On a beautiful Saturday afternoon, Professor Glen Stanosz shared his knowledge of trees with five enthusiastic guests. As attendees strolled through the shaded paths near Picnic Point, Glen identified ash, oak, red pine, and white pine trees among other woody species.
Each tree species was paired with a remarkable tale of conquest by fungal or insectivore invaders… occasionally intertwined with hopeful twists of perseverance as researchers discover some tree species are beginning to develop resistance against their pesky assailants:
While trees face incredible feats against fungal and insect invaders alike, Glen described how this harassment is a result of trees’ tempting design. Trees are made of two main components: cellulose and lignin… in other words, trees are made of sugar and glue! So, if trees have the audacity to grow tall and advertise their sweet composition to the decomposers in their ecosystems, that must mean trees have some secret defenses of their own. Indeed, Glen skillfully pointed out trees using their defensive ability to compartmentalize their trunks; these trees created a seal that trapped an invading fungus on the interior of the trunk, allowing the living outer region of the trunk to service the tree unharmed.
Finally, Glen referenced a non-fungal threat to forests: climate change. With observed warming trends in Wisconsin, Glen said it is possible that the composition of forests may change over time. Glen hypothesizes that Wisconsin may lose its maple and conifer trees, but retain hickory trees as hickory trees can be found in southern/warmer regions of the US. Report and Photos by the Friends' host Olympia Mathiaparanam.