When my kids were little, we had a paper map of all the trees growing around the Wisconsin capitol square. As I remember, it was produced by the Madison Children’s Museum. I did a quick search online and couldn’t find it – a paper version of anything these days is simply a relic. But hope was not lost! This past year, at an Environmental Education Conference, I had the pleasure of meeting Nicole Filizetti from the LEAF Program (read more about LEAF in the “For Educators” section). Nicole works at the Wisconsin Center for Environmental Education, and she and her colleagues are helping to grow and maintain an online map of urban trees across the state.

The Wisconsin Community Tree Map is an open-sourced tool that lets users identify trees in their community. The tool uses maps and charts to help users understand the benefits trees and forests provide. Zooming in on the State Capitol grounds, I find a map peppered with multiple colored dots, each representing an individual tree. The outer ring, along the sidewalk, is lined with blue dots, all of them maples. Turns out, the Freeman (hybrid) maple at the corner near the Children’s Museum (E. Mifflin St. and N. Hamilton) is 7 inches in diameter, and prevents an estimated 414 gallons of stormwater runoff each year.

Some data points require a log-in and the development team is still working to make the site as user-friendly and intuitive as possible, but it’s worth clicking through and exploring. Perhaps even mapping out under which tree you’ll sit to enjoy your fresh cheese curds when the Dane County Farmers Market returns in April. I have my eye on that Chinkapin Oak along Wisconsin Avenue that’s currently working to sequester its annual 179 pounds of carbon.

Did You Know…

According to the UW Alumni Association, the Honey Locust is the most common tree on UW Campus. The Madison campus boasts a total of 5,005 trees.

Arborist is listed in the Oxford dictionary as “tree surgeon.”

In my May 2018 Nature Net News edition, I wrote of a tree we had to cut down in our yard. We wondered if its death impacted the growth of other plants in our yard. There’s a link in that post to a “To the Best of Our Knowledge” episode about the fugal networks trees use to communicate with each other. But here’s a quick recap of this phenomena from the BBC News (also found on TheKidsShouldSeeThis.com)

2006 Flashback

Anatomy of a Tree
If you could peel back the protective armor of a tree (namely its bark), you would find many layers at work, each with a special task in maintaining the health of the tree. Just beneath the bark is a layer of cork, a non-living sheath of moisture and decay-resistant cells (yep, that’s why we use it for stopping up bottles). This cork originates from previous years phloem cells, the next layer in our tree dissection. Phloem is responsible for moving food (sugars created during photosynthesis) from the leaves to the rest of the tree. Beyond the phloem is a miraculous two-celled layer of the tree – the cambium. The cambium layer creates new cells in both directions – one growing outwards (the phloem) and one growing inward: the xylem (pron: zie-lum). The xylem acts as a transport system for water absorbed at the roots of the tree. The first 4-20 layers of xylem are known as the sapwood. Old layers of xylem darken and die, creating the supportive core of the tree, the heartwood.
See a diagram of the busy inner workings of a tree on the National Arbor Day Foundation website.
You might have guessed that the rings of a tree are laid down with each years growth at the cambium layer. Find more details on NOVA on-line’s “Anatomy of a Tree Ring.”

2020 Update: That NOVA weblink is looking decidedly 2006. Check out this in depth discussion of tree ring growth from BioNinja for an updated experience.

To Do This Month:

  • Volunteer with the Dane County Parks during the Tree and Brush Removal Workdays, happening now through March!
  • Activities at Cave of the Mounds don’t slow down once winter comes. Check out their website to learn about the many winter tours and specials available.
  • If you’re looking for more creative ways to teach your kids about trees and their importance, visit this unique website to come up with craft and activity ideas.
  • The MMSD Planetarium has shows each month surrounding different themes. These shows can offer a fun, indoor educational activity for you and your kids this winter, and tickets can be purchased online.
  • The Nature Net Calendar is updated monthly with activities happening at Nature Net sites, so you can visit our website to learn about upcoming nature-based and educational events for you and your family.


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For Educators:

The LEAF Program

The Wisconsin Center for Environmental Education at UW-Stevens Point, along with the Forestry Division of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources maintains the LEAF Program for K-12 Forestry Education. Originally created in 2001, the program offers curriculum and professional development for teachers across the state.

Resources include a Forestry Education Kit, materials on careers in Forestry, and a series of classroom-friendly Forestry videos. If you’re interested in growing your own knowledge on trees, forests, and woodland habitats, LEAF offers plenty of on-line and in-person opportunities for learning and exploring.

LEAF also hosts an annual Wisconsin School Forest Award program for individuals and organisations that “have provided leadership for local school forests.” Nominate someone today.

Not LEAF-related, but certainly tree-related: check out this tree ring lesson plan from KidsGardening.org. It’s designed for grades 9-12 and includes reading a section from Aldo Leopold’s “A Sand County Almanac.”

For Families:

Your Own Urban Tree  

According to the US Forest Service, urban trees and forests help to “filter air and water, control stormwater, conserve energy, and provide animal habitat and shade.” They also add beauty, form, and structure to urban design. Some call these traits “Ecosystem Services.” 

Ecosystem services provided by trees, according to Nature.com, can be categorized as:

  • cultural (spiritual, recreational)
  • provisional (food, fiber, water)
  • regulatory (climate and flood control)
  • supportive (pollination, soil formation)

If you ask my colleague Emily, the highlight of these ecosystem services is the food aspect. Some home fruit cultivars she recommends for southern Wisconsin include apples, pears, cherries, plums, apricots, and her favorite, peaches. 

If you’re planting your own tree, heed these tips from Arbor Day Foundation, including pre-soaking bare roots, leaving a three-foot diameter clearing around the tree, and watering every 7-10 days to help set your new tree up for success. 

Learn more about urban forestry and how to get involved in promoting tree equity from organizations like VibrantCitiesLab.com and TreePeople.org.

Just want to live in a tree? Check out GlampingHub.com to rent a dream treehouse for your next weekend adventure.


Betsy bylineCopy of Betsy bylineBetsy Parker is an environmental educator who supports all children, families, and classrooms getting their recommended daily allowance of #VitaminN.
Funding for Nature Net and the Nature Net News blog is provided by American Girl Fund for Children.