Thursday, January 23, 2014

Pure Gas

If you read the instruction manual that comes with your chainsaw, you will probably see a note buried in the fine print, "Use Gasoline Only". 

Many plastic parts swell up when exposed to the ethanol in common gasoline blends.

I have a Poulan and the gas cap becomes a stinker to get off and screw back on.  Replacement caps are available from here.  I have a spare set and swap them back and forth.  One set is on the chainsaw while the other set is "on the wagon drying out."

Another solution is to find a station that sells "Pure" gasoline.

====> Link to find Pure Gasoline <=====

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Edible Fungi Associated with Oaks

Gilled Bolete.  All pictures from Wikipedia
Note:  Edibility is not cast-iron solid.  Follow a good guide to mushroom identification and guidelines regarding starting with small samples first.  Better yet, hook up with a knowledgeable local person.  Mushrooms show local variation and don't always look like the picture in the guide book.

The species listed are "ectomycorrhizal".  That is, they not parasitic but sheath the roots with a felt-like covering that can help protect against toxins and can help in accessing nutrients.  Most information was gleaned from HERE.

Inoculating with mycorrhiza has not been conclusively demonstrated to help trees grow.  Most soils have enough native fungi to support tree growth.  Most soils have sufficient, available nutrients that trees are not on the raggedy edge of survival.  The potential of these fungi is the production of additional, gourmet foods from your trees.

Boletus edulis (King Bolete)

Boletus pulverulentus (Inkstain Bolete)

Boletus rubellus (Ruby Bolete)

Craterellus cornucopioides (Black Trumpet)

Gyroporus castaneus (Chestnut Bolete)

Heimioporus betula (Shaggy-Stalked Bolete)

Hygrophorus russula (Pinkmottle woodwax)

Indigo Milkcap
Lactarius indigo (Indigo Milkcap)

Leccinum aurantiacum (Orange Oak Bolete)

Phylloporus rhodoxanthus (Gilled Bolete)

Russula vesca (Bare-Toothed Brittlegill)

Russula virescens (Green-Cracked Brittlegill)

Strobilomyces strobilaceus (Old-Man-of-the-Woods)

Tricholoma magnivelare (American Matsutake)

Tuber melanosporum (Black Truffle)

Tylopilus alboater (Black Velvet Bolete)  

Honorable mention:  Not ectomycorrhizal but good use for stumps and waste oak wood

Grifola frondosa (Hen-of-the-woods)

Lentinula edodes (Shitake)

Heimioporus erinaceus (Lions Mane)

I wish I could give you a bulletproof way of inoculating your trees with these fungi.

The best plan, to date, is to collect soil and decomposed leaf litter from spots where these species are found and to mix it with the material I am stratifying my acorns in.  My current problem is that I cannot find the phone numbers of my mushroom fanatics and the ground is frozen.

I want any feedback if you guys/gals have ideas!  Also, I would also love a source of inoculum for any of the species listed above.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Estimating Nitrogen Sequestered in Northern Red Oak Acorns

Is a paper which documents an research on acorn yields of (primarily) even age forests in 21 different oak stands over a four year time span.
Acorn production ranged from a low of approximately 7000 acorns per acre ( 70 pounds) to 270,000 acorns per acre (approximately 2700 pounds).
 In an attempt to make those numbers easier to visualize, a standard sheet of plywood or OSB is 8 feet long by 4 feet wide, or 32 square feet.  Those yields over the course of the study ranged from 5 acorns per (32 square feet) to 200 acorns per (32 square feet).


Acorns for oak in the Red Oak family tend to be higher in protein and oil than acorns in the White Oak family.  If White Oaks are the maize of the tree nuts, then Red Oak are the soy beans.

Red Oak acorns have been quoted as up to 35% protein by dry weight (14% by wet weight).  Protein is sixteen percent (16%) nitrogen by weight.  Skipping over a boatload of math (and assuming 100 Northern Red Oak acorns to the pound) one can approximate the pounds nitrogen per acre sequestered by a crop of  Northern Red Oak acorns by counting the number of  acorns in our 32 square foot sample patch and multiplying by 0.3
For the Pennsylvania study, the amount of nitrogen sequestered by the highest crop recorded was approximately 60 pounds per acre.  This may be slightly underestimated because 100 acorns/pound is a little on the small side for Northern Red Oak acorns.


These approximations are for acorns in the Red Oak family.

SWAG multipliers for other species are:

Shumard Oak 0.25 X (Number of acorns in 32 square feet)
Scarlet Oak  0.1 X (Number of acorns in 32 square feet)
Most other Red Oaks  0.08 X (Number of acorns in 32 square feet)



Precocious is Precious, Part II

"The sun, with all those planets revolving around it and dependent on it, can still ripen a bunch of grapes as if it had nothing else in the universe to do."  -Galileo Galilei

The general consensus regarding precociousness is that genetics plays a large part, but that certain environmental conditions must be in place to enable the expression of those precocious genes.

Seedlings from precocious strains of Quercus bicolor (Swamp White Oak) have been known to produce acorns in the 4th leaf.  Picture from HERE

It is the Sun, Silly

As the bud develops, it "decides" whether to be vegetative or fruitful based on the level of sugars (carbohydrates).  A high level of carbohydrates tips the bud toward fruitfulness.  A low level of carbohydrates tips the bud toward vegetative expression.

Sun + Leaves = Sugar = Acorns or Chestnuts

Grow a generous canopy as quickly as possible.  Take steps to ensure that the canopy is amply exposed to the sun and you will make many acorns and chestnuts.

It is almost that simple.

Plug the drain in the bottom sink

The tricky part is that the trees have many carbohydrate sinks.  Examples of carbohydrate sinks are leaves and branches that are shaded,  growing points (i.e. shoots that are extending) and developing nuts.

Picture from Genetic Improvement of Oak Trees

Certain tree forms are more favorable for precocious production.  Good tree form is not sufficient to create precociousness, but it can help enable it.
Picture from HERE
Pear trees are notorious for producing many side branches that have upright growth and compete with the central leader.  Those competing branches mutually shade each other.  Pear growers will frequently allow the tree to size up like the tree on the left, but will then prune out many of the branches and spread the remaining branches to create a tree that looks like the one on the right.  The tree on the right intercepts more sun than the tree on the left and no branch is significantly shaded by any other branch.  Virtually every leaf on the spreading tree is merrily photosynthesizing carbohydrates every hour of daylight. 

Few of us are likely to clamber about a 40' tall oak tree to spread tree limbs.  But we can manage the natural variation in the population by selecting for individuals that show desirable traits.  It is prudent to cull based on tree shape if/when no other selection criterion is available.

So the ideal tree shape for precociousness would be similar to a Pin Oak (Q. palustris) with moderate diameter limbs growing nearly perpendicular to the trunk.  But unlike a Pin Oak, there would be far fewer (like one-third to one-fifth as many) of the side branches to facility the penetration of sunlight into the crown.

Sawtooth oak exhibiting central leader, sparse side branching and flat branch angles

It might not be coincidence that many Sawtooth Oak (Q. acutissima) exhibit that kind of tree shape.  Sawtooth Oak is famous for producing many precocious individuals.

Carbohydrate - Nitrogen ratio

Fruit growers talk about managing fruit load by controlling the Carbohydrate - Nitrogen ratio.  That terminology is a little bit misleading.  The fruit grower can control the nitrogen level by varying the amount of fertilizer used, by adding or withholding irrigation and/or by managing competition from the sod on the orchard floor.

Adding nitrogen increases shoot extension and "sinks" more of the available carbohydrates.  Withholding water or by allowing the sod in the aisles between the trees to encroach into the herbicide zone reduces N availability and decreases shoot extension which results in the carbohydrate level rising.

So "nitrogen management" is the gas and brake pedal that the driver manipulates.  The actual heavy lifting of moving and stopping the car are done by the fuel injections and the brake pads.  Essentially, we control the nitrogen in an effort to manipulate the carbohydrate levels.

The dilemma is that one needs to make enough nitrogen available for the health of the tree and yet to not create so much shoot extension that the tree fails to set significant numbers of nuts.

Bottom line

Breed the best to the best or graft. Grow them quick.  Grow them big and strong. Be mindful of tree form.  Cull ruthlessly to enable sunlight to penetrate the crown from the side.  Back off the nitrogen after the tree(s) size  up.  If the soil has extreme natural fertility plant a cover crop to sponge up the excess N starting in early-summer.

Eating Tree Nuts tied to Lowered Obesity

From Fox News:

Eating Tree Nuts tied to Lowered Obesity

"A new U.S. study adds to growing evidence that nuts - once considered too fattening to be healthy - may in fact help keep weight down, in addition to offering other health benefits.

Researchers found that study participants who ate the most tree nuts...were between 37 and 46 percent less likely to be obese than those who ate the fewest tree nuts.

Overall, those who ate a lot of tree nuts - about 16 grams (half an ounce) per day - were just a little over normal weight, on average, compared to those who ate few or no nuts and were seriously overweight or obese."

The resident cynic says that even more benefit would accrue if people grew and harvested their own tree nuts.  The greatest benefit would be seen in the less mentally gifted.  Climbing trees is great exercise.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Colossal Ice Storm

Much of the mid-West suffered a once-in-a-decade ice storm followed by a once-in-a-decade snow storm.

Carpathian Walnut damaged by ice storm

Anybody who plants trees that may take 30 years to start bearing is an incurable optimist.  You have to be.  We develop a talent for wringing good things from setbacks.  One of the few good things about the ice storm is the super abundance of scionwood it makes available.  And you don't even need a ladder to harvest it.

Bill Nash sent me the following email.  Bill Nash owns a producing chestnut orchard in Laingsburg, Michigan (about 25 miles northeast of Lansing, Michigan).  Scionwood from Bill will be true-to-type because it came from producing trees.  Off-types get rogued.

Colossal chestnuts.  Picture from Rogers Reserve website.  Other cultivars like Benton Harbor also available.

Hi Joe,

Yes, we’ll have Colossal scion wood.  Though the Colossals were not hurt that badly.  Some of the Chinese trees that had not lost there leaves (similar to oaks) were hard hit.  We got 19 inches of snow out of this last storm.  At least now I can’t see all the damage the ice storm created.  Weather has been a little harsh lately.


Bill Nash
Nash Nurseries
cell 517-719-7216

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Precocious is precious

Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it ... he who doesn't ... pays it.  -Albert Einstein

Imagine you have been given the task of hitting an elusive target with a firearm.  For example:  let's say your target is a squirrel  dashing from tree-to-tree and leaping branch-to-branch.

You are given a choice of weapons:  A muzzleloading musket or a belt-fed, crew served machine gun.

Most people would select the belt fed machine gun because luck favors the bettor who can place the most bets.  Further, the stream of bullets (bets) can be walked into the target because the information from the prior bet is sufficiently close to the next bullet that meaningful adjustments can be made in the aim.

100 year time frame

The table above uses a 100 year timeframe to project the "compound interest effect" that could be anticipated.  Precociousness is along the left (vertical) axis.  Percent improvement per generation is listed along the top.

"Centennial Farms" are fairly common in my part of Michigan.  A Centennial Farm is a farm that has been in the same family for 100 or more years.  That is the basis for the choice of the 100 year time frame.

One of the weaknesses of this table is that rapid improvement per generation are more likely earlier generations as the breeder is working with materials that show more variation in performance.  Improvement in later generations becomes increasingly dependent on the ability to discriminate between smaller-and-smaller differences in performance and the ability to screen larger-and-larger populations.

The table is arbitrarily split into two parts to help with the mental math.  Assuming one can consistently achieve 15% improvement per generation and a 50 year evaluation cycle, a breeding program would achieve 30% improvement over the life of the program.  The program would achieve a 100% improvement if the evaluation cycle could be reduced to 20 years.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Starhill Forest Arboretum

A guest post responding to an earlier blog entry.  I appreciate reader input.  I am a custodian, not an expert.  You guys are the experts.

On Tue, Jan 7, 2014 at 3:12 PM, <> wrote:

NAFEX members might be interested in the next Triennial International Oak Society Conference and members' seed exchange, to be held at the Morton Arboretum in October 2015. Could we post something about that on your blog?  

   I did notice some inaccuracies in the ratings on this chart:

Q. falcata, lyrata, michauxii, phellos, and stellata are easily 5b, if propagated from northern sources (emphasis added by Joe). All of them have been growing here for decades with no winter injury. We grow all the others also, including Q. nigra, nuttallii, and pagoda, but those three might be a little more iffy and might need protected sites. Q. nuttallii actually has been renamed Q. texana, but it's a disputed name so I still use nuttallii. Q. prinus is now Q. montana. Regarding the flood tolerance ratings, consider moving Q. bicolor to the most tolerant category and Q. muehlenbergii to the intermediate category. 

Readers can view the oaks that we are growing in Zone 5 by linking to our digital herbarium additional details (like pictures) can be accessed by clicking on the hyperlinks at the extreme right of the page..

If you would like a guest piece about the 2015 Triennial Oak conference, I suggest you ask Megan Dunning at the host site (Morton Arboretum). You can reach Megan at  Let me know if there is anything else I can do. 

Guy Sternberg
Starhill Forest Arboretum of Illinois College
12000 Boy Scout Trail, Petersburg, Illinois 62675 USA

Reply to: (or)

Performing searches on the internet can be a hit-or-miss thing.  Two sources of "Southern" oaks that make an effort to choose the northernmost provenance are

Ripley County Farms  (Seedlings at very attractive prices)


Lovelace Seeds  (Acorns starting on page 4.  Lists seeds per pound and, in many cases, seed provenance)

I have not done any business with either of these firms so I cannot vouch for them.  But their prices are attractive and I may place an order with one or both of them.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Rootstocks for Oak

There is a very wide range of tolerance for adverse soil conditions within the Oak genus.  For example, Q. palustris (Pin Oak) transplants well and is fairly resistant to compacted soil and high soil moisture (but vulnerable to high soil pH).  Q. palustris, however, has very small acorns at 400 seeds to the pound.  For the purpose of comparison, common Q. rubra (Northern Red Oak) can run 60 seeds per pound or about seven times larger.

Red Oak acorns on the right are over an inch in diameter.
Incidentally, the picture shown above is from a fabulous article HERE on Percolation Leaching of Red Oak Acorns.  It is well worth the time to pop over and read it. 

There are sites that cannot support Q. rubra that could happily support Q. palustris rootstocks.

I want to start building a table showing cross species compatibility between the various oak.

If you have any information that you want to share, please shoot it to me via email.


Flood Tolerance

A table showing flood and shade tolerance for assorted trees of the Eastern United States is available HERE.

The following information shows up on page 4
Cold hardiness from various sources.  Primarily from HERE.