or cold weather.
- Wildlife species have different times of activity so you can be selective what time of day you trap. For example, tree squirrels and groundhogs are not active at night. Closing traps at night can avoid non-targets, but would also require to open the trap at sunrise.
If you are interested in hiring a state licensed animal control professional, you can visit the Indiana DNR Nuisance Wildlife page, and click on the link to Nuisance Wildlife Control Operators.
Would Purdue like to use my land to plant trees for research?
The Department of Forestry and Natural Resources maintains about 25 properties throughout Indiana, totaling over 4,000 forested acres. Almost 5,000 additional acres adjacent to these forested lands are also managed by Purdue, some of which are reserved for future tree plantings. Several of these properties were gifted to the Department by private individuals or corporations. The majority of our experimental or demonstration tree plantings are targeted to our properties, because the direct oversight allows for efficient management and ensures the long-term stability of our planting projects. Therefore, we generally are not in need of additional properties for tree plantings at present. Should you be interested in a possible gift of land to our department, we would be pleased to discuss the opportunity with you.
Where can I get a blueprint paper to make a tree measuring stick?
Is your question not here? Check out FNR's Got Nature Blog! There, you can ask your own questions to be answered by our extension specialists.