A Fun Day with Foresters

Josh Stevens is the Missouri Conservation forester where I live. Last Saturday, he put on a really interesting free workshop for private landowners. To be sure to get the word out, he sent notices to Missouri Tree Farmers and Missouri Forestkeepers. It was another perfect-weather day, and 19 people from as far as St. Louis, Rolla, Versailles and beyond showed up.

The event was held at the Prairie Garden Trust, a land trust created by my in-laws to “share the beauty of nature.” There’s lots of active forestry work going in there over a five-year period to create some more diverse habitats and more natural transitions between fields and forests.

Since I live just a field away, I shared some information on the land and its history then tagged along as they spent three hours highlighting some key features. With the help of fellow foresters Susan Troxel DeWitt and Aaron Holsapple, Josh split the crowd into three themed tours: Tree ID, Forest Management and Savanna Restoration.

I went with Aaron’s group along with some people from St. Louis and Columbia. (Aaron and a landowner from Columbia are in the photo.) In one of the glade-like areas that had been cleared of cedar, he was pointing out the fact that you could sell the cut cedar and get some money from it—which also helps the costs of the habitat restoration work.

Although I’m pretty familiar with our trees, I learned some good tips for identifying them. A couple that I most remember: red oaks have “ski run-like strips that run down the trunk near to the ground, versus the black oaks where they tend to end higher up,” and “if you poke under the bark of black oak it’s more a yellow color than a red oak would be.” (Missouri books on Tree ID include a field guide and a larger book too.)

So maybe you think that’s just pretty darned dull. Aaron himself was mildly surprised that people would find tree ID that appealing. I’d have to say that if I was studying a book to learn it, I wouldn’t bother. But out there in a real forest, it’s sure nice to know your way around and know one tree from another.

People seemed pretty pleased with what they learned. Josh thinks he might try it again next autumn. So keep it in mind if you want to gain some hands-on, useful knowledge of Missouri forests.

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