The temperature has risen to a balmy zero. Captain Clark and a group of hunters travel 18 miles down the Missouri River. The only bison they encounter are too scrawny to kill, but they bag two deer. They stay outdoors overnight and an inch and a half of snow falls during the night.



The past couple of years, we have seen an excessive amount of mortality among the urban white pines. Reported causes range from ozone and winter damage to root rot. The actual causes are not known because too few cases have been verified and many are inconclusive.

Among the possible contributing factors are growing conditions such as poorly drained soils, compacted soils, high pH or heavy clay soils, coupled with severe weather. White pines are intolerant of poor growing conditions. Trees growing on marginal sites, develop poor root systems which reduces their ability to tolerate stress. Minor stresses such as abnormal fluctuations in temperatures and precipitation can deplete food reserves and lead to decline. Although declines are thought of as slowly developing syndromes, they can also be characterized by sudden deterioration. The "straw that broke the camel's back" may be so inconsequential as to be unrecognizable.

Some pines looked perfectly healthy last year declined and died in one year. There appeared no signs of disease or insect activity, simply decline and death in one season. However, the growing conditions and care were questionable as well as a heavy clay soil in the area did not help the situation.

Similar disorders, also called declines, are the result of both biotic and abiotic factors. The abiotic factors are the same as described above, poor growing conditions. But to these are added, weevils, bark beetles and root rot pathogens. Two weevils, pales weevil ((Hylovus pales) and the pine root collar weevil (Hylobius radicis) have been found associated with declining white pine. Both weevils are also known to transmit the root pathogen Verticicladiella procera.

If present, the adult weevils emerge during warm periods of the winter and by early April are actively feeding. They feed on bark, buds, and needles of healthy trees. In the process they can introduce the fungus into feeding wounds. The adults mate and lay eggs in early summer in fresh cut stumps or in the base of stressed trees. They require these dead or dying trees to reproduce successfully and these provide the exposure of fungus. The larvae are small, maggot-like grubs that feed in the crown area, producing extensive damage.

The fungus produces spores in wounds, on infected roots in the soil and inside insect tunnels. The spores which are sticky, readily adhere to the pupae and emerge as adult weevils. The spores are carried from infected trees to healthy trees. There the fungus colonizes phloem tissue and kills the cambial layer. The infected portion becomes resin soaked with black streaks. These streaks can extend up to 18" above the soil line. Signs of streaking and excess resin production at the base of symptomatic trees indicate infection.

Early symptoms of infection may be limited to reduced growth and last for several years. When root damage becomes extensive or the crown becomes girdles, the top declines. Browning may take a season or two or as little as a few months. In later cases an apparently healthy tree may be dead by mid summer.

Other pathogens can cause resin soaked lesions, for instance Valsa (perfect stage of Cytospora). But Valsa cankers are usually associated with wounds higher on the trunk or lateral branches.

Phytophihora root rot can also cause similar symptoms, but instead of resin soaked wood with black streaks, roots will be black and mushy. Rarely does Phytophihora extend above the soil line, unlike Verticicladiella.

Surveying the situation is necessary in determining the role of these various factors. However, all are associated with stressed trees, usually resulting from poor growing conditions. Avoiding or correcting poor soils with inadequate drainage will help reduce future losses.



Tree topping is a crime against nature. Our trees are tremendously valuable, but frequently ignored and often abused, community asset. We all need to take proper care of our trees. Doing so makes common sense. Unfortunately, many of the so called professionals to whom the public looks for guidance are not in the tree service business but rather the tree abuse business.

The "bad boys" of arborculture are not really bad. They are simply unaware or underestimate the deleterious effects of improper pruning and other improper tree care practices. And yet, bad pruning has serious adverse effects, not only on trees but for homeowners as well.

Here are the three basic categories of bad arborists:
* "Ralph's Tree Service" is usually a one or two person outfit with an old pickup truck that solicits work door to door. These operations prey on people's fear of large trees and recommend topping or removing trees for safety reasons.

These outfits usually work outside the law, assuring customers they are insured, even if they are not. If one of their uninsured workers get hurt on a job, they can, and do, sue the property owner. Always ask your tree service for proof of insurance.

In addition "Ralph" underbids everybody and leaves behind a mess.

* "Butcher Tree Experts" have been in business for 20 years or more and are listed in the Yellow Pages> These companies have clean shaven crews and fleets of pickup and bucket trucks.

Although these companies are perfectly legal, few of their crew members know how to prune properly. They talk a good story but usually do whatever the customer requests and recommend whatever is fastest.

They know that topping is bad, but they do it anyway. Or they use "drop-crotching," a nicer method of tree topping that is also bad for trees and usually unnecessary. These companies often top or drop crotch to appease tree owners who understandably, have no idea what real pruning entails.

* "Art the Treeshaper" knows enough good pruning techniques and Latin to be truly dangerous. He fancies himself as an artist or sculptor and has perfected long, drawn out ways to tortue trees.

Art is an expert at separating wealthy customers from their money. Art may not even top trees, but he will often prune them into odd shapes. His work may force the owner into an expensive battle with suckers or waterspouts that diminish their trees' healthy and beauty over time.

PROFESSIONALS do not do unprofessional work. Good arborists do not top trees, and they do not use spurs to climb trees. They do not cut into branch collars or rely on wound paints or seals to stop rot. Overall, good arborists do what they can to please their customers without harming trees.

Summary: St. Louis has an abundance of quality, professional arborists. Take the time to consult with prospective arborists to determine the quality of work they perform. The value of a trees is priceless.....take the time and it will pay a handsome dividend.

Editors note: I wrote this article for the May 1993 issue of St. Louis Outdoor Lifestyles and I am still appalled with the abusive tree topping which still occurs in St. Louis.



The Christmas shopping season
Has officially begun,
And post-Thanksgiving shoppers
Are now all on the run!

Pushing and shoving,
There's a SALE to get to!
I'm telling you, it's crazy,
The mall's become a ZOO!

Kiddies of all ages and temper
Some wide eyed with glee
Others squawking and screaming -
Make this a joyous shopping spree!

Santa's here for photos today
So even baby's been dragged along
To pose for holiday pictures -
Or to cry and scream for mom...

The merry Christmas carols
Have now all been drowned out
By multitudes of bratty children
Chaotically gallivanting about.

Grumpy hubbies and boytoys
Are forced to follow in tow
Because the misses won't stand
To hear them answer "No."

They're whipping out their wallets
And carting loads of gifts,
Then muttering to themselves
As they assess all the debts.

It's sure to cause a headache
And a pair of sore feet too...
What a lousy, painfull thing
We're putting ourselves through!

Actually though... You know what?
I think I can preserve my holiday cheer...
Because I'm gonna say "Forget it!
I'm doing my shopping online this year!!"