Fall tree planting

Fall is a great time to plant trees, as it allows the tree roots to settle in and get established during the dormant season, making it better prepared for the Spring growth spurt and summer heat. You can plant even in early winter as long as the soil is not frozen. Here are some tree planting guidelines:

Tree Burls Are Gnarly, Man

While hiking in the woods you may stumble across a tree with a gnarly, wartlike bulge growing on the trunk or upper branch. These are called burls, and while not particularly pretty on the outside, the inner grain is gorgeous for woodworkers to create some beautiful work.

Seeing Red in the Forest

You have no doubt enjoyed trees displaying a red canopy during the fall color blitz, which are likely as not red maples. The tree comes by its name honest, as there’s something red about it all year long. In spring they bloom red flowers, in early summer you’ll see the red of ripening seeds, and all summer long the leaf stem will show red. Come autumn, much of the brilliant reds in the mountains are from red maples. In winter the end twigs and buds are also red.

Fall aster blooms prolific in Appalachia

By Steve Roark Volunteer, Cumberland Gap National Historical Park

While springtime is noted for wildflowers, late summer and autumn also offer an impressive burst of color, when some plants make a last push to propagate before the killing frosts. Asters are particularly easy to find blooming now, and come in shades of yellow, white, and purple/blue.

Fishing Weather

Summer weather always generates an interest in fishing, and over the ages there has been a lot of weather lore about when is a good time to go bait a line One example is that wind direction supposedly affects how well fish bite. Wind out of the west and south are supposedly good for fishing, while winds out of the north and east are not. There has been some research on this one, and so far there is no scientific backing for this method.

Box Turtle Trivia

The way a turtle is put together is pretty much the reverse of ours. I mean look at it: we have soft body parts protecting a hard-inner skeleton. Turtles have a hard-outer skeleton protecting inner soft body parts. The most common turtle you'll run into around here (and one you probably aggravated when you were a kid) is the eastern box turtle (Terrapene carolina).

Trees in the Bible

Trees have been appreciated since the beginning of history, and are reflected in the earliest writings recorded. The Old Testament Bible mentions trees from one end to the other, using them both metaphorically and literally to teach wisdom that would be remembered. What follows is a small sampling of quotes from the Bible using modern text.

The Forest Primeval

Most people envision that when Europeans first came to America there was a vast, unbroken expanse of trees stretching from the coast to the western plains. This is our vision of a wilderness, forests untouched and unchanging. Research however indicates that the history of our forests has been one of constant change


I am presently paying a price for all the off-trail hiking and field wanderings I do. I have the worst attack of chiggers I’ve ever had…well over a hundred bites. They are almost microscopic, yet pack a wallop of misery.

The Snake Heebie-Jeebies

By Steve Roark
Volunteer for Cumberland Gap National Historical Park

I don’t know of anybody that doesn’t have a fear response when they stumble across a snake in the woods or the tool shed. The usual reaction is to jump back and express a four-letter metaphor. I do it myself, even though I know that snakes are mostly harmless, and the poisonous ones rarely strike a human unless really provoked. But all that knowledge goes out the window when I first see a snake, and I’m instantly in a “get out of here” mode.

Biodiversity, a Lot of Life

Biodiversity is a big deal in ecology science these days. The dictionary defines it simply as the variety of living things in a particular area or region. Opinions on the importance of biodiversity vary, but to me the loss of native plant or animal species means something’s wrong, and rightfully raises some concerns.

Fish bait from a tree

A catawba worm Photo by Steve Roark

By: Steve Roark
Volunteer, Cumberland Gap National Historical Park
If you fish and have room in your landscape for a tree, the catalpa may be for you. It supports a worm that is superb bait for bluegill and catfish. The common name used around here is Catawba tree, and has also been called Indian bean and cigar tree. The books call it northern catalpa (Catalpa speciosa).

Backyard Stump Removal

If you have a landscape with trees, you may be forced to take one down for some reason. The remaining stump is normally an eyesore, forcing many to resort to a costly stump removal service. There are solutions to the problem if you are patient

Fast and SlowTrees

It is often assumed that small trees are young and large ones old. But I've seen large trees that were only 50 years old, and others the size of fence posts over 100. Individual trees grow at different rates based on their genetics and growing conditions.

Trees and Lightning

Everyone is aware of the safety tip of not standing under a tree during a thunderstorm, based on the likelihood that the tallest objects are most likely to be struck by lightning. But there’s more to being struck than just being tall.

Tick tips

By Steve Roark
Volunteer, Cumberland Gap National Historical Park
Ticks season is officially here, though to be honest I was pulling them off me in January. With ticks come the concern of getting some serious illnesses they can carry. So be on guard to protect yourself and your family.

Local Biodiversity

Biodiversity remains a big deal in ecology circles these days. The dictionary defines it simply as the variety of living things in a particular area or region. Opinions on the importance of biodiversity vary, but to me the loss of any plant or animal species means something’s wrong, and rightfully raises some concerns.

Why We Love the Mountains

Mountains seem to be a universal attraction to people no matter where they come from. To those who were born and raised in them, they are especially endearing because they were the constant backdrop of our lives: their beauty, their challenges, and their molding of the culture of our ancestors that was passed on to us. Mountains are special, but what is it about them that everybody falls in love with? This will sound over-simplistic, but the answer is their three-dimensional terrain. Let me explain.

Paulownia: The Purple Roadside Tree

Paulownia is most often noticed when it blooms in the Spring, right now in fact. Its large tubular purple blooms are quite showy along roadsides.

Paulownia (Paulownia tomentosa) is also called royal princess tree, empress tree, and lilac tree. It is not native to the U.S. but was introduced as an ornamental landscape tree around 100 years ago. It’s a very prolific seed producer and has since spread until it can now be found everywhere, especially along roadsides and other disturbed areas.