The Tree Tube Alternative: 10% Survival With “Negligible” Growth

A customer in Wisconsin who recently purchased Tree Tubes from us also had a question about an insect that is defoliating a young white oak on his property.  From the photos he sent – the leaves are being eaten from the margins inward leaving only the midrib untouched – I believe it’s either a caterpillar (spring cankerworm is likely, gypsy moth less likely but more sinister) or the Asiatic oak weevil.

While researching the possible causes of the defoliation I came across this on

“Although large numbers of oak seedlings may become established after bumper acorn crops, mortality rates of young seedlings are high, especially on mesic sites (Johnson 1985). A newly established cohort of seedlings in a mature stand on a good site in the Southern Appalachians had a 10-year survival rate of 10 percent, with negligible growth of the survivors (Loftis 1988a). ”

People often ask, why do I need a tree tube?  Trees grow in the forest without them, right?

First of all, it is probably more accurate to say that trees did grow in the forest without them.  Seedling mortality rates are much higher and growth rates are much slower today than in the past, due to a number of factors:  Record high deer populations, fire suppression, and the introduction of exotic & invasive vegetation, insect and disease pests.

Second of all, natural regeneration proceeds on the same basis as a lottery: it is a numbers game.  Throw enough seeds at the ground and some – a tiny percentage – will germinate and survive to adulthood.  The odds are, quite literally, one in a million.

Take a look again at the quote above.  That 10% survival is on a GOOD site!  And within that lucky 10% growth is NEGLIGIBLE – no doubt due to competing vegetation and constant deer browse.  Over time negligible growth = mortality, as eventually those young trees will get crowded out by competing vegetation or browsed so heavily that they run out of growth reserves.

I don’t know about you, but if I’m investing my time, treasure and blood, sweat & tears (and every large tree planting project I’ve been associated has involved all of the above!), I’m not going to rely on odds of 10% survival with negligible growth.

I am going to do everything in my power to turn the odds in my favor.  There are many ways to do this, but of these tree tubes are by far the easiest & most cost effective.

Meantime I need to get back to finding an answer for my customer about his white oak defoliation… because losing even one white oak is one too many!



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