Monday, December 10, 2012

Fir Balsam Trouble

Monday, December 10, 2012

38.4° here on the mountain tonight. It's been pouring rain heavily since before 4:30 this afternoon and there's little hope that it will let up until after midnight. The wind has stopped but it's likely to start up again as the next front approaches in a few hours. Today's rain started in early morning and never really stopped all day. I have been working in the woods for a few weeks now, cutting hiking trails and woods roads but today's weather slowed me down. I dressed appropriately for the rain and cold but I didn't feel all that safe working with the tractor in such wet ground conditions so I gave up early. One thing I did notice today was the insect influence on mature fir balsams. Here's something to think about.

Balsams are a popular tree, native to the northeast and better known for use as Christmas trees and for making garland and wreaths. It's also a fast growing tree that has been used as pulpwood for the paper industry. It has a fairly short lifespan of under 60-70 years and much of the surrounding Groton State Forest contains trees this age. This is why the current condition of the trees is even more significant.

The tree at the top of this page  is an example of what I am seeing not only in our woods but in all adjacent forests. The mature trees are dying or already dead and many are topless and/or barkless as this picture shows. Closer inspection shows the insect damage that lead to a tree's death by girdling. I am not familiar with what insects are involved but there aren't very many older trees that are not affected .

Annually I cut and split a tree or two for kindling as at this point the balsams are already fully dried on the stump and they make good kindling. This is the second year that I have noticed a couple different kinds of worm inside the logs but I don't know what these become and what stage they are currently in. I brought in three pieces that had been cut last year and left in the woods. I spilt them to see if they contained the same insects and worms and they do so I assume the life cycle is greater than a year. Hopefully there's a forester or an entomologist out there who can help me on this.

I am mentioning the decline in the fir balsam because it is also a common tree to find in parks, town forests, even as part of the landscape in housing developments or back yards.In recent years it has been attacked by the balsam woolly adelgid and I fear we might face the same tree death that is occurring with a favorite tree of mine, the hemlock. If you have any balsams on your property or properties you care for, do a through inspection and ask for professional guidance on maintaining healthy trees.If you have any pictures to share, please do.

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where the rain is pounding on the standing seam roof. If today's rain had been snow, every snow groomer in the state would be working right now. Sadly for our snow industries (snowmobiling opens 12/15), almost no snow is in the next 5 day forecast.

George Africa
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1 comment:

Kathy said...

Thanks for bringing this up. I'll keep my eye out.