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River birch is a fast-growing, medium-sized tree native to much of the east and southeast US and best known for its exfoliating, salmon-colored bark. It is frequently used as a landscape tree in eastern Nebraska.

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Northern catalpa is primarily used today as a large ornamental shade tree. It is widely planted in urban areas as a street and lawn tree. Conservation uses include plantings in mined-land reclamation projects and shelterbelts. Kentucky Coffeetree is one of the best trees for Nebraska. This native, pest free tree is an alternative to ash and elm which have been ravaged by insects and disease. Most people can relate nostalgically to large cottonwoods that shaded favorite camping or fishing spots, that whispered their rustling leaves in the slightest breeze, and which released their cottony seeds like a snow squall on late spring days.

Most dogwoods are shrubby in nature, but a few can become small trees. The species is native to forest edges in the northeastern US from Minnesota to Maine and south to the mid-Atlantic states. For the first hundred or so years after settlement, American elm dominated community skylines across the state especially along streets where its tall, arching habit provided leafy canopies for blocks at a time.

Also known as spindletree, winterberry euonymus is best known for its fall colors of pink, orange, and red found in both its leaves and fruit capsules. Concolor fir is the most reliable and easy to grow fir for Nebraska. It has become relatively popular as a landscape tree and has also been utilized in some shelterbelts on favorable sites.

Douglas fir is one of the most important timber trees in the United States and is the backbone of the western timber industry. The Rocky Mountain variety is more adaptable to the Great Plains and has been grown successfully across Nebraska, primarily as a landscape tree but sometimes in shelterbelts. Ginkgo is a very unusual tree. Often referred to as a living fossil, ginkgo leaves appear as fossils dating to more than million years old.

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Some of these fossils have even been found in Nebraska. Hackberry may be the king of hard-working trees. It can provide a canopy of shade for decades at a time, and ask for almost nothing in return. Additionally, its deep root system makes common hackberry useful for preventing soil erosion on disturbed sites. The hawthorns are a diverse and confusing group of plants with at least distinct species occurring throughout the Northern Hemisphere.


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There are dozens of species native to North America, including several that are grown as landscape trees. Native to the Midwest including eastern Nebraska and Kansas, where it can be found in the savanna understory and prairie edges. Eastern hemlock is a shade-tolerant native of the eastern US growing from Minnesota to Maine and south to the higher elevations of Georgia. The tree is not abundant in Nebraska but is occasionally found in protected landscape plantings, especially where a shade-tolerant evergreen is desired.

Earth has more trees than it did 35 years ago - but there’s a huge catch | World Economic Forum

Bitternut hickory is native to much of the eastern US and reaches its western limit in eastern Nebraska. Honeylocust is a very tough and adaptable tree that is native to woodlands, pastures and fence lines of the eastern Great Plains. Thornless and fruitless varieties have been developed by the horticultural industry and are used extensively in landscaping. The trees are very hardy and are often used in parking lot islands and along sidewalks. American hornbeam, also known as musclewood or blue beech, is a small, slow-growing understory tree native to hardwood forests of the eastern US and Canada.

The tree is perhaps best known for its smooth and sinewy steel-gray bark and the muscle-like look of its maturing trunk and larger branches thus one of its common names. RM juniper is widely used in shelterbelts, wildlife plantings and landscape plantings in the western Great Plains. American linden, also known as basswood, is native to the Missouri River basin of eastern Nebraska and extends along the Niobrara River reaching as far west as the Black Hills of western South Dakota. Black locust is one of the most adaptable and easy-to-grow trees for the urban landscape.

Due to its showy aromatic flower, it has often been planted as an ornamental, but this practice should be discouraged due to the potential for spread by root suckers. Amur maple is an introduced, deciduous large shrub or small tree.


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It can be grown as a multi-stemmed clump or trained into a small tree with a single trunk. It can also be sheared into a hedge. Boxelder maple is one of the widest occurring trees across North America, extending from Mexico well into Canada and from the east coast of the US to the west coast.

Norway maple is native to central and northern Europe including parts of Norway, indicating its significant cold tolerance. The tree has a remarkably wide native range occurring from Minnesota to Newfoundland south to Florida and Texas, and most points in between. Native to southeast Nebraska, black oak is similar in shape and form to red oak, the key differences being smaller, darker leaves and a darker, more furrowed bark. This is a great native tree deserving of greater planting!

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Bur oak is considered by many to be the king of Great Plains native hardwoods. It is the most common native oak in Nebraska occurring naturally along many rivers and streams in the eastern third of the state and can be found in pockets here and there as far west as Hitchcock and Dawes counties. Next to bur oak, chinkapin oak is the second most adaptable white oak that can be grown in Nebraska.

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It has a wide geographic distribution occurring naturally from Mexico to southern Canada and is native to the southeast part of Nebraska. As its name implies, English oak is native to England and actually occurs throughout much of Europe extending into western Siberia, attesting to its tough and adaptable nature. Gambel oak is a scrubby species native to southern Rocky Mountains and four-corners region of the southwestern US. The oak can vary significantly in size and form from depending on its location. Fungi that feed on dead plant material are called saprotrophic fungi and common examples include the horsehair parachute fungus Marasmius androsaceus , which can be seen growing out of dead grass stems, leaves or pine needles, and the sulphur tuft fungus Hypholoma fasciculare , which fruits on logs that are at an advanced state of decomposition.

In a forest, the rate of decomposition depends on what the dead plant material is. Leaves of deciduous trees and the stems and foliage of non-woody plants generally break down quickly, and are usually gone within a year of falling to the forest floor. Some plant material, such as the fibrous dead fronds of bracken Pteridium aquilinum , takes longer, but will still be fully decomposed within three years.

The needles of conifers, such as Scots pine, are much tougher and it can take up to seven years for them to be completely broken down and recycled. The rate of decay is also determined by how wet the material is — in general the wetter it is the faster it breaks down, while in dry periods or dry climates, the organic matter becomes dessicated and many detritivores, such as fungi and slugs and snails, are inactive so the decomposition process becomes prolonged. In contrast to the softer tissues of herbaceous plants, the fibres of trees and other woody plants are much tougher and take a longer time to break down.

Fungi are still mostly the first agents of decay, and there are many species that grow in dead wood. The common names of species such as the wet rot fungus Coniophora puteana and the jelly rot fungus Phlebia tremellosa indicate their role in helping wood to decompose. The growth of the fungal hyphae within the wood helps other detritivores, such as bacteria and beetle larvae, to gain access. The fungi feed on the cellulose and lignin, converting those into their softer tissues, which in turn begin to decompose when the fungal fruiting bodies die.

Many species of slime mould also grow inside dead logs and play a role in decomposition. Like fungi, they are generally only visible when they are ready to reproduce and their fruiting bodies, or sporocarps, appear. Some decomposers are highly-specialised. For example, the earpick fungus Auriscalpium vulgare grows out of decaying Scots pine cones that are partially or wholly buried in the soil, while another fungus Cyclaneusma minus grows on the fallen needles of Scots pine.

As the wood becomes more penetrated and open, through, for example, the galleries produced by beetle larvae, it becomes wetter and this facilitates the next phase of decomposition. Invertebrates such as woodlice and millipedes feed on the decaying wood, and predators and parasites , such as robber flies and ichneumon wasps, will also arrive, to feed on beetles and other invertebrates.

Earth has more trees than it did 35 years ago - but there’s a huge catch

For trees such as birch Betula spp. Earthworms and springtails are often seen at this stage, when the decomposing wood will soon become assimilated into the soil, and they can reach high densities — the biomass of earthworms in broadleaved forests in Europe has been estimated at up to one tonne per hectare. The wood of Scots pine, however, has a high resin content, which makes it much more resistant to decay, and it can take several decades for a pine log to decompose fully. Most fungi, being soft-bodied and having a high water content, decompose quickly, often disintegrating and disappearing within a few days or weeks of fruiting.

The tougher, more woody fungi, such as the tinder fungus Fomes fomentarius and other bracket fungi, can persist for several years. However, in many cases they have specialist decomposers at work on them. The tinder fungus, for example, is the host for the larvae of the black tinder fungus beetle Bolitophagus reticulatus and the forked fungus beetle Bolitotherus cornutus , which feed on the fungal fruiting body, helping to break down its woody structure.

Re-Planting a Forest, One Drone at a Time

The bolete mould fungus Hypomyces chrysospermus is another species that grows on fungi, in this case members of the bolete group, which have pores on the underside of their caps instead of gills and includes edible species such as the cep Boletus edulis. The silky piggyback fungus Asterophora parasitica and its close relative the powdery piggyback fungus Asterophora lycoperdoides fruit on the caps of various brittlegill fungi Russula spp.

Slime moulds, although not actually fungi themselves, are somewhat fungus-like when they are in the fruiting stage of their life cycle, and the sporocarps of one species Trichia decipiens are highly susceptible to fungal mould growing on them, accelerating their decomposition process. In sharp contrast to decomposition in plants, fungi play a very limited role in the breakdown of dead animal matter, where the vast majority of the decomposers are other animals and bacteria.

Animal decomposers include scavengers and carrion feeders, which consume parts of an animal carcass, using it as an energy source and converting it into the tissues of their own bodies and the dung they excrete. These range from foxes and badgers to birds such as the hooded crow Corvus corone cornix , and also include invertebrates such as carrion flies, blow-flies and various beetles.

The dung they produce in turn forms the food source for other organisms, particularly dung beetles and burying beetles, while some fungi, including the dung roundhead Stropharia semiglobata grow out of dung, helping to break it down. For animal carcasses that are not immediately consumed by large scavengers, ecologists identify five stages in the decomposition process. The first of these is when the corpse is still fresh, and is typified by the arrival of carrion flies and blow-flies, which lay their eggs around the openings, such as the nose, mouth and ears, that allow easy access to the inside of the carcass.

In the second stage, the action of bacteria inside the corpse causes putrefaction and swelling of the carcass due to the production of gases. This is anaerobic decomposition, or decay in the absence of air, and it is characterised by its bad smell, in contrast to the odourless nature of aerobic decomposition. The next stage commences when the skin of the corpse is ruptured, which allows the gases to escape and the carcass to deflate again.

In this decay stage, the larvae or maggots of flies proliferate in large numbers and consume much of the soft tissues.