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Tree thieves may be targeting your "growing investment"

Tree thieves may be targeting your "growing investment"

Tree thieves are in the news again. A reader recently sent me a newspaper story about alleged thieves targeting hemlock trees. According to the article, park rangers found 2,700 hemlock saplings and seedlings dug from the Grundy Forest Natural Area, near Tracy City, Tennessee.

The park rangers arrested three men who had apparently planned to sell the hemlocks to a plant nursery. As a nurseryman myself, I can say that it would have been unlikely that any nursery would have been gullible enough to buy the trees from these alleged rustlers. Apart from the legal issues, those hemlocks would have been unlikely to survive the trauma.

According to the newspaper article, John Christof, the Natural Area manager said, "We put every one of the trees back in the ground as soon as we could [but] I believe 99% died."

At this time of year, many tree rustlers target Christmas tree farms, and even some homeowners wake up to find only a stump in their front yard where a fir tree had stood previously.

However, most "professional" tree rustlers are interested in how much a sawmill will pay them for the freshly cut trunk. Sawmills talk in terms of "dollars per board-foot" and pay higher prices for trees that, in turn, realize the best profits for them.

In previous columns, I’ve recommended that you should be extra vigilant if you have trees on your property that carry a high dollar value. Here are three trees that can be potential targets for tree thieves:

Black Walnut

One of my favorites, and proving increasingly popular with timberjackers, too. One reason: it has earned the nickname of "the money tree", because of its value to furniture makers. Over the past thirty years or so, the black walnut has once again achieved its former glory thanks to the development of genetically superior cultivars.

Black walnut trees can be a remarkably good investment. I know folks who have plantations of black walnuts that they expect will provide for their retirement in a few years. You can find several articles and archived columns about black walnut trees at my Web site if this sounds like something you'd be interested in. Go to www.landsteward.org and scroll through the Plant Man columns, or type "black walnut" into the Search window.

Sugar Maple

Sometimes known as Birds-eye maple or Acer Saccharum, the timber is often used for making picture frames. However, I like this tree because it's the perfect shade tree and looks great on a good sized lawn. That's why you can see them in municipal parks and on golf courses.

White Oak

Tree thieves love this one, too. I think the word to describe the white oak is ‘majestic', particularly when you see one that reaches a hundred or more feet from the ground.

I should emphasize that there’s no need to decide against planting these trees simply because they are popular with treejackers. They add beauty and elegance to your landscape and will probably increase the resale value of your home, should you decide to sell in the future. However, it pays to be aware that there are bad guys out there and you might need to take steps to protect your investment!

You can find more information at my Web site by typing "tree thieves" into the search window. You can also find out more about the trees mentioned above by finding this column archived under the Plant Man heading and clicking on the hot links.

The Plant Man is here to help. Send questions about trees, shrubs and landscaping to [email protected] For resources and additional information, or to subscribe to Steve’s free e-mailed newsletter, go to www.landsteward.org