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November 30
Keeping your Christmas tree fresh

Your real tree, once cut, is like fresh fruit in regards to its useful life expectancy. Just like fruit, care needs to be exercised in the trees selection and subsequent care according to Daniel Cassens, Professor in the Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, Purdue University and member of the National Christmas Tree Association. Over half of the tree's weight consists of water when first cut and it is important that the water content be maintained.

First, it is important to select a fresh tree. If you cut the tree at a choose-and-cut farm, it has to be fresh. If the tree is pre-cut, make sure the needles are flexible and firmly attached to the stem. Also, the tree should look “normal” and not crushed with broken branches and distorted or missing needles. Fresh looking trees indicate they have been well cared for.

Fresh cut trees should be kept out of the sun and wind to prevent accelerated dehydration. If the tree needs to be temporarily stored, place it in an unheated building or on the north side of a building where it will be less exposed. It will also help to place the tree in a bucket of water.

Just before setting up the tree, using an inexpensive bow or other saw trim about one-half inch from the base of the trunk. The cut should be perpendicular to the main stem. If the tree cannot be set up within 6 to 8 hours, make another cut. About 6 to 8 hours after the cut is made, the living cells begin to die and become blocked so the tree cannot take up water.

The tree should now be placed in a stand capable of supporting the tree mechanically. Make sure the stand has extended legs to prevent the tree from tipping. Do not whittle down the outside diameter of the tree base. The outer layers of wood are the most effective in taking up water. The stand should also be able to hold at least one quart of water for each inch of stem diameter. A typical 7 foot tree will require a stand with a water holding capacity of about two gallons. Check the water level each day and add cool water as needed. Make sure the butt end of the tree stem is always in water contact. Some stands do not allow the stem to reach the bottom of the water holding container. Trees tend to take large quantities of water each day for the first week or so and then slow down. Remember, if the tree runs out of water, the cells in the very butt or exposed end will become blocked and subsequent water uptake will be prevented.

Keep the displayed tree away from any heat sources such as fireplaces, heaters, heat vents and direct sunlight. Lowering the room temperature will also slow the drying process.

Some tree lights can also produce excessive heat. Small lights or those that produce low heat will also help to reducing localized drying of the tree.

For more information about Christmas trees or to locate a choose-and-cut tree farm near you, please visit the National Christmas Tree Growers Association.

A Choose-and-Cut Pine and Fir Christmas Tree Case Study, The Education Store
Selecting an Indiana-Grown Christmas Tree, The Education Store
Tips for First-Time Buyers of Real Christmas Trees, The Education Store

Daniel Cassens, Professor of Wood Products
Department of Forestry and Natural Resources

November 29
New Publication: Trees and Electric Lines
Trees and Electric Lines

Electrical utility lines serve nearly every neighborhood, adding efficiency and luxury to every day of our lives.

Likewise, trees enhance our neighborhoods and bring beauty to our surroundings. Trees improve our air and water quality. They shade our homes, screen undesirable views, and help reduce noise along with many other ecosystem services.

We want both. 

Purdue FNR Urban Forestry Specialist Lindsey Purcell addresses the conflicts that sometimes arise when trees and electrical lines must share space and ways to avoid them in his latest publication "Trees and Electric Lines". Check out the publication to learn more about how to avoid boundary issues, safety concerns, power outages, and more while dealing with trees and electric lines.

Trees and Electric Lines - The Education Store, Purdue Extension Resouce Center
Tree Risk Management - The Education Store
Trees and Storms - The Education Store
Urban Forestry and Arboriculture - Purdue Forestry and Natural Resources
Power Friendly Trees - Indiana Department of Natural Resources

Lindsey Purcell, Urban Forestry Specialist
Purdue University Department of Forestry and Natural Resources

November 29
Winter Expected to Begin Much Tamer Than Last Year's In Indiana Thanks to El Niño
Indiana Snow

Photo credit: Tom Campbell

The Indiana State Climate Office has some good news for Indiana residents that weren't a fan of our last two frigidly cold winters. This year's winter is predicted to be significantly more mild thanks to a global weather pattern called El Niño.

El Niño is a cyclical pattern that warms the surface of the Pacific Ocean when it arrives, bringing noticable effects to the midwest states during the winter. El Niños have been observed for over a hundred years, with varying durations and levels of intensity. This one is estimated to be one of the strongest since 1950, and began earlier than normal. This gave us a warm and wonderful fall, and also suggests that our winter will have a mild start. However, as the effects of El Niño taper off after December, the winter will return to normal. 

Opponents of the cold can surely rejoice, as it looks like El Niño has given us a bit of added warmth this winter, even if it might not last. For more information, check out Purdue Agriculture News' article "Mild and dry weather expected initially this winter in Indiana."

Mild and dry weather expected initially this winter in Indiana - Purdue Agriculture News
Purdue climatologists calling for a big change this winter - WLFI
Useful to Usable - Purdue Extension
Weather Preparedness - Purdue University

Purdue Agriculture News


November 27
Which Christmas tree is better for the environment — real or artificial?

The debate over rather the use of a real tree or an artificial tree is better for the environment continues, especially as the Holiday season nears. Real tree growers point out that their product is renewable, each species has its own characteristic odor, consumes carbon dioxide and gives off oxygen, can be recycled, provides wildlife habitat and creates jobs in rural America. Artificial trees contain non biodegradable plastics and possible metal toxins such as lead. Most artificial trees are made in China and must be shipped long distances to the United States. On the other hand the artificial tree industry points out that their product can be reused and thus saves several real trees from being harvested. The industry goes on to claim that their trees do not need fertilizers or pesticides and do not create a mess or hassle. These are just examples of claims being made by two distinctly different industries. Considering the entire production cycle for real and artificial trees, it is difficult to determine which type of tree is best for the environment, based on scientific based data. Conducting a “Life Cycle Assessment” (LCA) for real and artificial trees would be one approach to answer this question.

Real Christmas trees, like all green plants, consume carbon dioxide and produce oxygen. The carbon dioxide is absorbed through the leaves or needles, combined with sunshine and water to make food and release oxygen. This process is called photosynthesis. The “carbon” is stored in the wood, needles, and leaves and constitutes about one-half of the dry weight. If the trees are burned or otherwise decomposed the “stored” or sequestered carbon is released back into the atmosphere. Other existing or planted trees absorb the carbon making trees carbon neutral. Some of the carbon is also stored in the soil. Growing trees also require some carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere.

Artificial trees use petroleum based products. Petroleum based products are ancient, stored sources of carbon dioxide and if burned as in the case of gasoline, release new carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Transportation becomes a significant source of carbon release regardless of the tree being real or artificial.

Carbon dioxide is important because it traps heat from the earth’s surface. This is often referred to as the “greenhouse effect”. The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has been increasing since the late 1800’s and scientific data shows a particularly significant increase since the 1960’s. “Global warming” is the term being used to describe an increase in the world’s average surface temperature as a result of more heat being trapped.

“Cradle to Grave” or “Life Cycle Assessments” are used to summarize all of the positive and negative activities associated with developing a product and delivering it to the consumer. LCA’s become complicated, costly and the results are dependent on exactly which set or sets of circumstances are considered. Only one documented study on real and artificial trees is available. A Canadian Environmental consulting firm, Ellipsos has completed a LCA for both real and artificial trees. (Ellipsos/Strategists in Sustainable Development)

In this study, the carbon balance for an individual 7 foot high real Christmas tree was about +24 Kg (53 lbs) of CARBON DIOXIDE after all factors such as labor, use of machinery, transportation, and other inputs are considered. The tree was grown south of Montreal, Canada. It was assumed that the tree was grown in the nursery for four years and in the field for 11 years. In Indiana, two year old nursery stock and about 7 years in the field to produce a 7 foot tree are more typical and would probably result in less carbon being released. The “+” indicates that the overall process of growing a tree is carbon positive (i.e. carbon is released).

The carbon balance for a similar six foot artificial tree was about +48Kg (106 lbs) of CARBON DIOXIDE or twice that of the real tree. Most of the positive carbon release in this case is due to the manufacturing of the tree and transportation of the tree by boat from China to Vancouver and then by train to Montreal, Canada.

For comparison purposes, the average American car emits about 1.5 tons or 3000 pounds of carbon into the atmosphere on a yearly basis. (Green Car Congress)

The Ellipsos report assumed that the real tree would be burned for fuel at the end of the life cycle, thus releasing all of the stored carbon in the tree. If the real tree is recycled for mulch or fish habitat or other uses the carbon budget would be closer to zero at least until the tree finally decomposes. The study goes on to conclude that considering climate change impact along with environmental and public health impact, real trees appear to be a better choice for a responsible customer and that artificial trees must be displayed for more than 20 years in order for it to compare favorably with the real Christmas tree.

The assessment method used for the life cycle analysis groups problems into four damage oriented impacts areas on the environment. These are 1) climate change, 2) human health, 3) ecosystem quality, and 4) resource depletion. The results for the Ellipsos report are interesting. Considering climate change, the real tree has much less impact due to a smaller amount of carbon being released into the atmosphere as discussed above. The LCA also considers the products impact on human health, ecosystem quality and resource depletion. Considering human health, the artificial tree is a slightly better choice than the real tree. Considering ecosystem quality, the artificial tree is a better choice. This is likely due to the use of land for plantations and associated cultural practices (fertilizer, pesticide, irrigation) for real trees. In regards to bothclimate change (global warming) and resource depletion (use of non-renewable energy and mineral extraction), the real tree is a better choice than the artificial tree. The Ellipsos report titled “Comparative life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of Artificial vs Natural Christmas trees” can be viewed by Googling “Ellipsos report 1043-RF3-09.”

Both real and artificial trees have positive and negative attributes. Based on this study, the real tree has less effect on global warming than the artificial tree ie less carbon is released. The amount of carbon released by either the real or artificial tree is relatively small compared to that released by the average car over the course of the year. To reduce carbon production, consumers might be better advised to limit (plan ahead) the use of the car over the holiday season.

For more information about Christmas trees or to locate a choose-and-cut tree farm near you, please visit the National Christmas Tree Growers Association.

Other resources:
A Choose-and-Cut Pine and Fir Christmas Tree Case Study, The Education Store
Selecting an Indiana-Grown Christmas Tree, The Education Store
Tips for First-Time Buyers of Real Christmas Trees, The Education Store

Daniel Cassens, Professor of Wood Products
Department of Forestry and Natural Resources

November 25
Selecting a Real Christmas Tree
Christmas Tree

​A real Christmas tree is an important part of a holiday celebration for many Hoosier households. Consumers have several choices for purchasing a real tree, including pre-cut trees at retail outlets or seasonal sales locations, choose-and-cut trees at Christmas tree farms, or even live trees that can be replanted after the holidays. Purdue Extension offers two publications that can help you select and care for your tree: Tips for First-Time Buyers of Christmas Trees provides advice and direction on how to set up and care for your tree to improve safety and enjoyment. Selecting an Indiana-Grown Christmas Tree provides details on the characteristics of different species of real Christmas trees available in Indiana, as well as care instructions for cut and live Christmas trees.

Pre-cut real Christmas trees are available at many retail outlets like garden centers, supermarkets, or seasonal sales locations. If you are looking for local choose-and-cut Christmas tree farms you can consult local media and advertising outlets or the Indiana Christmas Tree Growers Association. Some garden centers and Christmas tree farms may also offer live trees for sale.

If you are considering growing your own Christmas trees for personal use or sale, the Extension publications Growing Christmas Trees​ and A Choose-and-Cut Pine and Fir Christmas Tree Case Study outline economic and management considerations for growing Christmas trees.

Find more Christmas Tree Facts, Species and Tips:
Got Nature? - Christmas Trees category

Lenny Farlee, Sustaining Hardwood Extension Specialist
Hardwood Tree Improvement and Regeneration Center
Purdue Department of Forestry & Natural Resources

November 17
Purdue Podcasts Highlighted in the News as a Helpful Wildlife Resource
Robert Cordes pictured with turkey, EHD and Blue Tongue deer disease Got Nature Post

​Got Nature's podcasts are a great way to learn about wildlife, forestry, and conservation issues from the experts themselves. The information they provide can be a much more valuable and reliable resource than simply searching the internet. Frequent Got Nature podcast contributor Bob Cordes emphasized this as he was featured in a Franklin, Indiana Sun Journal article titled "Wilton biologist discusses wildlife on Purdue University podcasts."

Bob Cordes is an assistant regional wildlife biologist with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife, and collaborates with Associate Professor of Wildlife Ecology Rod Williams to provide podcast listeners with answers to common and not-so-common wildlife questions and concerns. Cordes started working with Got Nature podcasts in the episode "Wildlife Pictures Worth a Thousand Words", where he is interviewed by Dr. Williams about how to use trail cameras to view wildlife. More recently, Cordes has been involved with the weekly "Boiler Up! for Wildlife" series.

Check out the Got Nature podcasts featuring Bob Cordes below to learn more from his expertise in wildlife biology.


The Got Nature podcast page has these and more informative podcasts available to listen to for free, and they are also available through iTunes.

Robert Cordes, Assistant Regional Biologist
Main Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife

Rod Williams​, Associate Professor of Wildlife Science
Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, Purdue University


November 11
Tulip Poplar: Is Indiana's State Tree a Protector for the Rare American Ginseng Plant?
Tulip Composite 1

​​Tulip poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera) is one of the largest trees in Indiana and the eastern portion of the country. Tulip poplar reaching heights in excess of 50-60 m (160-200 ft) with a diameter at breast height (dbh) of 3 m (10 ft) have been reported while the majority of these eastern giants are between 20-30 m (70-100 ft) tall. This tree is fast-growing, has few health problems, and can live upwards of 200 years. 

The tree looks best between April and June when it begins to flower as it is covered with large pale green to yellow flowers with an orange band encircling the tepals. These flowers are brimming with nectar and draw in large quantities of bees, birds, and butterflies. The tree has been deemed so magnificent that it is the state tree of Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee. 

American Ginseng

American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) is an herbaceous perennial member of the ivy family that has traditionally been used in North America by Native Americans for its medicinal properties and cultivated in China for use in herbal remedies. In years past, American ginseng was widespread throughout the eastern United States until overharvesting, habitat fragmentation, urbanization, and deer browsing decimated wild populations.

Though not scientifically proven, ginseng is believed to remedy numerous health conditions such as inflammation, the flu, cancer, insomnia, erectile dysfunction, and hangovers. The herb has become one of the most popular unproven remedies in the world.

A new study noted that wild populations of American ginseng could benefit from being planted near tulip poplar. The data stated that new strategies need to be pursued in conservation efforts to save the rare American ginseng plant. The study advised that planting American ginseng on sites equally suited to tulip trees had the potential to increase outplanting success. The authors recommended planting in isolated, mostly closed canopy areas free of disturbances (trespassers, timber harvesting, large deer populations) and against planting in sites with wild sarsaparilla (Lindera benzoin).

Ginseng: Old Crop, New Directions​ - Purdue University Department of Horticulture
Ginseng​ - Indiana Department of Natural Resources
American Ginseng - U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Liriodendron tulipifera - The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
Can putative indicator species predict habitat quality for American ginseng? - Ecological Indicators

Shaneka LawsonPlant Physiologist & Adjunct Assist. Professor
USDA Forest Service​
Purdue University Department of Forestry & Natural Resouces/HTIRC

November 09
Ginkgo Stinkgo! Are Boys Better Than Girls?

Ginkgo​Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) trees also known as Maidenhair trees are slow-growing, relatively pest-free, wind-polinated trees that can be found in all fifty of the contiguous United States. The only tree species within division Ginkgophyta to escape extinction, Ginkgo biloba is known as an ancient tree with prehistoric fossils dating back 270 million years found on every continent except Antarctica and Australia.

Ginkgo grow best in full sunlight and can reach heights greater than 35 m (115 ft). Ginkgo trees are valuable street trees because of their low susceptibility to smoke, drought, or low temperatures. These trees grow slowly and perform relatively well in most soil types provided they are well-drained. The leaves turn a vibra​nt yellow during autumn but drop soon after its brilliant fall colour is observed.

Unfortunately, in late autumn, the dirty secret that female ginkgo trees hide is revealed. The “fruit” produced by female ginkgo trees is foul smelling (has been compared to rancid butter or animal excrement) and is cast in the fall following the first frost. Though immature when cast, the embryos within the fruit continue to mature on the ground for up to two months afterwards. This means that anyone unfortunate enough to step on the fruit during that time is exposed to its pungent odor.

Extreme caution should be used when selecting ginkgo trees for landscape ornamentals or for street trees since there is no way to discern a male from a female at the seedling stage. Several “Boys Only” cultivars have been developed such as ‘Autumn Gold’ or ‘Lakeview’ to ensure that you do not end up with a stinky yard or street when the trees begin to fruit. While the scent of the seed coat may be undesirable, the seed kernel is highly valued in Eastern Asia as a food product. In the United States, herbal extracts composed of ginkgo leaves are believed to improve short-term memory and concentration.Ginkgo Seeds

On the campus of Purdue University several ginkgo trees can be found although unfortunately for students the vast majority of these are female and the scent of crushed seed pods often follows many students to class on the bottoms of their shoes. A word of warning, the ginkgo trees planted near Pfendler Hall, Forestry, and the Cordova Center are all females. Watch your step this winter and this is the one rare example of when boys ARE better than girls.

Stinky Ginkgo Fruit - Purdue Plant & Pest Diagnostic Laboratory
Ginkgo biloba​ - Purdue Arboretum Explorer
Ginkgo -
Ginkgo biloba L. - USDA Forest Service

Shaneka Lawson, Plant Physiologist & Adjunct Assistant Professor
USDA Forest Service
Purdue University Department of Natural Resources/HTIRC

October 29
Purdue Aquatic Specialists Teach 5th & 6th Graders What is Found in Our Streams
K12 Outreach 2

​Every year, Camp Cullom in Clinton County, IN hosts an Academy of Science, a program for high-aptitude fifth graders from the four schools in the area who have a passion for science. Camp Cullom believes in fueling that passion, as the young people of today will do incredible things in our future. Clinton County Daily News captures the excitement of the 2015 Academy of Science event in their article "This Was the Best Day Of My Life - Camp Cullom Holds Another Academy Of Science".​​

This year's event was packed full of activities. The students did everything from learning about the size of the galaxy, to touring the woodlands and taking samples of a tree, to building and setting off their very own rockets. One exciting part of the event was a tour of Spring Creek, guided by Jay Beugly, aquatics ecology specialist with FNR and Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant (IISG), and Megan Gunn, research assistant for Dr. Reuben Goforth and technician for the FNR Aquatic Ecology Lab. Students received a hands-on look at some of the creatures living in the river, learning about water pollutants as well as the services that depend on the river.

This isn't the only youth education initiative that took place in the water this fall. In September our aquatic specialists Jay and Megan met with a group of 6th graders from the Faith Christian School as they walked deep in the waters to see what they could find. In October they shared their expertise with high school students in the Wildcat Creek near Kokomo, IN. The honors and AP students had the opportunity to experience the diversity of organisms living in the stream and challenge their mindsets about the water quality of the river, which they found was actually quite good for this ecosystem. To read more about their trip to the Wildcat Creek, check out Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant's blog post "Science students experience Wildcat Creek feet first".

"This Was the Best Day of My Life" Camp Cullom Holds Another Academy Of Science - Clinton County Daily News
Science students experience Wildcat Creek feet first - Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant Lakeside Views
Community Stewardship - Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant
A Fish Farmer's Guide to Understanding Water Quality - The Education Store, Purdue Extension Resource Center
Forestry and Water Quality: Pollution Control Practices - The Education Store
Students raft river to learn ‘Wonders of the Wabash' - Video and Article
Wonders on the Wabash Inaugural River Expedition an Experiential Education Success - Tippecanoe County Partnerhsip for Water Quality

Jay Beugly, Aquatics Ecology Specialist
Purdue FNR & Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant (IISG)

Megan L. Gunn​, Research Assistant and Aquatic Ecology Lab Technician 
Purdue University Department of Forestry & Natural Resources

October 28
Keep Watering Your Plants This Fall to Reduce Winter Damage
Fall Colors

This year's dry spell has been pretty hard on our plants, leaving them vulnerable to drying out over the winter, when the ground is frozen and they cannot receive moisture from the soil. It is important that we prepare our plants, especially young ones planted this year, by continuing to water them throughout the fall. 

Extension Consumer Horticulturist B. Rosie Lerner recommends watering our plants every 7-10 days to counter the dry conditions and prepare for winter. To learn more, check out her Purdue Extension article "Water Now to Minimize Winter Injury".

Water Now to Minimize Winter Injury - Purdue Extension
Preparing the Garden for Winter - Purdue University Consumer Horticulture
Autumn Garden Calendar - The Education Store, Purdue Extension Resource Center
Effects of Cold Weather on Horticultural Plants in Indiana - The Education Store
Winter Storage of Geranium, Canna, Gladiolus, Caladium, and Begonia - The Education Store

B. Rosie Lerner, Consumer Horticulturist
Purdue Extension

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