Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Site Indicator: There's Crawdad Holes, and There's Big Crawdad Holes

Foresters are looking up, down, and all around all the time when they are walking in the woods.  As the years roll by you pick up clues that help you understand the sites you are crossing on your recons and cruises.  I worked most of my forester years in the Clay Pan Region of Southern Illinois. The soils here are not as productive as the prairie soils north of this region, but if you understand what plants like which sites, you can use that knowledge to great advantage.  What does a massive crawdad hole mean to you?

This really big crawdad hole on a creek bottom site tells you that there is no restrictive layer in this soil; something that the ancient soils of the Clay Pan Region typically have. No restrictive layer in deep soil in a creek bottom is a good thing if you want to grow high quality hardwoods.

The two most common soil types you find in unrestricted creek bottoms are Belknap and Sharon Silt Loam.  Both are great sites for growing black walnut.  Sharon is a bit more productive, and if you don't have a soil map, you can easily tell whether you are on a Sharon site by knowing Spicebush.  It is common on Sharon, and does not seem to grow on Belknap.  These creek bottoms will have bluffs on either side, of course.  Those bluffs will have soil types such as Hickory, which also do not have a restrictive layer, due to the steepness of the soil, which inhibited fragipan development.  The bluffs are ideal sites for groundhog dens because of this.  It just so happens that Spicebush is a great seasoning to add to a groundhog in your roaster.  Cut Spicebush twigs in segments and poke them in all over your groundhog after you have parboiled it, and before you roast it with potatoes, carrots, and onions.

We were talking about walnut.  Here is a nice, 19 inch Diameter at Breast Height black walnut on a 3382 Belknap site. It was growing well, and will be worth good money when it is harvested.

One of the ways you identify black walnut is by the chocolate color of the bark when you peel off the outer, oxidized layer.

You can see the 3382 Belknap soil type between the steep bluffs on either side on this soil map. The walnut featured above was on this site.

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