Where the Wild Turkeys Are

November 20th, 2017|Tags: , |0 Comments

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By Dylan Stuntz, American Forests

This Thanksgiving, you might find turkey on your plate, but it generally isn’t of the wild variety. On the contrary, wild turkeys are found in forests across the country — 49 states, to be exact! Five subspecies are scattered throughout the continental U.S. and Hawaiʻi, indicating the turkey’s ability to live in a variety of forest ecosystems, from swamps to oak forests to deep desert.

A female eastern wild turkey in Canada

A female eastern wild turkey in Canada. Credit: Dave Doe

Turkeys’ preferred habitat is mixed-conifer and hardwood forests, with various open spaces to find food, such as seeds, nuts, leaves and insects. Despite their large size, they are agile fliers and capable of roosting among high trees, either while foraging for food or avoiding predators.

Each subspecies prefers a unique habitat and possesses slightly different plumage, but they are all considered to be members of the same species of wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo).

Eastern wild turkey

(Meleagris gallopavo silvestris)

Christened “forest turkey” by the Puritans in the 1800s, this turkey has the largest range of any subspecies. They can be found in much of the eastern U.S., spanning from the Canadian border to northern Florida and westward to the Mississippi River. They can be identified by the brown-tipped upper tail feather found on the male. Habitat for this subspecies is typically wet, swampy land, or early-growth forests with low-lying brush situated throughout.

Osceola wild turkey

(Meleagris gallopavo osceola)

This subspecies can only be found in southern Florida. The smallest subspecies of wild turkey, this bird has darker, green-tinged feathers and can be found among palmetto stands and swamps. Researchers estimate that 80,000 to 100,000 birds make up the population, but an accurate count is difficult to make because the bird’s swampy habitat isn’t very accessible to researchers.

Rio Grande wild turkey

(Meleagris gallopavo intermedia)

Found among the southern/central desert regions of the U.S. this bird was also introduced and has found a niche in northern California and Hawaiʻi. Out of the five subspecies, this one has the longest legs, which are best adapted to prairie living. The Rio Grande wild turkey can usually be found among scrub oak, mesquite and pine forests, as well as along streams and river bottoms.

Merriam’s wild turkey

(Meleagris gallopavo merriami)

These turkeys are native to the Rocky Mountains, clustering among forests of ponderosa pine. The back feathers of this subspecies are white-tipped. During the winter months, the turkeys will move down the mountain slopes to avoid snow, then return during the spring to feast on dropped seeds. The turkey was named after C. Hart Merriam, first chief of the Division of Economic Ornithology and Mammalogy of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a division that would later become the National Wildlife Research Center and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Gould’s wild turkey

(Meleagris gallopavo mexicana)

The largest of the subspecies, this turkey can only be found in Arizona, New Mexico and northern Mexico. Its feathers are copper-colored with a greenish tint. They frequent small underbrush, commonly found along dry creek beds. While this turkey inhabits a dryer climate than the other subspecies, it manages to subsist on a diet of insects, berries and seeds, scavenging wherever possible.

While each of these varieties of turkey may have slightly different habitat, one thing remains constant: To support a wild turkey population, the landscape needs to have vegetation. Turkeys co-exist with trees and forests all across the country, whether it be roosting in them, feasting on them or simply living among them.

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Forest Digest: November 19, 2017

November 19th, 2017|Tags: , , , , |0 Comments

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Credit: Chuck Fazio

Find out what’s happened this past week in the world of forestry!

Trees in Some Cities Grow Faster Than in the Wild, and Here’s the Crazy Reason Why – Science Alert

New research from the Technical University of Munich has found that, on average, trees are growing faster today than they were in the 1960s. The growth rate of urban trees was also found to be up to 25 percent higher than rural trees. It’s hypothesized that climate change is responsible for the increased average growth rate, as warmer temperatures allow trees and other plans to extend the amount of time photosynthesizing. The higher rate of urban growth is thought to be a result of warmer air being created by pavement, streets, sidewalks, carparks and buildings. Higher growth rates mean trees are aging faster, and potentially dying earlier than their rural counterparts.

Aspen Forests and the Appeal for PhotographersColorado Springs Independent

Photographer Sean Cayton highlights the appeal of forests full of aspen, as well as showcasing some of the stunning photos he’s snapped.

$2 Billion Investment in Forest Restoration Announced at COP23 – EcoWatch

At the 23rd Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (known informally as COP23), it was announced that $2.1 billion has been committed to forest restoration in Latin America and the Caribbean. The money is funded through private investments in the World Resources Institute, and will go towards restoring degraded forests and replanting land that has been deforested for decades.

More Big Mammals Found in High-Carbon Forests – Mongabay

Recent research has found that biodiversity in forests is strongly correlated to the amount of carbon stored in the ecosystem, according to a study published by researchers at the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology at the University of Kent in the U.K. The researchers hope that these new findings will allow high-carbon forests to be marked as priority areas for conservation, considering that they allow for a greater net biodiversity in a global ecosystem.

Community Hosts Replanting Event After Vandals Chopped Down 77 TreesBradenton Herald

After vandals destroyed over 70 trees in a park in Bradenton, Fla., the community rallied together to replace what was lost. The trees were chopped down overnight last May, and the vandals are still at large. In response to the loss, the community decided to hold a tree-planting event, along with a naming ceremony. Each of the trees planted will be named after a community member, to give a sense of ownership to the park.

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Thanksgiving Treets: Walnuts

November 17th, 2017|Tags: |0 Comments

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By Dylan Stuntz, American Forests

Our final Thanksgiving Treet features the walnut!

The common walnut (Juglans regia), also called the Persian walnut or English walnut originated in Central Asia, with some legends positing that Alexander the Great exported walnuts to Greece, spreading the tree across the Mediterranean. The common walnut is the edible variety most often grown for commercial distribution.

The black walnut (Juglans nigra) and butternut walnut (Juglans cinerea) are other members of the walnut family native to North America. Both trees are native to the central and eastern U.S., but most commercial walnut production occurs along the Pacific coast, so neither tree is produced commercially on the same industrial level as the common walnut.

Walnuts will release into the soil a biochemical called hydrojuglone that, when exposed to soil or air, converts to the chemical juglone, which is toxic to many other species of plant. As a result, walnut trees will often be free-standing, with few other plants or trees found in a radius around them, thus eliminating potential competitors for resources. Black walnuts release a higher amount of juglone than butternut or common walnuts, making black walnuts difficult for commercial orchards to produce.

The walnut is not a true nut, rather instead it is instead the seed of a pseudodrupe, meaning that the “shell” of the walnut is actually a pit found inside the fruit of a walnut tree. There is some debate among the scientific community as the designation of walnuts as a pseudodrupe, with some researchers instead calling it a “drupaceous nut.” Regardless, after a walnut flower is pollinated it produces a dry green husk around a harder inner pit. The pit is considered to be the “shell” of the walnut, and the edible walnut is the seed of the tree found inside the pit.

Walnuts are deciduous trees growing between 60 to 80 feet tall. The walnut tree has leaves that are a brighter and yellowish shade of green compared to many other trees, alternating along the branch and forming later in the spring than many other trees that share similar habitats. The tree will flourish in light-intensive environments and is capable of pollination from heavy winds.

Almost half of the approximately 3 million annual tons of walnuts comes from China, with the U.S. and Iran coming in as the next-biggest producers, each producing 16 percent and 14 percent, respectively. While most commercial walnuts sell only the nutmeat, the shell can also be broken down for ink and oil. It’s thought that Leonardo Da Vinci may have experimented with walnut oil while writing some of his notebooks!

Sweet Potato Walnut Casserole


  • 3 lbs. sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 3 tbsp. canola oil
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • ½ tsp. vanilla
  • ¼ cup packed brown sugar
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • 1¼ tsp. kosher salt, divided
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 cup raw oats
  • 2/3 cup coarsely chopped walnuts, toasted
  • 1½ tbsp. all-purpose flour



  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Bake potatoes for 10-15 minutes, until soft (toothpick or fork should come out clean).
  3. Heat oil and butter in a medium skillet over medium heat until butter melts. Add vanilla to oil mixture; cook 30 seconds. Remove pan from heat; let stand 10 minutes.
  4. Add maple syrup, 1 teaspoon salt, cinnamon and orange juice to potatoes. Mix by hand with a masher. Spoon potato mixture into an 11 x 7-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.
  5. Add oats, walnuts, flour, sugar, and remaining ¼ teaspoon salt to butter mixture; toss. Sprinkle over potato mixture. Bake at 375° for 35 minutes or until bubbly around the edges.


American Forests wishes you and yours a very happy Thanksgiving!

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Thanksgiving Treets: Pecans

November 16th, 2017|Tags: |0 Comments

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By Dylan Stuntz, American Forests

As you consider the what you’ll include in your holiday meal, we’re sharing some history and fun facts about the trees behind your favorite foods. For this Thanksgiving Treet, we’re looking at a classic holiday dessert, chocolate pecan pie, and learning about the pecan tree!

Credit: Stu Spivack

The pecan tree (Carya illinoinensis) is a species of tree native to Mexico and the southern U.S. The domestication of the pecan began relatively recently, compared to many other cultivated crops. As the species flourished in its native range for thousands of years, nuts would just be picked off wild trees. Early Franciscan missionaries started cultivating orchards in the 1600s, and even Thomas Jefferson kept trees on his plantation. However, active widespread domestication of the pecan did not begin in earnest until the mid-1800s, when budding and grafting of plants began across the country.

The pecan is a deciduous tree, growing between 70 and 100 feet tall. The leaves are dark green, tapered and alternate along the branch, and the tree flowers in the spring. Pecans are usually located along stream banks, river plains and other well-watered soils, and in an ideal climate are able to live up to 300 years or more. The seed of the tree, also called the pecan, has a buttery, creamy flavor and can be eaten raw or cooked.

The word “pecan” comes from the Algonquin word meaning “nut,” but the pecan is not a true nut. A nut is a shell or pod, with the fruit and seed of the plant contained inside. Chestnuts, acorns and hazelnuts are examples of true nuts. Pecans are technically drupes, which have the fruit on the outside and a pit inside holding the seed. Peaches and plums are drupes, along with pecans. The difference is that people eat the fruit of a peach, while the edible part of a pecan is actually the seed of the plant.

Today, Mexico and the United States produce 47 percent and 46 percent of the annual crop of pecans, respectively. However, almost 80 percent of the world’s supply is handled in the U.S. through shelling and marketing. Pecans contribute almost $517 million to the U.S. economy, through the sale of nutmeat for general consumption, as well as the sale of shells for landscape mulch and particleboard.

Chocolate Pecan Pie


  • 1 9-in. unbaked pie crust
  • 3 eggs
  • 2/3 cup white sugar
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1/3 cup margarine, melted
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 cup pecan halves
  • 1-½ cups semisweet chocolate chips



  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Beat eggs, sugar, salt, margarine, and syrup with hand mixer.
  3. Stir in pecans and chocolate chips.
  4. Pour mixture into pie shell.
  5. Bake until set, 40 to 50 minutes. Cool.


A version of this recipe was originally published by Allrecipes.

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Thanksgiving Treets: Pears

November 15th, 2017|Tags: |0 Comments

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By Dylan Stuntz, American Forests

As the holiday season approaches, here at American Forests we’re featuring some recipes to consider, as well as fun context about the trees behind the food. For this feast feature, we’ve picked pear trees and included a recipe for wine-poached pears, a delicious appetizer or dessert! (This recipe does need to cool for several hours, so this is one delicious dish you won’t want to save for the last minute!)

Credit: berries.com

There are two common types of pear trees: the Asian pear (Pyrus pyrifolia) and the European pear (Pyrus communis). The common ancestor of both is thought to have originated 55 million years ago in western China. After naturally spreading across Asia, the tree was domesticated both in China and in Asia Minor along the Mediterranean Sea, allowing varieties of pear to spread around the globe. China is still the largest worldwide producer of pears, with 70 percent of the annual 25.8 million total tons produced coming from the country.

The Asian pear is sometimes called an apple-pear, because the flesh has a harder texture and occasionally a rounder shape. They are considered to be crisper and sweeter than their European cousins. Cultivation of the pear began 3,000 years ago, with ancient accounts from both China and Japan recording more than 150 different varieties.

Meanwhile, Hellenistic cultures were responsible for the spread and cultivation of the European pear, breeding more and more varieties. The European pear is considered juicier and more buttery than the Asian variety. The ancient Greek bard Homer wrote that “Pears are a gift of God,” while the Roman historian Pliny the Elder detailed the more than 40 varieties the Romans had successfully bred in his writings.

Most pear varieties are deciduous, but certain varieties native to Southeast Asia are evergreen. Trees can grow between 30 to 50 feet in height, often resulting in a tall, narrow crown. The leaves in most varieties are dark green and ovular, alternately arranged along the branches. The tree will flower in the spring, resulting in five-petaled white blossoms.

The edible “flesh” of the pear is not actually the fruit, rather the technical fruit of the plant is the inedible core. A pear is what’s known as a “false fruit,” where the flesh is technically a swollen stem, while the seed-holding core is the fruit.

Spiced Red Wine Poached Pears


  • 2 cups dry red wine, such as cabernet or merlot
  • ¼ cup plus 1 tbsp. of sugar
  • 1 orange, juiced (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 strip orange zest (about 1″x3″)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 cloves
  • 4 firm, ripe pears



  1. In a 4-quart saucepan, combine wine, sugar, orange juice, zest, cinnamon stick and cloves.
  2. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
  3. While liquid is simmering, peel pears, leaving stem intact and being careful not to blemish the flesh of the pears. Slice 1/2-inch off the bottom of the pears to create a flat bottom.
  4. Gently place pears in poaching liquid, cover, and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, turning every 5 minutes to ensure even color, until pears are cooked but still firm.
  5. Remove saucepan from flame, uncover and cool with pears upright in pan.
  6. Gently remove pears from liquid and allow to come to room temperature. Once cool, cover and chill in refrigerator at least 3 hours or up to 24 hours.
  7. Strain liquid, removing orange zest, cinnamon stick and cloves. Reduce by about half over a medium-high flame for 15 minutes, until liquid is thicker and slightly syrupy. Remove from flame and let liquid come to room temperature.
  8. Drizzle each pear with 2 tablespoons syrup and serve.


A version of this recipe was originally published by Food Network.

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