Hot and bloated summer, mean to the trees
Summer conditions in Kootenai County were enough to cause both humans and plants to wilt.
Still, demand for lush green trees has not abated as nurseries prepare their saplings for harvest.
CDA Trees, a local 15th Street nursery in Dalton Gardens, specializes in shade and flowering trees like fall maple and ornamental Kwanzan cherry.
Mark Fisher, who has owned and operated CDA Trees with his wife for over 16 years, spends his days watching over the nursery’s 500 saplings. With 50 different species to offer, Fisher said he primarily sells to landscaping and construction companies.
“We’re a retail outlet, so most of our customers are people who are building homes or wanting to re-landscap their home that they’ve been in for 10 years,” Fisher said.
Before changing lanes in 2004, Fisher’s career revolved around landscaping and construction. CDA Trees saplings are grown using a pot system and drip irrigation, Fisher explained.
Using the pot system, trees are planted in two containers – the liner and the socket – before entering the soil, which Fisher says helps maintain root temperatures.
“It keeps them cool in the summer and warm in the winter,” he said, checking out an American rowan.
The weeklong period of 100 degrees in June and the unusually dry spring left much of Gem State in a drought. So far, Coeur d’Alene has experienced more than 50 days of temperatures equal to or above 90 degrees.
“The heat has been lethal on these trees,” Fisher said. “Normally we don’t have a lot of days over 100 degrees with a wind of 25 miles an hour. It is a challenge to keep everything hydrated and in good shape.”
Despite several trees showing signs of sunburn, Fisher said his crop of mostly flowering and shade trees has proven resilient. Some do better than others, noted Fisher. The flagship hydrangeas, named after the pale greenish-yellow color reflected in the petals, are one of the species that Fisher says has been “hit the hardest” by the sun’s rays.
“Even though we water them twice a day, almost 10% of the leaves have been burned,” he said. “The sunburn discolors the leaves and kills them. They look pretty bad. You can’t do much but cut them off.”
Fisher’s most popular sales season is in the spring due to the flowering properties of many of his species. He doesn’t expect the Coeur d’Alene weather to impact buyer demand and even noted that several trees in his lot are already prized.
Drought and strong winds have the most influence on plant health, explained Aram Eramian, manager of the Coeur d’Alene nursery.
“Drought is bad, especially in this environment,” Eramian said. “In the woods, we’re probably going to see more loss of seedlings that were planted this spring. No seedling would withstand this long period of dry weather.”
Eramian noted that the two-year-old seedlings planted in the outer fields likely braved much of the direct sunlight and winds.
As a branch of the US Forest Service and the US Department of Agriculture, Coeur d’Alene Nursery is a leader in reforestation and restoration efforts in the Northwest. Spanning over 200 acres and 23 greenhouses, the facility produces approximately 5 million seedlings per year.
The plants grown in the nursery are mainly used to restore areas affected by logging and forest fires, Eramian said. The National Interagency Fire Center reported that more than 10,000 acres in northern Idaho burned down in 2021, with fires like the Character Complex and Trestle Creek still not contained.
Since the nursery began operating in 1960, Eramian has noted that the number of seedlings grown by the facility’s 28 employees has increased from 20 million to around 5 million per year.
“The slowdown in timber harvesting in the early 1990s and 2000s reduced the number of trees needed for reforestation. So we changed and started collecting other species like shrubs and grasses, ”he said. “It filled the void for a while, but now the numbers are going up.”
There are several theories as to why the number of tree samples is increasing, the superintendent said. One is increased timber harvesting – the other is forest fires. In May, the Forest Service’s director of forest and range management and vegetation ecology, David Lytle, said the latter was becoming the dominant influence.
“We have seen in national forests a really dramatic shift in what is driving reforestation,” Lytle said. “Now more than 80% of reforestation needs are due to forest fires. “
Lytle said of the 1.3 million acres of Forest Service land slated for reseeding in May, 145,000 acres – or about 10 percent – were here in Idaho.
After a fire, Eramian said, the Burned Area Emergency Response Program (BAER) assesses the burnt area to determine treatment needs like reseeding trees.
“Once the BAER team assesses the forest after all these fires that are happening now, they will come back to us with a plan,” Eramian said. “This request could be 10,000 plants of the XYZ species to restore one place and another 15,000 for another.”
The number of seedlings requested by partner agencies is starting to increase, Eramian said, and his team is ready to help with restoration efforts as more land burns due to wildfires in 2021. Greenhouses on site are home to the millions of young trees already maintained to rehabilitate the landscapes of the Northwest this year.
“About 150,000 to 180,000 of these are destined for various forests as part of Bureau of Land Management projects in northern Idaho and western Montana,” Eramian said as he stepped into the massive structure. filled with western red cedar.
As he walked through the buildings, Eramian pointed out that rows of Engleman spruce trees were being prepared for the high elevation forests of Colorado to fill in areas lost to a fire in 2020. Next came the spruce tree. Douglas for the Snoqualmie pass and other federal highways, and water birch for Pointe des Anglais.
“We’ll have to wait and see what will be needed when this is over,” Eramian said.