After you’ve enjoyed your deep fried Thanksgiving turkey, you have probably wondered what to do with the gallons of accompanying grease. While it may seem harmless to pour your used oil down the drain, or try and stash it in the garbage, dumping any amount of cooking oil can damage your local sewage systems and harm wildlife. The solution? Recycle it! Continue reading →
In 2004, Congress officially recognized the Mighty Oak as our national tree. While no specific species was designated, the entire Quercus genus was given this honor. The significance of oaks extends beyond their individual characteristics. As keystone species, oaks play a crucial role in supporting entire ecosystems. They provide essential sustenance and shelter for wildlife, contribute to soil enrichment, and boast sturdy wood that serves numerous purposes. Moreover, their majestic presence in the landscape has made them iconic symbols of natural beauty.
How do you know which oak is best for your yard?
The 2024 Arbor Day Tree Giveaway will feature two oak species, white oak (Quercus alba) and Nutall oak (Quercus texana). Let’s take a deeper dive into the similarities and differences between the two species and help decipher which oak is best for your landscape.
The white oak can soar to a height of 100 feet, with a robust trunk that measures over 3 feet in diameter. Flourishing on fertile slopes or drier uplands, it is instantly recognizable due to its distinct pale bark that give it tree its name. Its leaves, spanning from 6 to 9 inches in length, exhibit deep lobes and rounded contours. In contrast to its red oak counterparts, the white oak lacks bristle tips on its leaves. During the flowering season, the male catkins can reach lengths of 3 to 4 inches, emanating a delightful yellow-green hue. White oaks bears diminutive reddish female flowers, measuring a mere half an inch and small light brown acorns that require at least a single season to reach maturity. As the tree ages its bark undergoes a captivating transformation, evolving from a smooth surface to an invitingly shaggy texture, characterized by loose plates.
The Nuttall oak is also a substantial tree, reaching heights exceeding 75 feet, with a crown extending 30-60 feet and a trunk measuring two or more feet in diameter. This species thrives in forested wetlands and moist areas. Its leaves, measuring 4-6 inches in length, display bristle-tipped lobes. The Nuttall oak bears both male and female flowers, with male catkins reaching 5 inches in length. The acorns of this oak are slightly larger than those of the white oak, and a darker brown. The dark grey bark, which starts off smooth, eventually breaks into scaly plates on larger trunks.
Oaks are a popular species for our native pollinators. Native oak trees are a host to over 500 species of moths and butterflies in the US. This is more than any other native or non-native species, making the oak the Most Valuable Player in an urban landscape. Planting either Nuttall or white oak in your yard is sure to attract birds, butterflies, and wildlife.
The white oak is a popular and long-lived canopy tree – if you only have room for one large shade tree its an excellent choice. This is a slow-growing species; while you may not witness its full splendor in your lifetime, it will be a living legacy for the generations that follow. This tree needs to be planted in sunny areas and can tolerate both dry and moist conditions. The white oak provides ample shade once it matures, and its leaves change color as the temperature cools. Transplanting the white oak is difficult due to its deep taproot. However, this tree is incredibly stable and can stand tall in the landscape for over 200 years.
Nuttall oak is one of the most well-adapted oaks for general use in urban and suburban landscapes. This species grows fast and can tolerate wet and dry conditions. They need to be planted in an area with access to full sun, offering a spot to sit under for shade in the summer. The dark green glossy leaves turn a beautiful red color right before they start to drop in winter which brings a variety of color to your yard. The acorns are a benefit to wildlife, especially squirrels, but can become messy if not maintained.
Whether it’s the majestic white oak, with its slow growth and long lifespan, or the versatile Nuttall oak, known for its rapid growth and adaptability, both choices offer abundant benefits to your yard! By planting a native oak, you will not only support a diverse array of local caterpillars that transform into beautiful butterflies and moths but also contribute to the vital role of these pollinators. Moreover, the oak’s presence will attract a variety of bird and wildlife species, creating a thriving backyard habitat. There’s no wrong decision when it comes to adding an oak tree to your landscape; its important to consider the specific characteristics and requirements each tree has to ensure its success in your yard. Whether in your yard or on the trail, appreciate the beauty and benefits of these magnificent oaks!
Don’t forget to join the Environmental Services Department for the 48th annual Arbor Day Tree Giveaway on January 27th, 2024, from 9am – noon at Rob Fleming Park.
We regret to inform you that the 3R Recycling Drive Thru Event, which was originally scheduled for Saturday, November 11, 2023, has been postponed due to unfavorable weather conditions. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.
We will keep you updated on the new date of the event, so please stay tuned.
Zachary Thibodeaux is currently a senior in the Academy of Science and Technology at The Woodlands College Park High School. He is also a dedicated environmentalist who wanted to pursue an internship where he could make a difference in the community. This summer he did just that, lending his talents and passion to The Woodlands Township Environmental Services Department’s education programs.
One large role Zachary played was taking the Wrap Recycling Action Program (WRAP) on the road to local grocery stores. There he engaged with residents, providing information about recycling plastic bags and film at the store and helping to reduce single-use plastics by handing out over 234 reusable produce bags. Using a data sheet he created, Zachary collected information on how many residents knew that plastic film was accepted at the store, and other metrics that will help improve WRAP education and outreach.
He stated, “The most valuable thing I learned is that community involvement is vital to achieving environmental goals.” He believes the Environmental Services internship inspired him to live a more environmentally conscious lifestyle. For example, working on the WRAP Program has helped him to remember to bring reusable bags to the grocery store to reduce plastic waste. The WRAP Program also motivated him to check all plastic film to see if it can be recycled before he throws it away. He feels this internship helped him prepare for studying environmental engineering in college because it helped expand his knowledge of several environmental issues, including litter/pollution, recycling, and native vs. invasive species, all of which environmental engineers might focus on. He also acquired more experience working with data, such as determining what data to collect, analyzing it, and reporting his results, which is especially important for fields related to science or engineering.
Zachary assisted the Environmental Services Department with several other projects including the Bioblitz BioBooth, where he shared information about the importance of native plants alongside a prospective Eagle Scout working on Invasive Species Removal. A Texas Waters Specialist, Zachary also attended litter audits as part of the department’s Watershed Project. He participated in the Waterway Cleanups and analyzed data from past litter audits to determine what types of litter were of the greatest concern in The Woodlands, and compare the debris found at various locations within The Woodlands to inform future messaging.
From day one, Zachary had a positive attitude and came in with an open mind and motivation to learn. Seeing Zachary grow professionally and academically this summer was inspiring, and a reminder that the next generation of professionals will surely make a positive impact on society. We’re grateful for all the work Zachary has put into his internship with Environmental Services and we wish him all the best in his future endeavors! We have no doubt he has a bright future ahead.
As weather warms, mosquitoes seemingly come out of the woodwork. How is it that they are always able to find you?
Mosquitoes use a highly tuned sensory system to zero in on their next blood meal. About 200 feet away, mosquitoes get the first whiffs of carbon dioxide we exhale as we enjoy a bit of gardening or a jog down the pathway. Following the plume – whether it is emitted by us, our furry companions, or a mockingbird up in the trees – brings them closer to the potential host.
Once the carbon dioxide has drawn her within sight, she is further attracted by dark colors and high-contrast patterns. Remember this the next time you reach for something to wear to the neighborhood picnic. Long, loose, light-colored clothing with a tight weave is a good first defense against the piercing mouthparts of the female mosquito. She seeks a blood meal, not to feed herself, but in pursuit of protein to make eggs. You might be surprised to know that mosquitoes drink plant nectar to fuel their bodies, and pollinate plants in the process.
When within three feet the mosquito can sense the heat signature of your body, differentiating you from say, a park bench. Investigating further, she hones in on a specific area to land using “smells” she picks up through her antennae. Lactic acid, uric acid, and ammonia in sweat, as well as the scent of fabric softeners, perfumes and colognes can all attract mosquitoes.
Mosquito repellants can employ a couple different mechanisms in your defense. One is to jam chemical signals from reaching a mosquito’s antennae. The other is to be offensive to the mosquito once she lands and can “taste” it with her feet. Repellents may use one or both mechanisms – termed primary and secondary repellency.
As we each have a unique chemical signature, try a few repellents to find the one that’s most effective for you. Look past the brand name on the front of the bottle to the bottom. There you’ll find one of the active ingredients the CDC recommends: Picaridin, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus, DEET, or IR3535. What works best for you might be different from your partner or kids.
The Mosquito Surveillance & Education Program of The Woodlands Township uses the mosquito’s keen sensory perception to our advantage. We use a variety of lures and baits to attract mosquitoes into traps for weekly monitoring throughout the Township. For example, the Biogents Sentinel trap uses a lure that smells a lot like stinky gym socks. It also has a high-contrast color pattern and can be made more appealing by the addition of dry ice to emit carbon dioxide. These three features mimic a human host, drawing the mosquitoes close enough to be sucked into a net by a battery-powered fan. The captured mosquitoes are collected the next morning and sent to a laboratory for identification and disease testing. Tracking changes in the number of mosquitoes caught, species present, and disease trends over time provides the foundation for mosquito control activities in The Woodlands.