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July 30
Bio-Control of an Invasive Tree
Tree of Heaven Seedling

Tree-of-heaven seedling

​Invasive plant species threaten many habitats including forests across Indiana. The introduced Asian tree-of-heaven (Ailanthus altissima) is one of these aggressive and troublesome invaders. Tree-of-heaven grows very quickly on a wide variety of sites from seed and sprouts and can rapidly out-compete native trees and shrubs. There are areas in Indiana forests already dominated by this unwelcome invader. Controlling large infestations of this tree can be very expensive and even dangerous. The sap and wet sawdust of this tree can trigger an allergic reaction in some people. There is some hope on the horizon. Research work done by the US Forest Service and universities in Pennsylvania and Ohio has identified a fungus that can kill tree-of-heaven and has minimal or no impact on surrounding plants. Verticillium nonalfalfae or Ailanthus verticillium wilt is a soil fungus that has so far been identified in Pennsylvania and Ohio that can rapidly kill large patches of tree-of-heaven. Tests with this naturally occurring soil fungus have shown it to be very effective at killing tree-of-heaven without having significant impacts on surrounding native plants.

This naturally-occurring killer of tree-of-heaven could be an important tool in managing this invasive problem in Indiana. The quickest way to get started with natural bio-control of tree-of-heaven is to locate the fungus here in Indiana. Citizens and resource professionals can help us locate ailanthus verticullium wilt by identifying patches of tree-of-heaven that are being impacted by the fungus. This requires familiarity with ID of both tree-of-heaven and the symptoms of the wilt disease on the tree.

Tree of Heaven Closeup

Close-up of the "teeth" on the leaves of tree-of-heaven

Tree of Heaven has long, compound leaves resembling sumac or black walnut, but possessing small notches or teeth at the base of the leaflets. The plant parts have a very unpleasant burnt nut odor when crushed or bruised. The bark is smooth and grey with light grey or white fissures running vertically in the bark. Twigs are very stout with a light tan spongy pith in the center.

Ailanthus wilt causes rapid death of the tree, often within one season, so look for patches of tree-of-heaven where most trees are showing wilting foliage or are already dead. The mortality will often be radiating out from a central group of dead or dying trees. Trees with wilt will have a yellow to yellow-brown discoloration of the wood directly beneath the bark. Healthy tree-of-heaven will have nearly white wood under the bark. The mortality will almost always be groups of trees, not scattered individuals. Several resources are included below to help you identify tree-of-heaven and ailanthus wilt.

If you encounter what you think is ailanthus wilt in Indiana please contact:
Lenny Farlee, Hardwood Ecosystem Extension Specialist
Purdue Forestry and Natural Resources
Phone: 765-494-2153

Joanne Rebbeck, Plant Physiologist
USFS, Northern Research Station
Phone: 740-368-0054

Ailanthus Verticillium Wilt Photoguide - United States Department of Agriculture
Tree-of-heaven Images - Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health
Scientists using fungi to stop an invader​ - The Columbus Dispatch
Ailanthus and Verticillium nonalfalfae Research - USDA Forest Service
Invasive Species - Purdue Extension​
The Education Store, Purdue Extension Resource Center (place "invasive" as keyword is search field)

Lenny Farlee, Hardwood Ecosystem Extension Specialist
Department of Forestry & Natural Resources, Purdue University 

July 29
See "The Salamander Tale" exhibit and play video game, Hellbender Havoc, at State Fair
Salamander Exhibit

"A Salamander Tale" Exhibit

​Explore the wonderful world of salamanders with Herbie the Hellbender at the Indiana State Fair August 7-23, 2015, in the newly named Purdue Extension Agriculture Horticulture Building. The exhibits will be there every day. Learn what makes a salamander a salamander. Discover how amphibians differ from reptiles. Read about how you can help protect salamanders. Play the Hellbender Havoc video game and guide a hellbender through a river environment. Eat fish, and the hellbender grows! But watch out for fish hooks!

Demonstrations will include fish cleaning, deer processing and their cooking methods, home and family arts along with food and nutrition advice.

More details and other exhibits presented:


July 24
Purdue's BioWall Project Aims For Cleaner Indoor Air

BiowallWe all know that trees help to improve our air quality. Absorbing toxins, reducing CO2 levels, and providing shade are well-known benefits of trees, and many initiatives are in place to increase urban forested areas. However, there is an interesting fact to consider. According to the U.S. EPA, the average American spends 90% of their time indoors, where those benefits of outdoor trees aren't nearly as impacting. In fact, indoor pollutants are estimated to be two to five times higher indoor than outdoors, and account for several billion dollars of health costs nationally. Indoor air needs to be cleaned too. This is the problem Purdue's BioWall team hopes to solve.

The project began in 2009 as part of a fully self-sustainable house called the INhome. In 2011, INhome competed against 20 other teams in the United States Department of Energy's Solar Decathlon and scored second place, largely due to it's most distinguishable feature, the BioWall. The BioWall was integrated into the return duct of INhome's air conditioning system, filtering the air inside the home through the roots of goldon pothos and other species of ivy that are known to have a strong effect on air quality.  

Today, the BioWall team is in the process of testing out an updated version of the BioWall. Prototype designs are being tested to improve the air cleaning qualities as well as the lifespan of the plants. Bypass tubes are being implemented to lessen the amount of air passing over the plants' roots, allowing them to dry out slower and live longer. Eventually, the team would like to put out a consumer version in the next few years for about $2,000. It's a lofty goal, but the team believes they can succeed and bring affordable and self-sustaining indoor air cleanliness to homes around the world. 

For more information, check out the BioWall team's website.

BioWall - Purdue University
Office of University Sustainability - Purdue University
Purdue Biowall hopes to boost air quality - WLFI
Questions About Your Community: Indoor Air - United States Environmental Protection Agency

William Hutzel, Professor of Mechanical Engineering Technology
Purdue University ​

July 23
Wildlife and Flooding

Racoon With all of the recent rain we have had throughout the state, I have received several inquiries about effects on wildlife and what we can expect. While some flooding is natural in low areas and wildlife are adapted to respond, extreme flooding can impact wildlife. Flood waters can wash away nests or drown developing or very young animals for those living in low-lying areas. For example, heavy spring rains can reduce nest success of wild turkeys in flood plain areas.

In many cases, wildlife will adapt by simply moving to higher ground. I recently received an email from a Purdue Extension Educator. She was contacted by a homeowner about a possible increase in garter snake populations. According to her email, the homeowner never saw garter snakes in years past until this year. In fact they were now showing up in neighborhood homes. Certainly our environment changes over time and wildlife can and do respond to these changes.  However, this recent change was likely due to a response of snakes moving to drier ground. This and other similar displacement of wildlife is usually temporary.

What can we do about this?  I’m afraid not much for our currently flooded friends. However, in the long-term, times like this reinforce the need to create and enhance quality wildlife habitat. Providing wildlife with quality habitat that contains the necessary food, cover and water resources gives them a fighting chance to deal with issues that inevitably arise. In addition, wetlands that landowners build and restore on their properties not only enhance wildlife habitat, but also help retain flood waters and recharge groundwater supplies.

If some unwanted wildlife has overstayed their welcome around your home, check out my article on trapping nuisance wildlife. If you think you have found a sick or injured animal, you can find a list of licensed Wild Animal Rehabilitators in your area on the DNR Division of Fish and Wildlife's website. In Indiana, wildlife rehabilitators have necessary state and federal permits to house and care for sick or injured wild animals.

Additional Resources
Preventing Wildlife Damage – Do You Need a Permit?, The Education Store, Purdue Extension
The Basics of Managing Wildlife on Agricultural Lands​, The Education Store, Purdue Extension

Brian J. MacGowan, Extension Wildlife Specialist
Department of Forestry & Natural Resources, Purdue University

July 23
Smokey's Tips for Outdoor Safety

campfireIn the summer, it can be a lot of fun spending time outside and making campfires with friends and family. However, it can also be dangerous if you aren't aware of proper safety techiniques.

Smokey the Bear is here to help keep you and your family informed on the best practices while making a fire. On the Be Smart Outdoors section of  Smokey's website, you can find tips on how to pick a good spot, how to build a fire pit, how to build and maintain your fire, and how to extinguish it when you are done. There are also other bits of useful advice about burning debris, maintaining equipment to reduce wildfire risk, and things to consider while indoors. 

Take a look at Smokey's website to make sure you are enjoying summer campfires safely!

Fire Prevention - Purdue Fire Department
Be Smart Outdoors - National Association of State Foresters
Wildfire Prevention - National Association of State Foresters
Wildfire safety outreach materials - United States Fire Administration
Let's Have Fun with Fire Safety - United States Fire Administration

July 22
Consider Pollinators When Planning Your Garden
Bee Pollinating

Photo credit: Colin Hutton

​An often overlooked part of the ecosystem responsible for our food and environmental health are the pollinators. This group of animals move pollen from flower to flower, fertilzing seeds, fruits and vegetables. Pollinators include honey bees, native bees, moths, beetles, birds, and bats, and they are struggling. 40% of honey bee colonies have been lost in the last year, and in the past two decades over 90% of Monarch butterflies have disappeared. 

After noticing this sharp decline, large efforts are starting to take place to restore the pollinator population. The Pollinator Partnership has created a Pollinator Week every year from June 15-21st, where the pollinator's importance is highlighted through local events. The White House has announced a National Strategy to Promote Pollinator Health in hopes to return the pollinator population to a sustainable level. In Norway, a connected network of honeybee habitats dubbed the Bee Highway was created. At the large scale, many initiatives are starting to form, but it is important to know that we can also be helpful on an individual level.

Our gardens and landscapes are the homes of many pollinators, providing the food, water, and shelter that they need. When planting a garden or landscape, it is important to take this into consideration and follow a few simple guidelines. For an adequate food supply, aim for at least three flower species in bloom at a time. For shelter, pollinators can benefit from a break from the wind and sun provided by plants, fences, and other structures. Finally, pesticides should be limited and used in a controlled way. Pick spray instead of dust-based pesticide.Try to use it only when necessary, follow all label directions, and spray only in the early morning or at dusk when pollinators are less active. Keep these guidelines in mind and your garden or landscape will be an attractive home for pollinators!

For more information, please check out the June column of Purdue Yard & Garden News.

Gardening for Pollinators - Purdue Yard & Garden News
News Columns & Podcasts - Purdue Agriculture
How to Minimize Pesticide Damage of Honey Bees - The Education Store
Honey Bees - Indiana Department of Natural Resources
Pollinator Partnership 

B. Rosie Lerner
Extension Consumer Horticulturist, Purdue Extension

July 21
Invasive Plant Species-Cooperative Weed Management Area (CWMA)

Hemlock, Invasive Plant Species Workshop 8/13/2015 Want to help conserve nature in Dubois County? Concerned about invasive weeds harming our forests, farmland, and wildlife habitat? Then please join us for an information meeting about organizing a Cooperative Weed Management Area in Dubois County. Specialists will share about invasive species affecting the county and discuss priorities, objectives, and future directions in managing them.

What are Non-native Invasive Plant Species?
Invasive plant species are plants not native to the area; establish and reproduce in our native habitats; and cause harm to the economy, environment or human health. These species are very competitive and crowd out native vegetation important for wildlife food and cover. Invasive species can harm timber growth and regeneration. They interfere with hunting, fishing, and the enjoyment of other outdoor recreation activities. They threaten rare and en-dangered plants and animals. Many negatively impact agriculture and property values. Their economic toll is substantial.

Send in your name, address, email address and phone number to Debois County SWCD,, or call (812) 482-1171, Ext. 3, by Friday, August 7, 2015.

Cooperative Weed Management Area for Dubois County
When: August 13, 2015, 7:00pm to 9:00pm
Where: Southern Indiana Purdue Agricultural Center (SIPAC), 11371 East Purdue Farm Road, Dubois, IN 47527

The Education Store, Purdue Extension Resource Center (place "invasive" as keyword in search field)
Videos - Asian Bush Honeysuckle, Multiflora Rose and Burning Bush, FNR, Purdue University

Ron Rathfon, Extension Forester
Southern Indiana Purdue Agricultural Center (SIPAC)
Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, Purdue University

July 20
Tools for Identification and Reporting of Invasive Plant Species

Asian Honey Suckle video, Invasive plant species workshop 8/11/2015Identifying and preventing the spread of invasive plant species in woodlands and other natural areas is crucial to maintaining healthy native habitats. Come and join Purdue Extension-Forestry and Natural Resources as our specialist provides tools to help identify and report invasive species. Attendees will also gain resources to help them control invasive plants on their own properties as well as work with others to address invasive plants in their communities. We can accommodate up to 40 attendees on a first-come first-serve basis.

There is no fee for this program, but those planning to attend should contact Lenny Farlee,, 765.494.2153.

Tools for Identification and Reporting of Invasive Plant Species Workshop
When: August 11, 2015, 1:00pm to 4:00pm
Where: John S. Wright Center, 1007 N 725 W, West Lafayette, IN 17906

Tools for Identification and Reporting of Invasive Plant Species flyer, Purdue Extension-FNR
The Education Store, Purdue Extension Resource Center (place "invasive" as keyword in search field)
Videos - Asian Bush Honeysuckle, Multiflora Rose and Burning Bush, FNR, Purdue University

Lenny Farlee, Hardwood Ecosystem Extension Specialist
Hardwood Tree Improvement and Regneration Center (HTIRC)
Department of Forestry and Natural Resources (FNR), Purdue University

July 20
Be Careful Around Highly Toxic Poison Hemlock Plant This Summer
Poison Hemlock

Photo credit: Pedro Tenorio-Lezama,

Made infamous through the trial of Socrates, Shakespeare's Hamlet and Macbeth, and several other works of classic literature, poison hemlock is an extremely toxic plant that will pose a risk this summer and should be handled with caution. 

Poison hemlock is a biennial plant, meaning that it has a two year lifespan. Last summer, it went through vegetative growth and largely stayed out of sight. This summer, it will produce small white clusters of flowers and will be more likely to catch the attention of animals and people. Poison hemlock is a member of the parsley family and can sometimes be confused with wild carrot. However, its distinguishing feature is its hairless hollow stalks with purple blotches. If you see these, be careful!

The biggest risk with poison hemlock is ingestion. Lethal doses are fairly small, so it is important for animal owners or parents of young children to identify it in their area and remove it if possible. The toxins can also be absorbed through the skin and lungs, so be sure to wear gloves and a mask when handling these plants. 

Symptoms of hemlock poisoning include dilation of the pupils, weakening or slowing pulse, blue coloration around the mouth, and eventually paralysis of the central nervous system and muscles leading to death. Quick treatment can reverse the effects, so act quickly.

Poison Hemlock - The Toxic Parsnip - Purdue Extension, Botany and Plant Pathology
Invasive Plant Species Fact Sheets: Poison Hemlock - The Education Store, Purdue Extension Resource Center
Poison Hemlock (Conium maculatum) - United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)
Purdue Extension warns of acutely toxic poison hemlock plant - WNDU

Purdue Extension

July 18
Sustainable Landscapes with Rainscaping

Purdue Rainscaping Education Program ​The Purdue Rainscaping Education Program is holding a workshop September 17 - 18, 2015 in Columbus, Indiana, as specialists share rainscaping for residential and small-scale public spaces. Rainscaping includes the use of sustainable land​scape design and management practices at both the household and community scales to prevent polluted runoff from reaching water bodies by directing stormwater to be absorbed by plants and soils. The Purdue Rainscaping Education Program provides training and resources on practices that can be installed in a residential setting or small scale public spaces project.

The program development focus for 2013-2016 includes community awareness and education for bioretention/ rain garden planning, installation, and maintenance using an advanced training model for Purdue Master Gardeners, conservation agencies and organizations, stormwater professionals, and landscape companies and consultants. Participants are encouraged to attend as a community team to support implementation of public education programs and provide technical assistance to homeowners upon completion of the training. The model consists of five, three-hour training modules in a workshop setting. The workshops include flipped classroom instruction, online learning opportunities, experiential training activities, field techniques, and field trips to community examples of rainscaping projects. Participants also receive hands-on experience through creation of a demonstration bioretention /rain garden project with community partners in a public space such as a county Extension office.

To register visit Purdue Rainscaping Education Program.

Purdue Rainscaping Education Program
Videos - Rain Garden Installation, Purdue Rainscaping Education Program
Podcast - Rainscaping: managing water around our homes, Got Nature?
Purdue Master Gardener
Purdue Sustainable Communities
Enhancing the Value of Public Spaces, The Education Store, Purdue Extension Resource Center

Kara Salazar, Sustainable Communities Extension Specialist
Department of Forestry and Natural Resources & Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant

John Orick, Purdue Master Gardener State Coordinator
Department of Horticulutre and Landscape Architecture​​

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