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Shrubs for wildlife: Snowberry

Fri, 06/24/2016 - 10:11am

By Brandy Saffell and Amy Grotta, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension

Snowberry leaves and fruit in the fall. Photo: Pat Breen, OSU

If one of your land management goals is to provide wildlife habitat, you’ll want to consider keeping a mix of native shrub species on your property. Shrubs provide a host of services to wildlife, including shelter or cover, nesting space, and food from their twigs, leaves, flowers, and fruit. With thought given to species selection and location, retaining existing shrubs or planting them can benefit wildlife without compromising timber growth or forest operations. This is the second article in our Shrubs for Wildlife series (first is here). Each article will highlight one species that benefits wildlife in northwest Oregon forests.

Species Name: Common snowberry – Symphoricarpos albus

Description: Snowberry is a medium sized shrub, growing in thickets and up to six feet tall. The leaves are simple, opposite, deciduous, and variable in shape. They are generally oval but can be nearly round (3/4 – 2 1/2” long). The leaf edges vary from entire to shallowly lobed on the same plant and same stem. The flowers are small (1/4”), pink-white, bell-shaped, and found in clusters at the end of the branch. The round, white, waxy berries persist into the winter; they are non-edible to humans and toxic due to the saponin they contain. Twigs are opposite, slender, smooth, and yellow-brown.

Small pink blossoms are present this time of year. Photo: A. Grotta

Wildlife Value: Snowberry is useful to pollinators as a host and food plant. The flowers attract Anna’s and rufous hummingbirds, as well as various insects including bees. Several birds have been observed eating the berries, such as towhees, thrushes, robins, grosbeaks, and waxwings. Birds also use snowberry thickets for cover. In addition, the Vashti sphinx moth (Sphinx vashti) relies on it as a food plant in its larval stage.

Management Considerations: Following harvest, snowberry resprouts readily from belowground.  To ensure optimum survival and growth of planted trees, control snowberry where it is likely to overtop planted seedlings.  Consider retaining snowberry plants on the site where they are not in direct competition with seedlings.  For those who would like to actively enhance wildlife habitat by planting snowberry, it tolerates a variety of environments, and can be planted in coarse sand to fine-textured clay, full sun to dense understory, dry well-drained slops to moist stream banks, and low to high nutrient soils.  It also establishes readily and tolerates general neglect.

Plant habit and fruit in winter. Photos: Pat Breen, OSU

If you are interested in learning more about creating wildlife habitat on your property, check out the Woodland Fish and Wildlife website.



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Postcard from Scandinavia– Parting shots

Thu, 06/16/2016 - 2:02pm

Brad Withrow-Robinson, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension


Our final days of the tour included meetings with the local landowners’ cooperative in Telemark County and visits to two specialty sawmills.

The Tinnoset sawmill specializes in shaping large logs for traditional style log homes. Most are sold to builders, but they do some custom building on site too.

Nearly completed home on site. Harald explaining the building process.


Getting a closer look at construction details.










The Svenneby family sawmill has been working with leading architects and looking for less traditional uses of wood, including many exotic (USA) species. We lucked into a presentation by nationally acclaimed architect Einar Jarmund who talked about the expanding role and popularity of wood in both commercial and residential buildings in Norway and showed a number of projects done by his firm  ( ) using materials developed and delivered by the Svenneby mill.


Turid Svenneby discusses weathering of oiled oak siding with tour member Claude Rowley. The Svenneby mill and farm is yet another example of a multi generation, multi-enterprise business. Next to Kirk (ID) are Thorvald, Turid and Ole Svenneby.





We could not help but noticing how common and prominently wood was being used in Norway, and particularly as architectural and visual elements around Oslo.  Why does wood seem less used, less celebrated here?


A building on the Oslo waterfront area sided with wood prepared by the Svenneby mill. Another, renovated building on the waterfront.




Large wood laminated structural elements visible in the airport.


Smaller wood furnishing and finish elements abound in the airport














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A Postcard from Norway

Tue, 06/14/2016 - 1:35am

Brad Withrow-Robinson. OSU Forestry & Natural Resources agent, Benton, Linn and Polk Counties.

In the fjord regions of Norway, both forestry and farming are limited to the area between the rock and the water.   The bottom of the valley is farmed, and the narrow toes of the valley walls are forested. Many communities were not connected by roads until the 1920s.  It is beautiful country, but it strikes me as a beautiful place to starve. It is not hard to see why so many people left for America in the late 19th Century.  Those who stayed looked for alternative sources of income to supplement farm incomes/earnings.

Looking up valley and seeing patches of spruce and pine on lower slopes of valley wall.


Local County Forester Rune K. discussing management of Spruce in the Valley.


Many of the family farm and forest owners in the Andalsness area of Romdal Conty are now “farming tourists” to one degree or another. Farmers in the Innfjorden valley now run a cooperative of about 60 rental cabins in their traditional summer pasture areas near the head of the valley. They are popular destinations in summer and winter for fishing, hiking and skiing.  The vacationers are not limited to the cooperatives land holding, since Scandinavian tradition and law allows open access for such activities across all lands.

Jacob Hagen explains the conversion of the traditional common summer grazing areas to cooperative recreation rentals. Traditional rustic cabins like this are mixed in with newer rustic cabins.




It is not an easy or lucrative place to grow and especially harvest and sell logs.


Watching a gravity (down hill) logging operation near Byrkjelo Norway A turn of small spruce logs arriving at the landing



County Forester Torkel (wearing Sgakit logging tower T-shirt) talks harvesting equipment with Columbia county landowner/logger KC Van Natta.


Wish you were here.






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Postcard from Scandinavia– Parting shots from Sweden

Fri, 06/10/2016 - 9:35am

Brad Withrow-Robinson, OSU Forestry & Natural resources Extension.


One of our visits was to a cooperative forest jointly owned by about a dozen families from Bengtshedens village. The Mellanskog landowner cooperative also has a significant share of ownership.

We were greeted on arrival by two of the family owners with coffee and cinnamon rolls before touring the forest.


Mellanskog Forester Lars Eric explaining management practices such as regeneration, thinning and fertilization in a 100-year-old stand of Scotts pine.




We visited the Log Max factory in Grangarde, innovative producers of logging processing heads. Our group observing Log Max and Eco Log equipment in their native habitat of central Sweden.










Regeneration of pine with seed tree cuts is common in Sweden and Norway.



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Postcard from Dalarna County, no. 2

Sat, 06/04/2016 - 1:39pm

Brad Withrow-Robinson, Forestry and Natural Resources Extension agent for Benton, Linn and Polk Counties.

Dalarna County was the seat of a very old and important copper and iron mining industry, an early source of wealth and power for Sweden.  We visted the Falun copper mine, active since the 10th century and a UNESCO world heritage site.

Preparing to head down into the Falun Copper mine.

Why is that part of our forestry tour?

Forest products were a critical part of early mining industry, which needed massive amounts of charcoal and round wood to extract and process the metals. Forestlands near the mine were hard pressed to provide these products.  The mine is also the birthplace of world’s oldest stock company, which eventually became large forest and paper corporation Stora Enso.

Over-exploitation of forest resources by the mid-16th century led to a series of perhaps the world’s oldest forest protection rules.  In 1607 King Charles IX issued a ban on logging and charcoal production within a one-mile radius of the Falun mine (using the old Swedish mile, about 7 English miles). It was named the “Peace Mile” in hopes it would reduce disputes over unregulated charcoal production.

However it was not until 1754 that the surveyor Johan Brandberg finished measuring 112 points around the circumference of a the circle, marking each with stones.

from: Marker stone number 112 in the Peace mile ring, marked with an arrow.

See old and new maps of the circle drawn by Brandberg at:







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Postcard from Sweden – Dalarna County

Thu, 06/02/2016 - 1:56pm

Brad Withrow-Robinson, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension, Benton, Linn and Polk Counties


A New Approach

Dalagård farm & forest retreat is a large working forest owned by Cecilia and Leif Öster. These first -generation landowners are developing an active silvo-trouism enterprise to diversify the farm’s income and promote its sustainability. Forest products and hunting leases are other significant income streams.

We enjoyed a wonderful Swedish Mid-Summer style lunch while enjoying the beautiful setting.


Leif explains alternative forest management practices used near the guest complex. This is aimed at balancing the guests aesthetic expectations of forests with broader forest production objectives.

Local trees on display in a small educational arboretum are described for visitors.















A Very Long Tradition

Just down the road from Dalagård, we were welcomed into the home of Karen Perers, an eleventh generation landowner of a small forest & farm property in Dalarna County.


Karin shared insights into how her family and farm has contributed to the community over the centuries delivering first charcoal and firewood and later pulpwood and sawlogs “The family and farm have been producing those wooden things  that the times ask for” across several centuries, she said. A recognized leader, Karin is director of the Board for Melanskog, the large regional landowner cooperative hosting many of our visits in the area.


Karin shows and discusses the first map of the property, along with a modern one, each containing very similar information.


Note year on map heading: 1749.





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Postcard from Scandinavia – Stockholm

Sun, 05/29/2016 - 9:23pm

Brad Withrow-Robinson, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources agent

Our group of 26 family woodland owners arrived in Sweden this week at the start of the Scandinavia Forestry Tour.

The tour is organized by the Oregon Woodlands Coop along with Washington County Woodlands Association and OSU Forestry &

Woodland owners visiting the Skansen historic museum in Stockholm Sweden

Natural Resources Extension.

The purpose of the tour is to look at forestry practices in this part of the world, meet fellow family forest landowners and focus particularly on the strong role of landowner cooperatives in both Sweden and Norway.

Most of our group is from Oregon, but we have people from four other US states, as well as South Africa rounding out the group.

This is my first electronic post card from the tour, where I will try to share some of the things we are seeing and learning here.


Old traditional buildings at Skansen Museum


View of Stockholm




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Effects of drought continue in Valley

Thu, 05/26/2016 - 11:30am

Brad Withrow-Robinson, Forestry & Natural Resources Extension Agent, Benton, Linn and Polk Counties.

Conifer trees around the Valley continue to show signs of severe drought and heat stress this year. This should not be news to many readers:  young dead trees are now a common sight throughout the Valley.  Also, I wrote about this problem in past Tree Topics blogs (See stories from  May and September 2015 for background) but have new updates for this season.

I think you can expect to continue seeing similar damage to Douglas-fir this year and that symptoms will continue to unfold as the season progresses. Some of the trees damaged late last year did not show that damage immediately. The damage did not become evident until the trees came out of dormancy and began to grow this spring.  Also, the various insect and disease organisms that take advantage of       weak and damaged trees are likely to continue with their business this year, causing new signs of drought damage to show up during the season.  Happily, those players like Douglas-fir cankers and twig weevils do not typically blow up and kill healthy trees.  This suggests things will look much like what we saw and described last year and is likely to continue to unfold this season and maybe longer, whatever weather we get.  “It is important to understand that the effects of drought damage do not go away suddenly when the rain starts again” cautions Christine Buhl, ODF Forest Entomologist “drought can impact the tree’s whole plumbing structure, and affect the growth and vigor of the tree for years.”

What we are beginning to see and anticipate may be different this year is more damage to stands rather than just individual trees, and damage to older and larger Douglas-fir trees than was typical last year. The drought is likely adding to and exacerbating other problems lurking out of view, so crowded stands, existing root disease and marginal sites (wet or shallow soils, southern aspects) can all be expected to contribute to the problem.

Unfortunately, this implies potential economic or forest health issues. Any merchantable tree lost to drought represents an economic loss if not salvaged.  But larger (>8” dbh) drought-damaged Doug-fir trees can also support growing populations of bark beetles, such as the Douglas-fir beetle.  Under the right conditions Doug-fir beetles’ numbers can increase to the point where they can overcome the defenses of healthier trees in the stand.  Drought stressed trees are not generally considered as good a nursery material as winter storm damaged trees  but can support a damaging increase of beetles if conditions are right.  I may need to write more on that later in the season.

We will also likely see drought stress issues in other conifer species. In our local Valley ponderosa pine, it is already causing some limited outbreaks of the California five-spine Ips, a tiny but destructive beetle.  With several generations a year, Ips can rapidly increase in numbers when trees are stressed and conditions favor the insect.  Also, the Ips is able to use much smaller wood (just three inches or more in diameter) than the Douglas-fir bark beetle mentioned above, so even a young planation can provide brood material for the beetle.  Sanitation of dead and dying trees as well as slash materials >3” is a very important control measure for Ips.  For more information on the Ips life cycle and management, see this 2014 article about Ips  or follow links to other resources provided below.

The Oregon Department of Forestry has a series of fact sheets on insects, disease, drought and slash management.  Several are currently being revised, so be sure to check back in July to see the updated versions.




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Shrubs for wildlife: Cascara

Tue, 05/24/2016 - 4:06pm

By Brandy Saffell and Amy Grotta, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension

If one of your land management goals is to provide wildlife habitat, you’ll want to consider keeping a mix of native shrub species on your property. Shrubs provide a host of services to wildlife, including shelter or cover, nesting space, and food from their twigs, leaves, flowers, and fruit. With thought given to species selection and location, retaining existing shrubs or planting them can benefit wildlife without compromising timber growth or forest operations. This is the first article in a series intended to help you recognize some of the “brush” species that may exist on your property, and understand how they may fit with your management goals. Each article will highlight one species that benefits wildlife in northwest Oregon forests.

Species Name: Cascara (or cascara buckthorn, chittam) – Rhamnus purshiana

Description: Growing up to about 30 feet, cascara could be considered a small tree or a large shrub. Its leaves are deciduous, simple, and alternating on the stem. They are oblong (2 – 6” long) and prominently penniveined (having a single central leaf vein with singular veins branching to either side). The leaf edges are very finely serrated or wavy. The small, green-white flower clusters are inconspicuous. The cherry-like fruits are round, 1/3” diameter, and purple to black with a yellow pulp. In winter, look for smooth, gray-brown bark with a patchy appearance. Winter buds are naked, meaning they appear to be small clusters of tiny overlapping leaves.

You may have mistaken cascara for red alder, which has similar looking oblong, serrated, prominently-veined leaves, smooth bark and also grows on moist sites.  You wouldn’t be the first to confuse these two hardwoods.  You can tell cascara and alder apart primarily by the fruits; cascara has a dark purple to black cherry-like fruit while alder has a one-inch woody cone-like fruit (called a strobile). Cascara’s leaves are smoother and glossier than alder’s.

Ideal habitat: West of Cascades in low to mid elevation coniferous forests; Grows on moist, well-drained sites, especially along streams; tolerant of shade.

Wildlife Value: This plant is particularly attractive to birds. For example, the band-tailed pigeon feeds on cascara fruits from July through autumn, often congregating in cascara patches well into the migration season. Band-tailed pigeons are found along the west coast and prefer nesting habitat less than 1000 feet in elevation, putting them in private forestland throughout much of western Oregon. Cascara is also a preferred forage for elk and valuable for pollinators.

Management Considerations: Cascara is not a very fast or aggressively growing species, so it does little to compete with the growth of timber species such as Douglas-fir. Consider retaining existing cascara trees when selectively harvesting in mixed forests. You could also try underplanting cascara in small openings after a thinning. For pollinator or mammal forage, plant in clumps along stand edges to promote flowering and a more thicket-like habit.

If you are interested in learning more about creating wildlife habitat on your property, check out the Woodland Fish and Wildlife website.

Photo credits: Pat Breen, Oregon State University

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Don’t forget about pre-commercial thinning

Wed, 03/30/2016 - 10:01am
Many aesthetic and habitat objectives of family forest landowners come with older, less dense stands like this stand of about 70 years. It is important to get on this path early.

Brad Withrow-Robinson, Forestry & Natural Resources Extension Agent, Benton, Linn and Polk Counties.

In previous segments I argued that many people have too many trees in their young stands   which may be costly and harmful to the long term growth of the stand. Most importantly, having too many trees at this stage can undermine common landowner objectives of growing attractive, longer rotation diverse forest habitats and can force landowners into shorter rotations than imagined.

While this suggests that people should think about planting fewer trees per acre in the future (a step deserving some careful consideration), it highlights the need for pre-commercial thinning in many existing stands to correct overstocking at an early age. This may include your stand.

But pre-commercial thinning (PCT) seems to have fallen out of common practice lately. It has come to be seen (mistakenly, I think) as an avoidable expense rather than an important investment in the stand. An investment that begins to shape how the stand will look and behave in the future and which adds resilience and options to the landowners’ woodland portfolio.

The idea of PCT is to avoid harmful overcrowding later by removing excess trees early on. PCT lets the remaining “leave trees” grow faster and larger before serious crowding sets in. This means that trees reach a usable size sooner, and hopefully allows the very important first thinning harvest (also called a commercial thinning) to be done “on time” when the stand is in its 20’s.  This first thinning harvest  is costly and the difference between it being another  big expense for the landowner rather than breaking even or even paying some small profit, often comes down to the size of the trees harvested.  PCT is meant to ensure that this very important thinning harvest operation can pay for itself.

Ideally, young Douglas-fir stands in Western Oregon should be thinned when the dominant trees are about 15 feet tall, or about 10 years old around here.  Yikes, that seems early.  Frankly I don’t know many people who are thrilled about thinning trees they just barely got established and free to grow.  People are looking forward to the trees’ shade suppressing hated weeds like blackberries and broom and are inclined to postpone PCT until the weeds decline and the stand begins to “look crowded”.

Why thin so early? Even by the time trees are 15 feet, you can already begin to distinguish the good trees from the bad.  The trees are past browse and should be beating the weeds.  Once that has happened, the sooner you remove the extras and limit competition among trees, the stronger the beneficial effects and the less the costs of the PCT will be.  Yes, it may be possible to delay until trees are 30 feet tall, but waiting until crowns close and competition begins means a loss of some growth that you would rather have on your leave trees.  Also by the time trees look crowded to many people, it is getting very late.

Referring to the illustrations of the previous article, the recommended  timing of a PCT is meant to occur well down in the uncrowded green zone, well before competition gets going in the Goldilocks zone.   The PCT is meant to shift your stand from the right-hand column to the left-hand column, with more room and  new growth potential until it is time to you your first thinning harvest.

An earlier PCT also means it can be done more efficiently and cheaply. Small trees can be felled much more quickly with less slash building up. There is little concern about stand stability, or delayed growth response when trees are thinned early.

My point is that if an area was planted at a 10×10 spacing (440 TPA) and had good survival, the stand will get too crowded before the trees are big enough for a thinning harvest.  If that is the case, it should be PCT’ed down to at least 300 TPA, meaning you may need to remove a quarter to a third of the trees (110 to 145 TPA).  This is a lot of work, even when trees are small, which takes us to some good advice for many family forest landowners: “Thin early and thin often”.

I’ll give some strategies for thinning in a later article.

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