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PROFILE - CLOS E-UP

December 2002
"Reprinted with permission from Irrigation & Green Industry magazine."

DUBBED THE "FATHER OF MODERN


ARBORICULTURE," Dr. Alex Shigo has spent most of his
adult life studying, lecturing, dissecting and writing about trees.
“A tree is much more than a chunk of dead wood,” exclaims
Shigo. "Trees are alive; they live all year 'round, not just for a
short time in the summer. They work during the winter, too.
M any people spend time on what goes wrong with a tree; I
wanted to study what goes right."
Shigo was born at the height of the depression in 1930, in
Duquesne, Pennsylvania. Attending Waynesburg College in
South- western Pennsylvania, he received his Bachelor of
Science degree in biology. Music was also a part of Shigo's life;
he plays a mean clarinet.
But his future plans were interrupted by the Korean War; he
served in the Air Force and was in the official Air Force Band.
After the war, Shigo continued his study of botany, biology and
genetics, working as a lab assistant for Dr. Charles Bryner, his
biology teacher at Waynesburg College. Bryner expected quite
a bit from Shigo, admonishing him whenever he missed a
question, Shigo recalls. "It helped me become more
disciplined," he quips.
Shigo furthered his education at the University of West
Virginia, receiving a master's degree in biology in 1958, and a
Ph.D. in pathology in 1959. He completed the doctorate so
quickly because he started working on his Ph.D research at the
same time he was working on his master's - "a loop- hole the
university quickly closed," recalls Shigo.
His career as a pathologist began with the U.S. Forestry service later that year. "I was a creature of
opportunities," Shigo notes. "Until the 1950s there were only big two-man chain saws; then a
manageable, one-man chain saw was developed. One of my assignments for the U.S. Forest Service
was to learn more about tree decay. So I went out and started to dissect trees."
Shigo had never handled a chain saw before. Even so, he wasn't satisfied with the cross-cut or
transverse type of dissection that other pathologists favored. "Such dissection provides only a part of a
tree's story," remarks Shigo.
His idea was to dissect trees longitudinally as well. As a result, he learned that many commonly -
held concepts about heart rot and decomposition and other theories were wrong. "I could either go
with the book (theories) or go with what I saw in the tree. Either the books were wrong' or the trees
were wrong. I chose to go with the trees," Shigo says.
"I started to see trees in a different way because a tree is a living thing," Shigo explains. "When you
hit a living thing, it reacts. When YOU hit a tree, it does something. When a tree is threatened, it
doesn’t just stand there. It establishes boundaries."
With these and other theories that go against conventions, Shigo admits he has his detractors, but he
also has his admirers. Denne Goldstein, publisher of this magazine, was the founder of Arbor Age
magazine. He developed a relationship with Dr. Shigo in the late 1970s. "Alex is one of the most
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knowledgeable people about trees; he is an exciting lecturer. His enthusiasm in contagious."
Not one to mince words, Shigo has earned the respect of the foresters and arborists around the
world. "Too many people are working in the field without an understanding of trees and grass," he
observed.
"People should know that trees are generating organisms, instead of re-generating organisms like
human beings," Shigo explains. "Trees generate their own food from carbon dioxide, sunlight and
water, while human beings must intake food from elsewhere. Therefore, tree food is a misnomer.
While such supplements, like fertilizer, provide important elements, they do not provide an energy
source," he says.
Another example: While humans put new cells in old places countless times during a lifetime, trees
continue to put new cells in new places, Shigo explains. Similarly, a tree doesn't heal, because it
doesn't replace injured cells with new ones.
In his books and lectures, Dr. Shigo disagrees with other popular theories about trees. Among those
theories that Shigo disputes is the idea that trees are mostly dead wood.
Shigo's understanding of trees comes from his years in the U.S. Forest Service. He eventually
became chief scientist for the Forest Service and was in demand as a speaker at many conferences, both
in the United States as well as around the world, until he retired in 1985.
Not one to sit back and do nothing, he began to write and continues to play music. It wasn't long
before calls began coming in from around the world, requesting him to lecture and teach. Shigo began
a second career as a lecturer and author, which continues until this day .
"The name Alex Shigo has a become a legend. When he walks into a room, he is the focal point.
He has aura that commands respect," commented Goldstein.
"Dr. Shigo is one of the warmest people I've met, with a sincere desire to teach what he has learned
about trees. 'You have to touch a tree and feel it,' is one of my favorite Shigoisms."
Since his retirement, he's written and published several papers, journals, books, and his most recent
effort, a compact disk. Trees, Associates and Shigo is a CD which includes 5,000 slides from his work
during the last 40-plus years. Included on the disk are thousands of images of the insides of trees, some
so close up that one can see dust mites on an insect.
While he's reluctant to discuss exact figures, Shigo said he's sold more than 70 tons of books, enough
to cover the driveway of his home several times over.
Shigo and his wife, M arilyn, live in Durham, New Hampshire. In the summer, they love to spend
time at their summer cottage on a lake in Barrington, New Hampshire. They have a son, a daughter,
and five grandchildren.
Plagued with some health problems, Shigo has curtailed his travel, but he still looks forward to the
future with excitement. He plans to add DVDs to his collection of publications.
"I'm trying to get people who work with trees to understand them," says Shigo.

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Articles within:

1. A Professional Understands Dose

2. A Touch of Chemistry

3. How trees survive

4. Tree Autopsy

5. Troubles in the Rhizosphere

6. Arboriculture in the 21st Century

7. A NEW TREE BIOLOGY COM ES OF AGE

8. The Science of Tree Cultivation and the Science Behind the Treatments

9. Tree Education and Philosophy

10. Armillaria Root Rots, Predisposition and Poor Sorauer.

11. WATER AND TREES

12. Canker Rots and the Heart Rot Myth

13. California Oak problem

14. Tree Chemicals that Kill or Cure

15. Trees and Associates in Winter

16. What Arborist Need to Know About Lichens

www.shigoandtrees.com

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A Professional Understands Dose

By Dr. Alex L. Shigo

Tree pruning is a two-part treatment that demands a specialized knowledge of collars and dose.
Knowing. how to remove a branch without injuring the tree requires an understanding of branch
anatomy and defense boundaries, whereas knowing how many leaf-bearing branches can be removed
without injuring the tree requires an understanding of the symplast and the second law of energy flow.

Energy flow, cash flow

I asked a physicist friend recently what natural law he thought was the most important to sustain life.
Without hesitation, he said it had to be the Second Law of Thermodynamics or energy flow, which
states that no system will remain orderly, or survive, unless it receives a continuous supply of energy.

Next, I asked a business friend what law he thought was most important in business. Just as quickly, he
replied "cash flow." He stated that a successful entrepreneur needs to know how to get money, what to
do with it, and when and how to let it go. He added that cash-flow problems are central to most
business failures in big and small companies alike.

We expect doctors, mechanics and others who call themselves professionals to understand the parts and
processes of their business. We should demand no less from arborists. Below are some very brief
comments that will make arborists more aware of a few neglected but essential parts and processes for
correct tree pruning. I deal with these subjects in a much greater detail in my books.

Two examples of over-pruned trees, where too much


symplast has been removed.

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Symplast, a living webwork

Two major myths have held back


advances in arboriculture: Wood is
dead, and decay is not a disease. These
myths arose mainly from the lack of
understanding of the symplast.

The symplast is the highly ordered,


three-dimensional, connected webwork
of living protoplasm in trees. It's like a
webwork of jelly. The living protoplasm
is contained in thin-walled cells called
the parenchyma, which have small cell
wall openings that act as tunnels where
the protoplasm of one cell connects with
the protoplasm of adjoining cells.

It is extremely important to remember that the symplast is alive. Energy reserves are stored within the
living symplast, mostly as starch and oils. Twigs, branches, trunks and roots all have a symplast, which
stores energy reserves. The greater the volume of the symplast, the greater the capacity to store energy
reserves.

The symplast is very fragile and requires a rigid framework, the apoplast, to hold it in place.

The apoplast, on the other hand, is a dead framework. It is a highly ordered connection of dead cells
and cell parts that act as a tough framework for the symplast. The apoplast stores water, mostly as
bound water, which, unlike free water, is chemically bound to cellulose and does not flow. A unique
feature of trees is that living and dead cells are connected in ways that support the heavy, woody
framework while maintaining the biological process essential for life. Wood is a highly ordered
arrangement of living, dying and dead cells that have walls of cellulose, hemicelluloses, and lignin.

So, how does this all affect tree pruning? Removing living branches, stems or roots from trees reduces
the volume of symplast. Since energy reserves are stored in the symplast, the energy reserves of the
trees are reduced.

For the living processes of the tree, there is a great difference between killing and dying-even though
the end result is the same. As a branch dies, mobile materials such as nitrogenous substances have a
chance to move back into the still living tissues. When a living branch is suddenly removed, all of the
nitrogenous substances are lost.

As trees mature, the ratio of dynamic


mass, or symplast, declines from 100
percent to 10-20 percent.

Dynamic and static mass

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Young trees contain living cells throughout, and the wood is said to be 100 percent dynamic mass. In
fact, the definition of a young tree is one that is 100 percent dynamic mass. Significant amounts of the
symplast may be removed from a young tree without seriously disrupting the workings of the Second
Law, since enough energy remains to keep the parts and processes of the tree system orderly.

As trees grow and mature, however, the inner and oldest living cells begin to die, and nitrogenous
substances move outward toward the cambial zone into the still-living cells. When cells die near the
inner margins of the symplast, the dead material is called the protection wood. Heartwood is one type
of protection wood. Sapwood is wood that has a symplast.

Protection is a static feature, whereas defense is a dynamic process. The symplast in the sapwood
maintains a defense potential, because it contains living cells. Protection wood has very little or no
nitrogen or energy reserves. Materials called extractives might also impregnate the dead cells.

As the volume of protection wood increases, the ratio of dynamic mass (symplast in sapwood) to static
mass (protection wood with all dead cells) changes. Because the ratios are changing, the amount of
symplast lost by removing living branches is also changing.

As trees grow and age, the demands of the Second Law become more pronounced. When wounds are
inflicted and compartmentalized, the volume of dynamic mass decreases. If over-pruning, flush cuts,
topping cuts or repeated deep injections are inflicted, the wood associated with the injuries is also
compartmentalized. But again, as dynamic mass is walled off, the capacity to store energy reserves is
decreased.

When not enough energy is left for a tree to maintain a strong defense, then pathogens attack. Usually,
the roots are first to go, because they depend on leaves and living branches for their energy.

Core-skin hypothesis

By this time, you may be asking where all this information may be found. Many researchers over a
long period have contributed to what Dr. R.C. Hardwick calls the core-skin hypothesis, which states
that as new growth increments or "new trees" grow over old increments or "old trees," the "young
trees" become "skin" over the aging "core." As trees age, the ratio of "core" to "skin" increases.

Hardwick is must reading for anyone really interested in trees. I have used many of his ideas in my
book "Modern Arboriculture," because they are very relevant to many tree treatments, especially
fertilization and pruning.

What's the solution?

Generally, as trees get larger and older, the number of living branches you remove should decrease,
while the number of dead branches that you should remove will increase. Of course, a branch should be
removed any time it becomes a high risk for failure. And remember, always keep wildlife in mind
when pruning.

I do not believe it is possible to give magic percentages for dose, or the number of living branches that
may be pruned. Also, because of the forms of many trees, it is not possible to state how much should be
removed and from where on the trunk. For example, American elms that are vase-shaped are still found
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in many cities, particularly in Canada. How you prune such a tree would be very different from how
you would prune a round mulberry tree in the southwestern United States.

Each tree species has different mature forms and different ratios of dynamic to static mass. The collars
on every branch will be different. Once these features are recognized and understood, only then can
sound decisions be made about tree pruning.

Think cash flow


Cash flow describes the movement of money within a business. Energy flow means the same for a
tree's business of survival. Think of the component parts of a tree and its processes as similar to the
workings of your business. You and your people are the symplast. If you are the owner, then you are
the cambial zone. Your office and other non-living parts make up the apoplast.

When a tree business is small and young, it is mostly "symplast." As your business grows and ages,
you must take care to recognize "dead wood" among employees and non-living things. The faster you
discard "dead wood," the healthier your business will be.

A common saying in the corporate world is that the amount of money you make is less important than
how much you keep. Indeed, as your business grows, you might find yourself making less money. This
is just one argument against uncontrolled growth.
Growing bigger and faster, then, does not always make
for a healthier company or a healthier tree. In business,
constant and careful pruning will maximize profits
from limited resources. The same may be said for trees.

A Touch of Chemistry

Life is a journey, powered by the sun, of a group of


highly ordered and connected chemicals borrowed from
the Earth. Death is the end of the journey when all
borrowed chemicals are returned to be used again for
new life.

By Dr. Alex L. Shigo

Advanced modern Arboriculture is the care of the tree


system based on the most current accepted tools,
machines, products and techniques, and on an
awareness of the scientific principles behind decisions,
predictions and treatments. The tree system is made up
of trees, their associates and their environment.

Arboriculture has grown from an art where muscles and


skills were the major ingredients. Now it is time to add
mind and science. The major science disciplines are
biology, engineering, and chemistry. Of course, many other science disciplines play a role in the
profession, as well as economics and communications.

Chemistry is the science of arrangements of atoms and their properties. As reactions change
arrangements, the properties of the products also change. Chemistry speaks to the trees and associates
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at the molecular level. It is a ribbon that runs through all life processes and treatments. The use of
fertilizers, water, herbicides, pesticides, mulches, soils and even proper pruning, all have a great
amount to do with chemistry.

I believe many highly intelligent arborists ran from biology and chemistry primarily because of the way
the subjects were taught. Students could fail by misspelling photosynthesis, or forgetting the makeup of
glucose. It was not teaching: It was boring memorization. Some people wanted to be out touching trees
and really learning about them.

Times are changing. Muscles and mind are now both required for the job. Some people will resist, but
those who can see the writing on the wall will know that better jobs with higher wages are there for
arborists who take the next steps.

Chemistry of Life

All living and non-living thing are made of chemicals. With living things, chemicals are so highly
ordered in their arrangements that they repeat. Trees are bags of highly ordered arrangements of
chemicals. You are bags of chemicals. The big bags are called cells, and the smaller bags within are
cellular bodies and inclusions that maintain the processes of life. A major difference b etween your cells
and those of the tree is that most of your cells have a soft, fatty, membrane boundary, whereas most of
the tree's cells have a hard, tough cellulose-lignin, wall-like boundary. Trees and people are also,
because they have tubes that transport liquids and substances dissolved in them from one place to
another, and both have chemical pathways in living cells that regulate the chemical processes. Trees
have tubes of vessels, tracheids, and phloem sieve tubes. People have a digestive tube and blood
vessels. The chemical pathways in living cells are routes for the constant chemical changes that support
life. To hold the cells and tubes in place, people have skin and bones. Trees build their tough
framework into their tubes, fibers and bark.

To stay alive, the inner cellular bodies require a continuous supply of energy. The energy -releasing
substances reach the cellular bodies through the special tubes. To grow, elements and water must also
move to growing sites by way of the
transport tubes.

Chemicals produced by an insect that


deposited an egg in this oak twig
stimulated the tree to form a gall that
served as the protective home for the
developing larva. Chemicals of one kind
may turn on or off other chemicals in
living things. These processes become
more understandable when you realize
that all organisms are "bags" of
chemicals.

Basic Chemicals of Life

Six chemicals - carbon (C), hydrogen (H),


oxygen (O), nitrogen (N), sulfur (S) and phosphorus (P) - make up about 98 percent of the weight of
people and trees. Water (H 2 O, or two hydrogens and an oxygen atom) is the most abundant molecule
in all living things. Other organic molecules are of four basic types: lipids (CH, mostly), carbohydrates
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(CHO), proteins (CHONS), and nucleic acids (CHONSP). Carbon is the central chemical of life. The
term "organic" means that carbon is part of the molecule. (Science is full of exceptions. Diamonds,
coal, oil, graphite and natural gas have carbon, but they are not organic molecules mainly because of
their structure and lack of oxygen.)

Lipids

Lipids are fats, oils and waxes made up of long chains of hydrogen and carbon connected to a glycerol
molecule that has three oxygens. The chains of hydrogen and carbon can take on many forms because
of branching.

Suberin is a lipid that in the outer periderm of phellem waterproofs outer bark. Suberin- impregnated
phellem is called cork. The chains of carbon and hydrogen in suberin are so varied that few enzymes
from microorganisms are able to cleave it for an energy source. This characteristic gives corks their
unique benefits for sealing bottles. Suberin is also in a layer in absorbing roots called the Casparian
strip. This layer is an effective boundary essential in the absorption processes. Energy is required to
transport water and elements through the boundary into the tree. Suberin is also a major compound in
the barrier zone that forms after wounding. Outer bark that contains suberin is often used for mulch,
since bark mulch will not be broken down by soil microorganisms because of the suberin. The bark
mulch has aesthetic value, but the bark is of little value for providing energy -releasing compounds to
soil microorganisms. Some trees store fats and oils as their reserve energy source. The fats and oils are
not soluble in water. Many palms store oils. Waxes on leaves and fruits are also lipids.

The plight of this partially blind koala is due


to ignorance of tree basics. Koalas eat the
leaves of only about six species of Eucalyptus.
Because of fire ditches to reduce the threat of
fire and over development, most of the leaves
on the declining trees in the area tanned.
Tanning is a chemical process of combining
phenol-based substances with proteins, and
the disruption of hydrogen bonds leaves the
protein indigestible. The animals ate and ate,
but received little nutrition. A spirochete
similar to syphilis entered and was passed
along by mating. Many koalas died. The good
news is that development in the area was not
only stopped, but many developed areas will
be returned to their original state.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are substances made of carbon,


hydrogen and oxygen in the ratio of one
carbon to one oxygen to two hydrogens. They
are the energy -carrying compounds. The basic
fuel for living processes is glucose, a simple
sugar that contains six carbons, 12 hydrogens
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and six oxygens-C 6 H 12 O 6. The wonder of this compound is in the way in which the atoms are
bonded.

A great amount of light energy from the sun trapped by photosynthesis goes into glucose. Glucose is
like a mobile battery, because it is soluble in water. When the glucose reaches the living cells, it is
"burned" in the presence of oxygen and provides the energy to run living processes.

Trees use energy in five basic ways: Growth, maintenance of all cell processes, reproduction, exudates
and storage (mainly for new growth and defense). Growth and maintenance are linked in, that growth
increases the mass of an organism while maintenance keeps the cellular bodies orderly and active.
Reproduction, which increases the numbers of an organism, takes a great amount of energy from the
system. Some trees have periodic heavy seed crops, while other trees, such as American elms, have
heavy crops every year, Root exudates are like taxes: From 5 percent to 20 p ercent of the carbohydrates
and other organic substances made from photosynthesis and metabolism exit the non-woody roots into
the rhizosphere. These exudates are used as an energy source and building blocks by many soil
microorganisms. Storage of compounds for new growth and defense is usually as insoluble starch or as
oils and fats. Starch is made up of long chains of glucose. Starch is different from cellulose because of
a different type of bonding.

Glucose from photosynthesis follows two different routes: Some fuels the living processes, and other
glucose molecules form cellulose, which is the most abundant natural substance in the world. Cellulose
is made up of twisting rope-like chains of glucose molecules. Lignins fill the spaces between the
twisting "ropes" of cellulose. Lignins are natural cementing materials that give wood its unique
characteristics for strength. Tree cell walls also have hemicelluloses, which are compounds made up of
shorter chains of sugars.

An enzyme called amylase can change the starch chains back to glucose molecules. M any fungi have
enzymes that can cleave the cellulose chains to release glucose. The wonder of glucose is that it can be
an active cellular fuel, a tough material, a storage material and the basic unit of many other molecules
essential for life.

Now, back to growth and maintenance as linked processes. We know how to stimulate growth: add a
nitrogen source to soil or leaves and shoots will grow bigger. What we cannot do directly is add an
energy source to trees. When growth increases, energy goes out of the system first. Then maintenance
and defense must also increase after this for the added living matter. If stored energy is used to meet the
added growth demands, little stored energy remains for defense, leaving a bigger plant with a smaller
defense system. Any number of insects and microorganisms "know" this. The classic example is fire
blight. Add nitrogen to a tree that has a little fire blight and the disease will spread rapidly. Add an
overdose of nitrogen to trees and any number of sucking insects will be there.

The latest example is the Canadian hemlock problem caused by the hemlock woolly adelgid. Some
people may argue that the added growth will support more photosynthate and this adds to the total
energy budget of the system. The fact often forgotten is that the energy must come out of the system
first and then the photosynthate begins to come back. M uch can happen in the time between these
processes that would benefit pathogens, which are opportunists waiting for a weak moment.

There is a way to indirectly "feed" a tree, and that is by the addition of composted wood and leaves to
the soil. I believe we must think of the tree as the major part of an entire system. In this sense, it is
possible to feed the tree system. The composted wood and leaves provide a carbon source for the many

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microorganisms that are a part of the tree system. Dose again is extremely important. High mounds of
mulch about the bases of trees is not beneficial, especially if the wood and leaves are not composted.

Proteins

Proteins are compounds of amino acids that contain carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen and, in a few
cases, sulfur. There are 20 basic amino acids arranged in many ways to form proteins.

Proteins are the basic molecules that make up living matter. Animals are mostly proteins and trees are
mostly carbohydrates on a weight basis. Proteins are also the central molecules in enzymes, which are
substances that catalyze many reactions along the pathways of life. Enzymes are "efficiency experts" in
that they bring about chemical reactions in ways that minimize the expenditure of energy. They are
often likened to keys that open the doors. Or, they may be likened to knives that cleave long chains or
big molecules into smaller ones. All of these actions occur in ways that minimize energy costs and keep
heat down. If it were not for enzymes, living cells would run out of fuel and would heat to the point of
disruption.

A major benefit of fertilizers is that they provide nitrogen for proteins. As more proteins form, the
possibility for added growth increases. Nitrogen is absorbed at the rhizoplane in two forms: as nitrate
ions or ammonium ions. Nitrate is an anion that carries a single negative charge. The ammonium ion is
a cation that carries a single positive charge. The molecular weight of the nitrate ion, which is made up
of one nitrogen atom and three oxygen atoms, is 62. Nitrogen has a molecular weight of 14, and each
oxygen is 16. The ammonium cation is made up of one nitrogen and four hydrogens that have a
molecular weight of one each. It weighs 18, the same as water, H 2 O. A nitrate anion is three times the
weight of an ammonium cation. This is extremely important, because the ammonium cation- being as
small as the water molecule-often is attached to the inner surface of clay crystals. The ammonium
cation is attracted to negative points in and on the clay crystals. In this way, clays hold ammonium
cations as a reserve nitrogen source. A nitrate ion is too big and heavy to compete with an ammonium
ion in clays.

Nitrate is usually the molecule that is absorbed by non-woody roots. The absorbing, non-woody root
boundary is called the rhizoplane. In a sense, the rhizoplane is the "great discriminator." Ions pass into
and out of the tree by way of the rhizoplane. When a cation moves in, an inner cation moves out. The
same is true for anions. The usual cation that exits is a proton or the positively charged nucleus of
hydrogen. The usual anion is the bicarbonate anion, which forms from carbonic acid, which in turn
forms when carbon dioxide dissolves in water. Carbon dioxide and water are products of respiration,
which is an energy releasing process that requires oxygen. The energy released then "runs" the
pathways in the living cells.

When nitrate ions enter non-woody roots, bicarbonate ions or ions made up of an oxygen and hydrogen
exit. A bicarbonate ion is made up of one hydrogen, one carbon and three oxygens. An important point
to remember is that a carbon-containing ion exits when a nitrogen-containing ion enters. When nitrate
ions enter, they usually react with reserve carbons to form amino acids. So again, carbon is leaving the
reserves. And even more carbon exits as root exudates.

As carbon reserves decrease, so does the potential for defense. Add to this the fact that the percentage
of exudate excreted increases when trees are over-pruned or injured during construction, and the
defense potential is threatened even more. Overt evidence of the decrease in defense potential is shown
by the abundance of root diseases in areas where trees are commonly over-pruned, over-watered or

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over-fertilized. Remember, pathogens "know" how to wait for a short, weak moment in the life of an
organism. When the moment comes, they are always ready.

Nucleic Acids

Nucleic Acids are so called because they were first found in the nuclei of cells . Nucleic acids are made
up of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorus and sometimes sulfur. Two nucleic acids, DNA-
Deoxyribonucleic acid and RNA-ribonucleic acid, are almost household terms.

The acids hold the codes for life. DNA is like a rubbery ladder that is twisted. The "rungs" are mad e up
of four different nitrogen-containing molecules. The combinations of groups of "rungs" are the genes
that determine the makeup of an organism.

The codes within a species are basically similar in their themes, but there are countless variations on
the themes. This fact accounts for the great difference between individuals within a species. This
variation is very imp ortant to the people who select individual trees for superior traits. We have known
for more than 25 years that some individuals of a species are able to compartmentalize wounds more
effectively than others. With the great need for tough city trees, it is difficult to understand why this
information has never been used.

Water

Water is the medium for the chemicals of


life. For instance, we know that glucose is
the basic fuel for living processes, however,
it is only usable when it is in a soluble state
or in water. The same can be said for the 14
elements from soil that are essential for life,
as well as a long list of organic compounds.

Weathering of rocks by organic acids


produced by lichens is an important process
that benefits the tree system. Elemen ts
essential for life are often locked up in
rocks.

Water is made up of two hydrogen atoms


and an oxygen atom. The way these three
atoms are bonded gives this molecule
amazing characteristics. Think of the water
molecule as a large balloon for oxygen and
two smaller balloons for the hydrogens. The
hydrogen balloons are bonded to the large
balloon in a way that leaves each hydrogen
atom with a small positive charge. On the
opposite side of the balloon from the
hydrogens, the oxygen has two small
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negative charges. The water molecule then has two small positive charges on one side and two small
negative charges on the opposite side. Such a molecule is called a dipole because it has positive and
negative ends. When many water molecules are together, one negative point is attracted to one positive
point of another water molecule. The way the two negative points and two positive points are
positioned makes it impossible for two water molecules to connect both positives to both negatives.
The charges are small but they are enough to result in highly complex three-dimensional lattices of
connected water molecules. This is why water that weighs only 18 on the molecular scale is not a gas at
room temperature. The molecules normally form huge clumps of connected lattices. The cohesive
nature of water explains why water will form humps on the surface of smooth glass or on the waxy
coatings of leaves and needles.

The lattice structure of water molecules is a major reason it "holds together" in vessels and tracheids.
The exact nature of the 3-D lattices is still not understood. When free-flowing water moves in trees,
some of the water molecules "stick" to the small negative charges on cellulose molecules. The positive
charges of the hydrogen of water are attracted to the negative charges of the oxygen on hydroxyls
(oxygen and hydrogen bonded) on cellulose. This is called a hydrogen bond. It is like a Post-It Note. It
sticks when you want it to stick, but when you pull it away, you cannot tell where it was stuck. The
water that bonds with cellulose is called bound water.

The Bonds of Life

There are three major types of chemical bonds--covalent, ionic and hydrogen. Think of bonds as
magnets: Covalent bonds are the strongest magnets; Ionic are next; and hydrogen the least strong.
Covalent bonds hold the nitrogen in the air so tightly together that it takes a great amount of ener gy to
break the bonds. That is good, because the air is about 80 percent nitrogen, which is in a form that is
very difficult for organisms to use.

Ionic bonds are lesser magnets. Elements and combinations of elements enter and exit non-woody roots
as ions. Ions have a positive or negative charge.

Hydrogen bonds are the smallest magnets. Yet in many ways, they are the major magnets of life. They
hold things together and, when pressures are applied, they let things go. The more you know about
hydrogen bonds, the more you will know about living processes.

There are three physical forces that we know of--gravity, electromagnetic and nuclear. Chemistry
sp eaks primarily to the electromagnetic forces. Nuclear forces hold atoms together. Gravity and nuclear
forces are primarily within the discipline of physics.

Something must hold matter together. At the same time, the matter that is held together must eventually
come apart-build up, breakdown, recycling. Some force holds them together and some greater force
pulls them apart. Think about how it would be if once matter got together, it could not be taken apart.
Or think of the other extreme, that matter would be always falling apart. The wonder of natural systems
is the way in which matter holds together and the way that matter comes apart.

The Tree Seesaw

13
Dynamic equilibrium is one of the major principles of chemistry. Dynamic equilibrium is a state of
apparent balance while in reality two opposing processes are operating at a constant rate.

Natural systems are in constant states of dynamic equilibrium that are often misstated as the balance of
nature. Trees are in the same state: The top supplies the energy to the bottom and the bottom supplies
the water and elements to the top.

Trees can be likened to seesaws. For a seesaw to work, it must go up and down. If one end is shortened
(through over-pruning), the seesaw will be more difficult to operate. If the seesaw is balanced and still,
the tree is dead. If a heavy weight is placed on one side (through over-watering or over-fertilizing), it
will be difficult to operate.

Some Final Points

I have discussed very briefly some organic molecules of life, water, bonding and dynamic equilibrium.
Here are some examples of the ways this information is related to trees and their treatments.

1. Tanning

M any evergreen leaves tan after they mature. Tanning means that proteins bond with phenol-based
molecules. In the process, the hydrogen bonds that hold the protein spirals in place are pulled away and
the protein spiral collapses like a slinky toy. Once collapsed, no insect or other organism can use the
protein as a food source because the collapsed spiral makes it almost impossible for an enzyme to enter
and cleave the protein. This is why we tan animal skins.

2. Fiber Saturation Point

When the thick inner wall layers of fibers become saturated with water, that condition is called the fiber
saturation point. The secondary wall has three layers called S 1, S 2 and S 3. The S 2 layer has an
abundance of cellulose. The hydrogen bonds on the water molecules attach to the negative positions of
oxygen atoms on hydroxyls that "stick out" from the cellulose. The water is now called bound water.
The high amount of bound water in the S 2 layer is a major protection feature against decay -causing
fungi in living trees.

3. Urea Fertilizer

Urea is the major molecule used for nitrogen in fertilizer. It is inexpensive to make. Urea is an organic
molecule with a central carbon, an oxygen, two nitrogens and four hydrogens. The hydrogens form
weak hydrogen bonds with positive charges and the oxygen has two weak negative bonds. The
molecule is a dipole, and is very soluble in water because of the hydrogen bonds. This is the good
news. The bad news is that the molecule reacts very quickly in water to release ammonia gas that can
go off into the atmosphere on hot windy days and not into the soil. Also, many microorganisms contain
a urease enzy me that splits the molecule to release ammonia. M any fertilizers are now including a
chemical to slow the action of the urease in order to minimize loss of nitrogen as ammonia gas.

14
4. Over-watering

If high turgor pressure is essential as a protection feature against infection, why not add lots of water to
make sure you maintain a high turgor pressure? If you do, the plant wilts or the palm heart is infected.
How can this be? The seesaw and absorption in the soil are the answers. When too much water is added
to soil, the oxygen content is decreased. When oxygen is low, non-woody root respiration will be low.
When respiration is low, very little carbon dioxide and water will be formed. As a result, very little
carbonic acid will form. When carbonic acid is low, very little bicarbonate ion will form. Bicarbonate
anion is a major player in absorption. For nitrate ion to enter the non-woody root, an anion must exit.
When bicarbonate anion is low, nitrate anion entering the non-woody root will be low. The seesaw
states that extremes kill. Too little is not good, and too much is not good. If you load the soil with
water, absorption of essential elements and water decreases because respiration and bicarbonate ions
decrease.

5.Pesticides and Herbicides

M ost pesticides and herbicides kill by blocking a chemical pathway within the. cells, usually by the
alteration of enzymes. The alteration is such that a chemical compound almost the same as the real
enzyme "fits" into the real enzyme's usual position, but it does not work. Chemicals designed to kill
specific organisms usually have an enzyme-blocking chemical for some enzyme specific to that
organism. M ore broad-range killer chemicals alter some other chemical essential for living processes.
For example, arsenic "fits" into the position occupied by phosphorus in the molecule ATP, adenosine
triphosphate. ATP is the universal "money handler" in organisms. Arsenic is an analog for phosphorus.
The problem for the organism is that arsenic does not do the job of ATP, and the cash flow system of
the organism disrupts. Other broad-range chemicals work in similar ways.

6. Chlorosis

When nitrate anion enters a non-woody root, bicarbonate anion exits the root. When bicarbonate anion
dissolves in water, the pH will increase in the rhizosphere. The pH could be two or more units higher
right after fertilization with urea. First, urea forms ammonia, which dissolves in water to form a strong
base. Then, when bicarbonate anions enter the rhizosphere water they are also bases. If this takes place
in soils that are already high in pH, and if trees that have genetic codes for optimal growth in low pH
soils are planted there, it is possible that some chlorosis could occur. As pH increases, iron and
manganese form insoluble precipitates rather than ions in water. When iron and manganese are low,
processes of photosynthesis decrease. The other side of the urea story is that after two to four weeks,
the pH will decrease if certain bacteria are present and active. This seesaw effect with pH changes is
more common than recognized in the rhizosphere. The problem is that when the pH conditions favor
pathogens, it does not take long for them to infect.

7. Taxol and Cancer

I end with this example because a very valuable chemical from yew trees shows great promise as a
control for some forms of cancer. Taxol does it by blocking the pathways that lend elasticity to the
cell's inner cytoskeleton. What does that mean? When cells divide rapidly, as they do in some cancers,
the inner cell cytoskeleton stretches to accommodate the genetic apparatus that transfers the genetic
material. If that apparatus is not elastic, it will not stretch as two cells begin to form from one. Instead,
it resists stretching and may even break, thus preventing cell division. Since some cancers are cell
divisions out of control, taxol slows this division process. The side effects are that the same slowing of
cell division also takes place in normal healthy cells. But cancer cells multiply so much faster than
15
normal cells that this side effect is far outweighed by the benefits.

Why Do I Need to Know This Stuff?

The answer is simple: You do not need to know this stuff if you are satisfied with your job and wages.
If you are pleased with your position and pleased with the thought that you will be doing the same
things for the same wages the rest of your life, fine!

If you want to advance-not only in your job but as a person who gets enjoyment out of understanding
the way things work-then you need to know this stuff. The people who want this stuff rarely ask the
question of why they need it because they already know the answer.

I believe arboriculture will become more of a science, and it will follow the same route as modern
medicine. So far, the early history of medicine fits very well with the developing profession of
arboriculture.

16
HOW TREES S URVIVE
By Dr. Alex Shigo

This noted researcher and author


discusses the characteristics of trees that
help them survive, as well as what
happens when systems of the tree falter.

Trees are the tallest, most massive,


longest-living organisms ever to grow on
earth.

Trees, like other plants, cannot move.


However, trees, unlike other plants are
big, woody and perennial, which means
they are easy targets for living and nonliving agents that could cause injuries. Trees cannot move away
from potentially destructive conditions. Wounding agents and destructive conditions do destroy trees,
but somehow, trees have grown in ways that give them super survival powers.

The big question is, how do trees do it?


The answer lies in concepts of biology and mechanical engineering.
The purpose of this paper is to examine the question of tree survival power more from the concepts of
biology, but also to be aware of concepts of mechanical engineering.
I will focus on subjects that need more clarification. Details on all subjects given here are in my books.
Because different disciplines often use similar terms that have different meanings for their work, it is
important to start with some definitions of terms I will use. You may not accept my definitions, but you
will know what I mean when I use a term. I believe if a person cannot define a term in 25 words or less,
they should not use it because they probably do not understand it.
Keyword Definitions of Terms (Keyword definitions give the most important words that define a term.
Complete sentences are not necessary.)
Capacity - What you have as a result of your genetic code; a potential source for some future action or
product.
Ability - What you are doing with what you have; a dynamic or kinetic process.
System - A highly ordered connection of parts and processes that have a predetermined end point -
product, service.
Stress - A condition where a system, or its parts, begins to operate near the limits for what it was
designed.
Strain - Disorder and disruption of a system due to operation beyond the limits of stress.
Vigor - The capacity to resist strain; a genetic factor, a potential force against any threats to survival.
Vitality - The ability to grow under the conditions present; dynamic action.
Health - The ability to resist strain.
Disease - A process that decreases the order and energy of a living system to the point of strain.
Survival - The ability to remain alive or functional under conditions that have the potential to cause
strain.
Generating system - New parts and processes form in new spatial positions; plants.
Regenerating system - New parts and processes form in old, or preoccupy, spatial positions; animals.

17
Wood - A highly ordered connection of living, dying and dead cells that have walls of cellulose,
hemicellulose and lignin.
Symplast - The highly ordered connection of living axial and radial parenchyma in wood and bark.
Apoplast - The highly ordered connection of dead cells and cell parts that make up the framework that
holds the symplast.
Quality - The characteristics that define a product, service or performance; quality can be low or high.

Hypothesis for survival

Because trees cannot move away from potentially destructive agents and conditions, they have grown
in ways that give them the capacity to adjust rapidly after being threatened by agents or conditions that
could cause strain or death.

The capacity to adjust is a genetic feature called vigor. The program of vigor of an organism is defined
by the limits of factors essential for survival. For example, one tree may have broad limits for water
utilization. When drought occurs, it will still survive. Another tree may have very narrow limits for
water utilization. Even the slightest disruption in availability of water would lead to strain or even
death.

A vigor code then determines the limits for such essential factors as space, water, elements,
temperature and soil pH.

The vigor of an organism cannot be measured until a life threatening stimulus contacts the organism.

When any potentially destructive stimulus occurs, the ability of the tree to adjust will be due not only to
its vigor, or genetic code, but to its vitality. A tree that is very vigorous by nature of its genetic code
may be growing on a rock. It would not be very vital. What this means is that for survival, both the
vigor and vitality of a tree must be optimized.

Forest tree, city tree


Trees became tall, massive and long-living plants as they grew in groups. Trees not only connect with
other trees by way of root grafts but also by way of the fungi that are associated with non-woody roots;
the organs are called mycorrhizae. Trees also connected with many other organisms, very large to very
small, in ways that benefited the trees and their associates. Synergistic associations are important parts
of the tree system.

A forest is a system where trees and many associates are connected in ways that ensure survival of all
members.

It is important to remember that the genetic codes for survival, or vigor, came from trees growing in
forests.

When the forest-coded tree is brought into the city, the factors that affect vitality become extremely
important. The architecture of most city trees as they grow as individuals is different from most of their
relatives in the forest where trees grow in groups. Forest trees have group protection and group defense.
The individual tree has neither.

The good news, the bad news


18
The good news is that most of our city trees have strong vigor codes that have made them super
survivors for hundreds of millions of years.

The bad news is that many human actions and mistreatments affect vitality and undo all the benefits of
wondrous vigor code. It is only because most trees have such strong vigor codes that they still survive
in cities.

There is no doubt in my mind that the greatest threat to survival faced by city trees are mistreatments
by humans. M any trees tolerate mistreatments. Too often their tolerance is perceived as justifications
for the mistreatments. I have heard it said many times that the tree did not die, so therefore the
treatments must have been correct.

How do trees adjust?

Trees have two basic adjustment codes.

1. After injuries, boundaries form that resist spread of infections. By resisting spread of infections, the
boundaries protect and preserve the water, air and mechanical support systems of the tree. Two types of
boundaries form: reaction zones and barrier zones. The reaction zone is a chemically altered boundary
that forms within the wood present at the time of wounding. The barrier zone is an anatomical and
chemical boundary that forms after wounding. The barrier zone separates the infected wood from the
new healthy wood that continues to form in new spatial positions. The tree is a generating system. The
tree has no mechanism to form new, healthy cells in the same positions as those that are infected.
Regenerating systems in animals do restore, repair, replace and regenerate parts in the same spatial
positions. Animals have a process call apoptosis, which means programmed cell death followed by
lysis, and new cells forming again in the same positions of those that died, lysed, and were eliminated.
This normal process of apoptosis accelerates after animals are injured and infected. This accelerated
restoration process is then called healing. In this sense, trees have no healing process.

Trees are highly compartmented, woody, shedding, perennial plants. Trees are generating systems.
Every growth period, trees form new compartments over older ones. Trees grow as their apical and
vascular meristems produce cells that differentiate to form all parts of the tree. The important part to
remember is that trees grow as new parts form in new spatial positions.

Trees cannot "go back" to restore, repair, replace or regenerate parts. You do not restore a church by
building a new one next to it. All words in English that start with "re" mean that new parts will go back
in previously occupied positions or back to an original state. These words have no meaning for trees.
These words have been the basis for great amounts of confusion. A tree cannot function in the same
ways as animals do after injuries or threats to their survival. The continuing use of such meaningless
words for trees is a strong indication why tree basics should be understood by people who work with
trees.

2. Now for the second adjustment feature of trees. After wounds or threats to their survival, trees also
grow in ways that will maintain their mechanical structures. Now we come to the mix of biology and
mechanical engineering.

There are two basic ways trees adjust to maintain and strengthen their structural stability: reaction
wood and woundwood.

19
Reaction wood can be of two types. Compression wood forms on the down side of leaning trunks and
tension wood forms on the upper sides. Compression wood is common in conifers and can be seen on a
transverse dissection as dark bands in the wood, usually resin soaked. Or the growth increments could
be larger in width and still be dark and resin soaked.

It is not possible to see tension wood because the changes take place in the cell walls. A gelatinous
layer forms in the cell walls, and this layer can only be seen when properly stained and viewed under a
microscope. The important part here is to know that these altered cell forms occur and that they occur
after a stimulus that threatens survival mainly because of a lean in the stem that could lead to a fracture.

Woundwood is altered wood that forms about the margins of wounds. When wounds release the
pressure of the bark, some of the still living parenchyma in the symplast begin to divide and produce
new cells in new positions. These new cells no longer are held in place by the pressures of the bark or
of the apoplast. The new cells become rounded and have a thin, primary cell wall. The cells exercise
their ability (now) to divide and divide and divide. Because they are thin-walled, dividing cells, and
because they contain the genetic codes for forming all parts of the tree, some of the cells begin to
differentiate to form sprouts, prop roots, roots or flowers. This capacity for division and differentiation
is called meristematic.

M eristems are groups of cells that have the ability to divide and differentiate to form all parts of the
tree. There are apical meristems that increase the length of stems and roots, and also produce flowers,
and vascular meristems - cambial zone - that increases the girth or circumference of a tree.

The symplast is a meristematic tissue. This means that the parenchyma in the symplast have the
capacity to divide and to differentiate. However, they are not able to exercise this capacity so long as
they are "trapped" in place by the strong apoplast and the pressure of the bark.

When wounds "release" the symplast, then the capacity to divide and to differentiate is converted to an
ability.

Callus is the name given to the thin walled, mostly round, meristematic cells that first form after
wounding about the edges of the wound. Callus has very little lignin, the tough "natural cement" that
gives cell walls great strength.

After callus cells continue to form, the pressure begins to build again as internal round callus cells
begin to squeeze against other callus cells. As pressure increases internally, the shape of newly formed
cells begins to change.

Within a few weeks to a few months after wounding during the growth period, callus formation begins
to diminish and woundwood formation begins.

Woundwood has fewer vessels than "normal" wood. The cell walls are usually thicker than normal and
usually contain more lignin. The woundwood cells cease to be meristematic. A new vascular cambium
forms and continues to form woundwood. These woundwood tissues are seen as ribs about the margins
of wounds. The woundwood ribs also add new strength to the weakened side of a stem, branch or
woody root.

When woundwood closes wounds, then normal wood continues to form. The internal boundary -
forming processes of compartmentalization are separate from the processes of callus and woundwood
formation.
20
A typical cracking pattern associated with multiple stems. The
willow oak was growing in a city. Cracks that separate multiple
stems often lead to fractures. The tree shown here was one of
many that was a victim of Hurricane Hugo.

Rot associated w ith Armillaria mellea in a root of red spruce.


The tree root did compartmentalize the infection, but in doing
so the volume of root wood that could store energy reserves
was decreased.

Klaus Vollbrecht stands beside an elm in Sweden that was


felled because of extensive root and trunk rot. As trees grow
older, the rate of growth of the fungi that cause decay may be
more important as a survival factor than the rate of growth of
the tree.

What can go wrong?

It appears that trees could live forever. Of course, that is not so


because the tree system, like all systems, must obey natural
laws. And, again, the laws bring together biology and
mechanical engineering.

Because a tree is a generating system, it is bound by its genetic


codes to increase constantly in mass. The second law of energy
flow begins to take its toll. The second law states that no
system can remain in an orderly condition without a
continuous supply of energy. As the tree system begins to
increase in mass, the demands for energy to maintain order in
21
the system begin to increase at exponential rates.

The tree still has ways of living within the limits of this law. The tree is a shedding organism. It uses
and sheds non-woody and woody parts as they die. Decay ed wood that develops within boundaries is
even a form of shedding. Also, as trees age, the percentage of the entire tree that is symplast begins to
change. The ratio of apoplast to symplast increases. So, the tree has both dynamic mass - symplast -
and ap oplast.

As the inner cells in the symplast die, the inner apoplast that now has all dead cells is called protection
wood.

Protection is a static feature. Defense is a dynamic action. Protection wood is more protective than the
sapwood because protection wood often contains substances called extractives that resist decay.
Protection wood may also be so altered that it s water, pH and available elements may not support
growth of microorganisms.

Sapwood has a symplast. When sapwood is injured and infected, dynamic processes take place. There
are two types of sapwood: sapwood that conducts free water, and sapwood that has its vessels plugged
and does not conduct free water.

When protection wood is injured and infected, the intrinsic characteristics of the wood resist spread of
infections. There are four types of protection wood: heartwood, false heartwood, discolored wood in
early stages and wetwood. (See the book Tree Anatomy for details.)

The biology of fractures

Trees, like all organisms, die in three basic ways: depletion, dysfunction and disruption.

Depletion means that energy decreases to the point where disorder increases and the survival of the
system is threatened. Examples are infections and starvation.

Dysfunction means that highly ordered parts and processes begin to become disordered to the point
where survival is threatened. Some examples are genetic problems and toxins.

Disruption means that the highly ordered structure of a system is disordered to the point where survival
is threatened. Some examples are storm injuries and wounds inflicted by large machines.

Trees grow as increments of new cells envelop older increments. In a sense, trees grow as cones of
tissues envelop older, smaller cones. The tough structural parts of a tree are aligned in axial or vertical
arrangements of thick-walled fibers or fiber tracheids, and vessels or tracheids. Every part of the tree
framework is selfsupporting, unlike animals that have thin-walled cells that are held in position by a
boundary called skin and an internal framework of bones. The animal system allows movement as
evasive defense against some destructive agents.

The tree also has a radial arrangement of parenchyma cells. Remember that the parenchyma cells
usually have thin walls with little lignin. Bands of radial parenchyma cells are called rays. They are
often the sites of internal cracks.

22
No absolutes

There are no absolutes. There are no perpetual motion machines. Every system has its limits for
survival. The tree system also has its limits for survival. As it increases in mass and gets older, the
likelihood for injuries increases. A mature, healthy tree may have thousands of compartmentalized
infections. Yet, there comes a time when even the limits of a super survivor begin to be approached.
There are no absolutes.

When trees are young, depletion and dysfunction are the major causes of death. As trees get older and
have survived thousands of injuries and infections, disruption becomes the greatest threat for high-
quality survival. When a branch fractures and falls, it dies. When a trunk splits and falls to the ground,
it dies. And, as larger and larger wounds result from such fractures, the likelihood of more fractures
increases greatly.

When the pattern of fractures begins in city trees, not only are the trees in potential trouble, but so is the
property near the trees. Also, people who go near the trees could have problems if trees or their parts
fracture and fall.

The tree's architecture

A tree is a central beam with secondary lateral beams called branches and twigs. The tree is unique as a
living system because it connects living and dead cells, and, in a sense, still maintains some control
over the dead parts. The cell walls of dead fibers still hold bound water that acts as a strong protection
feature against infection by microorganisms. So long as the bound water and the free water in the
lumens saturate the wood, infection will be resisted. It is possible also that some of the bound water
could be "released" and used as free water in living processes. This is probably the case in tissues
behind buds where high amounts of starch are stored during the end of the growing season. In spring
the starch is enzymatically converted back to glucose, which greatly increases the osmotic pressure,
and may "pull" bound water from cell walls. Water does not flow from tissues behind buds when cuts
are made very early in the spring, often before soils are thawed in areas where they normally freeze.

Because trees are constructed of living and dead parts, the concepts of biology and mechanical
engineering are all the more appropriate. They are connected.

We say trees do not move, and in the sense of changing spatial posit ions, this is correct. Yet trees are
constantly in motion. As they sway, new tissues that form in new positions constantly adjust to
potential weakness.

If all this is so, why do tree failures occur?

Now, back to the idea that there are no absolutes. There are limits to all parts and processes that make
up a system. As the limits are approached, we have increasing stress. When the limits are exceeded, we
have strain. When the strain is physiological, we have a disease. When the strain is structural, we have
a fracture.

Branch attachments

Branches are subdominant stems. As buds grow, some develop as leaders that extend the central trunk
or beam. Other buds that do not grow as central leaders become subdominant lateral branches. For
example, if a young tree is pulled partially out of the soil and tied horizontal to the ground, soon a
23
series of leader trunks will form along the procumbent trunk. They would be called trunks, not
branches. However, if the tree was not tied down, the usual leader and branch architecture would
develop.

As the branch grows, branch tissues at the base of the branch turn abruptly about the branch base and
then continue downward on the trunk. The trunk tissues grow around the branch tissues at the branch
base, The branch tissue forms a collar called the branch collar and the trunk tissues form a collar called
the trunk collar. For ease of reference, the two collars are collectively called the branch collar.

The tissues of both collars usually mix and mesh to form a swollen place about the branch base. When
branches die, protective chemical zones form in these swollen basal tissues. The protective zone within
the branch base resists infection into the tree from microorganisms that grow in the dead branch.

A better understanding of branch attachment has led to adjustments in pruning. Cuts should be made as
close as possible to the branch collar, but the collar should not be injured or removed. Removal of
branch collars - flush cuts are major starting points for many serious tree problems - cankers, rots.
cracks, insect infestations.

A brief look at decay

Decay is usually considered the major cause of tree failures. I do not believe this is entirely correct. I
believe that cracks are much more of a problem, and I will discuss them after a few words about decay.

Decay is a process that increases the disorder of any highly ordered system. Tree decay is the
breakdown of the highly ordered structure of cell walls. Tree decays are the most serious and most
common group of tree diseases, worldwide. Decay is a disease because it affects the health of the entire
organism. Pathology must consider the entire organism, not only its parts.

For many years, decay was not considered a disease because the microorganisms infected only dead
parts.

Two of the most serious myths that have held back understanding of a tree, and consequently our
understanding of correct tree treatments, are that wood is dead and that decay is not a disease.

The entire myth of wound paints to stop decay was built on these two myths. Sad, but these myths are
still alive and economically active today. (It is more productive to talk about decays.)

Trees have grown in ways that greatly decrease the potential impact of decay s.

Trees compartmentalize decayed wood. Compartmentalization is the tree's defense process. The tree is
a living system that has many associates. When trees are injured, they will always be infected. There is
no tree process that prevents infection. After wounding, the tree responds in ways that ensure continual
survival.

The original concepts of decay did not treat the tree as a living, responding organism. The so-called
tree decay concepts were really wood decomposition concepts. All wood darker than the sapwood was
considered heartwood or a type of heartwood - wound heartwood, pathological heartwood. Heartwood
was considered a dead tissue that was invaded by decay causing fungi after wounding. Tree decay was
the breakdown of the heartwood. M any different types of decay patterns and decay-causing fungi were
identified. Wood product researchers took over the study of wood decay. This is the time the "wood is
24
dead" myth started. It was true for products, but not for the tree. Wood anatomy was studied by many
researches. To this day, many people confuse wood anatomy with tree anatomy. Tree anatomy is about
a living organism. Tree decay and compartmentalization are about living, responding organisms.

Decay and tree failure

Decay is usually considered the major cause of tree failures. This may be so in parts of the world where
digging into cavities is a regular practice. In the digging process, natural protection boundaries are
destroyed. Also, the strong woundwood ribs are removed. Then, decay is cited as the cause of failure.

Harsh pruning cuts that remove the branch collar have been major starting points for cavities. Thick
coatings of wound paints over such wounds greatly increase the spread of decay.

Cutting branches flush to the trunk flush cuts - painting wounds and digging out decay have been the
three major treatments of the industry. There is no doubt in my mind that these three mistreatments
have caused more tree problems than all the diseases, fires, floods and insect infestations added
together.

M odern arboriculture means that tree treatments are based on tree biology. Trees are living systems.

In the U.S., the practice of digging into cavities is rarely done. The use of wound dressings has
decreased greatly. The correct pruning of trees is increasing greatly. M ore and more, people are basing
treatments on an understanding of tree biology.

Now, back to trees and decay. Decay was the greatest threat to the plants that were developing as tall,
long-living, woody plants. Decay had the potential to break down the framework for the developing
tree. If the framework was broken down as wounds were inflicted and as branches and woody roots
died, the tree as we know it today would never have developed. Some combination of processes and
structures "had to happen" or the plant would never have become a tall, massive, long-living tree. Or,
you could say, the mechanical design of the tree developed in such a way that decay was usually
resisted. For these reasons, I see decay to the point of failure in the natural forest as a last stage process
in the life of a tree. Decay has become a major cause of tree failure in younger city trees mainly
because the mistreatments of humans has occurred at rates much faster than the trees' ability to adjust.
And to add insult to injury, the trees' adjustment tissues were the first to be destroyed.

For these reasons, I see tree decay as an increasing problem in cities where mistreatments have
routinely destroyed the trees' systems for defense and protection. It will take a complete new generation
of trees and modern arborists at work before this problem is corrected. In many cities of the world the
problems have been corrected. To start, I invite you to my town of Durham, New Hampshire, where
you will see full-crowned beautiful trees. You will not see topped and mutilated trees, no wound
dressing and no cavities that have been dug into. In fact, you will rarely find a cavity, even on the
largest and oldest trees. So, I am optimistic; it will take time.

Cracks

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25
I see tree decay as an increasing problem in cities where mistreatments have routinely destroyed the
trees' Systems for defense and protection.

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Just as trees developed as highly compartmented systems that compartmentalized decay, they also
developed in ways that sustained survival after cracks formed.

There are two basic types of cracks in wood. Ring shakes are cracks or separations along the
circumferential growth increments. Ray shakes, or radial cracks are separations along the radial plane.

Ring shakes occur commonly along the plane of the barrier zone that forms after wounding. The barrier
zone is a strong protective zone that separates infected wood from healthy wood that continues to form
after wounding. Suberin forms in the cell walls. In a sense, barrier zones are like an inside bark. The
barrier zone is weak in a structural way.

Ray shakes or radial cracks usually start from ring shakes. Ray shakes also start as the woundwood ribs
curl inward at the vertical margins of wounds. When the woundwood ribs grow rapidly, the likelihood
of cracks forming at the wound margins increases. Wound dressings that stimulate woundwood
formation also increase the chances for cracks.

Compartmentalization was the trees' "answer" to decay. What did the trees "do" about cracks? First, the
tree "produced" more cracks, and second, it "invited" anaerobic bacteria into the cracks. Now for some
details.

Rarely have I found forest trees with only one or two radial cracks. I have dissected thousands of trees
that had internal cracks. Usually there are many cracks, and they form at different positions around the
base of the stem. There appear to be two survival benefits to multiple cracks. First, the trunk continues
to bend as a vertical multiple beam. And, when a radial crack does rupture the cambium, then
woundwood formation starts. The woundwood then adds strength to that portion of the trunk. As radial
cracks propagate toward the cambial zone, the new ray tissues that form appear thinner. The survival
benefit would be that the radial crack would propagate even faster when it approached the thinner ray
tissues. Then, the likelihood for disrupting the cambial zone would increase, and then the formation of
woundwood would begin. Woundwood cannot begin to form until the cambial zone is ruptured. For
years I was aware of this phenomenon, but I did not understand how it could be beneficial for survival.
Now it makes sense.

The second way trees "deal" with cracks is to have the cracks infected by anaerobic wetwood-forming
bacteria. The cracks are perfect sites for the bacteria. It was common to have water and wetwood fluids
flow from dissected trunks that had cracks. Research has shown that wetwood resists decay.

Cracks are not major causes of failures in forest trees, but they are major causes of failures in city trees.
Why? In forest trees, multiple basal cracks with wetwood are common. Forest trees rarely have large
low branches. City trees that have been topped and mutilated have cracks forming in higher positions
on the trunk. Large low branches often have cracks at the point where the branches bend downward.
The architecture of city trees and the mistreatments they receive often leads to cracks and failures.
Also, when long, hot, dry periods dry the wetwood in the cracks, failures often result.

Summary

26
Trees are living systems. They are unique living systems because they have the capacity to add strength
to their structure at exactly the most effective places. This capacity is built into their genetic code. As
generating systems, they are always building in front of themselves. When any part of the structural
framework is weakened to the point where survival is threatened, the new parts that form in new
positions form in ways that add strength to the weakened place.

Having the capacity to respond effectively to survive is dependent on having the energy, conditions and
other ingredients necessary to turn the capacity into an ability

Both capacity as a vigor ingredient and ability as a vitality ingredient are necessary for long-term, high-
quality survival. Vigor without vitality, or vitality without vigor will not support long-term, high
quality survival.

The vigor codes for trees have met the test of time in forests. M any trees in many cities of the world are
having great difficulties in expressing their vigor codes because human activities and treatments have
affected their vitality.

There are no absolutes. No system, or its parts, will survive when stress goes to strain.

It is time to reexamine the tree system.

It is time to start basing tree treatments on tree biology.

It is time for modem arboriculture! TCI

27
Tree Autopsy

Reading the Tree's Log

By Dr. Alex Shigo

WHITE OAK, Quercus alba

The growth rate of this tree was decreasing for the last
15 years. The last seven growth increments consisted of
only earlywood vessels. The tree was a victim of
repeated attacks the last seven years by gypsy moths,
Lymantria dispar. (I was watching this tree for many
years until it was cut for a housing development.)

Trees keep a very accurate log of all events that affect


their lives The log is kept in the wood, and to read that
log you must under stand the simple language of tree
anatomy. Trees respond to the ever changing
environment, and to injuries and infections. Because
pruning and removing trees are major activities of most
tree companies. arborists have many opportunities to
autopsy a tree and read its log.

Autopsy, which comes from the Greek word autopsia, means to see for yourself. It is often mistaken
for the word for necropsy, which means the study of the dead. The usefulness of an autopsy depends on
knowing where to look, what to look for, and the meaning of what you see. You must be able to see
details fast. We have a special name for people who can see fast. We call them lucky!

Here is check list for some major features to look for and record when reading the tree's log.

1. Growth increments - tree age, patterns of wide or narrow increments, eccentric growth patterns, date
when increments began to increase or decrease in width, colors.

2. Wood type - diffuse-porous, semi-ring porous, ring porous, conifer resinous, conifer non-resinous,
tropical, monocot.

3. Energy reserves, I²,KI to determine amount of starch and volume of wood with starch.

4. Wound history - date of wounds to the year, or, in some cases, the week they were inflicted.

5. Branch history - when branches died. If pruned, how they were pruned and the defect associated with
the branches.

6. Cracks - boundaries from wounds, ring shakes, radial cracks, cracks in bark only, cracks in wood and
bark, wetwood in cracks.
28
7. Animal wounds - bird peck wounds and ring shakes, squirrel wounds, other animal wounds.

8. Closure patterns of wounds - ram's horns, cracks, woundwood ribs, discolored wood associated with
cracks.

9. Discolored wood and wetwood - patterns of infected wood, CODIT walls, callus, odors, internal
checking patterns.

10. Decayed wood - white rot, brown rot, zone lines in rotted wood, CODIT walls, sporophores.

11. Resin ducts - traumatic ducts in non-resinous conifers.

12. Tyloses - traumatic tyloses in wood that does not normally form them.

13. Insects - galleries, in bark, in bark and wood, insect, ants, termites; galleries clean or full of frass.

14. Reaction wood - compression wood in conifers. (You cannot see tension wood.)

15. Injection and implant wounds - separate cloumns of discolored wood, or columns coalescing.

As you learn more about tree anatomy, many other details of the tree's log will become obvious.

RED OAK, Quercus rubra, 38 years old,


with a closed and compartmentalized
wound.

1. A star-shaped pith as with most oak


species. There is no pith in roots. Note the
five-lobed growth increments near the
center of the tree.

2. Red oak is a ring-porous tree that forms


large vessels first in the growing period
and smaller vessels later. Wide and
narrow rays radiate from the center of the
tree. Oaks have a darkly colored
protection wood called heartwood. All
cells are dead in the heartwood.

3. Some events caused the tree to start


decreasing its growth rate at this time.
Note the decreasing width of the growth
increments.

4. The tree was wounded by buckshot


during a dormant period nine years before
it was cut. The barrier zone boundary
between the growth increments indicates a
wound during the dormant period. A

29
wound during the growing period will cause a barrier zone boundary to form within the growth
increment.

5. A dark boundary called a reaction zone borders the column of decayed wood in the heartwood. Note
that the boundary is darker in color than the heartwood, but as decay develops, the darker wood
changes to a lighter color. This is called white rot, because the cellulose and lignin are digested by the
fungi.

6. The woundwood ribs closed the wound in five years. Note the bark between the ribs of woundwood

7. The tree was cut just as the first vessels were forming. Since vessels begin to form as the leaves are
expanding, this tree was cut around the second week of M ay in New Hampshire.

8. The size of the woundwood ribs were very large before the wound was closed. Note that the
woundwood ribs contained mostly dense wood with few vessels.

9. After wound closure, the size of the growth increments were about the same as those before the tree
was wounded.

10. The pointer to the left shows new bark with a smooth corky layer-phellem. The pointer to the right
shows the old original rough phellem of the tree.

RED SPRUCE, Picea nibra, 40 years old,


with a closed and compartmentalized
wound. Spruce trees are conifers that have
tracheids, not vessels, for water transport
and mechanical support. As the growth
increment increases, the tracheids that
formed later have thicker walls. These are
called fiber tracheids.

1. The tree started to grow at an even rate.


After six years, it began to lean slightly to
the left.

2. After 13 years, it began to lean slightly


to the right. Note the larger and darker
bands of compression wood.

3. At this time, the tree was injured. Note


the sudden decrease in growth rate.

4. Spruce trees have very few resin ducts in


healthy wood. The wood is a non-resinous
type. However, when the tree is injured,
resin ducts, called traumatic ducts, often
form. The ducts appear as dark spots in the
wood. Even though the wound is not shown
in the photo, you can be sure there was a
wound nearby on the tree.
30
5. A very narrow ring shake or separation indicates a small wound near wher e this specimen was cut.
Note also the sudden decrease in growth rate to the left of the arrow.

6. The wound penetrated one growth increment. A very strong "CODIT wall 2" resisted deeper spread
into the tree. Note the dark and of fiber tracheids at the arrow point. The wood was altered chemically
as a protection wood after wounding.

7. Note both arrows showing the barrier zone that formed after wounding. When trees are wounded
during the growing period, it is possible to date the wound to within a week of when it was inflicted.
The barrier zone is slightly beyond the middle of the growth increment indicating that the wound was
inflicted about four to five weeks after new needles began to form. Under normal conditions, it takes
about six to eight weeks after needle or leaf formation before the growth increment is fully formed.
This tree was wounded around the third week of June in New Hampshire.

8. Thick woundwood ribs began to close the wound.

9. The wound was closed in four years.

1 0. The tree was cut about a week after new tracheids began to form. It was cut the third week of M ay,
and therefore the wound was six years and about four weeks old.

AMERICAN BEECH, Fagus grandifolia,


about 110 years old, with a column of
compartmentalized, decayed wood associated
with an old, dead branch.

1. Beech has diffuse-porous wood. All


vessels are about the same size and arranged
evenly throughout the growth increment.
Beech will tolerate low light and often it will
grow very slowly, as shown here, as an
understory tree. When it is released into light,
it grows rapidly.

2. A small wound with decay was


compartmentalized in the center of the tree.

3. The tree lost branches at this time and a


core of protection wood formed. This type of
protection wood is called false heartwood,
because the death of branches triggers the
process. Heartwood formation in oaks is a
genetically controlled aging process. The
false heartwood, like heartwood, resists the
spread of decay.

4. Note that the decay associated with the


dead branch did not spread into the column of

31
false heartwood. It could be that the events that brought about the formation of false heartwood--dying
branches--also released the tree into more light. Note that after a few years, the growth increments
increased greatly in width.

5. The cellulose and lignin were both being digested, indicating a white rot. The fungi did not grow into
the central core of dense, slow growing, false heartwood.

6. Note that the decay spreads first into the earlywood of each growth increment. This pattern results in
a tooth-like margin to the column of defect when viewed in cross section.

7. The decay associated with the branch did not spread outward into the column of discolored wood.

8. The limits for the column of discolored wood were set by the cracks that formed as the woundwood
closed the wound.

9. A crack where the woundwood formed about the dead branch.

1 0. The curling woundwood ribs formed ram's horns. The cracks that form in this way often extend the
columns of discolored and decayed wood beyond the barrier zone and wood present at the time of
branch death or of wounding.

Dr. Alex L. Shigo doing an autopsy.

CANADIAN HEM LOCK, Tsuga canadensis, about 40 years old, with a dead branch.

1. The pith of the branch was infected and darkly discolored.

32
2. Both arrows show the branch protection
zone that formed after the branch died.

3. The branch bark ridge.

4. Note the invaginated increments


indicating included bark to this point. Note
also the dark color of the wood from the
arrow downward toward the trunk. This
indicates that the increments were squeezing
together to the point of cell death.

5. For some reason, the increments began to


form normally at this point. A much
narrower growth increment formed at this
time, suggesting a possible injury.

6. A different type of checking pattern can


be seen where the normal branch-trunk
collars began to form. Compare area 6 to
area 4.

7. A crack formed after the branch died. The


branch died about 12 years before the tree
was cut.

8. There was a sudden decrease in growth


rate at this time. Note both arrows 8. The
number of growth increments above the branch are equal to those below the branch from arrows 8 to
the bark.

9. Compression wood began to form here.

33
Troubles in the Rhizosphere
By Dr. Alex Shigo

The root of this horse chestnut grows first from the energy in the seed. Roots cannot make their own
energy. The root "pumps" start first and the top "Pumps" follow.

Rhizosphere Wars

The rhizosphere is the absorbing root-soil interface. It is


the zone, about one millimeter in width, surrounding the
epidermis of living root hairs and the boundary cells of
mycorrhizae as well as hyphae growing out from some
mycorrhizae.

The rhizoplane is the boundary where soil elements in


water are absorbed into the tree. Under an electron
microscope, the rhizoplane appears as a jelly where
microorganisms and tree cells mix, making it impossible
to tell which side is tree and which is soil.

A constantly changing mix of organisms inh abit the


rhizosphere and surrounding soil. Bacteria,
actinomycetes, fungi, protozoa, slime molds, algae,
nematodes, enchytraeid worms, earthworms, millipedes,
centipedes, insects, mites, snails, small animals and soil
viruses compete constantly for water, food, and space.

The rhizosphere is a battleground and the wars are


continuous. Amoebae are eating bacteria. Some bacteria
are poisoning other bacteria. Fungi are killing other
fungi. Nematodes are spearing roots. Fungi are trapping
nematodes. Earthworms are eating anything they can
find. Sometimes the victors benefit the tree and
sometimes they do not.

Every tree treatment affects the rhizosphere in some way. The more you know about the rhizosphere,
the better the chances are that your treatments will lead to benefits rather than harm.

Declines and the Starving Rhizosphere

Go anywhere in the world and you will learn that some local trees have a "new" decline problem.
Declines usually mean the trees are sick because there is a problem in the rhizosphere.
34
Trees die, as all organisms do, in three basic ways: depletion, dysfunction and disruption. Disruption
means wounding, severe mechanical impacts and fracturing. Dysfunction means some parts and
processes of the living system have developed problems that retard or prevent their functioning and
growth. Depletion means that the basic substances for life begin to decrease to the point where injury
and death are certain. One of the ways depletion injures organisms is by starvation.

Soils and wood share a common problem: They are thought of as dead substances. This has come about
because wood-products research gained an early lead over research on wood in living trees. With soils,
many texts still define soils as "loose material of weathered rock and other minerals, and also partly
decayed organic matter that covers large parts of the land surface on Earth."

Sapwood in living trees has many more living cells than dead cells. In upper layers where most
absorbing roots of plants grow, soils have more soil organisms than grains of weathered rock. In great
disrespect, most people still refer to soil as dirt! When researchers first discovered the great value of
soil microorganisms for human antibiotics and profit, the living nature of the soil began to emerge.

A more correct definition of soil should be that it is a substance made up of sands, silts, clays, decaying
organic matter, air, water and an enormous number of living organisms. Survival of all living systems
depends greatly on synergy and efficiency to optimize the functioning of all processes and to keep
waste as low as possible. When synergy and efficiency begin to wane, declines follow.

Trees are dependent on the light energy from the sun for their energy, water and 14 elements from the
soil for their building blocks of life. Some trees decline when incorrect treatments or abiotic injuries
lead to starvation of organisms in the rhizosphere. When there are troubles in the rhizosphere, there will
be troubles with the tree.

A mycorrhiza back-lit to show the fungus hyphae


extending out from the organ. This is the world of the
rhizosphere.

Energy & Root Exudates

M icroorganisms compete in the rhizosphere, an area rich


in exudates from the tree. The exudates contain
carbohydrates, organic acids, vitamins and many other
substances essential for life. From 5 percent to 40
percent of the total dry matter production of organic
carbon from photosynthesis may be released as
exudates! When trees begin to decline, the amount of
organic carbon released as exudates increases. M ineral
deficiencies, low amounts of soil air and severe
wounding are major causes for the increase. Another
way to say this is that an increase in exudates would be
caused by over-pruning, construction injury, planting
too deeply, over-watering, compaction and planting
trees in soils that have a pH too high or too low for their
optimal growth.

35
You would think that a tree in decline would decrease not increase exudates. A possible explanation
might come from the self-thinning rule of ecology, which states that when energy input into a site
equals output, there will be no further growth unless some trees die. As many suppressed trees die, a
much fewer number continue to grow bigger. Simple. Or, on the basis of the mass-energy ratio law, as
some trees on a site get bigger, many smaller suppressed trees will die. As the suppressed trees decline,
they contribute a higher percentage of their soluble carbohydrates to the rhizosphere.

Mycorrhizae form when mycorrhizal fungi infect newly


forming non-woody roots as shown here. Note the tube-
like structure of the hyphae.

The increase in exudates from a declining tree with a


defense system weakened by low energy reserves would
give root pathogens an advantage over other soil
organisms. When the tree dies, its dead wood adds a
great amount of carbon to the soil, thus benefitting all
soil organisms. If this scenario is correct, then the codes
for the increase of exudates as trees decline would have
been set in the genes of the forest trees. Then, even after
trees are taken out of their groups in forests and planted as individuals, the genetic codes for increasing
exudates as the tree declines for reasons other than crowding would still be in effect.

A tree does not "know" why it is dying. In a crowded, young, growing forest, the self-thinning rule of
ecology does benefit tree survivors and all soil organisms. But, when one or two trees in a yard, city or
park start to decline, their early death may benefit only the root pathogens. And even worse, since the
tree will be cut and removed from the site, there would be no benefits from added carbon to the soil.

Mycorrhizae covered by hyphae. Water and elements


often are absorbed into the hyphae and then the tree.
The hyphae extending from the mycorrhizae greatly
increase the area for absorption.

A Closer Look at Roots

Woody tree roots are organs that support the tree


mechanically, store energy reserves, transport water and
the substances dissolved in it and synthesis substances
such as growth regulators, amino acids and vitamins that
are essential for growth.

Trees have different types of root systems. For example,


mangroves along coastlines have stilt roots. M any trees
growing in tropical areas have aerial roots that become
prop roots when they grow into the soil. Other trees
36
have strangling roots that eventually kill the host tree that first supported their growth. Trees in sandy
soils can have roots that grow downward over 90 feet. Palms have roots that are adventitious and grow
from meristematic regions in their base. M any tree species have deep roots when they are young and
more shallow roots later. It would be nearly impossible for the strongest person to pull out young
saplings of beech, oak or hickory from forest soil.

Woody roots have cells with walls of cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin. Lignin is that natural
"cementing" substance that gives wood its unique characteristic for strength. Woody roots also have an
outer bark or periderm made up of three layers: the phellogen, phelloderm and phellem. The phellogen
is the bark cambium. The phelloderm is a thin layer of cells on the inner side of the phellogen. The
phellem is the outer corky layer. Phellem cells are impregnated with a substance called suberin, which
is a fatty substance that prevents water absorption.

Some characteristics of woody roots are:

* They do not absorb water.

* They have no pith.

* Their conducting elements are usually wider than those in the trunk.

* They have a greater proportion of parenchyma cells than is usual for trunks. The living parenchyma
store energy reserves, usually as starch.

A soft cortex without chlorophyll may be in the bark. In some tree species that thrive in wet soils or
have deep roots, the cortex may have many open spaces that act as channels for air to reach the living
cells in the roots. It is important to remember that the parenchyma in the woody roots store energy
reserves, and root defense is dependent on energy reserves. When reserves are low, defense is low.
When defense is low, weak or opportunistic pathogens attack. It is nature's way.

Non-Woody Roots

Non-woody tree roots are organs that absorb water and elements dissolved in it. The two basic types of
non-woody roots are:

1. Root hairs on non-woody roots are extensions of single epidermal cells. Common on seedlings, root
hairs grow to maturity in a few days. They function for a few weeks and then begin to die.

On mature trees, they are usually not abundant. When they do form, they do so when soil conditions
are optimum for absorption of water and elements. I have found root hairs growing in non-frozen soils
beneath frozen soils in winter.

2. Mycorrhizae are the other type of non-woody roots. Mycorrhizae are organs made up of tree and
fungus tissues that facilitate the absorption of phosphorus-containing ions and others essential for
growth.

The fungi that infected developing non-woody roots to form mycorrhizae were very "biologically
smart." Rather than competing with other microorganis ms in the rhizosphere for exudates from the tree,
37
the mycorrhizal-forming fungi went right to the source inside the tree. And, even more to their
advantage, many of the mycorrhizal fungi grew thread-like strands of hyphae-long, vegetative tubes of
fungi-out from the mycorrhizae. This inside and outside presence gave the fungi a distinct advantage
over other microorganisms in the rhizosphere.

The tree gains efficiency with mycorrhizae in several ways.

A block of frozen soil several inches deep was lifted


away to reveal these mycorrhizae and strands of litter-
decomposing fungi. Note the cavities surrounding the
mycorrhizae.

1. With their extended hyphae, mycorrhizae not only


greatly extend the absorbing potential into the soil, but
the hyphae may connect with other hyphae on other
trees. In this way, the mycorrhizae serve to connect trees
of the same or a different species. This leads to the
conjecture that the natural connections that developed
over long periods in the natural forest may have some
survival value. That is why forest types are often named
for the groups of species commonly found growing
together. For example, we speak of the birch-beech-
maple forest, or the pine-oak forest. From a practical
standpoint, when trees are planted in cities and parks,
there may be great survival advantages by planting
groups of trees made up of the species that are normally
found together in natural stands.

2. The mycorrhizae have been shown to provide some


resistance against root pathogens. It may be that the pathogens would have difficulties in building their
populations in the rhizosphere dominated by the mycorrhizal fungi.

Perhaps the most important feature of the mycorrhizal fungi is that their boundary material is mostly
chitin. Chitin is slightly different from cellulose by the replacement of some cellulose atoms by a chain
of atoms that contain a nitrogen atom. This slight change in some way makes chitin a material better
suited for absorption of elements. Remember that the fungus hyphae gain all their essentials for life by
absorption through their boundary substance.

There are other advantage,, to the chitin and the tube-like hyphae that ramify the soil in the rhizosphere
and beyond. When the hyphae die, they add a nitrogen source for other organisms. Also, when the
hyphae are digested, they leave tunnels in the soil that are about eight to 10 microns in diameter. For
the bacteria, these small tunnels may mean the difference between life and death. The bacteria quick ly
colonize the tunnels. The survival advantage here is that the major threats to their survival are protozoa
that are usually much larger than 10 microns. So the hungry amoebae are not able to get at the bacteria
inside the eight-micron tunnels.
38
A common treatment for compaction is to fracture the soil and add water. The fracturing allows air to
penetrate the soil, but does not provide any eight-micron tunnels for the bacteria. The only way to bring
back the tunnels is to bring back the fungi in well-composted wood and leaf mulch, as nature does, or
by inoculating the mulch with mycorrhizal fungi.

Who Was First?

I do not know if the fungi were the first to grow into the root to get first chance at exudates or whether
it was the bacteria. Regardless, bacteria and their close relatives, the actinomycetes, also infect non-
woody roots to form organs that serve for the fixation of atmospheric nitrogen. Fixation means that the
nitrogen that makes up almost 80 percent of our air is converted to a soluble ionic form by the action of
the bacteria and actinomycetes within the nodules on the roots. (Some free-living soil bacteria can also
fix nitrogen.) An enzyme called nitrogenase is the catalyst for the reaction that will take place only
under very exacting conditions. There must be soluble molybdenum and iron and no free oxygen
available. These conditions are present within the nodules. Here again, the microorganisms benefit the
tree by providing a source of soluble nitrogen, and, in turn, the bacteria and actinomycetes get first
chance at exudates. Even more importantly, the nodules protect them from foraging protozoa.

Infections that result in benefits to both parties are called mutualistic. When the benefits are greater
than the sum of the parts, the association is called synergistic.

Species of legumes commonly have bacterial nitrogen-fixing nodules and mycorrhizae. The
mycorrhizae facilitate absorption of elements, and the nodules provide a nitrogen source. Many species
of trees have actinorhizae, which are the nodules formed by the root infections by actinomycetes.
Species of Alnus have very large nodules. The actinorhizae are common on tropical and subtropical
trees, and especially on trees that have adapted to soils low in available elements essential for life.

On some subtropical and tropical trees, such as the macadamia, multi-branched clusters of non-woody
roots called proteoid roots form. The proteoid roots alter the rhizosphere by acidification processes that
facilitate the absorption of phosphorus-containing ions. When I examined the roots of dying
macadamia nut trees in an orchard in Hawaii, I could not find proteoid roots, yet only a few days earlier
I had found them on macadamia nut trees growing in the wild. I learned later that the orchard where
trees were dying was heavily fertilized on a regular,
basis with phosphorus.

Another type of nodule forms on species of cycads.


These nodules harbor blue green algae, or cyanobacteria,
that have the ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen.

My point is that many different synergistic associations


have developed in, on and about non-woody roots that
provide elements, not an energy source. These
associations are of extreme benefit to all connected
members. At the same time, the conditions that provide
for the associations are very delicate and exacting. It
does not take much to disrupt them.

An iodine stain (I2-KI) was poured on half of the sugar maple stem section, left, and root, right. The
iodine stains starch purple. Note the greater density of purple in the root over the stem. The iodine
39
stain is a very effective way to determine vitality of a tree. Small cores can be removed with care and
checked for starch. The cores should be removed only when a determination of vitality is essential for a
treatment. The stain can be poured on small cut woody-root tips to check vitality of trees selected for
planting.

It Does Not Take M uch to Disrupt Them

This statement deserves repeating and repeating. The delicate "threads" that hold these powerful
associations together need to be recognized and respected. Trees in cities grow only so long as these
"threads" remain connected.

Trees grow as large oscillating pumps, with the top trapping energy and pumping it downward. The
bottom absorbs water and elements and pumps them upward. The pumps have developed over time to
work on the basis of many synergistic associations that maximize benefits for all connected members
and to minimize waste.

M any of life's essentials for the bottom associates come from the top of the tree. And, the top works
only because the bottom works. Energy is required to move things, and elements and water are required
to build things.

Tree Treatments and the Rhizosphere

When trees are over-pruned, the top will be injured first. When it is injured, it will not serve the energy
requirements of the bottom. Soon root diseases start and are blamed for the decline or death of the tree.
Where over-pruning is common. so are root diseases.

Compacted soil blocks air and water to the bottom and crushes all the microcavities where the
microorganisms live. In nature, decomposing wood and leaves keep conditions optimal for the
rhizosphere inhabitants.

Over-watering stalls the respiration processes in the roots. When respiration stops, carbonic acid is not
formed. When carbonic acid is not formed, ions necessary for the absorption process do not form.
When absorption is down, the tree system is in trouble. Fertilizers can be of great benefit to trees
growing in soils low in or lacking elements essential for growth.

Elements or molecules made up of a few to many different atoms enter the roots as ions. An ion is a
charged atom or molecule. Ions with a positive charge are cations, and those with a negative charge are
anions. Each particle or granule of fertilizer is a salt made up of a lattice of anions and cations, just as
ordinary table salt is made up of a grand lattice of connected sodium cations and chloride anions. When
salt as sodium chloride dry granules is poured into water, the sodium and chloride ions separate. When
they separate, they carry electrical charges and are called the sodium ion and the chloride ion. When a
cation enters a root, another cation must exit. This is very important, as we will see. When nitrogen
enters a root as nitrate anion, an anion of bicarbonate ion from carbonic acid exits. The bicarbonate ion
is probably the second most important compound in nature, next to water, because it drives the
absorption process. When a bicarbonate ion exits into the rhizosphere, the pH increases.

When urea is used in fertilizers as the nitrogen source, the pH in the rhizosphere could increase to 2 or
more pH units. The chemistry behind this is complex, but here I present only the conclusion, because a
common problem with trees in some high pH soils is chlorosis. There is no easy field method for
40
measuring the pH of the one millimeter wide rhizosphere. The rhizosphere could be pH 8, and the bulk
soil would measure pH 6. As pH increases, the availability of elements such as iron and manganese
decreases. In soils, it is one thing to have an element present and another to have it in a form available
to the plant as an ion. As pH increases, iron and manganese element, form molecules that precipitate in
water rather than ionize. If they are not available as ions, they will not be absorbed. And, if they are not
absorbed, several of the enzymes essential for chlorophyll formation and photosynthesis will not form.

When the energy flow from the top of the pump is blocked, then the bottom does not get enough energy
for growth and defense. The pathogens invade, and the tree declines. This scenario does not mean that
every time you use urea, trees will decline from chlorosis. But the use of urea could be a contributing
factor where trees with genetic codes for growth on low pH soils are planted in high pH soils. If
fertilization is a desired treatment, then a fertilizer that has nitrogen in a positive charged ion, such as
an ammonium ion, would help to reduce the rhizosphere pH. When the ammonium ion enters the root,
a proton of positive charge will exit. The protons in rhizosphere water will bring about more acidic
conditions, so there is a way out.

In summary, fertilizers can be very beneficial for healthy survival of trees planted outside their forest
homes. How beneficial will depend greatly on an understanding of many of the points mentioned here
and some basic chemistry.

Primary Causes of Diseases

It is often very difficult to have people recognize the importance of small organisms in small places
doing big things. Blame for the death of a tree is often placed on big things that can be seen or felt.
M ost pathogens are opportunistic weaklings waiting for a defense system to decrease. M any small
disrupting events often lead to the decrease in a defense system. Then after the tree has been weakened,
the final agent comes along and gets the full blame for the cause. A perfect example is the cankers on
honey locust. Flush pruning is usually the real cause.

Pumps and Food

Trees are oscillating pumps. When the pump begins to wobble, some parts will begin to weaken. When
they weaken to the point where some other agent causes a part to break, the pump will stop.

It is very difficult to determine where problems start in an oscillating pump. Symptoms may be in the
bottom, but the cause may have been in the top. Or, it could be the other way around.

I go back to two points that may be part of the answer: exudates and the self-thinning rule of ecology.
All living things require food and water for growth. Leaves and photosynthesis provide the energy at
the top of the pump. The nonwoody roots and the rhizosphere provide the elements and water at the
bottom. Photosynthesis will not work without water and elements, and the absorption processes will
not work without an energy source.

Trees became trees growing in groups in forests where the self-thinning rule had strong survival value.
Not only did exudates provide quick energy for the rhizosphere organisms, but the carbon in the wood
of the trees that fell to the ground also provided a long-lasting energy source for a succession of
organisms.

41
Reports from some countries indicate an abundance of soluble nitrogen compounds in runoff water and
even in ground water. This is a strong indication that the carbon-nitrogen ratio has been disrupted in the
soil. It is well established from studies of the physiology of fungal parasitism that the degree of
parasitism is often determined by the carbon-nitrogen ratio. It is probably similar for other organisms.

The organisms in the rhizosphere and surrounding soils have many different ways to weather rocks and
to get nitrogen and other elements essential for their growth. What they cannot get in the soil is a
sufficient energy source. Yes, some small animals die and provide carbon, and some microorganisms
can get energy by chemosynthesis, but the requirements for carbon are much greater than what could
be supplied by those sources alone. Carbon must come from the top of the pump. When the energy
source from the top begins to decrease, the rhizosphere organisms will begin to starve.

The oscillating pump model soon takes on the form of a circle, because now it could be said that the
top did not work efficiently because the bottom had a problem first, and this could be so. My point is
that the energy problem does play a key role in declines. If a single tree is already very low in energy
reserves, it cannot contribute much to the rhizosphere even if the genetic codes rule that exudates
should increase as a tree begins to decline. Soon we will be faced with the chicken or egg problem.

I believe there is a way to decrease the potential starvation problem. In forests, more wood should be
left on the ground, and in cities, more composted wood and leaves should be added in correct quantities
to the soil about the base of trees. Incorrect treatments of pruning, watering, planting and fertilizing
should be corrected, because they often start the pumps to wobble. If these simple adjustments can be
made, rhizosphere starvation will decrease and our trees will lead healthier and longer lives.

42
st
Arboriculture in the 21 Century

By Dr. Alex Shigo

st
Arboriculture in the beginning of the 21 century will
begin to split into art-only and art-and-science
professionals. By the middle of the next century, the two
professions will be well separated. The purpose of my
discussion is to give information in support of this
prediction.

To know where you are going, you must first know


where you are and then know how you got there. The
future can be thought of as an extrapolatation of points
along a curve. The past defines undulations of the curve before the present. History is the actual
occurrence of events over time. The recording of past events is often clouded by the person who tries to
explain why some of the events happened. The occurrence of the events cannot be denied, but any
more than that becomes very subjective.

Just as I base my discussion on a single prediction, I believe there was one driving belief that set the
stage for the growth of arboriculture in the United States. That belief is now over three centuries old,
and it has moved as a wave. When a wave hits the shoreline, the crash back into the water is much
more intense than the inward rush of water. The belief that grew after our country was colonized in
1620 was that the trees were endless and they were the enemy. Trees were in the way of farms, homes,
towns and roads. Yes, they did have some value for buildings and for fires, but their size and
abundance made them more of a problem than a benefit. Over time, the value of trees did increase, but
the belief in endless forests continued.

In recent decades, the great wave with power of more than three centuries behind it hit a very steep
shoreline. The crash of the wave signaled the end of the belief that the forests were endless. By this
time, the many values of trees had gained public attention. A city without trees is not worth living in.
Trees as a means for enhancing property has become common sense. As the value of trees continues to
gain momentum, educated clients will demand better treatments, better decisions and better trained and
educated people to look after their trees. The art-science
arboriculturist will be called.

Correct pollarding, as done on these London plane trees


in Spain, will slowly become more common.

Why have myths and misunderstandings plagued


arboriculture? The problem started in the mid-19th
century when several important events happened about
the same time. The repeated failure of the potato crop in
Ireland caused by the fungus Phytophthora infestans, set
43
off a large scale famine and migration. At this time, Anton De Bary proved that a fungus caused the
disease rather than the well-accepted that the disease caused the fungus. At the same time as Louis
Pasteur was winning the battle of the germ theory, Robert Hartig showed that fungi cause decay rather
than the long held belief that decay causes fungi. For his work, De Bary recognized as the father of
plant pathology. Hartig is recognized as the father of forest pathology. Hartig's great work set off a
rushing stream of research on decay.

Soil is alive with many organisms. Decisions and


treatments must be made to keep not only trees
healthy, but also habitants. They are all part of the
grand living system.

In a world covered with trees, however, there was no


incentive to learn about how to grow more of them.
What was needed was to find better ways to deal
decay and better and faster ways to get the wood out
of the forest. Pathology studies centered on
pathological rotation schemes to deal with decay in living trees and better ways to prevent decays in
wood products.

Now comes the problem of the heartrot concept. Heartrot was defined as the decay of the heartwood.
Heartwood was defined as the central, darkly colored dead core of all trees. decay developed in dead
heartwood, decay was not considered a disease. At the same time, textbooks and teachers-even to the
present day -state that the only living part of a tree trunk is the single layer of green cambium that
produces wood on its inside. And that is all wrong! Sapwood has more living cells than dead cells. The
cambium is not a single layer, nor is it green. (The cortex is green). The cambial zone produces xylem.
When it is lignified, it is then correctly called wood. The dead heartwood decay concept has been the
major myth that has led to many injurious tree treatments. If the wood is dead, then put a wound
dressing on wounds. If decay develops, dig it out until healthy clear wood is exposed. Cut branches as
flush as possible to the trunk to stimulate faster "healing" to cover the core of dead, decay-susceptible
wood. The heartrot concept treated the tree as a dead cylinder of wood. The heartrot concept is, at best,
a wood decomposition concept. The tree as a living, big, beautiful organism was left out of the concept!
Say what you will about compartmentalization, but it is built on the belief
that a tree is a living, dynamic, organism. The tree does not lie there and
just "let" decay-causing organisms run through it at will!

If you believe that the tree is a living, dynamic, organism, then to treat it
is essential to understand the basic principles of all living things. This
means an understanding of biology and, yes, chemistry. Now we know
there is still more, as we see the need to understand the tree also as a
magnificent mechanical structure. The science part of arboriculture will
be expanded in the 21st century. The past has given us the endless enemy
and the dead heartwood decay concept. The present gives us great
concerns for the conservation of trees and for the best ways to treat the
living tree and its many living associates-the tree system.

Proper pruning of trees near electric utility lines will become more
common. Here are monkey pod trees, pruned correctly, in Honolulu.
44
Guns, Shadows, Targets

You can have the best rifle in the world. You could be the world's best sharpshooter.

However, if you don't know the difference between shadows and animals, you won't put much wild
game on the table. To shoot a deer you must aim at the deer as the target not its shadow. Silly, you say.
Think about it. Plato did 2,300 years ago. He said in The Republic that many people have great
difficulty telling the difference between reality and shadows as perceived reality. Plato tells a story
about people born in a cave. They are chained to their chairs and can only see the wall in front of them.
There is a fire in back of them. People with various-shaped objects march behind the fire and the
shadows of the objects show on the wall. Great societies of shadow watchers are formed. High honors
and awards are given to the best shadow watchers. One day, a brave soul breaks from his chains and
runs out of the cave. The light at first blinds him and the pain is intense. In a short time, he begins to
see again and the pain begins to subside. Then it happens! He is overwhelmed at what he is seeing and
touching. He is now seeing and touching real things, not looking at shadows. He becomes so overjoyed
that he wants to share his discoveries with his cave friends. He rushes back into the cave. They kill
him!

I predict that many cave people will escape in the 21 st century. I believe the word is out in the cave
that real things of great wonder are outside, just waiting to be understood and enjoyed. This does not
mean that the cave shadow watchers will go away. They will strengthen their forces and let escapees
know the dangers that face them. They will come up with even better recipes for bigger, and more
wonderful shadows.

Guns, Tools, Principles

Back to guns again. Consider if you will what a gun and shooting is all about: a tube, a projectile and
some force-providing substance to move the projectile so rapidly through the tube that it extends its
path far beyond the tube. Think for a moment about this. From a historical view, tubes were used by
early humans and are still used today by some jungle people as a tool for directing some projectile in a
straight path beyond the tube. So, tubes are not new. Think about the many kinds of projectiles used to
strike a target. Projectiles are not new. How about some force to move the projectile. You could blow a
dart through a tube. You could whip a small stone through a tube. Or, you could use some material
such as black powder that explodes and blows the projectile through the tube. Again, nothing new.
However when you connect the tube with a lead projectile and use a force-providing substance, now
the rifle became a new thing made up of many old things. That is the way most so-called new theories,
principles or concepts come about. Remember, the Old Testament states that nothing is new, yet it is
followed by a New Testament!

New theories, concepts and principles are usually built on many old, well known other truths. The act
of connecting makes the product new. Not so different from much that is said about modern
arboriculture. The concept is not new in one sense, because much has been discovered about tree
biology, tree associates, soils, chemistry, biophysics and many other subjects. My point is that key
aspects have not been connected. You would not go hunting with only a tube, or with some lead or rock
projectiles, or with a handful of black powder. These are all old things. You do hunt with a rifle. It is
new in the sense of connecting the most important parts of well-known items. Nothing new, but a
connection of more refined items.

45
This will be the same procedure with many tools and machines used by arborists in the 21st century.
Just as guns are connections of simple basic parts, so are many of the tools and machines used to prune,
plant, fertilize, spray, inject, chip, dig stumps, cut wood, lift to greater heights and record data. There is
no doubt that computers and new electrical tools will enter the tree care profession. I predicted many
years ago that small electrical devices will be placed in select trees and signals will be sent to receiving
computers miles away. A flush cut on Mrs. Jones' tree will start a red light blinking. Don't laugh. In
summary, tools and machines will change to be more accurate, lighter and user-friendly. However, just
like the modem rifle, how you use them will depend on skills and distinguishing shadows from the real
targets.

Of Steel and Trees

It is always fascinating to see the common threads that connect subjects far removed from each other.
What can the steel industry tell us about the tree industry? Plenty!

In 1901, United States Steel was formed as the first and mightiest conglomerate in the world. The
conglomerate brought together oil, railroads, coal, telegraph cables, steel and people. The good news is
that the steel conglomerate was a major factor in the growth of our country. The bad news is that the
people who worked in the mills and coal mines and on the railroads were paid very little for extremely
hard, long work. They were the people who came to the New World after the potato famine. The
leaders of the conglomerate all became multi-millionaires. By our standards today, they would be
billionaires. The power of the conglomerate lasted almost a century. After the second world war, the
conglomerate began to weaken as other countries got into the steel business, oil was imported and air
travel took over from rail.

Long before the steel conglomerate, nature "understood" the power of synergy, where two or more
connected groups yield much more than the sum of the groups taken as individuals. A classic case of
synergy is the connection of trees and fungi to produce a new organ called a mycorrhiza. Many
synergistic associates exist within the rhizosphere of trees. My point is that much more can be done at a
lower cost if the right groups are connected. The steel groups waited until 1901 to understand that.
Trees "knew" it long before that. A major difference between the steel conglomerate and the tree
"conglomerate" or system is that the tree system did "demand" much from every associate, but the
associates were "assured" high-quality survival. The fall of the steel conglomerate can also teach us a
tree system lesson: When connected parts begin to fall away, in a short time the entire system will
begin to decline.

In preparation for this discussion, I looked at many old photographs of houses of the first ultra-rich
people in the United States. Their mansions or castles were built on land scraped of all living things.
Photos showed that new trees and new gardens were the first additions to the
landscape. Many of the new trees were small, less than six inches caliper. It was
not long after this that arborists were called to prune and care for the trees. This
was the beginning of commercial arboriculture. Some may argue that
arboriculture started long before this, when trees were cleared for telegraph
lines. I hope we never consider that arboriculture, since trees were mutilated to
make room for the lines. Further, some people may say that line clearing is still
with us today. I am an eternal optimist, because I believe that line clearing of
the past is changing to pruning trees near electric utility lines.

Ron Carter of Victoria, B.C., shows some excellent composted mulch from
wood chips and leaves. Mulch is food for many soil inhabitants. More
46
composted mulch will be used in the future.

Hard Work Will Not Change

A major difference between a tomato plant and a tree is that you cannot fall out of a tomato plant.
Tomato plants cannot fall on you and kill you. To be an arborist, you must not be afraid of hard work.
This is a major reason why I am very proud to be associated with arborists. I like people who work
hard and have a strong feeling for our living world. This part of arboriculture will never change. Here I
need some further explanation of my terms old and modern arboriculture. By old arboriculture I mean
tree care based on old recipes and myths- plant deep, cut flush, paint wounds, dig into cavities, over
prune, over water, over fertilize, inject anything that stands still, top trees, add lots of fresh chip s as
mulch, plant the wrong tree in the wrong place and most important, don't read or learn anything new!

M odem arboriculture will still mean lots of hard physical work. But it will also mean making decisions,
predictions and treatments based on an understanding of the whole tree system-hard work and
education, mind and muscles, training and education. Not to belabor my point, but modem
arboriculture must be more than just muscles without the mind. I know that many people became
arborists because they ran from school. I know this has no reflection on their intelligence. In fact, I
think some were so intelligent they saw the futility of some of the school courses! I regard some of the
school dropouts as my close friends, and I know they not only understand arboriculture, they
understand the ways of the business world. In the future, I hope our education systems will change and
reduce the number of dropouts.

Changes and Adjustments

As arboriculture grows in the 21 st century, the art and science will slowly come together. New and
altered tools, machines and products will bring with them the need to understand correct use and dose
where products are concerned. There will still be saws, and other tools will be developed for rapid,
correct pruning and for cutting trees. The biggest changes will come in tools and machines used for
detection of potential problems and diagnoses of existing problems. Electronic devices will be used for
sensing early symptoms of declines and of diseases. Electromagnetic devices will be used to confuse
insects and fungi. M any new products will flood the marketplace. The careful arborist will really need
to know what may be helpful from what could be harmful, at least to the wallet and purse. To keep
pace with the new products, the science side of arboriculture will have to increase greatly.

Today the number of Ph.D. arborists is low compared to the number with only a high school education.
There will be dramatic changes in these percentages as demands increase for decisions on larger tracts
of land. Bright students will begin to consider not only salaries, but, as always, the life the job brings.
This last feature has always been a beneficial part of arboriculture. As the "outside" shrinks, the chance
to be outside and still make a living will have greater appeal to young people. Training and education
leading to careers in arboriculture will start at an earlier age. M ore and better educational programs
through schools, television and environmental-based groups will inform not only prosp ective arborists
but the clients who will hire them. Awareness of the whole green system will come to all people from
many different sources. The image of a professional modern arboriculturist will increase greatly. In
time, the present organizations such as the ISA, NAA, The National Arbor Day Foundation and others
will begin to have many sub groups. I use for my predictions here the patterns of some of our large
organizations today.

47
I do not want to lose sight of the fact that the hard, physical parts of arboriculture will not go away.
Even if more powerful, lightweight tools and machines come, it will still take a lot of muscle to do
many tree jobs. The ability to move bigger and bigger trees with bigger and bigger equipment will still
tax the body after a long day. However, the modem arborist will have to use his or her mind to decrease
the burden of heavy loads and dangerous jobs. The size of the patient will never let arboriculture
become an easy profession.

A difficult subject to discuss, but it must be discussed, is how will the existing green groups grow in
the next century? Will they grow together, apart or remain as they are now? Some of the major groups
are arborists, nursery people, landscape architects, foresters, and lawn care people. These groups have
insulated themselves from others very well during this century. Competition in business may force
some melting and blending. The educational requirements of landscape architects have kept them at a
higher wage level than other groups. The shrinking forest and the chipping industries will continue to
reduce the needs for the "classical" forester. Small woodlot forestry will remain a steady market for
many foresters.

Workshops will give people opportunities to touch


all parts of the tree.

The desire to abandon people, machines and


headaches usually means a try as a consultant. We
are overrun with consultants now, and the flow will
continue to increase. What will happen is that those
with the best credentials will dominate the market,
and they will slowly grow back into what they tried
to leave as they hire assistants, secretaries and all
sorts of others. There is no doubt that the marketplace will be the ultimate driving force when it comes
to which groups will stay as they are now, or melt into hybrid groups. I predict that more hybrid groups
will develop and establish a hierarchy at positions from CEO to the person who will drag the brush.
The rush of paperwork and regulations will continue to make small and medium-sized companies think
about their economic survival. The wave of downsizing will not crash for many decades.

In October 1957, an event took place that gave all Americans a wake-up call. Sputnik went off! Were
we to be outpaced by another country? Were we not the leader? In October 1957, there was little doubt
about who was now in control. No way were we as a country going to let it happen. Anybody who
could spell scientist became one!

What nobody knows is when or if another wake up call will come. On the environment, it has been
tried with the book Silent Spring, and with warnings on acid rain, global warming, the decline of our
forests, ozone depletion and the possibility of comets striking earth. But none of them really has stuck
to the wall. The theme of gloom and doom was used so much that it was similar to the repeated
warning of wolf, wolf! The scary part of this is that the wolf may come some day and people will say ,
not again! If it does happen, I believe there is a good chance that the wake-up call will affect something
in our green world that has a direct bearing on our survival. One such possibility would be famine due
to several events happening at the same time. Or it could be drought, dead soils, insect infestation, a
new, powerful, disease-causing mutant bacterium or fungus. Not that I am looking for gloom and
doom, as so many others are to give our profession a boost, but I do believe we work in an area critical
for the health of the world.
48
That point has never come through, mainly because we are just ending the period of the endless enemy.
People usually respond only to crises, which is sad but true. As the endless enemy wave hits the shore,
the back splash may signal the need to begin learning something about our trees. Remember, there was
no need to know how trees grow how to grow trees when it was thought that the forests were endless.
Consider the same situation with AIDS. Until it came along, little was known about our human immune
system. Why study something that has no immediate value or connection? Now, researchers must go
back to some basics that were left unstudied. The journals are now full of articles about our immune
system. Why not take the same approach with trees? Look in any textbook on biology or botany and
see how much space is given to the entire field of trees. What more do you need to learn about them?
They are big, tall and some grow for a long time. They have three organs (WOW!), leaves, stem, roots.
The core of wood is covered by bark and they have seeds. Next lesson. How sad!

Just as medical people somehow left out the human immune system, tree people left out the entire
response system of a tree. How could a dead cylinder of wood respond anyway. Wound it, paint it, and
when it decays, dig out the rot! Enter compartmentalization again. In 1959, when I first started
dissecting thousands of large trees in a longitudinal radial direction with a chain saw, I saw things in
the trees that were different from what I saw in the textbooks., One day I decided to escape from the
cave and I stood up in front of my peers and said the tree is correct and the textbooks have some
shadows in them. Since that day, the shadow watchers have been out to get me.

In the next century, I believe we will go back to learn more about many subjects that were left along
the way. M any people have asked for more advanced stuff. It is interesting that while some want more
advanced information, others are saying enough, we do not need it. My answer is, if you are satisfied
with your wages and job-and satisfied knowing they will not change during your life-then fine, you do
not need more stuff. I must say that the other group asking for more drives me. I repeat, I accept the
group who doesn't want more and I respect them and their position, but they should not interfere with
those who do want more.

What more is there, really? There is more about biology, laced with a good dose of chemistry. The next
level of tree biology cannot be approached without the language of chemistry. To hear and read the
same old studies on fertilization, pruning, etc. must make you as disturbed as it does me. The next level
of biology and chemistry will give us new opportunit ies to really talk about fertilization, rhizoplanes,
bicarbonate ions, redox potentials in soil, ion size and charge, and a new, wonderfully long list of
topics that will clarify years of confusion.

I cannot see how we can discuss the tree without discussing associates, and the soil and the ribbon of
chemical changes that runs through the whole grand connected system. I am not saying that every
arborist must be a biologist or chemist. I do believe that every arborist should at least be aware of the
major scientific principles of life. It is awareness that I am after, not a complete detailed understanding
of biology and chemistry. Now, I am very sympathetic with arborists who ran from biology and
chemistry in school. It is no wonder they did, judging from the way the textbook are written and the
way they were taught. I have been wading through large chemistry texts now, and I know the problem.

Changing Education

Now I come to another big adjustment that will take place in the next century. The curricula for two-
and four-year programs will and must be adjusted. It is impossible to cover all the material needed in
that time to prepare a person for a job. Yet, many people just cannot afford to continue going to
college. What is the answer? Textbooks and courses must change to awareness-type material. The
49
material must be in a form that makes you aware of the principles, but does not demand that you
understand all the details. Chemistry courses are designed to make you a chemist. What if you do not
want to be a chemist, but you do want to be aware of enough chemistry to help you make sound
decisions about treatments for the tree system? The first part removed from awareness chemistry will
be the mathematics. I am not down on mathematics, but it is usually the main problem when it comes
to chemistry. The next item to go must be the demand to memorize long formulae. It will not be easy to
write and teach awareness-type books and courses. Yet, it must be done. I know the subject is hot now
within many universities. As this happens, the mix of art and science of arboriculture will come about
without a stir. It will be a natural thing.

Now, let me go back to a potential problem I presented earlier about insulated green groups. As more
students graduate with more awareness information about many principles, the insulation among the
green groups will begin to decrease. Why? Because of the marketplace again. C lients will only want
one group to do the job for reasons of economics.

Another big change in the next century will be the expanding world market for modern arboriculturists.
The Pacific rim is already beginning to show its economic strength. If the past is prologue, developing
cities will want trees and parks. Rebuilding old and decaying parts of cities will require decisions about
trees and parks. In some of the Pacific rim countries, the reverence for trees is high, while in other
countries trees have little value. This will change as people pressures demand someplace to walk and
sit. What this means is that young, trained and educated people from the United States may see great
opportunities in other countries. As travel time shrinks, the possibilities of working in other parts of the
world will become more desirable.

Where Will R esearch Go?

The role of electromagnetic fields will be hot for all life sciences from humans to trees to
microorganisms. For a long time, some researchers have believed that termites communicate by way of
magnetic fields, and that insects first find their target by magnetic fields and then go on with volatiles
or pheromones. This research may clarify why insects seem "to know" a declining tree from a healthy
one or a tree that has no defense system. Once these subjects are understood, they open up a whole new
approach to pest control.

The use of genetic information has been slow to come to practical means with trees. M ost genetics
research has been directed toward more showy individuals. Super tough trees that could resist invasion
after wounding have been known about since 1976. That information has never been used. In time
genetics will play a greater role in selecting trees for different soil types and sites.

The use of growth regulators will increase. The bottle-neck for their use now is the lack of
understanding of the physiology of movement in the tree. Materials can be put in, but they may or may
not move throughout the tree. Here again is an example of a forgotten basic area that must be
researched. M any effective materials are available now, but getting to their target sites in the tree is the
problem.

Research on electrical-based sensors will come in several decades, not soon. The sensors are available
now, and have been for at least two decades. The problem is knowing what all the signals mean! This is
the problem the Shigometer has and will continue to have. The machine or meter only gives numbers,
the important thing is to know what they mean. The numbers cannot be "wrong" because they are only
an indication of some electrical signal.

50
Over and over again, I make the same plea for understanding the basics of the tree system. When this
finally happens, many wonderful pieces will fall into place.

A New Tree Biology


Comes of Age

By Dr. Alex L. Shigo

Dissections of thousands of trees with a chain saw started a N ew Tree Biology in 1959.

51
Dissections showed that there were highly ordered patterns of discolored and decayed wood associated
with wounds and branch stubs.

Patterns of discoloration and decay in many trees could not be


explained by the heartrot concept. Heartwood in this white
oak was sound in the center yet distinct columns of decay w ere
associated with the wounds. The decay did not spread at-w ill
in the heartwood.

Is Wood Living or Dead?

Light; is it a wave or a particle? Yes! A duality that started


quantum mechanics. Newtonian physics started to be replaced
by new concepts, especially concepts dealing with the atomic
world.

Wood; is it living or dead in growing trees? Yes! Another type


of duality that started new concepts dealing with trees and
their associates. A New Tree Biology started to develop.

Trees Are Generating Systems

A New Tree Biology is based on concepts of the tree as a compartmented, generating system that
survives, when injured, by forming new barriers and strengthening old barriers that resist the spread of
microorganisms, and that protect the structural, transport and storage systems. Organisms that infect
trees counter the tree's response by attacking in successions. The survival pressures of the tree are met
with the survival pressures of the microorganisms that attack trees. Another type of duality begins to
develop as trees survive, so long as they are not digested by wood-inhabiting microorganisms, and the
microorganisms survive so long as they digest trees.

Thousands of trees were treated and later dissected to map the


spread of infections. This dissected sugar maple shows the
discolored wood associated w ith the experimental drill wound.

New Concepts Needed

New concepts had to be developed that would serve both parts


of this duality. One concept was called compartmentalization.
Trees survived so long as they could compartmentalize the
infections. Wood-inhabiting microorganisms survived so long
as they could compete successfully in successions as the wood
in the compartments was digested. This was the other concept.
Compartmentalization then served the survival time for trees
and the succession concept served microorganisms that
attacked trees.

52
Compartmentalization is under moderate to strong genetic control. The ability of microorganisms to
compete successfully with others and to spread within the compartments is also under genetic control.

These concepts help explain long-term survival of trees and their associates. Some of the associates
benefit the tree while others act against the tree. However, while events are happening, the tree as a
generating system is growing new parts in new spatial positions. In this sense, the tree does not heal or
restore injured and infected tissues. While all of these events are taking place, time is going by. The
events explain the long-term survival of trees
and their associates.

Hundreds of thousands of isolations for


microorganisms from sound and infected wood
showed that bacteria and non-decay causing
fungi were usually the first organisms to
invade wood through wounds and branch
stubs. Here is a non-decay causing fungus,
Phialophora mellinii, in a vessel in discolored
wood in a red maple.

Old Problems Persist

The concept of compartmentalization, as simple as it is, is still not understood by many people. Proof
of this can be found in the words used by some researchers as they talk about "wound healing,"
"regenerating roots," and "wound repair." If the tree is accepted as a generating system, then terms that
imply regenerating processes create oxymorons. The terms also block clear thinking needed to help
solve other problems.

One concept that has blocked progress with understanding tree defense is the heartrot concept. Along
with the concept has come "heartrot fungi." The heartrot concept is based on wood as a dead, non-
responsive substance. The heartrot concept is a wood decomposition concept. The concept states that
wounds exp ose heartwood, which is dead wood, and the wood-rotting "heartrot fungi" then infect the
dead wood and grow at will, eventually producing fruiting structures on the wound face. If the wound
does not expose heartwood, then the injured wood soon becomes "wound heartwood," "pathological
heartwood," or "precocious heartwood." This concept is still alive and very well in many textbooks and
in the classrooms of the world. A major problem is the confusion
about wood. It is seldom defined.

Wounding experiments on heartwood- forming trees, such as the red


oak shown here, helped to prove further that infections spread in
highly ordered and predictable patterns.

Symplast Concept

Wood is an organ made up of living, dying and dead cells that have
boundaries of cellulose, hemicelluloses and lignins, mostly. The
protoplasm of the living cells in wood and bark are connected in a
three-dimensional network called the symplast. The dead boundary
53
walls and dead cells that "hold" the symplast in place is called the apoplast.

The symplast is concentrated in a circumferencial zone between the wood and bark called the cambial
zone, and an outer bark circumferencial zone called the phellogen and in radial bundles called
meristematic points. This symplast concept is essential to an understanding of compartmentalization.
Once the symplast concept is understood, then many parts of the compartmentalization concept fall into
place. Just as you cannot have regenerating terms for a generating system, you cannot have dead wood
terms for an organ that contains living cells. The easiest way to see the extent of the symplast is to pour
a solution containing iodine (I2-KI) over a freshly cut wood section. The iodine stains starch grains
purple, and except for a few rare exceptions, the purple dots will only be seen in living cells. (The
exceptions deal with starch grains left behind in cells that died quickly.)

Tree Defense & Protection

The symplast defines the limits of the tree defense system. Defense is dynamic and protection is static.
As the inner symplast dies, the wood becomes protection wood. There are four types of protection
wood: heartwood and false heartwood, discolored wood and wetwood. Heartwood is genetically age-
altered wood that has a greater protection capacity than the sap wood that contains the symplast. False
heartwood is wood so depleted of elements essential for life that few organisms can grow in it. False
heart- wood is often trunk wood associated with dying and dead branches. As the branches die, the
trunk wood associated with the branches deplete their supply of elements, especially nitrogen-based
molecules, that are essential for life. Discolored wood is wood infected by non-hymenomycetous, or
non-decay causing fungi. In the early stages, discolored wood is a protection wood, but in later stages,
as more organisms infect, the wood may lose its protection properties. As this happens, the discolored
wood may take on the characteristics of soft rot where the S2 layer of the secondary layer of fibers is
infected and altered. Wetwood is wood infected by anaerobic bacteria mostly. The infected wood is
altered in ways that disrupt membranes, and leakage of substances leads to high concentrations of
elements, high pH, and low amounts of free oxygen as micro spaces are filled with water.

Sharon Ossenbruggen (now deceased)


developed many teaching programs that used a
wide variety of models and other materials
designed to help clarify new concepts.

Genetics Yes; Absolutes No

In nature, there are no absolutes. Strong


defense and protection mean that there will be
longer time periods before decomposition.
Boundaries resist, not stop, infections. Strong tree defense re- actions favor longer time periods, but
eventually all living matter will be reduced to its primary parts, which will be reused, or recycled, for
new life. Some tree species, or even protection properties. These features are under genetic control. A
major protection boundary that determines the longevity of many trees is the protection zone at the base
of branches. All trees have branches and as some branches die or are mechanically removed, the

54
openings are infection courts for wood-inhabiting microorganisms. The tree species that have the
strongest branch-protection boundaries are those that usually live the longest.
As microorganisms invade trunks by way of branch openings, the tree may eventually
compartmentalize the infecting microorganisms. However, over time as the trunk wood walls off more
symplast, the space for storage of energy reserves is also walled off. This is a major way root-rotting
fungi slowly kill trees. The tree keeps losing space for storage, and as energy storage materials
decrease, so does the capacity for defense.
The compartmentalization concept includes more than the tree; it also includes organisms associated
with the tree. If trees had absolute defense and
protection, wood would never decay. But, it
does.

Many workshops were conducted to help


arborists learn about the new concepts by
touching all parts of the tree, inside and
outside. Here participants are getting ready to
dig roots and touch mycorrhizae under snow-
covered soils.

Tree Associates and Successions

The tree has as a defense system dynamic processes that resist the spread of invaders, or resist their
advance with substances that temporarily stall their growth. The grand "natural idea" of succession is:
if one group of organisms is not able to continue the invasion, another group will be able to do so. The
group following the one before them also uses the dead organisms for a food source. This is a major
way nitrogen-based substances are brought back into the wood. A major protection scheme of trees is
to "move" the supply of nitrogen-based substances out to the younger symplast as the wood ages. All
organisms must have some nitrogen-based substances to build amino acids for proteins. The amount of
new protoplasm is directly proportional to the
amount of nitrogen-based substances available.
Successions solve this problem by reusing the
nitrogen-based substances left behind in the
dead cells of those organisms that proceeded
them. All these processes take time. As time
goes by, the generating tree continues to grow
new parts in new spacial positions.

A New Tree Biology brings together the

55
microscope and the chain saw. The concepts that have developed over the last 40 years have been
made possible because of the hard work done by many people. There is still a long way to go.

M ass, Energy Limits

Such a system has long-term, but not absolute, survival. As any system increases in mass, the energy to
maintain order in the system increases exponentially. However, the tree has "a way" to minimize this
threat to survival by shedding parts. The tree "uses" and sheds leaves and needles, reproductive parts,
twigs, dying branches, and non-woody roots-root hairs, mycorrhizae. In a sense, the compartmentalized
wood is a type of shedding. (Another type of duality arises, as a tree is both an annual and a perennial.)

CODIT Is a Model

To help people in the field understand and use the compartmentalization concept, a simple model of the
concept called CODIT was developed. CODIT is an acronym for Compartmentalization Of Decay In
Trees. Decay is defined here as a process where a highly ordered substance-wood-begins to become
more disordered. Some people have substituted the words damage or defect for the D of CODIT. The
problem here is that the altered wood in the compartments is not always an economic loss. In some
cases the lightly colored wood adds value to a product.

The real problems with CODIT are that some people forget that it is a model and they think of the
model terms as real anatomical walls. The more serious problem is one where the model is taken as an
absolute process where the boundaries stop the infection.

Practical Applications

If a person understands A New Tree Biology with the concepts of compartmentalization and
successions, old practices will be quickly recognized as being more harmful than beneficial.

Flush cuts on branches remove the tree's protection boundaries and create wounds in the trunk. Painting
wounds blocks the normal successions, which stimulate the tree to form boundaries. M any of the
organisms that are first on a fresh wound are those that "keep away" the more destructive types. Callus
and woundwood form after wounding. Compartmentalization is a separate process that takes place in
wood present at the time of wounding.

Digging into cavities breaks the compartment boundaries that resist the spread of infections. Drilling
holes to drain liquids exposes healthy wood to infections. When wetwood is drained, the wood first
infected by bacteria will usually be infected by wood-decaying fungi. As some trees are wounded
repeatedly during treatment, the storage spaces for energy reserves is reduced, and defense is also
reduced. M any insects and microorganisms attack when defense is low. As stored energy reserves

56
begin to become depleted, the processes that support compartmentalization no longer function. The
invaders have opportunities to grow rapidly in the wood.

In desperation, some people add fertilizers and call them tree foods. Worse yet is the practice of
injecting nitrogen-based substances into trunk wood. This defeats the tree's protection feature where
nitrogen-based substances move out of dying wood. The introduced nitrogen-based substances
stimulate growth of microorganisms. As the tree compartmentalizes the infections, space for storage is
decreased, along with defense. The leaves may get greener, and growth may be stimulated. These
obvious signs are usually short-lived. Also, as nitrogen-based substances are absorbed, the nitrogen
quickly bonds with carbon to form amino acids that in turn form more protoplasm. This is at the
expense of the defense system because the carbon for the amino acids comes from the already low
resources. Insect borers are common attackers, along with sap -feeding insects on leaves. They usually
get the blame for the decline or death of the tree.

Many adjustments in treatments came from the new concepts.


Wound dressings were shown to do more harm than good.
Flush pruning was shown to cause many problems for trees.
Here, a flush cut is compared to a proper cut that did not
remove the branch collar.

A New and Better Future for Trees

A New Tree Biology focuses on defense as the major theme of


a tree. Trees cannot move from destructive agents. They grow
as highly defensive organisms. Their anatomy and physiology
are ties to their s defense actions, and later to features
providing strong protection.

Trees connected with many other organisms, and synergistic processes led not only to stronger tree
defense but to greater opportunities for survival of the associates. Forests came. Forests are systems
made up of trees and many other organisms connected in such highly ordered ways that high-quality
survival is ensured for all members.

Trees have developed ways to minimize the dangers of an increasing mass to energy ratio. Trees shed
parts.
57
Trees grow within their means, or within the limits of their environment.

It is essential to understand first how any system operates at its most efficient and effective way. Then,
when problems start, the chances for a remedy are much better.

As more people begin to understand A New Tree Biology, more old practices will slowly give way to
new and better practices that will benefit the tree, the tree owner, and the people who care for the tree.

58
Touch Trees. Connect with Nature.

By Dr. Alex Shigo

Trees in the forest start life w ith


their fungus friends to form mycorrhizae.

Arboriculture is a science and an art

Science is an orderly process of collecting, connecting and recording


information about natural systems. Science is understanding. Science
is mind.
Art is a process requiring skills to produce a product or performance
considered attractive or pleasing. Art is doing. Art is muscle.
Arboriculture is the cultivation of trees. To cultivate healthy,
attractive and safe trees both mind and muscle must be used. Arboriculture is an art and a science.

Arboriculture emerged as an art

Arboriculture emerged primarily as a skill, or art form, done by strong, working class people who were
not afraid of hard work. It is time now to add science to the cultivation of trees.

The cell theory started biology as a science

The basic science behind all tree treatments is biology. Biology as a science started after the acceptance
of the cell theory , then next came the germ theory and later the theory of evolution. The theory of
genetics and the clarification of DNA have advanced biology to one of the leading disciplines of
science today.

Biology is the study of living systems

Biology as a science means an understanding of the chemicals and chemistry of life. Trees are not only
living systems, but they are the most massive, longest livin g and tallest living systems ever to grow on
earth. They support more communities of other living systems than any other organism. The cultivation
of such superior living systems must start with an understanding of tree biology.
M odern Arboriculture is tree cultivation based on an understanding of tree biology. The more you
know about the way the system works, the better you can work on it.

Trees are forgiving

59
Trees are the most forgiving living systems on earth. They have been mutilated and injured by humans
in countless ways, yet they continue to grow and to provide many benefits for humans, and countless
communities of other living organisms. However, as forgiving and as superior as they are in many
ways, they do have their limits for survival.

Trees are super survivors

Survival is the ability to remain alive, often under conditions that have the potential to kill. Trees have
never moved away from their problems. Trees have many associates and over time they have
developed unsurpassed means for cooperation with them. Trees and their associates cooperate in
synergistic ways. Synergy means that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Trees have also
developed in ways that do not disrupt the law of increasing mass and energy. The law states that as
mass of any system in-creases, the amount of energy necessary to maintain order in the system must
increase at an exponential rate. Trees grow within their means. And, unlike humans, they never
question or complain. They accept and adjust.
Trees have no healing system, in the sense of restoring injured and infected tissues. Trees are
generating systems. Tree defense is centered about boundaries that form about infections, and that
resist their spread. New tree parts are always in new spatial positions.

Humans keep putting humans at the top

Humans write books. Humans have written that humans are at the top of the line for living systems.
Humans feel they are on the top position because humans have a large brain that can think. Humans run
from danger. Humans are regenerating systems that restore injured and infected parts back in old
spatial positions. Humans heal. Humans, at best, live about a hundred years. M ost trees are still very
young at the age of one hundred. I wonder how life forms would
be ranked if trees wrote the books?

Trees are forgiving organisms. Trees are more than big sticks of
dead wood. Trees do not heal, they compartmentalize infections.
This process makes it possible for trees to outlive humans, even
when constantly mutilated.

Humans have large brains

So, humans are supposed to be so great because of their big


brain that can think, learn, make decisions, and predict events
yet to happen. If all of this is correct, then what do trees have
that make it possible for them to far outlive humans, and still not
run from fires, floods and a long list of other destructive agents?
What is the trees' secret to long success?

Trees have defense as their theme

60
The basic advantage trees have is that they have evolved with defense as their theme. Their
construction, physiology, chemistry, physics and all their other properties and processes have
developed with defense as a theme. Humans have a big brain as their theme and trees have defense.
The tree "secret" is a generating system built around defense and a ready capacity to adjust when their
survival is threatened.

Defense is a dynamic survival process

Strong defense depends on a high amount of energy reserves. When enrgy reserves are low, defense is
low.
Defense is chemistry. The cell theory is about cells as the basic unit of life. All multi-cellular
organisms are made up of cells, which are, in a sense, bags of chemicals and chemical reactions. To try
to understand biology without some understanding of chemistry is foolish. To understand tree biology,
we must start with an awareness of the simple basics of chemistry. It is time to take the fear out of
chemistry!

Learn about the principles of life

Along with chemistry, every arborist should be aware of the principles of life. The general principles of
life are true for all living things. However, specific principles differ for each species. Defense is a
general principle, but the specific ways animals defend themselves is different from the specific ways
trees defend themselves. Another example is that all living organisms require an energy source. This is
a general principle of life. Humans must get food already made, while trees make their own. Trees can
store energy reserves only in living cells.

Confusion of general and specific principles of life

The major problem that has followed tree cultivation from its
beginning has been the confusion of the general principles of
life with the specific principles of life for trees, or worse yet,
with the specific principles of life for humans. And, this has
been so, because until very recently, little attention was given to
tree biology, and especially tree anatomy. Anatomy must come
before physiology.
Tree anatomy has been a problem because trees are so massive.
Bits and pieces of trees have been studied in the laboratory , but
entire trees have seldom been dissected. Wood anatomy is
different from tree anatomy! Wood anatomy has been studied
from the view of dead prepared samples in the laboratory. By
tree anatomy, I mean entire living trees, again, entire living
trees.
Tree dissections must be done outside with large, powerful
tools. It is hard, physical work.

Trees connect in synergistic ways with many other organisms.


61
These mushrooms produce great numbers of spores that can be blown by the wind for long distances.
When the spores germinate to form hyphae, some will infect non-woody tree roots to form mycorrhizae.

Separation of academics and workers

The problem is made worse because research people rarely associate with working people. The people
who have university degrees seldom go outside to associate with tree people working in the field. (I
have never been able to convince my research colleagues that a chainsaw is a research tool!)
The separation between the working people and the university people has existed since the beginning
of science. There are many good reasons for this, but now it is time to change this! Remember, trees are
big, alive and they do grow outside.

New demands
Science advances as new tools, new ideas, and new demands of
society connect. The people now demand tree work to be better ,
faster and less expensive. The only way to meet these demands
is to be able to make better decisions faster. Better decisions
faster means a better understanding about the way tree systems
function. Now we are back to science, or the biology of trees.

Industry survival depends greatly on the rate of acceptance and


adjustment to new tools, new ideas and new demands of the
market place.

The science behind the treatments

Fertilizers are chemicals. Water is a chemical. M ulch is a mass


of ever-changing chemicals. Herbicides, pesticides and all other
materials used to treat trees are chemicals. To even think about
modern tree cultivation without an understanding of chemistry
is folly indeed. Pruning also depends on an understanding of the
tree system. The dose of pruning must, or should be, based on the ratio of living cells to dead cells in a
tree, the dynamic mass to static mass ratio.

Needs for the future

There is little to be gained by dwelling on the problems of the past. It is time to look to the future and to
direct our attention to better solutions. Here I list some ways to bring the art and science of
arboriculture to a much higher level. I remain optimistic. I know many fine arborists who are working
in these directions now. I hope that more people will join those who are trying to accomplish these
goals.

1. Establish a strong and meaningful code of ethics. Violate it and you are out!

2. Base certification on the ability to perform at a specified high level. Violate the rules and you are
out!
62
3. Develop bio-profiles for the most commonly grown trees.

4. Develop levels for arboriculture based on education and abilities.

5. Establish a pre-arboriculture core education program that will include some biology, chemistry ,
physics, soils, microbiology and other natural system subjects.

6. Develop better textbooks to serve the levels of arboriculture, and core education programs.

7. Increase the number of teachers capable of teaching biology, chemistry and physics in arboriculture
classes.

8. Have more outdoor workshops where professors and workers connect, communicate and touch all
parts of trees and soils.

9. Have more articles in trade journals written by people who are not selling products. Reduce the
number of infomercials.

10. Develop workplace education courses for people who are active, and often very successful, in
arboriculture but lack a scientific background. M any of these people are very intelligent, but they either
left school early or were forced out of science courses because of the ways the courses were taught.
Give them another chance.

Children are born with a natural curiosity about nature. It is


our responsibility to feed this curiosity and not to destroy it.

Time for modern arboriculture

Arboriculture started when honest, hard-working people went


out to prune, treat wounds and fill cavities. These three
treatments have been the basic tasks of a working tree person. Pruning was done by cutting the branch
flush to the trunk to promote "healing." Pruning wounds and other wounds were painted to prevent rot.
Cavities were cleaned and filled to stop rot and help preserve the life of trees. Sad, but once you begin
to understand just a little tree biology, you will realize that all of the old treatments did more harm than
good. Remember, you cannot "feed" a tree, wounds do not "heal," roots do not regenerate, wounds do
not "bleed," mycorrhizae are organs, and you cannot inoculate with organs and finally, wound
dressings do not stop decay!
Ignorance of tree biology has been, and still is, the major cause of tree problems worldwide.
It is time for some changes. It is time for modern arboriculture. The trees need our help now. Connect
with the greatest living systems ever to grow on earth.

Touch Trees.

63
Tree Education and Philosophy
By Alex L. Shigo

An educated homeowner would probably recognize the potential high


risk of failure of such a tree, and have something done about it. It is
the responsibility of tree care professionals to help educate customers
about the care of their trees.

Humpty Dumpty said a word means only what he wants it to mean.


Socrates, a great philosopher, said, just tell us what you want your
word to mean. And Voltaire, another great thinker, said, when we
know what you mean by your words, arguments and
misunderstandings will seldom happen. So be it.

Just the facts

Philosophy is a delightful trip around a circle. Philosophy is about thinking.

Thinking is a mental process where experiences, old thoughts and ideas, facts and other stored
information are connected in ways that result in some new thought or idea.

Trees are superior survival organisms. They live longer, grow taller and become more massive than any
organism ever to inhabit earth. Trees do demand some respect. This means trees have dignity.

Education is a learning process. Learning leads to increased knowledge. Knowledge is the amount of
information gained. Intelligence is the capacity to gain information. Wisdom is the use of information
in ways that ensure continued high - quality survival.

My objective in this brief essay is to focus on tree education: what it is, what it can do for you and what
it can do for trees.

Stress? Or, treatments done without understanding some simple basics


of biology? The tree was over - pruned, over - trenched, and over -
fertilized. The bill was "over," also.

Training and educating

Trees are beginning to receive some respect worldwide. Not much, but
some, and that is better than the way it was in the past. Now, I believe,
it is the responsibility of people who care for trees, and about trees, to
keep this movement going. The more you learn about any subject, the
better the chances are for regulating the direction of the subject or if
that is not possible, then for predicting with high probabilities the way
64
it will go.
Training to deal with trees has far exceeded education about trees. Training is wonderful. However,
training without educatin g leads to robots. At the same time, education alone leads to waste. Training
and educating are twins; both are needed. Now!
Some people are using the words "education about trees," but I don't know what they mean.
Teachers teach. They try to get the mental "engines" started. They stimulate you.

The grass is very green. The tree is dying! If trees are wanted on such a site, they should be species
that can tolerate lots of water .

To keep the "engines" going, students must be disciplined enough to


keep adding more information to the mind. The adding process is
motivation. Think of your car. The key connects the battery and
starter. Once the engine turns over, it begins to run on gasoline.
Teachers are batteries. Gasoline, or self -discipline, keeps the system
going - motivation.
Why do you need to know this stuff? Because decision making in the
field is the "name of the game." People who can make more correct
decisions faster have a better chance for higher quality survival. To
lecture from the stage about trees and treatments is easy. When you
are outside with the trees, it is not so easy. There are always some
complicating constraints such as time, schedules, weather, personal
health, breakdowns, regulations, complaining customers and the list
goes on and on. You never know what you will face until you are out
there. Still, you must make some decisions and do the job, or you
will soon be out of a job.

An Example: Stress

Trees are living systems. Every living system will do something when its survival is threatened. Trees
are systems that came from genetic codes. The systems do have limits. When any agent causes the
system to operate near its limits, then the system becomes stressed. When the potential survival -
threatening agent continues to exert a force, then the tree system could go from stress to strain. Any
system is threatened when it is forced to operate near its limits. When the threatening force is
continued, the likelihood of the system stopping increases.
In nature, there are two major types of stress. The most life - threatening type deals with the second
law of energy flow. The law states that every system must have a continuous supply of energy to
remain in an orderly state - healthy. As energy input decreases, the likelihood of operating near the
limits increases. Call it primary stress. Because trees are living systems, they must maintain a
continuous flow of energy. Trees burn glucose to release energy to power the forces of life. This is the
same for humans and other life forms. When energy begins to become limiting, the system begins to
operate near its genetically designed limits.
There is no known way to feed a tree in the sense of adding an energy source. Food is a substance
made up of elements essential for life and an energy source. Animals can be fed. Trees get their
energy by a process that traps the energy of the sun in a molecule called glucose. Glucose is made as
chlorophyll is stimulated to form ATPs that later power the formation of glucose.
The process of trapping the sun' s energy is called photosynthesis. When the process does produce
65
glucose, some is used for metabolism, some for structural parts and some for storage.
The stored energy is in a form not soluble in water; either as starch, oils or fats. The stored energy is
used to start new growth when the next growth cycle starts and for defense. When stored energy
reserves are low, defense is low.
So, what can be done when a tree is energy stressed? You cannot feed it. If you add fertilizer (which
is not food), the nitrogen will cause the already low supply of energy reserves to be lowered all the
more as the nitrogen combines with the stored carbon to form amino acids that, in turn, lead to
increased growth. The new growth will be defenseless. And the insects and microorganisms apparently
can detect this. They attack.
The story goes on. There is much more, but my point here is to show how one of the major problems
facing trees - stress - depends on education. The simple answers today deal with adding all kinds of
stuff that may give the illusion of short - term benefits. In the end, I believe, many of these treatments
may add to the problem.
Before I leave the subject of stress, I should say that secondary stress is caused when substances and
conditions essential for life are at extremes; too little, too much. These secondary stress problems can
usually be treated by adjustments of substances and conditions.

Where are the roots? They were buried at about a foot


below ground level. Education starts when people begin
to touch and see things for themselves.

Education is the key

Stress is used here only as an example of why education


about tree biology is so important. Of course, much
more needs to be given about the subject of tree stress.
But, for now, here are some brief comments about what
should be done. First aid for stress means keeping the tree safe and stopping the stress agents.
Keeping it safe could mean removing the target, bracing the tree, or removing parts or the entire tree.
Before you can reduce or stop the agents or conditions causing the stress, you must know what they
are. Tree biology again.
After first aid, start a long - range program of correct tree care that includes mulching, pruning,
watering, fertilizing and probably much more. Decisions for all treatments, especially for dose, should
be based on a sound understanding of tree biology.
Trees do have dignity. They should get more respect. Respect starts with an attempt to understand.
Understanding is about education. So, maybe we are back to the beginning ...A trip around a circle. Is
that philosophy?

66
Armillaria Root Rots,
Predisposition and Poor
Sorauer

By Dr. Alex L. Shigo

This red spruce root (Picea rubens) has compartmentalized


the Armillaria infection, but space for storage has been
greatly decreased. Note the fungus wedge in the bark.

How do root rots kill trees? Do they? Are the "killer fungi"
the primary cause?
What is meant by predisposition? Who is Sorauer, and why do
we need to know something about his work? It is time to take
a closer look at root rots, and especially those caused by
species of Armillaria. I say species of Armillaria because we
know that more species than Armillaria mellea are involved.
The subject of armillaria root rot has been discussed many
times. I will try to give some information that is not usually
reported. First, as with any problem, it is important to
understand the background information and some history .
That is why I plan to include predisposition and the father of
the subject, Paul Sorauer, in this brief discussion.

Decay associated w ith a species of Armillaria in


the roots of this American beech was
compartmentalized as it spread into the tree base.

The year 1874 is a good time to start. This is the


year that Robert Hartig published his famous book
on important diseases of forest trees. The first
subject in this book is armillaria root rot. Hartig
called the fungus A garicus (Armillaria) melleus.
Hartig took the disease concepts of Anton De Bary
and Gotthelf Kuhn and applied them to trees. This
was a monumental moment for all trees. Hartig
proved that the fungus fruiting on a wound
was the same as the fungus causing the rot
behind the wound. The single fungus, single
disease concept was accepted and began to
move quickly. One reason was that problems
of decay in living trees and wood products
were considered very economically
important.

Decay associated w ith a species of Armillaria


was weakly compartmentalized in the base of
this Populus tremuloides (arrows in the
67
wood). The red arrow shows the barrier zone and the arrow at left shows the fungus wedge that spread
into the bark.

Also in 1874, another book was written. It was a handbook for plant diseases by a person history seems
to have forgotten, or left behind, Paul Sorauer. M ore than half of his book was on abiotic causes of
diseases and predisposition. Although his book was reprinted six times prior to 1934, his concepts on
predisposition just were not able to compete with the concepts of a single pathogen for a single disease,
including decay in trees and wood products. The strange part of this story is that arguments went on for
decades about whether decay in trees could even be considered a disease. Why? Because decay was
said to be the breakdown of dead heartwood. How could you have a disease of dead matter? The
heartrot concept that followed was really a decomposition concept. The response of the living tree to
the wounds and the infections was not considered. Also, isolations for fungi were done on malt agar
alone, which does not support growth of bacteria and non-decay causing fungi. Consequently,
associated microorganisms were not detected frequently. Over the years, the concepts of Paul Sorauer
have made more sense to me. A major reason why his work is so difficult to understand and accept is
because it is difficult to remember the many seemingly unimportant events and agents that accumulate
over time and predispose a host to pathogens that could kill or cause decay. It is easy to see and touch
the decayed wood, the large sporophores and the declining tree. If the sporophores are obvious when
the tree is declining, the fungus inside the tree that relates to the sporophores must be the cause. This
story repeats and repeats.
This point is well-taken with armillaria root rot, How could anyone say that a declining tree that has
many mush- rooms at the base is not dying because of the fungus infection? The mushrooms of
Armillaria species do indicate without a doubt that the fungus on the inside is the same as the fungus of
the fruiting bodies on the outside. Hartig proved this. We hear it said many times over and over that
Armillaria is a tree killer or the armillaria root rot killed my tree!
At this point, I'm sure Sorauer is turning over again, as a pinwheel, in his grave.

White spreading "fans" of mycelium from an Armillaria


infection are shown at the base of this white birch. As tree
defense decreases from root infections, the pathogen often
grows rapidly into the bark. Why are root rots called
killers?

Have you ever wondered why there are so many fungi


known to cause decays in trunks of trees, yet few are cited as
the cause of decline and death? The answer usually given is
that the rots are compartmentalized. Don't roots
compartmentalize infections also? Of course they do! And,
they usually do it more effectively than trunks. So, why is it
said so often that root-rotting fungi, such as Armillaria
species, kill trees?
A major problem is that trunk wood and root wood is
thought to be similar. When you start with a false premise,
confusion or myth will always follow. Root wood is
different from trunk wood in many ways. Trunk wood and root wood both store starch in living cells,
but root wood has a much greater percentage of living cells than trunk wood. When I2- KI is poured
over the cut surfaces of trunk wood and root wood of the same tree, the root wood will be much darker
in color, indicating more starch in more living cells.
68
Starch is not soluble in water. However, when water molecules are chemically "inserted" back into
starch by way of amylase enzymes, the starch is converted back to glucose. Glucose is the fuel for life.
Glucose also "runs" the defense system. When glucose reserves are high, defense is high. When
glucose reserves are low, defense is low. When defense is high, we say the organism is healthy. Most
pathogens are opportunists and wait until defense is low before they attack.
Before I continue with this subject, I should give some other characteristics of root wood. Roots also
mechanically support the tree. Root wood does have lignin, but not as much as trunk wood. This is best
shown when you cut trunk wood and root wood of the same tree and feel the difference. It is much
easier to cut root wood than trunk wood. Roots transport liquids that contain essential elements for tree
life. The diameters of root wood vessels, or tracheids, are usually larger than those in trunk wood.

"Agree or not, all living things will obey natural laws of energy and matter . The laws state that no
organism or system will remain orderly (healthy) unless there is a continuous supply of energy, and
that energy and matter cannot be destroyed but only converted to other forms. "
Great numbers of living parenchyma cells usually surround root wood vessels. The living cells in root
wood also "make" many substances essential for tree life. Roots do not have a pith. Roots do not have a
green cortex. Roots do not "make" their own energy. Roots do not have heartwood. Space for storage
of energy reserves is of top priority.

Storage space equals defense

Back to compartmentalization for more on why root rots are cited as tree killers. The good news is that
roots are effective compartmentalizers of infections. The bad news is that when the
compartmentalization processes repeat faster than the ability of the generating tree to produce enough
new healthy wood in new positions, troubles for the tree start. As more and more root wood is
compartmentalized after repeated attacks by pathogens, it is not long before space for storage of energy
reserves begins to decrease. As energy reserves decrease, defense decreases. As defense continues to
decrease, a point is reached where energy reserves are so depleted that further compartmentalization
does not function. No defense! Pathogens can then grow at will in the host. This is how species of
Armillaria and other root-infecting microorganisms serve the final death notice to trees. Much more
still must be said. (Poor Sorauer.)

Root canker rots


Species of Armillaria have a unique ability to rot wood and form wedges into the root bark. In a sense,
Armillaria species are root canker rots because this is also an ability of canker rots of trunks. And, the
fungi that incite trunk canker rots usually infect branch stubs that have weak protection zones.
Protection zones at the base of the trunk branches or root branches depend on energy reserves for
protection substances. The story repeats as energy reserves decrease, protection zones become weaker
and finally lose their ability to resist invasion by the pathogens.

Canker rots are caused by fungi that can rot wood and form wedges into the bark. When conditions are
best for rotting wood, they rot wood. When conditions are not best for rotting wood, the pathogens
form large wedges into the bark. As the bark wedges increase in size, they squeeze and eventually kill
the cambium from the bark side inward. Then the defenseless wood beneath the bark is easily invaded
by the pathogens. In time, the expanded volume of infected wood is compartmentalized. As this host-
pathogen "seesaw" continues, the host can "win" if compartmentalization is fast and effective, and
enough new wood is formed to store more energy reserves. The host begins to "lose" when the
pathogens begin to occupy more and more space.
Perennial trunk cankers have a similar ability to grow slightly in wood and rapidly in bark. The
69
difference is that the fungi that incite perennial trunk cankers are not able to grow rapidly in wood and
cause decay.

Arrow 1 in this spruce root (Picea rubens)


shows the position of an Armillaria bark
wedge that formed several years before the
second wedge formed, as shown by arrow 2.

Predisposition means low defense

Time for Paul Sorauer to enter again. How


does his predisposition concept fit into this
story? First, think about where problems
blamed on species of Armillaria are most
serious. I think you will agree that in urban
areas it will be in places where intensive
work is done to provide beautiful landscapes.
In forests, it will be where the trees are
heavily cut - as in clear cuts, plantation
thinning or intensive selection-repeated at
short time intervals. There must have been a
reason why Robert Hartig spent 30 years studying Armillaria spp. And why it was the first subject in
his first book. The forestry management methods in that part of the world favor conditions that invite
species of Armillaria and other root-rotting fungi. In forests, Armillaria spp. also follow defoliations,
such as those caused by gypsy moth caterpillars, and diseases such as beech bark disease and oak wilt.
Also, mushrooms of Armillaria species are common on stumps. Removal of the top does not mean that
the woody roots die immediately. As the energy reserves in the roots decrease, the point is reached
when defense systems no longer function. The "clean-up crews" enter. Tree removals in urban areas,
even when the stumps are ground down, still provide root wood for opportunistic pathogens. As
populations of the pathogens build up, they may attack trees that have stronger defense systems.
What Sorauer said was that when conditions or other agents cause defense to decrease, predisposition
starts. The hosts become easier to attack or the host is predisposed to attack.

Everyone will obey nature's laws

Agree or not, all living things will obey natural laws of energy and matter. The laws state that no
organism or system will remain orderly (healthy) unless there is a continuous supply of energy, and
that energy and matter cannot be destroyed but only converted to other forms.
The law of conservation of matter "clicks" in when the energy flow of any system becomes inefficient.
The energy still remaining in the system - the tree and especially the roots-will not be wasted. This is
what I mean when I say that the "clean-up crew" enters. Some other organisms will "come in" to use
the remaining energy in more efficient ways. The wood is made up mostly of cellulose, hemicellulose
and lignin. All of these substances have a carbon, hydrogen and oxygen framework and can be utilized
by microorganisms as an energy source for their metabolisms. Animals do not have the enzymes to
make the chemical conversions. M any microorganisms do. The energy in the remaining starch and
wood is then used further. Think what would happen if these natural laws were not operating? We
would have no breakdown of once-living organisms. You can think of life as a journey, powered by
the sun, of a highly ordered group of chemicals, borrowed from the soil. Death is the end of the
70
journey when chemicals and their energy are returned to the soil to be used again for new life.
Everything is recycled. No waste!

As Armillaria infections and infections


associated with other root-rotting fungi
spread into larger roots, the infections are
compartmentalized, but storage space is
decreased to the point where defense
processes no longer function. Then, the
pathogens grow rapidly in the host.

How do the pathogens get into the roots?

Species of Armillaria are ubiquitous in soil.


The black shoestrings, or rhizomorphs, can
easily be found growing around many living,
healthy roots. The fungi in this genus have
been found throughout extremely large land
areas. My point is that they seem to be
everywhere, just waiting for the right conditions to attack. If they are everywhere, why do they not kill
all trees? Just as the sun and the cold are triggers for other problems, so it is with Armillaria sp ecies.
The gun must be loaded or in a state where the trigger, once pulled, will set it off. Again, low defense
is the condition for infection. But where do they get in?
Roots have many branch roots, just as trunks have many branches. As described briefly above, there is
a protection zone at the base of branch roots just as in trunk branches. When energy reserves are low,
the protection zones are weak.
Roots in forests where no human activities have gone on for many years still have many wounds. As
roots squeeze against each other, dead spots and cracks may form. As roots squeeze against rocks, the
same type of wounds may occur. Then there are insect wounds and wounds caused by small animals.
My point is that the pathogens do not have to "look hard" to find openings into the roots.
The rhizomorphs always seem to be there. As wounds are inflicted and as branch root protection zones
weaken, the pathogens attack.
In areas where soils receive high amounts of water, another type of wound or opening can occur.
When water is abundant, the suberin
protection at the base of mycorrhizae may not
form. With leaves, the leaf starts to die and
then the basal abscission zone forms. With
mycorrhizae, the mycorrhizal organ dies after
the abscission zone forms. When the zone
does not form, it serves as the perfect
infection court for microorganisms, such as
those in the genus Phytophthora. The dead
spots could also be opening for other
organisms.

The broken mycorrhiza shows the basal


attachment that could be an infection court
for other root pathogens in the soil. Under
71
ideal conditions, an abscision zone forms first at the base and then the mycorrhiza dies.

What to do?

Now comes the hard part! What can be done to reduce injuries by root-infecting organisms? A major
actor in this story has not been discussed-humans. I believe that humans and their activities are major
causes of root rots, by way of predisposition.
When trees, knowingly or unknowingly, are over-watered (to support weed-free green grass), over-
injected (because you can kill everything, good guys and bad guys and no need for diagnoses), over-
mulched (so what can we do with all these chips?), planted too deeply (we have always done it that
way), over- braced (it won't fall over, even in a high wind), over-amended (maybe if we throw more
stuff on, all will be better), it is a wonder trees grow in our urban areas. And the assaults go on and on.
What must be done to slow the pace of "overs" is to learn some simple tree basics. Ignorance of tree
biology has been, and still is, the major problem of trees worldwide. That goes for urban trees and
forest trees.
¤ For all tree managers, or for people who aim to cultivate trees in urban or forest areas, the ten most
common trees they deal with should be identified. Of all the trees a person looks after, usually 90
percent will be ten or fewer species. Then list-write-at least 20 features about the tree. When there are
removals or logging, take a few minutes to examine the insides of the trees. Start a sample collection.
The more you learn about your trees, the better and faster will be your decisions to have treatments that
promote health.
¤ If you know that large woody roots are infected, do not add fertilizers to those areas or the fertilizers
will benefit the pathogens more than the tree-
¤ If roots must be cut for any reason, make cuts with sharp instruments. No need to paint.
¤ When transplanting trees, always remove broken and crushed roots.
¤ When storms bend trees to the point where some roots are splintered, it is best to sever the root at the
tree side of the splintered area. Care must be taken that the injured root or the severed roots do not
make the tree a high risk for failure.

We need a more complete story if we are to reduce injury caused by root rots

In 1960, I started studies on root rots. Roots of many red pine, Pinus resinosa, in plantations were dug
out and dissected to study Fomes annosus, now called Heterobasidion annosum. Later studies were
done on what was called Armillaria mellea on red spruce, Picea rubens, and beech, Fagus grandifolia.
M any of the beech trees were in decline from beech bark disease. Hundreds of trees were dug out and
dissected. Thousands of isolations were taken from selected specimens. The published results showed
that the infections "followed" the CODIT patterns, and that many other microorganisms - bacteria and
non-decay causing fungi-were involved in the diseases. I also believe from research done years ago that
spores of Armillaria spp. from mushrooms pass through insects, usually fungus gnats, before they
germinate.
In the end, there will always be some bu g or some obvious sporophore on a declining and dying tree.
They will get the blame for the death. When you see these signs and symptoms, think about all the
predisposition factors that set the tree up for the "clean-up crew ." Then pity poor Sorauer! \

72
Water and Trees

By Dr. Alex L. Shigo

Water and energy are tw ins. In many parts of the world, supplies are decreasing as demands are
increasing. Wise management -starting with education -is the answer to this potential problem.

Water as snow adds beauty to these beech leaves. As snow melts, the
water seeps slowly into the soil and run-off is minimized.

Water, water, everywhere, but only 0.05 percent to drink! Oceans cover
71 percent of the earth's surface, but ocean water is too salty for people
and trees. M any plants and a few species of trees do live in salty water.
The salty water makes up 97 percent of the earth's water. Of the
remaining fresh 3 percent, 75 percent is in ice at the poles. The rest can
be used for drinking. However, most of it is inaccessible ground- water.
We are back to 0.05 percent available to us from lakes and streams. We
not only drink it; we wash in it, flush it, and use it for irrigation of grass,
crops and trees as if it will never run out. In many places in the world, it
has run out. As trees were cut the land heated. No clouds formed. No
rain fell.

Water is held in clay soils. This can be very beneficial when in


moderate amounts, but when too much water saturates the clay,
problems start - usually root rots.

Water, trees and life

Arborists know about water best by its amounts in extremes: too much,
too little. Too much brings floods, or when frozen, breakage. Too little
brings droughts. Amounts of precipitation are out of human control.
Humans do bring on tree problems when they water too much, or forget
to water.
Stress is a condition where a system begins to operate near the limits for
the way it is designed. Water is an essential for all life systems to
survive. When too much or too little water is present, the tree system
begins to operate near its limit for survival. Stress. Water - caused stress
is a major predisposing factor for a long list of tree problems that could
end in death. Root problems are at the top of the list. Insects and fungi are easy to see and they will
always be there. Fighting secondary agents of tree problems has become the primary role of many
people. Water as a liquid dissolves many substances essential for the life of trees. Water transports the
substances throughout the tree. Water is essential for photosynthesis and its end product, glucose. As
bound water, it acts as a storage product. The way water changes from free to bound, and back again, is
one the wondrous processes of nature.
73
A Plea for M odern Arboriculture

Years ago I p redicted that in the 21st century, arboriculture would begin
to split as more arborists moved from old arboriculture toward modern
arboriculture. Old arboriculture will not go away. It is, and will be for
many years, the dominant force for tree care.

New people are coming on the scenes, and the scenes, or demands of
the marketplace, are changing rapidly. Survival of any individual or
system depends directly on their ability to adjust to changes. The rate of
adjustment defines the winners. Some arborists believe that chemistry is
not arboriculture, and that it has no place in arboriculture. A few
teachers have told me they do not use my book, Modem Arboriculture,
because it contains some very simple chemistry, which is not
arboriculture. M any teachers do understand chemistry but their
schedules do not allow time to teach it. But, what about the arborists
who are sick and tired of the same old stuff? They want something new and better. It will take time to
bring modem arboriculture into full bloom. A better understanding of tree biology and chemistry is the
basis for modem arboriculture. Sad, but biology and chemistry still frighten many people. Here I give a
brief glimpse of water, one of the most essential substances for trees and for all living things. To be an
arborist and not have some understanding about water is unthinkable for me. I'm sure some arborists
will not read this article. I'm also sure that others will not only read it, but chew it and study it. If you
want more of this stuff, I should be pleased to give it. If not, so be it. I respect trees and arborists. I
believe they deserve and need something new and better, not the same old stuff.

What is water?

Water is a substance in which two hydrogen atoms bond in a unique way to one oxygen atom, hence,
H2O. The unique bonding is so spectacular that water takes on fascinating characteristics. It is the only
substance on earth that occurs naturally as a liquid, gas or solid. All water on earth originally came
from rocks. As the extremely hot, young earth began to cool, gases such as oxygen and hydrogen
escaped from rocks. They collected above the earth, and as some oxygen and hydrogen bonded, the
rains came.

Your basic atom


Atom was the name given to the smallest bit of matter. The word means uncuttable. Of course we know
now that atoms can be reduced or cut further.
There are 92 naturally occurring kinds of atoms. In elaborate laboratories, scientists have increased that
number to 110, as of this writing.
An atom contains at least one central, positively charged body and one circling, negatively charged
body. Every atom is unique in that the number of positive charges normally equals the number of
negative charges. The positive bodies are protons, and the negative bodies are electrons. The circling
nature of the electrons is often referred to as a negative cloud. All atoms except hydrogen have at least
one neutron in their nucleus. The neutron has mass, but no charge. The hydrogen atom has one proton
and one electron, but no neutron.
If the nucleus of an atom could be enlarged to about the size of a dime, the circling cloud of the
74
electron or electrons would be nearly the size of a football field. Think about it. A half -inch cube of
nuclear material would weigh about 10 million tons. The figures lose their meaning because it is
difficult for our minds to grasp these facts. In the end, we must remember the energy and matter are
concepts, and that they are interchangeable.

M ore about hydrogen

Hydrogen is the most abundant atom in the universe. Because of its abundance on the sun, there is life
on Earth. On the sun, the heat and pressures are so great that hydrogen atoms are fused to form helium
atoms. In this fusion process, some matter is converted to enormous amounts of energy. The energy
radiates from the sun as light. Chlorophyll in trees and other green plants traps some of the light energy
that is ultimately used to form glucose. Carbon dioxide and water are key players in this process. This
may be why water is often called the substance of life.
Hydrogen starts the many events that lead to water, energy and life. Hydrogen is a unique atom because
it normally does not contain a neutron. To understand the ways of hydrogen' s single proton and
electron is to understand much about chemistry , life and, here, trees.
The single electron rotates about the proton in a cloud that is commonly called a ring. The single ring
of hydrogen could accommodate two electrons. But, if it did, this would unbalance the charges, and this
won't happen unless something forces it to. Normally the number of protons equals the numbers of
electrons.
M odels have been developed for atoms so that discussions about them could be easier. In the models,
the first ring could have two electrons, and the second ring eight electrons. Of course the "real" nature
of the atoms are replete with exceptions and strange characteristics. However, with water and hydrogen
and oxygen, most of the model terms are applicable.

M ore about oxygen

Oxygen has eight protons and eight neutrons in its nucleus, and eight electrons in two rings. The first
ring is saturated with two electrons and the second ring has six. It can hold eight electrons.
We breathe oxygen so it can combine with hydrogen "left over" from our energy - yielding processes.
When it does connect or bond with hydrogen, we breathe it out as water vapor. It seems that we just
cannot get away from water and life, and in this case, our own life.
Water is also essential for the life of trees, and trees provide arborists with the means of their life and
business.
Oxygen is a product of photosynthesis. We say oxygen is given off to the air. In the process of
photosynthesis - where carbon dioxide and water are the ingredients - the power for the process comes
from the hydrogen in the water. In a sense, water is split, or to be even more precise, the protons and
electrons of the hydrogen atoms are separated. After many chemical processes, oxygen is released.
Oxygen becomes very essential in respiration. In this process, the energy stored in glucose is released
to do the work of life. The products of respiration are carbon dioxide and water. Back to water again.
The processes of photosynthesis start with carbon dioxide and water, and, in the end, the processes of
respiration end with the release of carbon dioxide and water. In all of this, the power of the sun is used
to make life on Earth possible. Oxygen, carbon dioxide and water are the actors. They start and they
finish still being the same actors ready to act again and again for continued new life.
Now if all of this does not "grab you" then there is no hope !

Bonding patterns
75
Atoms bond with other atoms to form dogs, cats, humans and trees. All life forms are made up of atoms
bonded in unique ways, often in the form of electrically neutral molecules.
The strongest bonds are called covalent. With these bonds, two or more atoms share electron fields by
actually penetrating one another's fields. The next level of bonding is called ionic. Each atom or group
of atoms here has a positive or negative charge. Such atoms or groups are called ions. Because unlike
charges attract, ions of unlike charges bond, but do not penetrate each other's electron field. We
commonly call many of these ion combinations "salts." Common table salt is really a crystal made up
of sodium ions bonded to chloride ions. Table salt is not a molecule. When the crystals are poured into
water , the ionic bonds separate. The same processes operate for commonly used fertilizers. They are
salts. In water, their bonds are released.
In the third type of bonding, the atoms or groups come fairly close together, but do not touch. This
bonding pattern is the weakest, yet this pattern is the major one that holds you and trees together. On a
relative numerical basis, consider the holding power of these bonds to be about two or three; on the
same scale, the covalent holding power between two nitrogen atoms in the air is about 190.
Yes, life forms are held together by these relatively weak bonding forces. If this were not so, processes
of breakdown and buildup would not work. No recycling. No new life.
This third type of bonding brings us back to water, and its ingredients - oxygen and hydrogen. The third
type of weak bonding is called hydrogen bonding. Because it is so important, some additional details
should be given.

Hydrogen bonds

Hydrogen bonds are the unique features of water. In summary, oxygen has two positions for additional
electrons in its second ring. Hydrogen has one electron in its single ring, but the ring can accommodate
two electrons.
Two hydrogen atoms bond with a single oxygen atom to form a molecule called water. Each hydrogen
atom bonds on the second ring of the oxygen atom where there is a place for them. When the hydrogen
atoms bond with the oxygen atom, a strange partnership takes place. Each hydrogen atom now has two
electrons in its ring and the oxygen atom has electrons filling the two available positions on its second
ring. Add to this the fact that the hydrogen atoms and the oxygen atom now have their rings saturated,
yet the positive and negative charges of the molecule are balanced! What a process!
There is much more to this story of water. Oxygen "accepts" the electrons of the hydrogen atoms, but it
pulls most of their electron clouds deep into its atom. Another way to say this is that the electrons of
the hydrogen atoms spend much more time deep inside the oxygen atom's ring than they do rotating
about the protons in the hydrogen atoms.
The hydrogen protons as a result are near the outer edge of their ring, with very little electron negative
charge about them. The protons, being positive, exert their charges out from their position on their
rings.
And, because the oxygen has absorbed most of the negative charges of the electrons of the hydrogen
atoms, the side opposite the hydrogen atoms becomes weakly negative. So now one part of the water
molecule has two weak positive points and the opposite side two weak negative points. Such a
molecule is called a dipole. Water is a dipole.
Here is another way to view the water molecule. Imagine oxygen as a large clear ball. Now, mark four
points on the ball all equidistant from each other. M ake two points red and two green. Next, move the
green points slightly away from each other, and move the red points slightly toward each other the
same distance that you moved the green points. The two green points have weak negative charges, and
the two red points have weak positive charges. The red points are positions where the hydrogen atoms
are bonded to the oxygen. The exact points of red are the positions where the protons reside and are
producing the weak positive charges. If you can imagine this three - dimensional model of water in
76
your mind, many fascinating characteristics of water become easy to explain and understand.

Figure 1 : Oxygen, above, has eight electrons in two rings, and


eight protons and eight neutrons in its nucleus. Shown here are
two - dimensional diagrams for three - dimensional atoms and
molecules. All diagrams are from models and the nucleus and
electrons are greatly enlarged. (Red = Positive; Green =
Negative) The hydrogen atoms, below, each has a single proton
and single electron in one ring.

Figure 2: Water forms when two


hydrogen atoms bond with an
oxygen atom. Weak positive
charges extend from the protons in each hydrogen atom, and two
weak negative charges extend from the opposite side of the
molecules

Water is used in
abundance to
maintain lawns,
garden and trees in
some of the driest
parts of the world.

Water and trees were both at the Khyber Pass many years ago, I
have been told. Now, neither are present. The question is, what
part did the removal of the trees play in the problem?

Cohesive water

Water forms drops as it rains and falls on leaves and needles. If


water is poured on a smooth glass surface, mounds will form. If
you pour alcohol on the same surface, no mounds will form.
Why? The answer: water has an abundance of hydrogen bonds;
alcohol does not. Back to our ball model. You can bond one
water molecule with another molecule, or even bond four
molecules with one molecule. However, you cannot have one
water molecule bond its two positive sites with the two negative
sites on another water molecule. Remember, the red dots are
closer together than the green dots. You cannot fit two red dots
77
over two green dots.
Back again to four on one. It is possible for four molecules of water to align themselves in such a way
that they bond one of their dots with a dot of a different color on the ball. As each molecule moves into
position where its positive site bonds with a negative site of another molecule, an active dance goes on.
If you can imagine it, every water molecule is "trying" to bond with another. The problem starts for the
molecules when bonding partners position their other sites too close to similarly charged sites on the
molecules. Remember, unlike charges do attract, but like charges repel. And, because the hydrogen
bonds are such weak bonds, it does not take much to knock them apart. So, the wild dance goes on as
molecules vie for positions only to be knocked out of place again and again. The significance of this
process for life and for trees specifically cannot be overrated. Cohesion makes it possible for water to
cling within vessels and tracheids. The cohesive feature gives us raindrops and water as a liquid at
temperatures below 100 degrees Celsius. M any liquids, alcohol included, form few hydrogen bonds.
Ammonia, which weighs the same as water on a chemical scale, is a gas at normal temperatures - again
because its molecules do not bond together as water molecules do.

Water from liquid to ice

As long as the dance goes on, liquid water exists. As temperatures begin to decrease, the pace of the
dance decreases until, at 4 degrees Celsius, every one gets a last chance to pick a bonding site. Because
many of the molecules that would normally be in the middle of the group now move to outer posit ions
to find a bonding partner, the volume or space occupied by the dancers increases. We say that as
water's temperature drops near 4 degrees Celsius, expansion takes place. As water expands, bottles or
even large rocks can be broken. The power of expanding water has been used by humans down through
history. As a result of further cooling, the dance stops, as every molecule has a position. We call this
state ice. Because ice is less dense than an equal volume of water, it floats - all because of hydrogen
bonds. Some people have said that hydrogen bonds (icebergs) caused the sinking of the Titanic. Yes,
water can be good, and it can be bad!

Water in its solid form (ice) is a major cause of tree fractures.

Bound Water

How do trees stay alive in areas of the world where winter


temperatures are far below freezing? How do trees store water?
Every arborist needs to know something about those two questions,
mainly because many of the major cities of the world are in areas
where winters are cold. The simple answer again is hydrogen
bonds. Let me explain.
Trees are made up mostly of cellulose. Cellulose is made up mostly
of glucose units bonded in ways that cause the units to twist as a
rope does. Water plays an important role here, but the details go far
beyond the scope of this article. Suffice it to say, the removal of a
water molecule between two glucose units results in the cellulose
pattern. The twisting takes place because the glucose units must be
in a very precise position to enable the water molecule's removal. My only point here is that water does
play a major role in the formation of cellulose. The free water becomes available then to the tree.
Cellulose has many oxygen and hydrogen units as part of its makeup. In a sense, the oxygen - hydrogen
units "stick out" from the glucose - now cellulose -molecule. Because each oxygen has a weak negative
78
charge, the site could be a potential bonding site for a positive charge from a hydrogen atom that is part
of water . The story continues with the same theme. As liquid water comes in contact with cellulose,
some of the positive sites on the water molecule bond with the negative sites on the oxygen atoms that
are part of the cellulose. A hydrogen bond again. As more liquid water comes into the same area, the
water begins to bond with other water molecules as it normally does. Remember: Cellulose - especially
cellulose in the middle layer of the second wall of fibers -is made up of many "ropes" of cellulose with
some spaces in between. The water molecules with their hydrogen bonds soon start filling all the emp ty
spaces. As the molecules of water squeeze into every available space, spaces soon become saturated.
This point is called the fiber saturation point of wood, which is the point where all available spaces are
taken by water.
This is usually the normal healthy condition of trees. When this condition exists, pathogens usually are
not able to invade. So, water plays a major role as a preventative against many pathogens.
When water is bonded to the cellulose, the water is called bound water. Because it is bonded to the
cellulose, it does not freeze as liquid water does. Remember, the bonding power of the hydrogen bond
is very weak. It takes little to pull it apart. The bound water not only prevents freezing and acts to
prevent pathogens from invading; the bound water also is a unique way for trees to store water .

Figure 3: A two - dimensional diagrammatic view shows the negative


(green) and positive (red) charges on the water molecule. The
negatively charged sites are farther apart than the positively charged
sites.

Figure 4:

A: The diagrams of two


water molecules show
that the two negative
and the two positive
sites do not align for
bonding.
B: One water molecule can bond w ith another water
molecule when opposite charges are in direct alignment.
C: It is possible to have four water molecules bond with
one other water molecule when all oppositely charged
sites are in direct alignment. When such bonding
arrangements bring like charges too close together, the
molecules move apart, but only to bond again at
different sites. This repositioning of molecules is
responsible for water as a liquid.

From flush to free water

Trees store water as bound water and energy in starch


and oils. When the flush for new growth starts, some of
the stored starch in living parenchyma cells in wood and
behind buds is converted back to glucose. Water plays a
role here also, because to go from insoluble starch to glucose, a molecule of water must be chemically
inserted back into each starch unit. As this process goes on, the glucose dissolves back into the free
water. The glucose in the free water brings on a pull force that easily dislodges more stored bound
79
water. In fact, this process triggers the entire process of liquid transport in trees. It starts the pumps.
But, that's another story about water .

Canker Rots and The Heart Rot Myth


By Alex L. Shigo

Ring rots, when they are canker rots, are major causes
of defect and loss of value in Douglas fir, as shown here,
and in other conifers.

Canker rots: I think I know what they are. But heart


rots? I don't know what they are. The fungi associated
with canker rots produce wedge-like structures into the
bark. The wedges then squeeze and eventually cause the
death of the cambial zone. In a sense, it is as if the tree
is being rewounded periodically.

Heartwood, heart rot confusion

Heart rots are defined as the rot of the heartwood in trees. It is implied that all trees have heartwood,
which is supposed to be the dead non-responsive central core wood of all trees. Further, the heartwood
is thought to be darker in color than the sapwood. The subject gets increasingly more confusing as you
wade through the literature, as I have done. The major problem comes when wood that has discolored
following wounding is called a type of heartwood: wound
heartwood, pathological heartwood, precocious heartwood.
The confusion increases as you search to find a definition of
heartwood. When trees that do not have heartwood are used in
studies that compare heartwood with discolored wood in the
same tree, then it is time to give up or try to bring some sense
to all of this. It has been at least 30 years since I started
writing and speaking out about this confusion in highly
technical and non-technical journals and meetings. When I see
new textbooks and hear some teachers, I know that very little
clarification has come over the years. Science is supposed to
advance as new ideas are presented and as old ideas are
reconsidered and adjusted when necessary. Wood in living
trees is a highly ordered arrangement of cells that are all alive
when first formed by the cambial zone. In time, some cells
age and die and function for transport and support. Other cells
live longer and serve as storage spaces for energy reserves and
spaces for bodies that carry out the essential processes of life.

The fungus wedges associated with the canker rot fungus


developed deep inside this oak. The wedges keep the wood open.
80
Is wood really dead?

A poor understanding of wood in living trees is a major part of the confusion. The great mass or size of
trees is the next problem. To study wood, small pieces were taken into a laboratory and examined
under the microscope. Wood anatomy was born; not tree anatomy! The information was valuable
because products from wood were so important to economics. Further, because wood products were
dead, and wood under the microscope was dead, soon wood was considered as a dead substance in
living trees. Remember, in the laboratory the wood was fixed -killed and prepared -before being sliced
for observation under the microscope. Forest products interests for economic reasons was so high
because forests were thought to be endless. Products research and university studies and research on
wood products were the major activities associated with trees. Tree biology never had a chan ce.
Trees are living organisms! As living systems, trees do respond in order to survive when their survival
is threatened. So simple. So extremely difficult to get accepted! Why? Because if you accept this
simple fact then you must throw out mountains of data and treatments - really myths - based on trees
that have dead wood.

Telescopes and chain saws: research tools

Canker rots is the subject, but to understand the subject, it is necessary to understand why there has
been a problem. Canker rots have been and still are called the "true heart rots." They are called such
because they appear to not fit the patterns of compartmentalization. I am very familiar with this
problem. Some of my dear old research friends of years past did accept parts - but not all- of the
compartmentalization theory. They still reserved the "right" to say that there are "true heart rots." The
true heart rots do spread beyond boundaries, they said. And, they did, as easily seen on cross-sections
of logs. Today there are still many people who believe in true heart rots. Galileo said his critics would
not look through his telescope. My critics will not dissect living trees. (It's great to think that the chain
saw is in the same league as the telescope!) Still. Do these "true heart rots" spread beyond
boundaries? No! These rots follow the theory of compartmentalization exactly, but to recognize this
you must not only dissect trees but also understand
compartmentalization. Every time a living tree is wounded it will
respond by first forming chemical boundaries and later anatomical
boundaries, but boundaries to resist spread will begin to form as
long as there are stored energy reserves.
Canker rots are caused by fungi that have the genetic ability to
produce wedges into bark. As the fungus wedges spread into the
bark they "squeeze" the cambium zone from the outside inward.
In time the cambial zone under the wedge wanes and dies. It is
the same as a new wound. Then the struggle starts as the fungus
"attempts" to grow into the newly declining wood tissues and the
tree begins to respond in ways that resist spread.

Canker rots are caused by fungi that form wedges into the bark,
as shown by the pencil point in this eastern white pine. The fungi
infect the resign-soaked wood and the branch corewood.

81
On species of birch and maple (shown here), canker rot fungi
produce hard masses of tissue that prevent the wounds from
closing. The sexual stages of the fungi do not form until the tree
dies.

The heart rot concept cannot


explain the patterns of
decayed wood associated with
canker rot fungi. This
dissection of an eastern white
pine shows sound wood
between columns of decayed
wood. The heartrot concept is
wrong and must be put to rest!

Ring rots and canker rots

One type of canker rots, called ring rots, go a few steps beyond in
their attack. These rot-causing fungi grow best in wood tissues
that have been altered chemically as part of the tree's defense.
This is best seen in conifers and Eucalyptus species. I call this
action "don't throw me in the briar patch." Remember in the
Uncle Remus story where the Brer Fox caught the rabbit and
wanted to be as mean as possible to the rabbit? The rabbit said to Brer Fox, do anything to me, but
please don't throw me in the briar patch. The fox, thinking this was the worst thing he could do to the
rabbit, quickly threw the rabbit into the briar patch. You know the rest of the story. In a sense the
same actions happen here. The fungus "says" please don't form those awful defense chemicals, and the
tree does. Then the fungus grows rapidly only in the wood that has the defense chemicals. No
competition! The chemicals can only be formed in wood that still contains some living cells. The
"rings" as seen on the cross-cut surface of logs then show the rot patterns that followed the tree
defense. If all of this is so, why doesn't the tree die? Simple. Time. It takes time for all of the tree
response actions to take place, and it takes time for the fungus to spread. While time is going by, the
tree (as a generating system) forms new cells in new spatial positions. So, we have a sort of seesaw
going on as the tree responds, the fungus wedges form, the wood dies, the fungus spreads, and new
tissues form. Because all these events do take time, both the fungi and the tree benefit. It is difficult
for many people to understand the ways natural systems work where two "teams" are "playing" against
each other, and both teams win! Trying to explain dualities goes far beyond the scope of this
discussion. You either accept them or you don't !

Armillaria spp. are canker rots

Armillaria species that incite rots of woody roots are canker rots. The fungi produce wedges into the
root bark and thus keep expanding the volume of rot. As the rot spreads, tissues that would normally
store energy reserves decrease in volume. A major function of woody roots is energy storage. As
storage decreases because of decreasing space, a time comes when defense also begins to decrease.
When defense, which requires energy, decreases, compartmentalization also begins to weaken. As
compartmentalization weakens, the pathogen spreads faster. When compartmentalization no longer
82
functions, the tree part, or the entire tree, dies.

Heart rot or center rot

Back to old-fashioned heart rot. Again, heart rot is defined as the rot of the heartwood. Further, it was
believed that all trees have heartwood, and that heartwood is dead wood, and that the heart or center of
all trees is dead, and therefore back to all trees have heartwood. This is a perfect example of circle
thinking that starts and finishes on premises that are thought to be correct, but really are not. First, all
trees do not have heartwood. Heartwood does not have living cells, yet heartwood will discolor further
or form boundaries when wounded. Next, central rots were common because trees have branches! As
branches died and stubs were infected, the pathway was always to the center of the tree. Heart rots or
center rots were common long before machines went into the forest! So-called saprots were rare
because machine-caused wounding was rare. That has all changed in the last century, but the confusion
started long before the last century.
If all of this is so, and it is so simple to understand the truth, why was the truth not known long before
this? Mainly because forests were thought to be endless, and that the major problems facing humans
were problems of products. Trees were everywhere. Why worry about mere trees?

Canker rots are common in species of poplar, as shown


here. Branch stubs are the usual infection courts. To
understand canker rots, cross sections and longitudinal
sections must be studied.

Tree biology still has acceptance problems

As a young researcher, I went to wood meetings all over


the world. Those meetings were all aimed at products,
not living trees. It is difficult to believe that tree biology
is "a new kid on the block." You will never learn about
living things by studying dead things, or by calling
living things by names that belong to dead things!
Canker rots are all too common. Ring rots are the most
economically damaging defects in pine. Fornes pini and
its variants have been called the most economically
damaging fungi in the world. Of interest is the damage
caused by ring rots and canker rots in Eucalyptus
species.
This fact is still not accepted. In 1980, I tried to publish
a paper on compartmentalization in Eucalyptus species
in Australia. The proposed paper was shot down in
ways that made it impossible to fly again. The real
problem there was not the acceptance of
compartmentalization, but rather the fact that if they did,
they would have to accept the cause - fire wounds.

83
Canker rots are common in many species of eucalyptus. Note the broken branch stub and the bands of
decayed wood separated by sound wood in this eucalyptus species.

Note the w edge formed by the canker rot fungus in the


bark of this birch. As the cambial zone is squeezed to
death, the tissues beneath it are killed and invaded by
the canker rot fungus.

Five rings of decayed wood are in this section of an


eastern white pine. The fungus infects wood formed by
the tree in response to the infection.

Know your marketplace!

Why do arborists need to know this stuff? The quick


answer is to enable them to make better decisions
faster. When more tree decisions are made better and
faster, everybody wins, especially the tree.
Information is power. We hear it every day. We see
decisions being made that affect every phase of our
lives. I believe every arborist needs to know some
history, some biology, and some facts about our
modern marketplace. People who hire arborists to
provide a service demand that the service be better, faster, and less expensive than in the past. The
marketplace is the cornerstone of the business world. Enough.

What should be done?

Once a canker rot is identified, the defect will only get worse. Trees do have ways to slow the process.
The seesaw does go both ways. The pathogen gains some space and then the tree strengthens the
newly injured area by producing not only more wood in the area of injury, but a type of wood that is
much stronger than normal wood. The wood is woundwood. Woundwood is wood that forms about an
injured area. The wood differs from, normal wood in that it has more lignin and the cell types and
arrangements are such that they favor long-term support. That is the good news. The not-so-good
news is that woundwood is very "expensive." Here we go back again to the benefits of health. And
with health we go back to energy reserves. A tree that has high amounts of energy reserves will be able
to form ribs of strong woundwood. A sick tree or tree under any kind of stress will not. We cannot get
away from stress, health and energy. The arborist who understands this will treat all trees, including
those with canker rots and other injuries, in ways that will increase health and energy reserves and
decrease stress. Easy to say. Not so easy to do. Too often the decision comes to remove the tree.
How do canker rots start? (Remember, ring rots are types of canker rots.) Fungi and associates infect
wounds and branch stubs in four basic ways:

1. annual cankers, where a shallow wound is infected and spread is limited to one growing period;
2. wounds where successions of organisms may or may not cause increasing columns of
compartmentalized discolored and decayed wood;
84
3. perennial cankers, where wounds and stubs are infected and the pathogens invade bark first and
wood later in a seesaw pattern;
4. canker rots where the organisms infect the wood first and then move to the bark.

The center of this fir is sound. A ring of decayed wood


surrounds the sound center wood. Note the w edges
formed by the canker rot fungus in the bark to the sides
of the branch stub (finger).

Little is known about the early stages of establishment


of the pathogens that incite canker rots. Here I give you
my opinion based on research and observations. I
believe the major infection court is dying, not dead,
branch bases. At this point they may not be seen or
recognized as stubs. I believe further that the most
serious type of infection court, or individual, is one where there are still living cells but low or no
defense system. (Examples with humans are easy to come by.) Next, at the crotch of branches where
the trunk collar and branch collars meet, there is a gap that has been long recognized for annual plants.
A similar gap occurs in woody plants. Further, for a brief time during leaf flush, the cells in the gap
zone have little bark protection, even on healthy branches. When this area has stressed or dying cells,
I believe this is the site and the conditions for infections that incite perennial cankers or canker rots.
The major difference between the two is that with perennial cankers, the pathogens invade the bark first
and later grow only slightly in the wood. With canker rots, the pathogens infect wood mostly and
penetrate the bark only slightly with their wedges. I have never seen a perennial-type canker that did
not have an old branch stub or branch core wood in the center. M ost canker rots follow the same
pattern, but I have seen a few that did obviously start at trunk wounds.
M ost canker rots and perennial cankers will be located between the four to 20 feet above ground level
on trunks. Be on alert for them as you climb. The fungus wedges can be verified by the swollen areas
about old stubs, and by exposing the wedge by cutting into the swollen area. In conifers, the old branch
core wood may be replaced by the wedge material. Such a wedge is often called a punk knot.
On angiosperms, the swollen areas rarely produce sporophores. Sporophores may form on some
standing trees after they die, but usually the fertile fruit bodies do not form until the tree is down and in
contact with the ground. The same situation occurs with some perennial cankers, though not all. A
longstanding forestry practice has been to remove trees with canker rots and to do so in ways that keep
infected trunks above the ground. In arboriculture I am all for the use of attractive trunk sections for
landscaping, but great care must be made never to use a trunk section that has canker rot.
What about chipping trunks that have canker rots or
perennial cankers? Can chips used for mulch support
growth and fruit bodies of pathogens that incite canker
rots or perennial cankers? I am not aware of research
on these questions. I believe that as long as wood only
is chipped there is little or no problem. However, if
bark remains on some chips it is highly possible that
perennial canker-causing pathogens could be
disseminated. Perennial cankers commonly have fruit
bodies on the bark about the canker.

This section from a Douglas fir is over three feet in


diameter. The center is sound. Rings of decayed wood
85
are separated by sound wood. The heart rot concept states that heartwood is decayed after wounding.
If this is so, why the sound center of heartwood?

Arborists are providers

Arborists, like other professionals, are providers. They provide more than services and products that
optimize the high quality time for trees. Arborists should provide information to tree owners. The
information bonds the arborist with the tree owner. Information connects. Connections - isn't that
what it's all about?
Before I end this discussion, let me say a few words about one of my favorite subjects - myths
associated with terms. The subject here is still canker rots. Let us look closely at this term. A canker
is a localized lesion. A lesion is any dead spot. The lesion could completely cover an organism. Yet,
when the lesion has definite limits or borders it is called a canker. Next, rot is a term indicating the
breakdown process of wood. Rot is an ongoing or continuous type of process, or one that is spreading.
Now, look at the two words again. One means confining or limited, and the other means continuing or
spreading. So, now we have a spreading confining term. Such a term is called an oxymoron. To add
more confusion to the subject, consider the term "sterile conk," given to some canker rots such as those
incited by Inonotus obliquus (Poria obliqua) on species of Betula, and Poly porus glomeratus on
species of Acer. A conk is a fertile fruit body. So here we have a sterile fertile fruit body. Crazy?
Oxymoron? Yes. No wonder there is confusion.

86
California Oak Problem
By Dr. Alex L. Shigo

Trees don't die suddenly from natural causes, unless the causes are fires or storms. However, trees can
show symptoms of decline suddenly after long periods of predisposition followed by infections.

Oozing brown sap is a symptom of the disease.

Friends have sent me reports about "sudden oak decline" in


California. Calls have also come in. Friends have asked for
my opinion. I have not seen the trees. I have seen no data, or
dissection and autopsy reports. If the decline is sudden, the
growth increments should show this. Regardless, as
requested, here are some of my thoughts.

I start with the premise that the decline is not sudden. Next,
because a species of phytophthora, which is ubiquitous in
those soils, has been isolated, I believe that some predisposing
factors had to affect the boundary walls of suberin that should form before non-woody roots, especially
mycorrhizae, shed. My first thought is a problem due to waterlogged clay soils. I know the areas with
decline have clay soils, with some areas having thick layers of heavy clays. I have dug roots in those
soils and have examined soil pits. I have dissected many trees in that area, including live oaks and their
close relatives. I do have some " inside" information on the soils and the trees.

My first thought was, about waterlogged clay soils. I called my son Bob in Corona, Calif., and asked
him to please send me the weather data for that
area for the past few years. He faxed me long lists that went back to 1919! I found what I was looking
for from weather data from Berkeley and North Coast Drainage areas. From December 1996 through
January 1997, the area received 19 inches of rain. Two months! From November 1997 through
February 1998, the area received 36.71 inches of rain! Nothing going back to 1919 even came close to
that amount for those time periods. The time periods of the two heavy rains fit exactly the periods
when non-woody roots and mycorrhizae should be shedding and new ones forming.

I know some people say they saw the decline in 1994 and 1995. The heaviest rain year in that area was
in 1983 with 48.42 inches. But most of the rain fell in M arch. Records are not complete for 1991 and
1992. In January 1995, 10.37 inches of rain fell. Because there are so many microclimates in the area,
and because heavy watering of lawns is common, it is possible that waterlogging at critical times could
have occurred. This could explain the earlier reports.

I may be all wrong, but I believe if researchers check the weather periods I checked they will also see
the amounts of rain that fell during these critical periods.

The heavy rains at those times were a "freak" of nature. The trees are paying the price!

We know that we should treat the tree as well as the disease, but that seldom happens. If the decline is
sudden; autopsies should show this easily. (See my article on predisposition and suberin boundaries in
the November 2000 issue of TCI.)
87
Here is a summary of my thoughts: Heavy rains at critical times caused waterlogging in clay soils;
suberin boundaries did not form as non-woody roots shed or died; many infection courts; low amounts
of air in soils; infection by species of phytophthora; decrease of root energy reserves; buildup of
pathogen populations; root defense decreases further; invasion spreads rapidly; top decline becomes
obvious; trees begin to die.

88
Tree Chemicals that Kill or Cure
A Continuing Plea for Chemistry in Arboriculture
By Dr. Alex L. Shigo

Climber beware!
Poison ivy can be
beautiful in the fall,
but chemical
volatiles from the
plant can cause
serious skin
problems for many
people.

Chemicals are atoms arranged in an almost infinite number of ways. As the kind of atoms, their
arrangements, and their numbers change, so do their properties. The keywords to remember when the
word chemical is used are atoms, numbers, arrangements and properties. The kill or cure part of
chemicals comes to play when "amounts" or "dose" are used. The best example of dose is any fast-
release fertilizer. A little promotes lush growth while a lot will kill the plant. Is the fertilizer good or
bad? Is it a helper or a killer? A professional is a person who understands dose.
We are bags of chemicals, and so are trees. We and trees grow and mature as chemicals increase and
change over time. In time, chemicals are recycled for new life. Time becomes a major variable. A
major responsibility of arborists is to provide care for trees in ways that optimize time for high-quality
growth.

Cherry blossoms are a sign of spring. When leaves that fall are injured, chemical reactions take place
that form cyanide-based poisons. If animals eat many of the fallen injured leaves, death could follow.

Trees and aspirin

Trees through the ages have been the source for chemicals used by humans for killing and curing.
Some tree species stand out in history. The most commonly used chemical or medicine today
originally came from the bark of the white willow, Salix alba. The medicine, of course, is aspirin. It is
not only a human painkiller - analgesic - but it is often recommended for lowering the risk of heart
attack. The bark was used by early humans for pain reduction, but it was not until 1899 that the
89
chemical was discovered. Acetylsalicylic acid is aspirin but salicylic acid, the base molecule, is in a
large family of analgesics. Exactly how aspirin works is still not well understood. It is known that the
chemical blocks an enzyme that is necessary for nerve impulses.

Mango is in the same family as poison ivy. Some people are


affected by chemicals in the skin of the fruits.

Trees and malaria


Trees come to the aid of humans again with the bark of a
tree native to South America. Ancient scholars believed that
the cure for any human disease could be found in the plants
growing where the disease was most severe. So it is with
quinine, an alkaloid from the bark of the cinchona tree that
grows where malaria is a severe disease.
The mode of action of quinine is fascinating. The
chemical binds with the DNA in infected cells. M ore
interesting is that the greater the infection, the greater the
binding. Once DNA is disrupted the cell cannot divide.
M aybe the ancients knew more than we give them credit for.
Quinine is well known also for its place in tonic to make a
gin and tonic. In higher doses, quinine causes uterine
contractions in animals, and this action could lead to
abortion. Dose is the thing!
An alkaloid is a naturally occurring molecule that contains
nitrogen. They are bases (alkaline) and many are poisonous
as doses increase.

Recycling? Maple syrup cures the "sweet tooth." Maple


syrup is an ingredient in many spring tonics. Sassafras tea
sweetened w ith maple syrup can be a cure for many ailments.

Trees and cancer

90
Taxol is a tree chemical that has become very well known for its ability to stall some human
cancers. The chemical comes from the bark of the Yew, or Taxus, tree that grows in the forests along
the Pacific Northwest and into Canada.
The mode of action is similar to quinine and many chemicals used to stall or cure cancers. The
chemical taxol attacks the apparatus that is supposed to stretch as cells divide. Taxol prevents the
stretching and thus inhibits cell division. Remember, humans are regenerating systems. Parts grow,
break down, and are replaced in the same spatial position. Cancer cells don't like to break down. They
only want to divide. So any chemical that prevents cell division gives the cancer cells some problems.
Taxol does give cancer cells some problems for rapid division.

Ginkgo biloba has become a favorite for many people who


believe in the medicinal pow ers of plant chemicals. The
extract is supposed to benefit memory. Here is a ginkgo tree
in its native land of Korea.

Trees and other medicines

Aspirin, quinine, taxol - some big chemical actors - and all


from trees originally. When the benefits of trees to humans
are listed, the medicines are often left out. M ost people are
not aware that a tree in India, the Neem tree, has been at the
center of international legal disputes. Why? Because the
local people have used the chemical powers of the tree for
medicines for centuries. Now some companies want to
concentrate the chemicals and trademark them for sale. This
situation is not unique to India. Many tropical trees are being
tested for the powers of their chemicals. And, again, local
governments are stepping in to regulate or stop possible
exploitation.
Most chemicals found in trees are in a very dilute form.
Usually the chemical must be increased in concentration
before it can be used for some purpose. The ancients cooked
or boiled the tree parts; usually the bark. M ost of the
chemicals function as enzyme blockers. This is how most medicines work. To explain this in an
extremely crude way, the chemicals "fit" into places where their presence blocks the next "fit" of a
pathway.

Enzymes: Biohelpers

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Enzymes are chemicals that "help" natural essential processes to go on at highly efficient rates, while
the enzyme itself is not "used up" in the process. Enzymes keep heat down while reactions speed up.
If enzymes did not do their work, the processes themselves would "burn out" the cells.
Enzymes are big molecules with a protein core. Proteins are connected amino acids. Most enzymes
have two other parts: one is a vitamin and the other is usually some element. Enzymes are often
likened to keys. For a key to work, it must not only go into the slot, but the notches at the end must be
arranged so that they fit exactly in the correct position to turn on a device or motor. If a key notch is
altered, the key might slide into the slot, but it will not turn. Any chemical that connects onto an
enzyme might so alter its shape that the function of the enzyme is blocked. M any enzymes are specific
to different plant and animal species.
The way many pesticides and herbicides kill is that some introduced chemical alters some unique
enzyme that fails to work, thus causing death.

Eucalyptus species have chemicals in their leaves that are


used in many medicines, especially cough drops. The leaves
on this eucalyptus species is the favorite of koalas in
Australia.
Tree defense chemicals

Trees produce chemicals that can kill other plants, insects


and even animals, including humans. Chemicals that leach
from tree parts that kill other plants are called allelopathic
substances. Juglone from black walnut roots is one well
known example. The list of allelopathic substances is long.
As I will discuss later, most of these killer chemicals have a
similar base or core structure that includes a phenol or
terpene. But, before I go on with that, I would like to
mention some other common killer chemicals against insects
and animals.
About 25 years ago, the talk was all about trees sending
signals to produce chemicals to kill attacking insects. The
experiments worked well in the laboratory, as so many do,
but they did not work outside, also, as so many do not. The
story was that once a few insects began to attack one tree,
that tree would "send out" chemicals that would alert nearby
trees to start producing more chemicals that would stop the
attack. In theory, and in the lab as stated, it all fit. In the
field, no proof. Again, the killer chemicals were phenol
based, which can kill insects.

Lichens are tree associates. Their growth indicates clean


air. Many species of lichens will not grow in polluted air.

92
Penicillium species are common inhabitants of fresh tree wounds. Penicillium species and other non-
decay-causing fungi, I think, are nature's real "wound dressings." Penicillium species produce
antibiotics that have saved many lives.

Trees and human toxin

Now, onto some "big ones" that can cause human problems, even death: Just as I gave some good
news for aspirin, qui- nine, and taxol, the bad news keeps corning back to phenol-based chemicals.
M any trees and other plants produce chemicals that irritate or sicken humans, but one tree native to
south Florida and the tropics can do you in. It has the ominous common name of poison wood, which
tells you something. The tree is M etopium toxiferum. All parts except the pollen of this tree are
deadly. The tree belongs to an infamous family that causes many animals and humans problems -
Anacardiaceae. Other notable trees and vines in this family are poison ivy, poison oak and poison
sumac. M ango belongs in this family and some people are highly sensitive to the skin of the fruit.
Another large family that has some notable species is the Roseaceae. The major genus that produces
harmful chemicals is Prunus. And the species are Prunus serotina, black cherry, peach P. persica, and
apricot, P. armeniaca. Cyanide is the basic culprit. In peach and apricot pit s it is in a molecule called
amydaline. It has the taste of bitter almonds. The pits of cherries are much smaller, but they also have
similar molecules. In black cherry, cyanide-based chemicals are also in the leaves, and especially in
injured leaves. Death of cattle is well known after chewing leaves, again especially fallen injured
leaves, have been eaten. A note here is that healthy cherry leaves contain the nontoxic cyanide
precursor prunasin. When the leaves are injured, the prunasin is split to release prussic acid or
hydrocyanic acid. Cyanide blocks oxygen from bonding with hydrogen, thus blocking the release of
the hydrogen in water. In cyanide poisoning, one could still breathe even though death is due to
suffocation.

Pathway blockers

Blocking enzymes and pathways - and nasty phenols and terpenes - seem to repeat as the cause of
problems. Some discussion on enzymes has been given. Here is a little more on the other subjects.
Cells are highly compartmented bodies. Or, you could say that many smaller bodies are highly
compartmented in cells. The cell bodies are compartmented, yet they pass along their products to other
bodies in the cells. Each body in a cell has a "job" to do. The job is to process chemicals in a highly
ordered and efficient way, as in an assembly line. These processes are called biochemical pathways.
The pathways differ from the conventional straightforward assembly line in that there are loops along
the way. The loops are places where energy must come in to power the pathway along. The rules for
the pathways are similar to your computer rules. Unless every dot, dash or comma is in absolutely the
correct place, the system won't work. To make an extremely long story short, some of the nasty
chemicals disrupt or block the pathways. It really does not matter where in the sequence of items the
block comes; in a short time the entire pathway scrambles or shuts down. As more pathways shut
down, it is not long before chain reactions go on as others shut down. In the end, the entire system
shuts down. We call it death.
That is the worst-case scenario. There are ways out of this. M ost pathways come with possibilities
for shunts - detours. If you can get to the blocked area soon enough and encourage a shunt, the
pathway could continue. M edicines do this by blocking the blockers. The shunts work as a temporary
93
fix while the blocker is being unblocked. (Not very scientific, but that's the way it is.)

Trees, energy and life

Life is a state where a system run by the power of the sun is so highly ordered that it repeats. We
have seen that the system has many safeguards, redundancies, and protection and defense schemes.
That is the good news. Disrupting agents (non-living) or pathogens (living) have ways of causing
disorder in the system. That is the bad news.
Trees produce chemicals that defend and protect their system. The major killer chemicals are
phenol- or terpene- based. The major targets for these killer chemicals are the pathogens that attack
trees: insects, animals, bacteria and fungi. Sometimes humans get into the animal zone as shown here.
But most of the time it is the others that are the targets.
An extremely quick summary must start with photosynthesis, where the energy of the sun is trapped
in a molecule of A TP, adenosine triphosphate. Water and carbon dioxide are the main chemicals.
Through many elaborate chemical processes, glucose is formed. In the process, oxygen is given off. In
living cells, the process of respiration releases the energy stored in glucose and releases the carbon
dioxide and water. O xygen is required for this process. So, we start with carbon dioxide, water and
oxygen, and we end with the same actors ready to act again as they trap, store, transport and use the
energy of the sun. The end product we call life. Enough!

Glucose is the key

Glucose is the key molecule here. It is used to power living processes, but it is also used in other
ways. It could be used to form cellulose, hemicellulose and lignins. Or it could be altered to a
nonsoluble state for future use - starch or oils. Or, it could be used to form a long list of chemicals
essential for life as defense or protection chemicals. Here I focus on defense chemicals - phenols,
terpenes.
Phenols are found mostly in angiosperms and terpenes mostly in conifers. Phenols have the basic
pattern of a six-carbon ring with an oxygen and hydrogen on the second carbon. There seems to be an
almost endless number of ways to connect the rings. As the rings connect, they are called
polyphenols. Their major actions seem to be blocking enzymes, especially in the fungi that cause wood
decay. As always in nature, there are exceptions. Some of the first fungi that are able to invade tree
wounds are those that are able to not only grow in the presence of polyphenols, but can actually break
down the chemicals and use them as an energy source. The major group are Phialophora species and
related fungi. Many are closely associated with bacteria. I believe this is an extremely important
subject that is not being studied. I suppose that splitting wood and isolating microorganisms is just not
"hot" now. Too much work.
Terpenes are connections of isoprenes. Isoprene is the basic building block for many resinous
chemicals and even latex and rubber.

Carbon and the chemistry of life

Organic chemistry is the chemistry of carbon. Exceptions are diamonds, graphite, coal, oil and a few
other substances that are not considered organic. When you hear "organic," you know there is a carbon
there someplace. Phenols and terpenes are organic molecules. They have carbon frameworks. When
you connect carbon, hydrogen and oxygen, you can get thousands and thousands of chemicals for life.
And when you add nitrogen, phosphorus and sulfur, you have molecules that make up about 98 percent
by weight of all living matter.

94
Tree associates and more chemicals

Trees not only produce chemicals that kill or cure, they also support, through intimate associations,
other organisms that also produce chemicals that kill or cure. Fungi that produce fruit bodies we call
mushrooms head the list. M any mushrooms are edible, and others are not. Ancients used mushrooms
in many of their ceremonies. M any of those mushrooms were the fruit bodies associated with
mycorrhizae. The real killers are those in the genus Amanita.
Here is a fungus fact that relates directly to arboriculture but few people are aware of: One of the
most well-known and famous fungi in the world grows on fresh tree wounds. This fungus produces a
chemical so powerful that millions of people have been cured of many diseases that could have killed
them. The fungus is Penicillium notatum. I isolated this fungus frequently from the surface of fresh
wounds. When this fungus is around, few others will be. To this day I believe that species of
Penicillium, Mucor, Aspergillus, Alternaria, and a long list of yeasts and bacteria, are a tree's first line
of defense after wounding. In a sense, these wound surface organisms are nature's real "wound
dressing." It is the only wound dressing that I know of that works. The problem is that it comes free.
It is so sad when you consider how much time and money has been spent and money made disrupting a
beneficial natural defense. But, you have heard it before. Some are still not listening!

Time to accept chemistry in arboriculture

It is time to accept chemistry in arboriculture. Arborists that touch trees every day need to know
about tree chemicals. Every species has something, from the fragrance of a pine to the sweet smell of a
birch. Every time you cut into a tree, you release some chemicals. These chemicals tell you much
about the tree.
In the end, the more you learn about the way trees work, the better and faster you will be able to work
on them.

95
Mycorrhizae and root hairs are abundant and active in winter.
Our tree concept must be expanded to include these facts.

By Dr. Alex L. Shigo

Problem
With repeated observation of any part or process of a system, facts emerge that must be included in
the concept of that system. Consider the cell theory, germ theory, DNA, antibiotics, and even the
branch collar. In all cases, new facts made it necessary to expand our concepts for these systems.
Almost all of the studies on trees have been done on seedlings, or on aboveground parts in summer.
Few studies have been done on mature trees outside. Deadwood anatomy has been and still is confused
with living tree anatomy. An understanding of anatomy must precede any understanding of
physiology.
Even fewer studies have been done on below ground parts of trees in winter in temperate climates.

Solution
This article discusses results of observations on belowground parts of trees in winter from 1992 to
present, in New Hampshire, United States. Some philosophy is given as a plea for M odem
Arboriculture. An expanded concept of a tree is given. Trees are viewed as opportunistic multiple
systems. Abiotic and biotic factors are discussed as initiators of processes.

Dormancy
Trees have five major phenological stages: Start, leaves, growth, storing and rest.
Reproduction is a sub-pattern that usually starts near stage two. It is impossible to generalize these
patterns because there are almost as many variations as there are species. However, every tree system
must start again from a quiet period. Every tree must produce new leaves or needles for
photosynthesis. Every tree must increase in mass; this is growth. Every tree must store ingredients
essential for survival. Every system must rest. Most trees also have reproductive cycles. Some are
extremely complex in their patterns.
Dormancy is usually thought of as a period of rest where processes essential for life function at a
minimal rate. Dormancy does not mean stopping! Stopping is death.
The second law of thermodynamics states that no system will survive unless it receives a continuous
supply of energy to maintain order. In order to survive, trees must also have a supply of water and
elements. These points must be remembered as the discussions go on.

Trees as business conglomerates

Trees are often referred to as living systems. M any of the problems with understanding phenological
stages could be clarified if a tree was viewed not as a single system, but rather as a cluster of sy stems
connected in highly ordered ways. Maybe a tree is more like a business conglomerate. If the business
conglomerate analogy could be accepted, then many different parts of a tree could be in different
phenological stages at the same time. M any aboveground stages are different from those
belowground. In the sense of natural dualities, the business conglomerate analogy is a better way to
view a tree.

Physiology

96
If a tree is a cluster of systems, and all systems
require a continuous supply of energy to maintain order,
then it appears that the different systems would require
energy that came from storage. It is difficult to accept
that energy from photosynthesis could supply all
systems at the same time. Some timing or allocations
for timing must be there, and also, a supply of energy in
a stored state.
This we know is true because trees first form ATP,
which is used to form glucose which then forms
cellulose, starch and a great number of other
substances. Still, glucose is the fuel that makes it
possible for the tree to survive. Trees do have ways of
storing energy reserves and for regulating the use of the
energy for processes to survive.
Water is another essential for life. We think of water,
mostly, in its liquid form. Water molecules
enzymatically
removed or
inserted are
essential for
many processes and products, from cellulose to starch and
back to glucose. Trees store water as bound water on the
hydroxyls on cellulose. The water is bonded to the cellulose
by very weak, but significant, hydrogen bonds. When any
force greater than hydrogen bonds is exerted, the bound water
then moves to liquid water again.

Water can also exist as a gas or as a solid. As temperatures


decrease, the constantly changing positions of the water
molecules slow, and if temperature continues to decrease, all
possible positions
for hydrogen
bonding will be
occupied and
molecular motion
stops - ice
formation.

Energy flow
Water and energy flow downhill, or from high
concentrations to lower concentrations. When ice forms in
the spaces between cell walls and even in cell walls, liquid
water flows out of the cell and death from dehydration
usually
follows in plants that are not cold hardy.

But if ice does not form, then dehydration may not occur.
When temperatures decrease below 0 degrees Celsius, and
97
the water is pure and quiet, ice may not form. This is called supercooling of water. When nucleators
are present, the ice will form as crystals about each one.

Element storage

It seems that if energy and water are stored, and that elements are also essential for life, then there must
be some way the tree stores elements. It is difficult to conceive that growth and other element-
requiring processes receive elements at the time they are required. There must be a storage process for
elements.
Elements in molecules often
precipitate when pH increases. This
we know for iron, manganese and
other elements. We know also that
some elements such as potassium can
be bonded in many chelated-like
forms. Potassium is an element that is
absorbed in its pure form. When
potassium is in high concentrations,
the electrical resistivity (as measured
by a Shigometer) of the wood is very
low. In summer during the growing
season, electrical resistivity in k-Ohms
is low. As winter approaches, the
electrical measurements increase
greatly. Summer could be in the 8 k-
Ohm or 10 k- Ohm range while winter
could be in the range of a hundred, or
even higher. If potassium is a factor
in electrical resistivity, then it must be
bonded in ways that prevent its action
as an electrolyte.
Elements must be stored and I
believe that much of the absorption of
elements occurs in cold soil in
temperate climates.

Photos in books

Results showed many active mycorrhizae and root hairs in soil under cold water covered by ice.
Ectomycorrhizae and endomycorrhizae from cold soil are shown in color in my book, Tree Anatomy.
On the cover of another book, 100 Tree Myths, I have a color photo of ectomycorrhizae and root hairs
from a Pinus strobus. There are other color photos of mycorrhizae from cold winter soil in Tree Pithy
Points. (The link to the books)

Life in cold soil

The mycorrhizae are not only in nonfrozen soil under frozen soil, but from soil under water that was
covered by ice. Further, many of the mycorrhizae and root hairs at 1,OOOX with a phase microscope
showed abundance of hyphae inside the non-woody roots. The nucleus in a root hair is at the tip of the
cell. Nuclei in all shapes were viewed. Active nuclei are round and as they age and die, they become
98
spindle-shaped.
I had other people excavate roots and view them under my dissecting and phase microscopes. The
mycorrhizae were always there. My neighbor who teaches a biology course at the University of New
Hampshire routinely got samples of mycorrhizae for his class from soil under water and ice from my
pond.

Survival

Trees are clusters of highly ordered systems; a conglomerate. Each system requires time, optimum
conditions, and a ready supply of energy, water and elements. Each process takes time. In temperate
climates there is just not enough time during warm periods to have every process of every system
conduct its activeties.
Survival in living natural systems depends on the rate of adjustment and adaptation to abiotic
systems beyond the control of the biotic systems. Abiotic systems provide space, temperatures,
elements, water and energy. The positions on Earth where these factors exist are very different, yet life
forms have developed in almost every conceivable place, including ocean vents, to boiling springs, to
cavities within deep ice.
It is not difficult to expect processes of some long-term systems optimizing places and conditions
considered not the best for life. Absorption of elements developed or adjusted to low temperatures.
This then extended the time for a larger cluster of systems to survive. Trees have always been and still
are the most massive, tallest, longest living organisms on Earth. To be such superior survivors without
the benefits of movement, the tree systems adapted and adjusted to every possible condition present
over a period of one solar year.

Absorption

Mycorrhizae are organs made up of fungus and tree tissues. The organs facilitate the absorption of
water and elements essential for healthy growth. Trees have many redundancies, some for short-term
conditions and some for long-term conditions. Root hairs are finger-like extensions of single epidermal
cells that contain very little lignin in their walls. The cell walls of the epidermis do have cellulose,
which is not the best of boundaries or membranes for absorption of water and elements. Root hairs are
usually ephemeral. They grow as new roots grow and they go or die as woody roots begin to form a
bark that contains suberin. Their numbers are usually so great that even if they are poor absorbing
structures, they still absorb some water and elements.
Mycorrhizae present a system of synergy. The fungi receive more and the tree receives more with
this association. Mycorrhizae live for long periods; a year or more. (Note forms that bud.) |
A mycorrhiza starts when a hypha from a germinating spore infects a newly forming non-woody
root. When some fungi infect a root, they control the further development of that root. Some fungi
penetrate the root and hyphae spread far beyond the root. It is not uncommon to see some mycorrhizae
with hyphae completely wound about the organ. Root hairs do exist on some mycorrhizae.
The question quickly arises about how fungi can exist in roots in soil under water. To make sure the
roots were from neighboring trees, samples were collected from streams where only one tree species
was growing. Large woody roots with smaller masses of roots were dug. The mycorrhizae were on the
tree roots, mostly Acer rubrum and Ulmus americana.
The fungi in roots under water appeared typical for species close to Glomus - a member of the
Zygomycetes. Chlamydospores of several typ es were abundant from the winter samples. (The
organisms in the roots could be oomycetes, which are close to water molds. If this can be shown, then
the organisms would be better classified as endophytes. There is so much yet to be learned.)

99
M embranes

Membranes are nature's


discriminators. M embranes keep things
in that should stay in and keep things
out that should stay out. When
membranes lose their ability to
discriminate, the cell will die. When
many cells die, the organism will die.
Membranes and bonds are extremely
important. Bonds hold matter in place
and the bonded matter is further kept in
place by some membrane. The basic
unit of life - the cells - speaks to this
point.
Plant cells have vacuoles and turgor
pressure. Animal cells have neither.
Plant cells have a continuous symplast
made possible by plasmodesmata.
Animal cells have another means for intercellular communication called channels.
Root hairs have cellulose as the major substance in their outer membrane. Fun gi have chitin, which
contains nitrogen, in their outer membrane. Chitin must have unique characteristics for absorption.
Fungi have hyphae that grow through a
substrate. Energy -yielding substances,
water, essential elements, and vitamins
must be absorbed through the chitin-rich
membrane of the hyphae.
The connection of fungi with trees
optimizes two absorbing systems -
cellulose in root hairs, and chitin-rich
substances in hyphae. Mycorrhizae with
root hairs have both systems.

Respiration

What determines what stays in and


what comes in? And what drives this
process of absorption? No system can
start itself.
Respiration starts the absorption
process and once started, concentration
gradients and the Le Chatelier principle
keep it going.
Trees are multiple systems operating
in states of dynamic equilibrium. There
is the appearance of balance or the static
state while really many processes are
moving at equal rates in opposite
directions.
M any tree processes can be explained by
100
the Le Chatelier principle. Natural processes move toward a state of balance, but when they do reach
balance, they die.
Yet, as one part decreases or leaves the equation, the process moves in that direction, again in an
"attempt" to establish balance.
An understanding of dynamic equilibrium and the Le Chatelier principle are essential to an
understanding of not only absorption, but many other tree processes. Remember, balance means no
movement; death!

Connections

Nitrogen is essential for growth. What pathway operates for entrance of nitrogen through a membrane
into tree roots? And, how does all of this relate to mycorrhizae being abundant in cold winter soil?
Here are some additional thoughts based on points of chemistry and results of observations that
repeated.

Chemistry behind absorption of nitrogen

Compounds of carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, sulfur and phosphorus make up about 98 percent of
the mass of trees. Carbon, oxygen and hydrogen come from water and carbon dioxide; but where do
the others come from and how do they get in?
The elements are absorbed as ions. Ions are molecules, or elements, that have a positive or negative
charge. Like charges repel, and unlike charges attract. Ions move.
Nitrogen enters as nitrate anion or as ammonium cation. Phosphorus and sulfur enter as molecules
bonded with oxygen as anions. Each element enters in its pure state. Ions of sulfur, phosphorus and
oxygen are big and heavy. In ways I do not understand, the fungi with chitin in their hyphal walls
facilitate the absorption of these ions. The absorption of phosphorus by mycorrhizae is one of their
most important functions.
Nitrate ion has a molecular weight of 62. Ammonium ion weighs 18. Now back to respiration.
Energy from glucose from stored starch in living root parenchyma cells is made available for tree
processes by respiration. Respiration is an energy - releasing process. Products of the process are
carbon dioxide and water. When some carbon dioxide dissolves in water, carbonic acid forms. The
acid dissociates to form hydrogen ions that bond with water to form hydronium cations and bicarbonate
anions. Hydronium weighs 19 and bicarbonate weighs 61. When you add 19 and 61, 80 is the sum.
When you add the weights of nitrate and ammonium, you also get
80! On the tree side of the rhizoplane, the two ions weigh 80, and on
the rhizosphere soil side, the ammonium of 18 and nitrate of 62 again
weigh 80. Coincidence? I wonder.
Back to cold soil and cold water under ice. First, water. Cold
water contains more oxygen than warm water. Oxygen is a
requirement for respiration!

Clusters of ice crystals form in minute cavities. Soil does not freeze,
but the water in soil freezes.

101
MYCORRHIZAE IN COLD SOIL

The ice melted when I placed this sample under


the microscope. The sample came from soil
that had ice crystals in the cavities. The soil
came from my back yard in January. The soil
surface was covered with snow. I believe that
mycorrhizae and many other organisms do not
freeze, but supercool.

In soil below 0 degrees Celsius, clusters of


ice crystals form in minute cavities. In a sense,
soil does not freeze, but the water in soil
freezes. That is not as important as the fact that
cold soil will have many ice clusters. I believe
the ice clusters in soil act in a way similar to the
sheets of ice over water.
Plants that are not cold hardy die from
dehydration because water moves out of the
cell, because water moves from high
concentrations to lower concentrations. As ice
forms in soil, liquid water moves toward the ice
clusters. The abiotic cold factor then acts as a
trigger for molecules to move. It is fascinating to know that light heat from the sun triggers processes
that make life possible - photosynthesis. And, low temperatures also trigger life processes.
As water moves toward ice clusters, air with oxygen fills the cavities. Many living organisms -
bacteria, fungi, mites, thrips, nematodes, enchytride worms, amoebae -live in the oxy gen-rich cavities.
And, roots live there also. Abiotic factors trigger biotic processes!
The rhizoplane is the boundary between soil and living roots and hyphae. The mycorrhizae serve
both tree and fungus. In roots in soil under water, I believe the endomycorrhizae benefit from the ready
supply of carbon from the tree. In ectomycorrhizae, I believe the fungi and tree benefit from
absorption through a chitin-rich boundary. I believe also that hyphae that grow out from mycorrhizae
obtain some carbon from decomposing wood and leaves.
Trees, as all living things, pay taxes. Taxes are paid in the sense of exudates that contain carbon.
M any soil organisms benefit from the "taxes" and in return the organisms make elements available for
the trees. The words of Galileo come to mind as he was faced by his inquisitors. Galileo said God
wrote two books - Nature and Scriptures. The problem, he said, was that few people have ever read or
know about the book of Nature, and until Book 1 is understood, Book 2 will never be understood.
They did not understand what he said. They issued his sentence! (I am now working on Book 1.)
Natural systems have developed in ways that benefit high-quality survival. Systems in tropical
climates are different from systems in temperate climates.
Back to rhizoplanes and the 80, 80 idea. Respiration and the Le Chatelier principle work to keep the
processes moving. The natural "attempt" for balance keeps getting disrupted as one part of a two-part
system keeps moving to a decreasing state. For example, to move or be absorbed into a root, the
molecule must be in a soluble ionic state. This state is soluble in water also, and as water moves in
soil, the ions move along with the water away from the target living system. To say it another way, the
102
same ions essential for life also move "downstream" to the groundwater or on to the ocean, where new
and different life forms exist. Indeed, the natural systems function to maintain life and non-life, and
these processes go on, and will go on, without the intervention of humans. This is what Book One is
all about.

Philosophy

"Always" is what I believe in. Where does a circle start? I believe that philosophy is a mental trip
around a circle. Always.
Life forms and abiotic forms move toward balance. When balance is reached, the nature of the form
changes; death. When abiotic forms become so highly ordered, we call the resulting form "living."
When living forms become balanced, we call the resulting form "dead."
So long as movement is ordered, life goes on. Dynamic equilibrium gives nonmoving forms, such as
trees, the appearance of balance, while actually many systems are moving.
Nature is a super, multiple system made up of what we call living and nonliving forms. Forces
external to Earth - the sun - initiate processes of life and death.
When these powerful forces begin to be recognized, then many parts will come together.
In the end Modem Arboriculture will come, albeit slowly, mainly because old arboriculture is
accepted by many people and organizations as it assures economic gains. A new train is coming. It is
filled with students who have different ideas and values for life. This train includes the quest for
solutions that can only come from biology and Book 1, chemistry.
The train is called Modem Arboriculture. It runs on the energy of connections.
The lack of knowledge of tree biology has been, and still is, the major problem for trees and tree
workers worldwide! Learn about trees. Connect with nature. Touch trees.

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By Dr. Alex Shigo

WARNING! Learning about lichens can become addictive!

Customers often ask about things on and near their trees. If you know, fine, tell them. If you do not
know, say you will find out soon and get back to them. The more you know the better for your
credentials, and the next job.

What are lichens?

Lichens are organisms made up of fungi -


mycobionts - and photosynthetic algae,
cyanobacteria, or both, - photobionts. The
connections between the organisms are so highly
ordered that the organisms repeat. There are at
least 30,000 known species of lichens world-
wide. Lichens are micro ecosystems. The body is
called a Thallus. They come in many shapes, sizes
and colors.

The algae and cyanobacteria (old name, blue-


green algae) contain chlorophyll that traps the
light energy from the sun, and passes some of it
on to the mycobionts. The fungi have haustoria,
which are finger-like projections that penetrate
each cell of the photobiont. Most cyanobacteria
fix nitrogen, which means they have an enzyme
system that converts atmospheric nitrogen to
ammonia and ammonium ions. The ammonium
ions then act as building blocks for many other

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essential chemical compounds, especially proteins that build mass of an organism, and enzymes that
make processes move in a highly ordered way.

Where do lichens grow?

Lichens can be found on many different surfaces, from rocks, soils, trees, dead materials, and even old
rusting machines, especially abandoned cars. They often appear as thin or thick paint blotches on tree
trunks. They seem to be every place where others could not or would not grow. They grow under
conditions that would be extremely difficult, or impossible, for other organisms. For example, they
grow far beyond the tree lines, and are major energy sources for many other land organisms, especially
large animals like reindeer and caribou.

Do lichens harm trees?

If lichens cause disease of trees, can they also cause diseases of


rocks? Silly, YES! There are no data that shows lichens cause
tree or rock diseases. Yet, this does not stop some people.
Believe it or not, some people charge uninformed customers to
remove lichens. Sad, indeed!

The beard-moss lichen can hang several meters from trees,


usually trees such as species growing in very cold climates
near the tree lines. It is often confused with Spanish moss.
Spanish moss is a flowering plant, and pine- apples are in the
family. Pineapples are very far removed from lichens.
Whether the lichens help the spruce trees, or limit
photosynthesis, nobody knows. And, as with lichens, some
people charge customers to remove Spanish and ball moss
from trees that grow in warm climates.
I hope you are beginning to understand now why people need
to know something about lichens, and other things on trees. Lichenology needs much attention from
research.

Symbiosis or controlled parasitism?

The lichen experts are still not sure whether the mycobionts enslave the photobionts, or whether both
benefit all, the time as symbiosis, leading to synergy where all partners benefit far beyond their abilities
if growing alone. I'm no lichen expert, but I believe the latter is true, and synergy is at work.

Lichens are masters of dormancy. They can survive for long periods under very harsh conditions.
When conditions do become favorable, they are able to respond rapidly, and grow rapidly. Consider
that they grow where very few to no other organisms can grow. In favorable places they can be so
aggressive that other organisms have difficulty gaining space. They are abundant in the tropics, and
dry deserts, and very cold places. Again, they seem to be everywhere!

M any experts think lichens were some of the first organisms to colonize land surfaces on young earth.
The root-like organs of lichens are called rhizines. The rhizines penetrate rocks and aid
decomposition. Lichens also produce acids and other chemicals that break down rocks and other
materials. The materials are also used to support growth of the lichens. In a sense, the rocks are long-
term or very -slow-release fertilizers. The rock decomposition minerals start the formation of soils. As
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lichens die they add to the organic material to the soil. Again, for these reasons, I believe they are
synergistic, and one partner is not enslaving the other partner. M any people believe that so-called
higher organisms became higher organisms as they connected with many other organisms
(mitochondria?). M aybe the lichens got the message first. Who knows?

Are lichens of any value?

The wool for the original Harris Tweed coats was dyed using materials from lichens. The spread of
radioactive materials from Chernobyl was traced
using lichens because they concentrated the
radioactive contaminants in their parts, and the
lichens were then eaten by large animals. Lichens
are used for food in many parts of the world,
especially in Asia. Their extracts are used for per-
fumes. They are very sensitive to pollutants, and are
used to detect their presence. If lichens die suddenly,
a real pollution problem is on the way. New
medicines are coming from lichens. Some lichens
are known to produce antibiotics. M any countries
are now keeping a close eye on lichen collectors, and
forbidding the export of lichens.

I have only touched the surface of this subject. It


needs much more attention. But, be careful, and
remember my warning at the beginning! Go out and
connect with some lichens; touch them, and don't
forget on the way to TOUCH TREES!

Lichens growing on an old, rotted log.

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