We Get Kids THINKING About Trees


General News from Arbor Rangers. Announcements, Events, Activities etc.


What is PHOTOSYNTHESIS? Well… besides being a long word that you might think is one of those fancy words used in a science-fiction story, photosynthesis is actually the term used in real science to depict the amazing chemical process of how plants make their own energy.

Where does a tree get its energy? Through the use of its leaves, a tree is able to manufacture its own energy through this process called photosynthesis. Here is a diagram of how sunlight energy is absorbed by chlorophyll combined with water and carbon dioxide are converted into sugar (also known as glucose). This sugar serves as energy food for a tree; some is constantly being used to sustain the tree and a portion is stored away in its trunks for later use. Oxygen is also produced in the process and we can all appreciate the vital importance of that for all breathing life forms… including us!

[Click on diagram image to enlarge view in a new web browser tab]

Photosynthesis diagram

Heat & Drought Stress – Will Your Trees Survive?

Please Water Your Drought-stressed Trees

HEAT & DROUGHT STRESS can negatively impact your landscape plants, particularly your trees. The photo above is from an actual irrigated lawn following several heatwaves. Despite receiving water from an irrigation system, the greenest areas of the lawn were those which were “protected” from sun exposure by shade trees most of the day. The rest of the lawn, on the other hand, was drying out. For many homeowners, a “weed-free” green lawn is a priority. They will invest in an in-ground irrigation system with the primary success of their lawn in mind (and their trees only as an afterthought). Perhaps, their reasoning is that ‘trees are big enough plants and can take care of themselves!‘ Unfortunately, when it comes to their existence in our urban settings, that is furthest from the truth!

If you have an irrigation system and your lawn looks like this…

Drought-stressed lawn despite an irrigation system.

Just think about how much your trees are suffering!

Did you know that turfgrass, with or without an irrigation system, can survive a period of prolonged high heat and drought by going into dormancy? Many types of turfgrass can do this with little residual side effects other than a browned appearance,… Continue reading

Girdling Roots – The Silent Tree Killer

Red Maple with Girdling Roots

This maturing Red Maple has girdling roots that developed over the years and were hidden by years of mulching.

Of the many ways to kill a tree in the landscape, Girdling Roots ranks high among them, along with poor irrigation, planting too deep (which often causes girdling roots), and mechanical injuries. But just what are girdling roots and where do they come from? [Note: Most photos and images have an enlarged view if you click on them.]

SUFFOCATION – Girdling roots can result from roots that develop as a response when oxygen availability has been reduced below necessary levels. This can happen when a plant has been planted too deeply, or by the addition of too much top soil (i.e. grade change) or from improper mulching (i.e. too deep; “volcanic” mulching), or soil compaction, etc.

CONTAINMENT – Girdling roots are common with container-grown plants. If they remain in the container too long their roots will be deflected by the container walls, causing them to grow in a circular pattern. Even a ball & burlap tree can develop girdling roots if left in this packaging for too long. Another type of containment may be the… Continue reading

Are LICHENS Bad For Trees?


“I’ve got some kind of creepy fungus all over my tree! Will it kill my tree?”

I get asked this A LOT. And so, I’ve created this post to offer a brief, but hopefully interesting discussion about the fascinating natural phenomena known as LICHENS (pronounced: “lye-kens”). More field photos below and you’ll find links to additional information near the bottom of this page.

But let’s first address the question concerning ARE LICHENS BAD FOR TREES?


The answer is “NO

…they have not been shown to pose any significant harm to trees. Now you may breathe a sigh of relief!

Lichens are greenish, sometimes lettucy-looking, symbiotic growths made of fungi, yeast, and two types of algae. These grow as an interwoven mass appearing as a single individual which can develop into a sizeable “community” of lichens. Both the fungus and the alga provide something essential to the other for their survival but are not harmful to plants.


“But, WHY,” you may ask, “are these things growing on my tree(s)?”

Actually, they do not specifically pick on trees. Lichens can develop and grow on just about any stationary surface they can attach to,… Continue reading

Watering Trees – How Much?

Providing adequate water for your trees can be a challenge sometimes because it means you have to:
  1. remember to do it,
  2. know when & how much to do it,
  3. and do it in a way that doesn’t discourage you from doing it.
In this post, I hope to provide you access to some good watering tips that may make irrigating your trees easier and less inconvenient to do when you do it. Keep in mind that watering trees is based on each tree’s needs and not necessarily on a schedule. What does that mean? Well, if you have an in-ground irrigation system, chances are it is programmed to water your lawn/landscape at specific times or intervals. Have you ever driven through a neighborhood when it was raining outside and saw someone’s irrigation system sprinkling the lawn? Yep. That’s watering on a schedule and not on needs. So, you will have to physically go out into your landscape (or persuade/hire someone else to do it) to check the soil moisture of your most valued plantings, if you are interested in the best care for them.
First, here are links to a couple of “how-to” videos by Lindsey Purcell (Urban… Continue reading

How Soil Tests Can Help with Tree Selection

Have you ever gone to a tree nursery and to your glee found what you thought to be the PERFECT tree for your home? Maybe you first saw it in a magazine, on TV or the Internet or you caught it on sale at Walmart. Wherever you saw it, you respond out of impulse and purchase it for your property. In no time, you have it in the ground and your taking selfies with it to brag to all of your friends on social media!

After a few weeks, months or years go by, you begin to notice it’s not looking as nice as it did when you planted it. “What happened? Why is it looking so sickly?” you wonder. Well… it could be any number of reasons:

  • Transplant shock
  • Poor root establishment because when it was planted it was not checked for encircling or girdling roots, etc.
  • Planted too deep because instead of removing the excess soil around the trunk to locate root flare and main order roots, the planting depth instead followed the soil line already surrounding the trunk
  • Not enough water from prolonged periods of drought and no irrigation system or too much water because it… Continue reading

What Does a Tree Think of Pruning?

Guiding young and medium-aged trees to develop good branch architecture is key to sustainable tree plantings. The most common method of training and developing healthy growth is by means of proper pruning.

But, have you ever wondered how pruning affects a tree?

It’s not merely the removal of a broken or diseased or undesirable limb. Pruning not only changes a tree’s physical structure, for better or worse, but it also undergoes biological effects, which can have long-lasting affects on its future growth and development. Who knew, right?

Tree pruning

We prune trees to remove broken or diseased or undesirable limbs, but have you ever wondered, “What do tree think?” Can pruning affect a tree biologically? What affect could Jeff’s pruning this tree (pictured above) have on its future growth and development?

To learn more on how proper (or improper) pruning can impact your trees and when is the best time to prune, read the new publication: “Tree Pruning: What Do Trees Think?” (FNR-534-W Feburay 2017) by Lindsey Purcell (Urban Forestry Specialist, Purdue University).

Epicormic shoots from latent buds as a result of tree topping.

Epicormic shoots have developed from latent buds after this tree was topped. Topping trees is bad for a trees long-term health and not considered… Continue reading

How To Plant A Tree

Have you ever wondered, “What is the proper way to plant a tree?” Does it really matter?

Sometimes, it’s hard to imagine the future of a tree, like how tall it will grow or how wide.

200-yr old White Ash behind Holliday Park Nature Center (Indianapolis)

It’s kind of like buying a cute little puppy. It’s small and doesn’t take up much room and, did we mention it’s cute?!! But then after a couple of years it becomes a larger dog that eats more, poops more, and takes up more space. You still love your dog, but over time you come to realize that to really love your pet, you need to do more things to keep it happy, well-fed, healthy and comfortable. The same is almost true with your trees!

So how do you keep your trees “happy, well-fed, healthy and comfortable,” especially if you are thinking about planting one (or more)?

Keep Indianapolis Beautiful team demonstrates the latest techniques in tree planting.

Keep Indianapolis Beautiful (KIB) team demonstrates the latest techniques in tree planting.

First, you have to plan and prepare for it! Why are you wanting to plant a tree? Where will you plant it? Have you had the soil tested? Have you checked for nearby utilities?… Continue reading

Indiana’s STEM Certified Schools!

​The Indiana Department of Education has announced the following STEM Certified Schools which underwent a rigorous application and review process in order to be awarded. While these are some of the first, other schools will be able to build on their accomplishments. Congratulations!

The FIRST Cohort of Schools:

  • Zionsville Community Schools: Boone Meadow Elementary, Stonegate Elementary, Eagle Elementary, Pleasant View Elementary, Union Elementary
  • Michigan City Area Schools: Lake Hills Elementary
  • Warsaw Community Schools: Washington Elementary
  • MSD of Lawrence Township: Skiles Test Elementary, Belzer Middle School, and McKenzie Center for Innovation and Technology
  • Maconaquah School Corporation: Maconaquah Middle School
  • MSD of Warren Township: Walker Career Center

The SECOND Cohort of Schools:

  • The Career Academy of South Bend
  • Grandview Elementary-Bloomington
  • Indian Creek Elementary Magnet School of STEM-MSD Lawrence TWP
  • Lafayette Sunnyside Intermediate Schools-Lafayette
  • Madison Primary Center-South Bend
  • Area 31 Career Center-MSD Wayne TWP
  • Maple Crest Middle School – Kokomo
  • New Tech Institute – Evansville
  • Southern Indiana Career and Technical Center – Evansville

Congratulations to the following schools for achieving a Full STEM Certified Program (School within a School Model)!

  • The STEM Academy at Penn High School – Mishawaka

Want To Learn More About Getting Your School STEM Certified?
Review the online webinar HERE.

Help the Urban Forest in Carmel

Nature Explore Outdoor Classroom is being planned for Goddard School

A special invitation has been extended to participate in a project to bring more trees and other greenery into Carmel’s urban forest, reduce hardscape, and help create future generations of tree planters and environmental stewards.

As a key first step in creating this nature-rich learning environment, a two-hour design consultation will be held on December 28 & 29, 2016. Representatives from urban forest organizations are invited to attend on those days and offer their expertise.

If you are unfamiliar with the Nature Explore program, you are encouraged to view their introductory video at http://youtu.be/Ptxhw8e4l3o.

Nature Explore’s landscape architect/educator design team, together with the program’s stakeholders, will design an effective learning environment for the children.

As Dan Lambe, Arbor Day Foundation president has said, “Bringing together the urban forestry and early childhood communities to create Nature Explore Classrooms is a great way to grow both urban forests and future tree planters.”

The design team would welcome whatever help and expertise you might provide. In other communities, stakeholders have advised on the best trees and shrubs to plant, and on tree-care issues. Some have proposed ways to… Continue reading