Release baby Thujas or leave well enough alone?

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#1)  Release baby Thujas or leave well enough alone?

Postby wisconsitom » Wed Mar 09, 2016 11:08 am

Hey fellows, here's one for discussion:  And please note, I post such items because I enjoy the exchange of thoughts and ideas here.  It's not as if I'm waiting, holding my breath, needing an answer today if not sooner!  Think of this as semi-rhetorical.  

So, I've got a woods in NE WI.  Much of this is on low ground and in the part of the state where this is located, Thuja occidentalis forms nearly pure stands on such sites with very high water tables.  Associates include balsam poplar, paper birch, and white pine, with a smattering of black ash, swamp white oak, quaking aspen, yellow birch, sugar maple (!), and a few others.  This conversation/question refers to the Thuja.  So, many of these are quite mature.  We have some of very good size for the species.  We also, somewhat perplexingly, have all age classes represented.  The deer simply do not eat the "cedar" here.......at all!  Not two miles away, I see the usual browse lines, the whole bit, but I don't know if I have dumb deer in that woods or what, but they simply do not touch the stuff!

Some of this site is brushy, with sandbar willow, gray dogwood, and other such species.  But in amongst the brush are numerous baby Thuja o's.  These young plants are utterly overtopped by the brushy stuff.  Now Thuja o. has decent shade tolerance, as is indicated by what I write here.  But my question......or really, my topic of conversation is this:  From time to time, my son and I have contemplated cutting down all that brush, to "release" these young conifers.  As far as that goes, having more cedar develop is one of our management goals.  So, do we leave it be, since it is clearly coming up under the willow brush?  Do we knock that brush down to give the trees more sunlight?  Do we leave things be since it appears nature is doing what we want it to do, albeit at her own pace?  Do we risk interesting the deer in these young cedar by exposing them, and making access easier?  With regards to that last question, remember-all over this property are larger cedar and the deer are not browsing them.  We have also dug young plants-where they're coming up too crowded-and moved them up into the open field (where we're planting all the trees), and these too have been utterly unmolested.  So I don't know if we necessarily run that risk or not.  Seems not, but I'd hate to be wrong.

Just opening it up for discussion here.  My saw's not running, waiting for me to squeeze the trigger!  Thanks.
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#2)  Re: Release baby Thujas or leave well enough alone?

Postby wisconsitom » Wed Mar 09, 2016 2:03 pm

It may be bad form to be the first to "answer" one's own post, but just want to say, I'm not surprised to not be getting much in the way of feedback on this one.  Simply put, I've learned that very few tree enthusiasts have any idea what I'm talking about when I use such terms as "cedar swamp", "native Thuja occidentalis stand", or the like.  I grew up taking it for granted that everybody knew what this was, but I've since learned, here and on other tree boards, that almost nobody realizes that this is a forest tree, not just some dumb shrub clipped to look like a hamburger bun in somebody's yard!

Evidently, to have ever seen the type of forest I refer to here, one would have had to have been in WI, MI, extreme NE MN, NY (I should think), Maine, Vermont...........and certainly parts of Ontario, Quebec, and the maritimes.  Evidently, Massachusetts has almost no such stands and New Hampshire is a question mark as well.  There are outlier populations in limestone glens in places like Ohio....but you could likely live all your life in that state as well and never come across it.  I think I'm kind of on my own here, but will be delighted to find out otherwise.
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#3)  Re: Release baby Thujas or leave well enough alone?

Postby gnmcmartin » Wed Mar 09, 2016 4:08 pm

Tom:

  Since the Thuja is more tolerant than the things suppressing it, over time it will take over, and develop into a nice stand.  BUT, this could take a very, very long time--I mean really long!

  So here is what you should consider.  First, is this Thuja "nursery" something you enjoy? Or, every time you look at it, do you wish there were something else there, such as a pure stand of young Thuja?  If it were my land, and it was Norway spruce or white pine that was being suppressed, I would work to release them. Is it just Thuja that is suppressed, or is there some sugar maple and some other desirable trees mixed in here and there?  If so, that might increase the "release" motivation.

  Of course your Thuja is slow growing, even when released, but then your children might enjoy this section more over time if you released the Thuja. And young trees are beautiful, and fun to watch grow.  I enjoy the pine plantings I have done here north of Winchester immensely, and think the young pines are simply gorgeous!

  Maybe most important, do you have the time?  And would you enjoy the work? I am sure that the Thuja would respond beautifully to release, and grow just  like any seedlings newly planted in the open, and maybe a bit better initially, there being no transplant shock. But then one release may not be enough--there things may re-sprout, and you might have to repeat.

  I know you love the "northern white cedar" you have there.  Here I have the Green Giant Thuja, with a couple cultivars of T. plicata.  They are all beauties.

  In the redwood country, where there have been clearcuts, there has been some debate about how to restore the "natural" forest.  Some have argued that it would be best to let the alder take over initially, and then have the redwoods seed in underneath.  Alder is a nitrogen fixing species, and generally works to restore the soil, and over time the "natural forest succession" will result in a better forest.  But the other side says this takes too long, and after such a "disturbance," the forest succession may not restore a redwood forest for an extremely long time, if ever. Mostly the "plant redwoods" side has prevailed.

  But in your case, none of the "pioneer" species suppressing the Thuja are nitrogen fixing, and the soil may not need restoration that it does in redwood country after the massive disturbance from logging, and subsequent burning and erosion, and may serve only to retard the return to a "natural" forest.

  --Gaines
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#4)  Re: Release baby Thujas or leave well enough alone?

Postby Lucas » Wed Mar 09, 2016 7:22 pm

https://www.mieuxconnaitrelaforet.ca/fichiers/consortium/Rapports/rapports_2010/Coupe_en_Chapelet_A.pdf

String Cutting Trial with Small Gaps in Gaspé Peninsula Eastern White Cedar Stands

https://www.mieuxconnaitrelaforet.ca/fi ... ya_ang.pdf

http://climateaudit.org/2008/09/21/new- ... -of-gaspe/


Speaking of cedar, I saw something one time about old growth cedar on Gaspe. I think it had something to do with the Int. Appalachian Trail.  I tried to find it but no luck now, of course. Anyway, it made a big impression. Tolkien couldn't have dreamed it up. The articles above did turn up in case they are of interest.
We travel the Milky way together, trees and men. - John Muir
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#5)  Re: Release baby Thujas or leave well enough alone?

Postby wisconsitom » Thu Mar 10, 2016 10:13 am

Thanks lucas-I'll read those links shortly.  Gaines, you raise some pertinent points:  I have considered this exactly like your west coast redwoods paradigm:  Everything is proceeding just as we want, but we humans are an impatient bunch.  If we could speed up the Thuja takeover, I think we would.  The exact area I'm speaking of is extremely wet.  Sink a shovel in the ground there-any time of year-and it will fill up with water....that kind of saturation.  These plants that can actually withstand this condition amaze me.  Just as a sidenote, this is the only place on our entire land there where Norway spruce failed to catch hold.  Too wet.

As to the aesthetics of what's there now, versus what we might like to have growing there, it's an interesting thing:  The brushy stuff, especially the gray dogwood, creates an almost "smoky" effect when one looks at it during the large part of the year here when things are dormant.  Nothing the least bit objectionable about how this portion of the site looks.  But the Thuja are my baby, no doubt.  Everywhere on this property where we can, we are working to foster that species.  And true enough, the shrubs species that are present there would all be of a type to resprout.  To really accomplish this release, we'd probably have to cut/treat, which is not a problem for us.  We have a bunch of box elder, courtesy of one stupid mother tree on the neighbors property which continuously spews its seeds into our planted conifers area.  This is clear on the other side of the property, but will require cut/treat, is what I'm saying, so we will have to mobilize for this some day anyway.  Not in any hurry on that.  Will probably go to it next winter.  So this other area which is the subject of this thread could be done at that time.

In truth, there are other little areas of the exact same situation on this property.  The cedar just really wants to colonize all over that land....and again, the deer are letting this happen, which is perhaps the strangest aspect of this whole deal. Speaking of which, some folks, upon hearing my report of no deer herbivory on my cedar, have questioned whether there are any deer there.  Heh, the day before opening day of gun season, we counted not 8, not 18, not 28, but 38 deer in our field.  This cedar swamp is a "deer yard" plain and simple.  In many places under those trees, you can't find a single square inch that has not been tamped down by deer hooves.  We've got plenty of deer.

One final note:  Cedar is often described as slow-growing, and I get that.  But honestly, those plants which we've moved up into better-draining soil, in amongst some of the pines, spruce, etc. have actually kept right up in height growth!  I know that's not always going to be the case, but what I report is true.  Further, I'm not sure Thuja o. is really so much slow-growing as it is a plant which evenly distributes its new growth across every branch and branchlet-every growing tip, such that if one were to weigh the accumulated new biomass from one year's growth on this plant and say, white pine, a noted quick grower, I wouldn't be at all surprised to learn it's roughly equivalent.  I'm speculating here, and have no real evidence.  But I've long suspected this might be the case.
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#6)  Re: Release baby Thujas or leave well enough alone?

Postby Lucas » Sun Jan 21, 2018 4:27 pm

Lucas wrote:[url]Speaking of cedar, I saw something one time about old growth cedar on Gaspe. I think it had something to do with the Int. Appalachian Trail.  I tried to find it but no luck now, of course. Anyway, it made a big impression. Tolkien couldn't have dreamed it up. The articles above did turn up in case they are of interest.


Image

"cedar tree along the Bonaventure River in Gaspésie, 3 people circum."

https://www.facebook.com/arbresquebec/photos/pcb.10154820701301402/10154820700041402/?type=3

Arbres remarquables et boisés du Québec

A lot  more impressive cedars on this FB page.
We travel the Milky way together, trees and men. - John Muir
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#7)  Re: Release baby Thujas or leave well enough alone?

Postby Don » Sun Jan 21, 2018 4:58 pm

Tom-
I'm happy to defer to those knowing your environment, but do have one thought in regard to your silvicultural dilemma.  While your thujas are known for intercepting moisture, I've not read that they transpire much of what they get. Could it be that the other species in there with them have a role in transpiring the abundance of water you mention? Would removing non-thuja species result in a significant change in water relations?
-Don
PS:Went quickly to FEIS for the following snippet...odd that your deer don't nosh the thujas thoroughly!
[https://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/plants/tree/thuocc/all.html]
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE :
Northern white-cedar provides food and shelter for wildlife.
White-tailed deer, snowshoe hares, and porcupines heavily browse the
foliage [26].  Northern white-cedar is one of the best winter browse
species for white-tailed deer in the northern Lake States, and it is
often overbrowsed [2].

26.  Johnston, William F. 1990. Thuja occidentalis L.  northern white-cedar.
      In: Burns, Russell M.; Honkala, Barbara H., technical coordinators.
      Silvics of North America. Volume 1. Conifers. Agric. Handb. 654.
      Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 580-589.
      [13418]
2.  Aldous, Shaler E. 1952. Deer browse clipping study in the Lake States
      Region. Journal of Wildlife Management. 16(4): 401-409.  [6826]
Don Bertolette - President/Moderator, WNTS BBS
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#8)  Re: Release baby Thujas or leave well enough alone?

Postby Rand » Sun Jan 21, 2018 5:39 pm

Cedar Bog Nature Preserve in Ohio has a very prominent browse line.  Curiously, the cedars themselves aren't noticeably bigger than what you see in old cemeteries.
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