Site selection is important when planting tree seedlings

Several variables need to be considered when scouting for locations to plant tree seedlings. Soil conditions along with moisture availability, slope, aspect and light availability are among the conditions to factor into the decision making process.

Open grown eastern white pine deformed by repeated weevil attacks

Open grown eastern white pine deformed by repeated weevil attacks

Soil conditions need to be considered when deciding which tree species are most suitable for specific plots of land. Other factors should be taken into account to help ensure success. With the cost of seedlings combining with the effort in planting them, it just makes good sense to give seedlings the best possible advantage for success.

Species like jack pine and red pine are adapted to sandy soil conditions, however in high water table or wet sandy soils spruce and fir may be a better option. South and south west facing slopes will have dryer and warmer growing conditions than north facing slopes, even with similar soil conditions.

Insect and disease activity also greatly impact seedling success. Much of Michigan’s forest resource is currently being ravaged by invasive insect activity. Ash, elm, and beech are being seriously threatened throughout much of the state and are species that should probably be avoided in new plantations. In some areas of the state oak wilt activity makes the reestablishment of oak challenging.

White pines, although adapted to a wide range of site conditions require some unique site conditions for plantation success. White pine weevil is an insect that lays eggs on the terminal leader of pines, following hatch the larva feed their way down the top or terminal leader. This group feeding kills the leader making for crooked stems. Repeated attacks result in bush type tree growth sometimes referred to as cabbage pines. Although providing some wildlife and erosion protection these trees with this bushy growth have little or no value to the timber industry.

There are a couple of strategies that can be adapted for growing white pine suitable for future pulp/log harvesting. One method is to plant trees in a very tight spacing, forcing the trees to grow upward even if they are weevilled. A more common practice is planting white pines in an area with partial shade. White pine weevils aren’t active in areas with 50 percent or more shade so trees will be unaffected by the insects.

For additional resources and assistance in dealing with white pine weevil and other issues related to establishing new tree plantations Michigan State University Extension has a “Find an Expert” link on our homepage which should be helpful. Interested individuals may also contact their local county Conservation District to obtain information on specific tree species suitable for local areas. 

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