Urban Forest: Not a contradiction but a critical resource overhead photo of a community with low residential buildings and many trees blue sky with a few white clouds

By definition, a forest is a large area of land covered with trees and understory growth. Traditionally, these parcels of land are often imagined as plant-dense woodlands with a diverse mix of species layered from tall trees down to mosses on the woodland floor.

Bald cypress tree

Lessons learned: Bald cypress is a tree to know

Don’t you wish you knew then what you know now? Speaking from experience, when I first began studying plants, people would ask me lots of gardening or landscaping questions. Did I as a first-year student know the answer? No. Did I pretend to? Yes. It must be human nature as a young adult.

truck hauling firewood

Many years ago, when emerald ash borer (EAB), had just arrived in northern Illinois, a colleague came across a flatbed trailer loaded with cut ash trees at a gas station. At that time Illinois counties confirmed with EAB had a quarantine that restricted moving ash wood outside of the county.

The impact of emerald ash borer. Dying ash trees with thinning canopies.

Emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis) or EAB has cut a wide swath of destruction across a large portion of the United States, including Illinois. EAB has been responsible for the death of tens, if not hundreds, of million ash (Fraxinus spp.) trees, which has led to drastic changes in some communities and landscapes.

Winter Dormancy

By mid-November, the last of the leaves float down to the ground and the landscape appears stark. All is quiet and nothing is growing as our gardens have been put to bed. Or are they? As I walk outside in the frigid cold, it is obvious my body has yet to adapt to colder temperatures, yet the turf stands green and crisp on a frosty morning. Evergreens brighten up a barren image of my yard. Even cool-season veggies are turning their nose up at the fall weather, rewarding me with a sweeter flavor than those same crops grown in spring.