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Tree Resource Guide for Arborists and Gardeners

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Trees contribute more to life on earth than perhaps any other organism. They produce oxygen, give us food, and contribute generously to the beauty of any landscape. They provide a habitat for forest creatures and materials for the comfort of human homes as well. Trees don’t usually require daily feeding or watering, because nature provides for most of their needs. Still as their human caretakers we are responsible for maintaining their health by keeping them free of parasites. We can offer fertilizer and sometimes water in dry seasons, but trees are largely self sustaining. Because trees are very important to the world we must protect them against deforestation, and excessive logging in countries all over the world.

There are thousands of species and subspecies of trees, which can be divided into two basic categories: deciduous and evergreen. Deciduous trees loose their leaves each fall while evergreen trees stay green all year long. Some Deciduous trees have flowers, which leads to a subcategory, angiosperms. Some evergreens have cones. Evergreens with cones make up the category called conifer or pinophyta. Common types of deciduous trees include oaks, elms, aspens, and birch, all of which come in many different varieties and subspecies. Common varieties of evergreen trees include cedars, firs, pines, spruce and redwoods. There are hundreds of other types of trees in both categories, including various subspecies. Trees are very diverse and all trees are unique individuals. No two trees are identical.

Types of Trees

Browse Trees—Tree Guide at National Arbor Day Foundation site contains a list of 210 trees with links to each. This site also contains information on classifications of trees, and much more. Use the menu on the left to navigate the entire site.

Types of Trees pdf: This is a very thorough pictorial guide to trees, with descriptive articles and a lot of information.

Types of Evergreens Commonly used as Christmas Trees: A pictorial guide to the many varieties of evergreens with the characteristic Christmas tree shape. There is an article on each species which explains maximum height, typical growing conditions and habitat.

Tree Encyclopedia: This site features over 3500 different photos and features 300 species. There are extensive articles and a lot of information. Home Page: This is an exhaustive resource on the various types of Maple Trees. Pictures and articles outline hardiness zones and pictures to help identify different Maples.

About Garden Plants - gardening plants resources: A guide to over 5000 plants including most species of fruit trees and other commonly planted trees.

Willis Orchard Company: Fruit Trees | Flowering Trees | Berry Plants | Shade Trees | Walnut Trees: A great resource provided by Willis Orchard Company, with information about trees in these categories.

Identify Tree by Scientific Name: Click on the common name of a tree, to see a great article explaining how to identify that tree, the scientific name for it, and a lot of other great information about that type of tree. This is a lot of great field guide type information.

A Guide to Tree identification | This site offers a great explanation of the identifying characteristics of trees. The articles have great photos and illustrations, explaining how to identify trees.

Ash Tree Identification Guide, David L. Roberts, Ph.D.: Dr. Roberts provides a thorough explanation of Ash trees, how to identify an ash tree, and how to recognize different types of ash trees

Tree Anatomy

Trees have a very complex anatomy and physiology. The functions of all their various parts are amazing. From the miracle of photosynthesis, to the fascinating uptake of water and minerals through their root system, trees are one of the most resilient forms of life on the planet. One of the most advantageous points of tree anatomy is the fact their organs come in vast multiples, if one part gets damaged then the tree just grows hundreds or thousands of others. Roots, branches and leaves are routinely replaced. Most trees will survive being cut down to the roots, sending up new growth within days.

Another fascinating thing about tree anatomy is the diversity of reproduction possibilities. Trees can grow from seeds, from cuttings and cuttings can even be grafted on to other trees. This diversity has enabled trees to survive and flourish. The vast array of different kinds of leaves on the thousands of species of trees and other plants throughout the world are responsible for the quality of our atmosphere. Tree leaves are remarkably unique. The leaves of most trees vary even on the same tree. One of the most dramatic differences is the sassafras tree which displays three completely different types of leaves from the same tree. Not all trees have this degree of diversification, but when studying leaves carefully there are subtle differences between them, even on a sweet gum or a maple.

Trees are also time keepers, recording the events of history, especially weather conditions and growing seasons from the distant past. The cross section of a tree trunk offers a record of all its years and provides valuable information about the area it grew in during its lifetime. The science of tree rings is called Dendrochronology. Palaeobotanists use a form of dendrochronology to attempt to reconstruct the conditions which petrified ancient trees lived under.

The roots of trees vary by species. Some grow deeply in the ground while others stay nearer the surface. Tree roots have provided us with new medications, old folk remidies and a lot of scientific data about the complexities of trees.

Tree Anatomy: NC State University offers an illustrated guide to tree anatomy.

Teaching Documents about Wood Anatomy and Tree-Ring Research, Links for Palaeobotanists: Enjoy this list of links about instructional materials about wood anatomy and tree-ring research. A great list of resources and links.

ISU Forestry Extension - Tree Biology: Tree Anatomy 101: This extensive resource made available though Iowa State University. There is a lot of detailed information on tree anatomy, from the roots to the twigs.

Secondary Growth Anatomy and Tree Rings: Detailed information about tree rings, from Warnell School of Forest Resources.

The anatomy of a tree trunk: A beautifully illustrated multipage guide to tree trunks and wood. Be sure to use the leaves at the bottom of the page to navigate the site.

Veneernet: A study of wood grain, and how they are created by a series of longitudinal cells.

Stem & Root Anatomy: The cellular structure of different vascular plants is discussed, and how different types of tree trunks and roots differ from each other on a cellular level.

Anatomy of Plants: A complex study of the anatomy and physiology of a wide variety of plants including some trees.

SpringerLink - Trees - Structure and Function, Volume 14, Number 5: A study of structure and function of tree roots.

Central Texas Tree Experts: A great blog style website with many detailed articles on trees.

Root anatomy, morphology, and longevity - American Journal of Botany: This very detailed and complex scientific article is full of scientific data about root systems.

The Basic Principles of Tree-Ring Dating: This article on an extensive and well designed site, details the principles of Dendrochronology.

Dating Exhibit: A great article explaining Dendrochronology in a much simpler way.

Photosynthesis the work of leaves: A great illustrated study of photosynthesis on a molecular level. One of the most fascinating aspects of tree metabolism photosynthesis is vital to life on earth.

Plant Discoveries Sherwin Carlquist Leaf Anatomy: This article features microscopic discoveries in leaf anatomy. This entire site is fascinating so you’ll want to navigate through it, to catch all the great articles.

Profile for Sassafras albidum (sassafras): The USDA offers this information on the diverse anatomy of the sassafras tree.

Social and Environmental Benefits of Trees

Trees offer shade from hot sun and shelter from the wind in winter. They provide habitats for wildlife, and contribute significantly to the oxygen levels on the planet. It is also believed that trees slow the effects of global warming. Without trees the planet would not be able sustain life for long. Trees also provide fruit for food, and their flowers, bark and roots are used in both pharmaceutical medications and folk remedies.

Trees make people feel better about themselves and about their lives. In neighborhoods trees provide privacy when placed between houses. In cities small groups of trees provide beauty and contribute to a sense of peace. A view of trees can be invaluable to the health of hospital patients, helping them to recover more quickly. Sitting in a small grove of trees can reduce stress, and relieve frazzled nerves.

Trees have protected humans and animals since the dawn of time, but now it is our turn to give back to the trees. Environmentalists are working hard to protect and preserve trees, and forests all over the world. If the world is to continue we must protect the trees. As commercial development of land encroaches on our forests, and lumber hungry cultures seek everything from charcoal to building supplies, our environmentalists have a tough job defending forests in all countries from people who seek short term needs and goals over long term survival of the planet. - Benefits of Trees: A list of links to articles about the benefits of trees. Urban tree planting is the subject of many of these articles.

Mass arbor society: The Massacheutes Arbor Society offers a great article on the benefits of trees to society and the environment.

Benefits of Trees: Clackamas County discusses the importance of trees to urban surroundings, both environmentally and psychologically. The benefits of trees in the city are many, and this county outlines its plans to incorporate green areas within their cities.

Conservation International: This is the homepage of a well known conservation organization dedicated to preserving wildlife and woodland habitats.

National Parks Conservation Association - Saving National Parks for Future Generations: The National Parks Conservation Association, struggles with underfunding as it attempts to preserve our national parks, ensuring clean air, and protected wildlife.

The Wilderness Society: Whether it’s fighting against natural gas wells in Yellow Stone or protesting the killing of wolves in Alaska the Wilderness Society Cares. Protecting the world from deforestation is another huge part of that job.

Sierra Club: Explore, Enjoy and Protect the Planet: The Sierra club is a conservation organization with many good sources of private funding, and a lot of clout in political arenas. Highly respected and well organized the Sierra Club has seen tremendous success in many of its efforts.

Rainforest Alliance: This group is working to teach sustainable agriculture, forestry and tourism all over the world, as it pertains to rain forest areas. They have a system of education, and recruiting members.

Rainforest Action Network - Environmentalism with teeth.: A strong gutsy group of political activists, peaceful protests, boycotts and raising public awareness, this group isn’t afraid to offer the names of corporate offenders, and take appropriate action against them.

Inspiring action for a green and peaceful future - Greenpeace USA: This group has never been afraid to take action, and they have been growing in popularity. They have drawn a line in the sand in such issues as deforestation and global warming, and intend to protect our environment with powerful actions.

EarthShare: One Environment. One Simple Way to Care for It.: An important fund raising organization which helps to fund many of the major conservation organizations.

The Nature Conservancy - Protecting Nature, Preserving Life: An organization seeking to protect our natural resources, endangered species, natural habitats and forests.

American Forests: With 135 years of experience in conservation. The American Forests organization works through both action and advocacy. It is there goal to plant 100 million trees by 2020. 

ForestEthics Protect Forests and Our Climate Home: Forest Ethics raises awareness, and protests offending corporations who are damaging our ecosystem.

Nature Conservancy and You: A site to encourage individuals to make a difference. 

International Society of Arboriculture: A professional organization for arborists, which offers certifications.

Alliance for Community Trees: This group works with communities and cities to encourage tree planting and green areas in urban environments.

Natural Resources Conservation Service: A branch of the US Department of Agriculture, this government organization is involved in green energy, and a wide variety of forestry projects, as well as overseeing efforts to prevent commercial farms from harming the environment. This international organization for reforestation is a powerful arm of environmentalists.

What is an Arborist?

In essence an arborist is a physician for trees. Just as veterinarians care for pets and farm animals, so arborists care for trees. Considering this it is shameful that no legal license is required to become an arborist. Certifications are available, by various arborist organizations, which are helpful in getting clients. Some colleges offer training in the skills involved in arboriculture, but education is not required to become a practitioner of arboriculture. The wages are not in line with the level of responsibility either. Most Arborists make between $20,000 and $45,000 a year.

Arborists are more than mere tree trimmers. Arborists treat tree diseases and parasites, as well as providing expert pruning, safe removal of dead trees and evaluations of tree health. Arborists also plant and replant trees. Arborists can be employed by tree service companies, utility companies, or can be self employed working for individual clients as needed. They are also frequently employed by cities and states to work in their parks.

ASCA: The official site for the American Society of Consulting Arborists, offers information on what arborists do and how to become one. They also offer information on how to find a local arborist.

What is an Arborist? The New Hampshire Arborists Association explains what an arborist is and why you may need one.

TCIA | Tree Care Industry Association: A 73 year old organization, representing about 2,100 tree care professionals.

California Urban Forests Council: An arborist organization supporting urban forestry.

Western Chapter International Society of Arboriculture: An organization of professional arborists, this group offers membership, certifications, events and publications.

Friendly Tree Experts - Arborist2: Arborist Training resource materials and information are available on this site.

Careers in Arboriculture: This article explains the different types of jobs included in arboriculture.

NCDFR - Why Hire an Arborist? The North Carolina Department of Environmental and National Resources offers an interesting site, and this helpful article to determine when an arborist is needed, and tips on finding a good arborist.

Selecting an Arborist - University of Illinois Extension: This column explains how to recognize a good arborist, what practices are acceptable for arborists and etc.

Canopy - Hiring an Arborist: This article explains how to locate certified arborists.

ACF: An organization of consulting foresters. Foresters are a bit different than Arborists because while arborists work with only one tree at a time, foresters consider the well being of entire forests.

Tree Health

Tree health is usually related to the environment. Pests are often involved. Trees can be attacked by insects, fungus, and bacteria. Trees are naturally resistant to these factors in the areas where they are native, but importing trees from one area to another can result in pests that trees are not equipped to handle. An arborist can often help with these sorts of pests, and help the tree recover. 

Often tree diseases are widespread. Fungus can often be highly contagious between trees, and pine beetles for example can plague all the pines in a hundred mile radius. Insects can take a heavy toll on trees. Aphids, beetles, caterpillars and various hopping leaf eaters can damage or even kill trees if they attack in large numbers. Keeping insects, fungus and certain bacterial infections away from trees can be difficult at times. 

Maintaining Oak Tree Health: The California Oak Mortality Task Force explains maintaining of oak health.

Tree Health Care: Managing Natural Changes: The health of a tree are determined by how well its needs are met.

How to Publications - Forest and Tree Health Publications and Fact Sheets: Links to many articles about tree health, specific diseases and pest related conditions in trees, and other interesting articles to keep trees healthy.

Trees Are Good - Tree Care Information: An interesting perspective which promotes the theory that in order to keep trees healthy, the surrounding plants also need to be healthy, thus plant care for all the plants in the area are equally necessary.

Advanced Tree Health: This organization offers a full site full of articles about maintaining tree health.

TDA - Yard Tree Health FAQ: A lengthy Q & A featuring common problems involved in trees.

Advanced Tree Technology - Tree Health: Tree health problems are often related to environmental stress.

Common Tree Problems Arizona - Phoenix, Tempe, Scottsdale, Glenadale, Mesa: Area specific advice for tree health in Arizona. Often different climates do have their own tree risks.

Tree Treatment, Sick - Howard Garrett: Most tree illness is environmental, and disease usually reflects a weakened condition in the tree.

Tree Services Magazine - Tree Health: A lengthy article about site assessment, with a care guide for each category.

The Arbor Doctor » Tree Health: The arbor doctor offers many short articles on tree health.

Tree Planting

Tree planting is best accomplished by digging a broad based, wide but shallow hole. The hole should not place the trunk of the tree any deeper in the ground than it was growing before transplant. The hole must have a wide base so that air can get to the roots through freshly dug soil, rather than being surrounded by packed earth. It is also important to rough up the inside surface of the hole rather than letting the dirt be smoothed down. Dig up the inside with a trowel or fork.

Only after digging the hole, should the plant be removed from the pot or burlap bag. Be careful to remove all plastic and burlap from the plant, and very gently spread the roots, carefully untangling them without breaking them. This must be done in order to keep the roots from binding against each other and effectively strangling the plant. Once this is done place the tree in the hole, cover it with loose dirt, and do not pack the earth. Next water the tree, at planting and at least once a week during its first season.

Fertilizer varies with species and so do watering frequency and a few other care options. Once a tree has been planted for a year it should be fairly stable, and not require as much care. With fertilizer, too much is much worse than not enough. Be careful not to burn the new plant with too much fertilizer. Add no more than three inches of mulch over the top of the tree’s roots and loose earth to hold in the moisture. Some trees require staking and wiring to hold them straight. 

Tree Planting: Detailed instructions, and careful explanations of the tree planting procedure.

Tree Planting – Step by step planting trees: Here is a detailed explanation of how to plant trees. It is a carefully laid out guide to planting, staking and etc.

Tree Planting - NRCS: The NRCS explains how to choose, place and plant a tree in the backyard.

Planting a Tree - Aggie Horticulture: These simple guidelines for planting a tree are basic. The illustrations are helpful.

How to Plant a Tree from the The tree people offer advice on tree planting.

SDOT - Street Tree Planting Procedures: When planting trees next to city streets, there are special problems that have to be addressed. Learn about lining city streets with trees.

Information and Education - Tree Planting: The Ohio Department of Natural Resources offers advice on tree planting, based on the container or condition of the root system.

The Ten Commandments of Tree Planting: Colorado State University offers this clever and thoughtful list of commandments to grow a healthy tree.

SCFC Tree Planting Guide: A helpful pictorial guide to planting trees is offered by the State of South Carolina’s forestry commission.

Fruit Tree Planting Guide - Adams County Nursery: This helpful site explains in detail, how to plant fruit trees.

Tree Planting & Pruning: This site offers interactive online booklets to show how to plant and prune trees.

WDNR - State Nursery Program - Tree Planting Information: This site discusses transplanting large numbers of seedlings, either by hand or by machine.

Arbor Day

In 1855 when J. Sterling Morton moved to Nebraska it was a largely treeless plain. Morton loved trees and planted at least 1300 of them on his property. He began encouraging his neighbors to plant trees as well, and insisted that if more trees were planted it would make Nebraska a more desirable place to live and more people would move there, and visit there.

Morton had a successful political career and was well liked. He served as Secretary of the Territory of Nebraska from 1858 - 1861, and for a few months he acted as Governor. He served on and eventually became president of the State Board of Agriculture. He used his influence to encourage his neighbors to plant trees, and eventually had the idea to create a special day for that purpose.

As president of the Board of Agriculture he introduced a resolution to create his special holiday and the festivities would feature the hard work of tree planting. On April 10th 1872 the first Arbor Day was set aside for the planting of trees in Nebraska. Many people joined Morton’s cause and Nebraska eventually became known as the tree planting state. Buy 1885 Nebraska had 700,000 acres of planted trees. Further six other states began following his example, celebrating arbor day, and planting trees. In 1884 the National Education Association endorsed the holiday, and declared it would be celebrated in schools throughout the U.S.

In 1893 Morton was appointed by President Grover Cleveland, to be the third U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, but he will always be remembered most fondly for his creation of Arbor Day. In the coming century his simple message will become invaluable as our nation attempts to restore the green lost during the industrial and commercial age.

Arbor Day Foundation: The Arbor Day Foundation explains the meaning of Arbor Day

Arbor Day: The Quality Tree and Shrub Seeds Company shares the history of Arbor Day.

Celebrate Arbor Day 2011: The Look to the Forest Site, offers a long list of articles about Arbor Day.

Arbor Day: The Morton Arboretum is a site devoted to the founder of Arbor Day.

The History of Arbor Day: The Forest Preserve District of Cook County Illinois offers a lengthy fully detailed explanation of the first Arbor Day

J. Sterling Morton creates Arbor Day: The Nebraska State Historical Society allows readers a peek into J. Sterling Morton’s diary entries. See a photo of the original text, and quotes. 

First Arbor Day: America’s story from the American Library is a government site which tells the story of Arbor Day

Arbor Day - A concise explanation of Arbor Day has been placed on the site.

Addison Arbor Foundation: The Addison Arbor Foundation is dedicated to the ideals of the urban forest, carrying on the spirit and ideology of J. Sterling Morton.

Each State Arbor Day: In addition to the national Arbor Day on April 30th each state has its own separate Arbor day, based on the best time to plant trees. See a list of dates and State trees for each state.


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