Does Nature Know Best?

dwheeler at dwheeler at
Sun Jan 11 08:11:25 EST 1998

In article <34B4CF97.F32CCD79 at>,
  Daleburt <dfd at> wrote:
> dwheeler at wrote:
> > I regret to burst the bubble, but I am unconvinced that foresters know
> > how to grow trees.
> >
> Good day Mr. Wheeler.  I'm uncertain what you mean by "to grow trees" written above.
> If you mean that we, as professional foresters, do not know how to cultivate trees,
> I'd suggest you take a look at several of our 30 to 50 million Loblolly pine
> seedlings planted each year and compare them to their natural cousins.

Awe! A polite southern forester, I presume? Loblolly is almost unknown
locally. However, I do have some experience with Lodgepole, Ponderosa,
Sugar, White and Whitebark. A rather large Rhizopogon rubescens was
uncovered near Crater Lake two years ago, apparently in association with
either White or Whitebark pine. This single fungus weighed 1 lb. 14
ounces, and contained sufficient spores to inoculate several square miles
of trees.

  The growth
> differences are routinely 2-4 times over the natural equivalents.  Seedlings may be
> inoculated with mychorizae in the nursery, but throughout the Southeast there are
> numerous naturally occuring species.  I personally have not found it necessary to
> apply these directly, but do believe that site preparaion treatments can affect these
> populations.

Indeed, R. rubescens is common in some SE plantations, in sandy soil. And
these fungi are probably spread by most native animal species found

But the long-term key is one of succession of mycorrhizae with the tree.
Since I don't know of many mycorrhizae associated with Loblolly pine,
perhaps you could detail how southern forestery provides for these other

These Rhizopogons are easily cultivated, and are even more easily
dispersed by small mammals, according to "Key to Spores of the Genera of
Hypogeous Fungi of North Temperate forests with special reference to
animal mycophagy" by Michael A. Castelano, James M. Trappe, Zane Maser, &
Chris Maser, published in 1989 by Mad River Press of Eureka, CA.

> If you mean truly "know how to grow trees", then I agree.  No one, but God really
> knows how to create or actually grow anything, although there are many who know much
> more than I.
> >  How are forestry or tree farms providing for these animals in habitat and/or
> > foot requirements?
> >
> While managed forestry does protect limited forested habitats from development, and
> taxes from these lands benefit society (and consequently wildlife to the extent that
> society deems appropriate for their limited tax dollars), large areas are left in
> modern forestry that benefit wildlife.  We hire well- trained wildlife biologists to
> help us modify our cutting practices to benefit or at least minimize the impact to
> wildlife.  Strips 50-500 feet or more are left unharvested along streams to protect
> water quality and aquatic wildlife, but these are also heavily used by deer, turkey,
> squirrel, rabbit, and other creatures.  Food plots are planted to provide forage and
> roads are seeded, fertilized, and limed at closing with food species such as
> brown-top millet and bahai grass.

My experience with managed forestry is limited solely to the West coast,
which admittedly has much different requirements than the southeast.
Here, the abundant native wildlife is severely threatened by "managed
forestry" as currently practiced. We've almost completely lost important
salmon populations because of it. While larger herbivores like elk and
deer do better in these "managed" stands, the problem of long-term
productivity has not been adequately addressed. While native trees may
reach several thousand years of age, I don't know of anyone who has
cultivated a single one. To do so would require much more knowledge of
the succession of mycorrhizal fungi that is currently known. But we have
to begin somewhere.

> Thanks for the questions.  I wish everyone would ask these questions instead of
> assuming that foresters know nothing and care less.

I have _never_, sir, implied that foresters know nothing! Our knowledge
base has to come from somewhere. I simply suggest that the most valuable
commodity from forests is not timber. I do suggest that timber is a good
specialty forest crop.

Regretfully most timber managers I have met have only timber in mind. I
suspect management solely for timber is uneconomic. The growth of the
mushroom industry within the last 15 years supports this statement. And
while trees can grow in greenhouses without mushrooms and other fungi,
the opposite cannot be said. This is the meaning of obligate mycorrhizae.

Thank you for your answer.

I know that Loblolly is frequently inoculated with species such as
Thelophora terrestris and Pisolithus tinctorius. I'm just not sure they
have much economic value outside of a plantation. They are not abundant
in this area outside of cultivation, usually being overrun by native
mycorrhizae quickly and thus confined to what we would call poorer
forestry sites: sandy and compacted soils with little other natural
mycorrhizae. Most native mycorrhizae require some soil aeration,
developed naturally by our underground animal species. The only places
I've seen Pisolithus tinctorius fruiting locally are in heavily compacted
ornamental plantings in front of major shopping malls. The only "natural"
area I've seen it fruiting would best be described as sandy,
well-drained, compacted soil in near desert conditions. As and a fungus
for reforestation of desert margins it has some advantages: notably able
to withstand much higher soil temperatures than most native mycorrhizae.

Daniel B. Wheeler

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