From the Director’s Desk: Notes from the 2018 ISA Conference

By Fred Breglia

From the moment I walked through the door of the con­fer­ence cen­ter in Colum­bus, Ohio this sum­mer, I felt the syn­chronic­i­ty that comes from being around thou­sands of indi­vid­u­als with a pas­sion for trees and forests. And there were plen­ty of big beards” (like mine) among the assem­bled sci­en­tists, arborists, ecol­o­gists, botanists, mycol­o­gists, and conservationists! 

This was my first ISA (Inter­na­tion­al Soci­ety of Arbori­cul­ture) Inter­na­tion­al Con­fer­ence in six years, and I was astound­ed by the advances in plant health care and the lat­est tools avail­able — such as the son­ic tomo­graph. This device uses sound waves to look inside trees in the way a doc­tor uses sonar to exam­ine a preg­nant woman’s fetus. It allows detec­tion of cav­i­ties, cracks, and decay not vis­i­ble on the sur­face, giv­ing a very accu­rate pic­ture with­out hav­ing to use the inva­sive bor­ing pro­ce­dures used in the past. 

One of my favorite class­es focused on mor­pho­phys­i­ol­o­gy (the bio­log­i­cal study of the rela­tion­ship between form and func­tion) and the man­age­ment of vet­er­an” trees. This pre­sen­ta­tion gave a fas­ci­nat­ing look at the aging process of many old trees. Research has yield­ed a new and very dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive on tree cav­i­ties, crown reit­er­a­tions, and tap­roots. Tree cav­i­ties are large hol­lows that occur in old­er trees and were often con­sid­ered weak spots or struc­tur­al defects. Through years of obser­va­tion and study, sci­en­tists have found cav­i­ties can be a source of renewed strength when new columns form along the inside walls. In addi­tion, cam­bial bridges grow and inter­con­nect in areas around the cav­i­ty. These trees are able to cre­ate an incred­i­bly strong struc­ture — sim­i­lar to the engi­neer­ing used in the Eif­fel Tow­er — uti­liz­ing columns and cross ties, with no cen­tral sup­port. Vet­er­an trees may also cre­ate crown reit­er­a­tions (repli­cas of the orig­i­nal young tree} high in their canopy. Stud­ies have also shown a sim­i­lar pat­tern in the root sys­tem with the loss and re-growth of the tap­root and sec­ondary tap­roots, a process which might occur a num­ber of times through­out a tree’s life. 

The con­fer­ence fea­tured many oth­er pro­grams, rang­ing from the lat­est on the Amer­i­can chest­nut, to diag­nos­tics, to build­ing and main­tain­ing healthy soil. I will be incor­po­rat­ing this infor­ma­tion in future arti­cles, as well as in my pub­lic pre­sen­ta­tions, class­es, and radio call-in shows. Most impor­tant, the knowl­edge gained at the con­fer­ence will be rel­e­vant to Lan­dis’ old growth forests and to the care of our collections.

Ques­tions about trees and tree care may be addressed to Fred Breglia by email­ing fred@​landisarboretum.​org or by phon­ing the Arbore­tum office at 5188756935.

Fall 2018

Volume 36 , Number 4

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