The Division recently received reports from foresters on what they are seeing in the woods and urban settings around the state. From all reports, it looks like yellow poplar, and in some places black cherry, are taking the brunt of the consequences of the drought. This is nothing we have not seen in past droughts. As a result, there may be more poplar logs in the marketplace the next couple of years.
Interestingly, species that you would expect to handle drought conditions better such as black oak and flowering dogwood are suffering, depending on the severity of the drought at local sites. Again, this is a phenomenon we have seen from previous major drought events. It looks like sugar maple might be thinned out in some areas as well. This is not necessarily bad since it may release more desirable species such as oaks. Tree planting will likely increase over the next couple years. Those of us who planted through the 1998 drought learned that stunted and drought stressed trees did not fare well going forward.
Here are some reports from foresters in areas in Indiana:
Morgan-Monroe/Yellowwood State Forests - Many tulip poplar are having issues due to the combined impact of the drought and the tulip scale. We have already lost a few, especially young in regeneration areas, and over the next few years we will lose more. Black oak has also been impacted while many other trees are dropping leaves and nuts early. The understory is also drying up especially flowering dogwood, green brier, viburnum, and ferns. The recent rains have helped this but not sure for how long.
Martin State Forest - The drought damage has been variable. The only consistent decline is in tulip poplar. Other species such as spicebush and flowering dogwood look very poor in some places, especially south-facing slopes. Last week’s rain provided some relief to the herbaceous layer in the woods.
Clark State Forest - Clark SF is really just getting into the more moderate stages of the drought. The western parts of the property seem to be getting more severe. As of now, normal drought indicators are noticeable – mainly stress to tulip popular trees. The one area of real concern would be the tornado salvage area. As the drought strengthens and downed debris gets drier, there is definite fire concern in that area.
Ferdinand State Forest - In the woods, the undergrowth is still green for the most part. Yellow poplar seems to be the most affected species with serious decline in all areas and size classes. Best case there has been some yellowing and some leave drop, worst case the trees have dropped all their leaves. Understory dogwoods are also wilted and some mortality has occurred in black, chestnut and white oaks.
Indianapolis area - Severe drought stress is common on shade trees of ash species, red maple, zelcova and American linden and ornamentals of Amelanchier and flowering dogwood. Deciduous shrubs have dropped a considerable percentage of leaves and evergreen shrubs have had about 10-15% mortality and significant needle drop of current plants. Perennials held their leaves at first, had a small leaf drop and now seem to be withering with the leaves on them and then dropping dry leaves. Species such as Knockout Roses and Daylilies that are normally drought tolerant are affected severely and most perennials without hand water have dried up and gone dormant. Newly planted landscapes are in particular trouble with smaller root zones and consistent dry soil conditions throughout the planting beds. All soil profiles seem dry when digging down to 3 feet. The native trees are dealing with the drought but early leaf drop has affected all species. Continued high temperatures and sunny days have increased evapo-transpiration to add to the lack of natural rain. We anticipate plant mortality in the urban landscape at this time to be around 10-15% between now and next spring.
Indiana Division of Forestry Web Site, http://www.in.gov/dnr/forestry/
2012 Indiana Consulting Foresters Stumpage Timber Price Report, http://woodlandsteward.squarespace.com/