Tag Archives: trees

The Morel of the Story

April 5, 2017 by
Photography by Doug Meigs
Illustration by Mady Besch

Morel-mania usually begins around mid-to-late April. Inconsistent Midwestern weather prevents forecasting the exact start of morel mushroom season year-to-year.

Morel (aka morchella) mushrooms begin to flush en masse when spring rains alternate with patches of sunshine atop warming ground temperatures.

Morels are distinctive and easy to identify, with their porous and sponge-like brownish heads atop tan/white stems. Their caps might also be described as honeycombed and cone-shaped; they come in grey (smaller) and yellow (larger) varieties.

Foodies covet the delicious morsels of fungal delight. Morels are known for a unique nutty flavor. Popular recipes include: battered and deep-fried, scrambled with eggs, used as garnish, or dried for later consumption.

As a general rule, the morel season coincides with the blooming of lilacs. Morels also return to the same place every year—if their mycelium underground remains healthy. That means avid mushroom hunters often keep their favorite spots a secret.

If you see one morel, stop. Slow down and scan the ground. They grow in clusters. Morels hide in the deep woods, near the bases of old-growth trees, overturned trunks, and decomposing vegetation. They pop from grassy areas, near the banks of rivers, and on hillsides.

Along with monitoring lilac bushes, paying attention to the weather forecast helps foragers to prepare for morel season. Be ready for periods of sudden downpours of rain combined with warm daytime temperatures (70 degrees or more) and nights that linger above 40 degrees for at least four days in a row.

If you anticipate a sunny day following a torrential spring downpour, get ready. Put on your rain jacket, and rush to your favorite mushrooming spot as soon as the rains lift.

Grab some good mud boots (or old sneakers), and make sure you have a mesh bag that allows the mushrooms’ spores to escape and spread. Local outdoors shops sell mesh bags for morels. Onion or potato sacks from the grocery store also work well.

If you’ve never been mushroom hunting, it’s time to start begging friends to show you how. Or, do a little research and go explore any publicly accessible backwoods along local rivers.

There are several popular local destinations for morel hunters. But any densely vegetated public land (with plenty of overturned trees) along the Missouri River or Platte River could yield a plentiful haul of morels. That is, if the area hasn’t been picked over already.

The website morels.com hosts a useful and interesting Nebraska forum. Other useful resources can be found at thegreatmorel.com, morelhunters.com, and the “Nebraska Morels” Facebook group.

Beware of gun-toting hunters in the woods. Morel season corresponds with the spring turkey hunting season. Also, avoid trespassing. Common courtesy (and the law) necessitates seeking permission to hunt for mushrooms on private property.

Remember that wild mushrooms can be deadly. Only pick and cook mushrooms you can identify with complete confidence. Search online for “false morels” and make sure you can tell the difference. False morels are poisonous.

In 2016, the website of Nebraska Game and Parks maintained weekly morel reports from April 13 through May 11. The Game and Parks website also provides tips for locating morels, and even suggests a few popular mushroom hunting grounds.

Proactive scouting is a good strategy—if only to monitor the human traffic in the woods. The morel season around Omaha usually only lasts from two to four weeks, depending on weather conditions. Sometimes the peak of the season takes place in May.

Evidence of over-picked stems and decaying mushrooms indicate that the morel season is well progressed.

Remember: if you share a mushroom hunting spot with a “friend,” there is a very good chance they will tell someone else. Then, all those other folks might just go pick all the morels while you’re stuck at work, in school, or caught in some other less fulfilling endeavor.

Heed the moral of this morel story. When the lilacs bloom, somebody is probably picking over your favorite morel grounds. So, if you’ve got a good spot, consider keeping it a secret.

Visit outdoornebraska.gov/morel for more information.

Morel Mushroom Hunting Sites

Suggested by Nebraska Game and Parks:

Public areas near rivers:

  • Eugene T. Mahoney State Park
  • Indian Cave State Park
  • Louisville State Recreation Area
  • Platte River State Park
  • Schramm Park State Recreation Area
  • Two Rivers State Recreation Area

Old-growth forests and creeks at:

  • Branched Oak State Recreation Area
  • Burchard Wildlife Management Area
  • Grove Lake Wildlife Management Area
  • Pawnee Lake State Recreation Area
  • Twin Lakes Wildlife Management Area
  • Yellow Banks Wildlife Management Area

 

This article was printed in the March/April 2017 edition of Omaha Home.

The Ash Borer War

March 2, 2017 by
Illustration by Matt Wieczorek

Tree lovers beware! An emerald ash borer infestation is coming to the Omaha metro. Jonathan Larson urges homeowners (specially those with ash trees on their property) to be on the lookout for little green bugs. Larson, an entomologist for the University of Nebraska, says the tiny, boat-shaped, metallic-green beetles are smaller than “the size of a penny.”

Although native to East Asia, invasive emerald ash borers were first discovered within North America in Michigan during the summer of 2002. Douglas County suffered its first confirmed infestation last summer, when a sick ash tree at Pulaski Park in South Omaha revealed the bad news.

Ash trees have no natural defenses against the ash borer. So, Larson expects the epidemic to be substantial. He compares the potential damage to the epidemic of Dutch elm disease in the 1970s and 1980s. Larson expects increasing confirmation of ash borer infestation over the next two to three years.

“If we don’t take the proper precautions, we will lose a lot of trees,” he says.

Precautions include yearly pesticide soil drenches for ash trees under 20 inches in diameter or biannual injections for trees over 20 inches in diameter. Larson says treatments range in price from $20 to $290; however, the cost of tree removal is also pricey. Larson believes that removal will be inevitable for untreated ash trees. He says ash borers are really good at finding trees, and they don’t usually miss one.

Larson advises landowners to remove ash trees from their property if they don’t plan on applying treatments. “Spend it all at once on removal or over a period of time on treatment,” he says. He recommends annual inspection of healthy ash trees by an arborist to help decide whether to treat or cut.

Hal Freeman is one such certified arborist and the owner of Omaha Tree Care. He offers treatments to some clients but recommends cutting down most ash trees “rather than fighting it.”

He generally recommends removing the trees before infestation. He says that ash trees “could be seen as a liability” and “could affect the value of your home.” The dilemma bothers Freeman because, as an arborist, he prefers to save the trees.

Steve Torpy, another certified arborist and owner of Torpy Tree Service, recommends choosing good candidates and offering treatments. He says that a large-scale loss of ash trees “would be devastating to our urban forests.” He cites many benefits of having established ash trees, such as saving on electricity and gas, and slowing water run-off. “There’s a lot of benefits people don’t think about,” he says, arguing that “saving the trees can be cheaper than the cost of removal and replacement.” An arborist can help a tree owner make an educated decision, so long as a tree is not already infested.

Infestation begins when ash borer larvae chew serpentine tunnels into the ash tree, devouring the phloem and cambium layers underneath the bark, destroying the tree’s ability to circulate water and nutrients. Larson says that early in its infestation, the ash borer inhabits the very top of the ash tree. The top begins to wither first. Larson says that after four or five years, the beetle moves down into the lower portions of the tree. After six or seven years, the ash borer infests the trunk. Then, he says, “there is not much you can do.”

Larson says there are four key symptoms of infestation to look out for: dieback, brooking, exit holes, and woodpecker feeding. Larson says “dieback” occurs in the very top of trees when the borers eat the inside of branches and the tree can’t grow leaves on those branches. “Brooking” refers to new chutes growing out of the lower portions of the tree. Larson says it is a common sign of infestation. “Exit holes” are visible in the bark of infested ash trees when the adult beetle emerges from the tree. He also says that an increase in woodpecker activity in an ash tree can be a telltale sign of infestation.

According to Larson, ash borer infestations have already been identified in more than 25 states. Larson says the insect has limited flight capabilities and has spread primarily through transportation of firewood and mulch. “People load up a truck with firewood and cross county lines.” It is unclear exactly how the beetle was brought over from China, but Larson says the prevailing opinion is that it arrived in some sort of wood product.

Larson says Nebraskans should be optimistic about saving their ash trees because the professionals have been working for nearly nine years in preparation for the epidemic. He has personally seen the devastation of the beetle in his home state of Indiana, one of the first states hit, and he says that experience is on our side now. Public awareness will help tree owners prepare. He encourages people to report green bugs that may be ash borers.

“I would rather look at 100 [insects] and find one that is [ash borer] than have someone get one and not call us,” he says. “They are beautiful insects but so destructive to trees.” OmahaHome

Visit emeraldashborer.info for more information.

 

This article was printed in the March/April 2017 edition of Omaha Home.

Colorado Modern

January 22, 2017 by
Photography by Tom Kessler, Kessler Photography

How do two people, each with an appreciation for very different tastes in design, come together to build their perfect dream home?

When our client came to us, the husband leaned more towards a contemporary, midcentury modern look, while the wife loved a Colorado-inspired design. We knew the challenge of marrying these two concepts would be great. But the final product would be even greater.

Lisa Cooper, Allied ASID, and Kris Patton, ASID, feel there is no higher compliment than to obtain new clients by referral from a previous client’s friends and family. This new home construction project was no exception. In order to realize the clients’ multipart vision, we teamed with Marshall Wallman, vice president of design at Curt Hofer & Associates, and his team to create this dream home.

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Our clients enjoy the topography and ambience of Colorado and the architecture of that region. They also like things a bit more contemporary, so we tried to meld together a vintage Colorado midcentury modern look for their new home. While the home itself was meticulously planned to achieve this design, the lot the family selected was just as important. A space with abundant trees would set the perfect tone for a woodsy, private residence.

The home’s curb appeal sets the tone for the design elements that wait inside. The entrance—with its vast windows and incredible sightline from the workspace all the way to the dining room—makes a strong introductory statement.

Main and lower levels of the home feature similarly strong design conceptualization in the fireplaces. They aren’t located on exterior walls, as fireplaces typically are; rather, the hearths are positioned in the centers of the rooms (to be more architecturally integrated into the spaces). Carefully placed windows allow for ample natural light to pierce the space. Not having a fireplace in a traditional placement, flanked by windows, adds interest.

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Powder rooms on each level also provide an opportunity to get creative, and they incorporate high-end elements such as a stainless steel vessel sink, which perforates a quartzite countertop, and walls tiled in a 3D relief.

A color palette of natural tones with blackened steel blue, fern green, aged ore, slate gray, and metallic burnt merlot creates an ambience that possesses an elusive balance between vintage and modern appeal. We relied upon myriad materials to achieve the design our clients desired. Natural stone, used in both the exterior and interior of the home, gives a rugged, earthy feel. A mix of concrete, weathered and reclaimed woods, organic natural stone surfaces, and quartz work symbiotically. Wood ceiling details, a kitchen backsplash fashioned of fern gray subway tiles with a vintage pattern, and handcrafted wall coverings all add to the unique flavor of this home.

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Perhaps one of the most striking elements of the home’s design scheme is the incredible use of light fixtures as art pieces. In an effort to avoid a predictable sea of sameness, we used a multitude of finishes from bronze to antique brass, to polished nickel, creating an acquired look in which each piece can be outstanding.

People oftentimes look at lighting as functional, and they forget that light fixtures can be beautiful, artistic pieces in the home. For this project, we used sconces in the hall to transform industrial design into artful sophistication. The dining room fixture is a chandelier crafted of Cupertino wrought-iron branches, each supporting a delicate chain adorned with a single crystal bead. The entry pendants are made of distressed mercury glass, dressed in antique brass chainmail. And the nursery fixture is feminine and fresh, suggesting a vintage flower design with its glass petals and chrome detailing.

The challenge of melding our clients’ appreciation of contrasting aesthetics of design proved to be a thought-provoking opportunity to create a true standout of a project… and their enthusiasm encouraged our efforts. They seemed to truly enjoy the process, expressing energetic and positive feedback on every aspect of their new home construction. The end result was a dream home with a cohesive design and a unique look…and two very happy homeowners.

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This article was printed in the January/February 2017 edition of Omaha Magazine.

Visit asid-neia.org for more information.

MEET THE DESIGNERS

Cooper

Lisa Cooper

The interior design industry is fast-moving, challenging, and multifaceted.  I love that I have the opportunity to be creative and technical, all in a day’s work. Our clients are amazing people, and the projects that I’ve had the chance to work on have been extraordinary.

Patton

Kris Patton

Design is my passion, and to have the opportunity to receive an education and the experience it takes to gain knowledge and expertise in this industry is such a privilege. I have amazing clients and have had the chance to work on incredible projects.  I wouldn’t trade this career for the world!

 

Hunting Fall Oyster Mushrooms

October 7, 2016 by
Photography by Doug Meigs

Fall is the season when local woodland wanderers stock cellars with oyster mushrooms. These fungi are no secret to Nebraska mushroom hunters. The white-to-tan fan-shaped, or oyster-shell shaped, mushrooms sprout from the sides of trees and logs. Given the right conditions, they will even pop through snowmelt. A single find is often bountiful; a good haul of oyster mushrooms can exceed 20 pounds. They can be dried, pickled, or canned. They pair well with nearly every dish. Oyster mushrooms make an extra-special stuffing for your Thanksgiving guests.

Chris Wright is a mycologist with special interest in oyster mushrooms. Wright has a Ph.D. in plant, soil, and microbial sciences and is the executive director of Midwest American Mycological Information. He researches how oyster mushrooms break down biopollutants.

Patrick McGee approaches a tree laden with oyster mushrooms.

Patrick McGee approaches a tree laden with oyster mushrooms.

Wright also regularly finds and eats wild oyster mushrooms. He points out three species of these mushrooms in the Midwest region: Pleurotus ostreatus (the predominant species), Pleurotus populinus (characterized by a white to pink fan), and Pleurotus pulmonarius (the so-called lung-shaped oyster). They are not difficult to identify. Wright says decurrent gills (those running down the stalk) are a distinguishing characteristic of oyster mushrooms. The fungi also have a white to lilac spore print on paper. Wright says it is difficult to mistake something poisonous for oyster mushrooms; however, there is one poisonous look-alike that mushroom hunters should be aware of—Pleurocyubella porrigens.

When asked where to find oyster mushrooms, Wright says, “Look in the woods or on your supermarket shelf.” He also says oyster mushrooms are saprotrophic—they recycle nutrients locked up in woody matter, i.e., “They are a wood rot fungus.”

Oyster mushrooms can be found on ash, aspen, cottonwood, and poplar trees. They will push through the bark of trees after a cold rain. They can sometimes be found in public parks and in neighborhoods, especially on freshly cut trees. Sustainable harvesting requires removal of only the fruiting body and allowing some mushrooms to remain for reproduction.

Wild or domestic, they’ve become a popular commodity. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, from 2015 to 2016, the nation’s oyster mushroom production measured roughly 3,749 tons. In 2016, the total value of oyster mushroom sales surpassed $36 million. Whether you buy them or find them, Wright says they all smell “mushroomy.”

“It is a mild smell. Not a strong odor,” he says. “They will pick up the flavor of what’s cooking—garlic, etc.”

He says they have a relatively soft texture and are a nice complement to stir fry or steak. Wright thinks that wild oyster mushrooms differ from commercial mushrooms.

Wild oyster mushrooms grow in a great variety of hues, like a fall bouquet. They smell like rainfall—a trait that cannot be substituted. They are biochemically unique and may play a role in cleaning our planet. Native to the Great Plains, they are delicious and easy to find during this time of year.

Visit midwestmycology.org/Mushrooms/Species%20listed/Pleurotus%20species.html for more information. 

Disclaimer: Some varieties of wild mushrooms are poisonous, even deadly. If you choose to harvest or eat wild mushrooms, do so at your own risk.

OmahaHome

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Be Our Guest

August 27, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

“They tell me, it’s up to you to change things out. We trust you.” Alex Ostblom, a landscape designer for Lanoha Nurseries, strolls across a newly transformed Westside lawn, naming flowers off the top of his head. Impatiens, begonias, mandevilla, and sweet alyssum are planted in great swaths of color, sweeping along sidewalk, driveway, and around to a brand-new back yard. Guests to the remodeled home might never suspect what the place looked like just a few months earlier.

Ostblom explains that the homeowners wanted a lawn that matched their refinished house’s new capabilities: to blend in with the rest of the stately neighborhood and to provide a perfect space to entertain family members and close friends. “Other than that,” he says, “they didn’t have too many particulars.” So Ostblom let his creativity loose, beginning the design process in March and construction in May. The entire project was completed by June 15.

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The first order of business was to redesign an unsightly retaining wall that led around the north of the house to the back yard. Originally made of concrete block, the five-foot wall created a tight alley between the house and a small mountain of unusable back yard. Its considerable height so close to the back of the house blocked off half of the dining and living room windows. A cramped patio made a stab at bringing hospitality to the space.

To simultaneously create a much less imposing wall while also making the yard itself usable, Ostblom removed tons of dirt to create tiers of lawn that allowed him to install a limestone wall less than two feet tall. The limestone complements colors in the house and can actually be found in the landscaping of nearby homes, bringing the property more into the neighborhood’s fold. Large blocks of the limestone accent the front and back yard, “giving the grandkids something to climb around on,” Ostblom points out.

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Thanks to the greatly shortened wall, guests in the dining and living rooms can enjoy a panorama of seasonal annuals (“One of the owners just loves lots of color,” Ostblom says), a rose cutting garden, and mature evergreens. “They wanted everything to look like it’d been there for years,” Ostblom says, so Lanoha Nurseries set field-grown spruce and conifers in place with machinery. “That’s a one-time deal,” he explains. “If the trees don’t take to this well, we can’t get the equipment back in here to put in more of that size.” So he’s monitoring their progress closely, already eyeing some barely noticeable brown needles on a spruce. “That one might be under stress from over watering.”

Frequent entertainment of friends and family meant the homeowners needed a large, welcoming space. In particular, they wanted a gas fire pit large enough where several people could comfortably gather. The idea of an L-shaped outdoor kitchen was tossed around, but the couple decided instead to place a simple grill out of sight around the home’s south corner to ensure that the fire pit remained their outdoor gathering place. A gas line leads from the house to the grill; no empty propane cans here.

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Ostblom notes that establishing such a mature landscape within six weeks calls for careful attention to how light will change over the seasons. Most of the yard is in at least partial shade, particularly in the front yard and to the north. To the northeast and east, the yard transitions into full sun. To cope with the variety of landscape elements (varying light, drainage, and plants with differing needs), Ostblom says he redesigned the home’s irrigation entirely. “They have turf, trees, annuals…it all requires different watering.” To facilitate easy maintenance by Lanoha Nurseries without disturbing the homeowners, Ostblom had the irrigation clock moved from inside the garage to just inside the gate in the backyard.

“I visit about once a month,” he says, though he admits he makes the rounds in the neighborhood frequently, checking in on this and other landscaping projects for any signs of trouble. “Communication. That’s the biggest part in making sure it all looks amazing.”

It’s Not Too Late to Water!

December 25, 2012 by

Omaha’s thousands of trees are in danger. This summer’s unprecedented heat and drought have put even mature, established trees in peril. Trees cannot endure a period of extended drought without help. If trees are not rehydrated soon, they will not be able to survive the winter, let alone fight off insects and disease next year. If the Ash Borer reaches Omaha, our ash trees may be unable to take up the nutrients they need to fight the insects.

As early as August, many trees in Omaha began “shutting down” in an attempt to conserve water. When this happens, growth ceases and plants prematurely lose their leaves. Trees already have next year’s buds. The drought not only affected last year’s tree quality, but has the potential to significantly affect trees’ appearance this year. This drought is unprecedented to our generation. Most trees have not experienced summer conditions like this before.

There’s still time to save Omaha’s trees. It’s important that tree owners take the initiative to water trees. It’s a misconception that large trees have roots deep enough to get to underground water. The majority of feeder roots are actually in the top 12-16” of soil. Established trees (5 years and older) are best watered with soaker- or drip-irrigation hoses. A regular hose running at a trickle is much less effective, as the water often runs beyond the target zone and pools in unhelpful areas.

Water should not be targeted against the trunk of the tree. Tree trunks can become subject to disease and insect problems if moisture is concentrated next to the trunk. A tree’s “root zone” actually spreads 2 to 3 times wider than the tree’s canopy. Water must be applied directly to this target area. Watering for short bursts can lead to additional drought damage. Shallow watering forces oxygen out of the soil and results in oxygen starvation of a tree’s roots. What our trees need now is consistent, deep watering.

Trees need 10 gallons of water for every inch of diameter of trunk, measured 2 feet up the trunk of the tree. For example, a 7-inch diameter tree requires 70 gallons of water in each section of the root system covered by the soaker hose or stationary sprinkler. A hose open at half pressures takes five minutes to produce 10 gallons of water. Therefore, each section of a 7-inch diameter tree’s root zone must be watered for 35 minutes. It may take several days of watering to cover the entire root zone.

If there’s no rainfall, trees should be watered once a week during the growing season, continuing on a regular basis until rain returns. The arrival of winter does not mean it’s time to stop watering. Winter drought can affect both evergreen and young hardwood trees. Water once or twice per month between October and March on warm days as long as the ground is not frozen.

The best time to water is at night between 9pm and 8am, as trees refill water reserves during the night hours. Watering at night allows for effective use of water with less loss from evaporation. This assures that more water moves into the soil and tree. The second-best time to water is late afternoon.

The best way of knowing if you’re getting water deep enough into the soil is to use a screwdriver. It should glide through the soil in the area you just watered to the depth of at least 8-10 inches with little or no resistance. Don’t be surprised if you hit concrete-like soil about 3-4 inches down. Water in shortened sessions until able to get water to penetrate. Don’t be surprised to find the soil almost repelling the water until sufficiently hydrated.

Younger trees require a similar approach for watering, but the root area is much less. A tree needs about one year per inch of trunk at planting time to establish a root system. It’s very easy to overwater the soil surrounding a newly installed tree. The root mass and a few inches beyond are critical areas during the tree’s establishment period. Every year, roots expand into the surrounding soil, creating a wider area to be hydrated in dry periods.

Here at Lanoha Nurseries, we are happy to answer questions and walk tree owners through the watering process. We care about all trees and want to ensure that Omaha’s trees stay safe and healthy.

Call to speak with a Lanoha professional at 402-289-4103 or stop in the Garden Center at 192nd and West Center Road.