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Site Description

Old Man’s Timber encompasses approximately 100 acres of timber, and comprises primarily floodplain forest (~75acres) along Old Man’s and Old Women’s Creeks (flowing from the NW) with some upland ridges of oak – hickory woodland remnants that rise 85 feet in elevation to a small, 3.5-acre, reconstructed tallgrass prairie.  The timber has been relatively protected for several decades with no grazing, timber harvest or other disturbances.  Harry Graves, Johnson County Conservationist, reported upon his inspection that Old Man’s Timber is a mature, relatively pristine timber, providing high quality woodland wildlife habitat, something of a rarity in Iowa.  For this reason, and many others, it is worth saving.

Old Man’s Timber Property Boundary

On March 5th, 2012, Mark Vitosh, Iowa DNR District forester walked Old Man’s Timber with me and Miechelle.  From his visit, a few notes and several photographs, Mark prepared a Forest Stewardship plan for us.  His plan guided us to actions that would meet our objectives that included

  • To maintain and enhance plant diversity, forest health, natural beauty and opportunities for recreational activities,
  • To provide habitat for a diversity of wildlife, and
  • To promote open oak woodland habitat where feasible.

Mark described the land as five different stands.  As is traditional for stand classification, Mark described the stand as three layers (overstory, middle layer and lower layer) and three densities (dense, moderately dense, and scattered).  Trees in each stand were also classified into five size categories ranging from seedling-sized (less than 1 inch in diameter), sapling-sized (1 to 4 inches in diameter measured at breast height (DBH) 4.5 feet off the ground), pole-sized ( 5 to 12 inches DBH), small sawtimber-sized (13 to 18 inches DBH), and large-sized (> 19 inches DBH).  Shrub and non-woody vegetation were also listed when found in significant populations.

Stand 1A
The overstory this stand consists of scattered pole to small sawtimber-sized bitternut hickory, red/black oak, black walnut, honeylocust, and shagbark hickory. There are a few large-sized trees also. The understory (lower layer) consists of scattered seedling to pole-sized bitternut hickory, hackberry, hawthorn, and ironwood. There are also native shrubs such as gooseberry and dogwood present in this lower layer.
Stand 1B
The overstory of this stand consists of scattered pole to large-sized honeylocust, and pole-sized ash, shagbark hickory, and bitternut hickory. There are a few large-sized red oak also. The understory (lower layer) consists of scattered to some moderately dense pockets of seedling to sapling-sized hackberry, elm, ironwood, and hawthorn.
Stand 2
This stand is divided by Old Man’s Creek. The overstory of this stand consists of scattered small sawtimber to large-sized river birch, silver maple, honeylocust, and black walnut. In the mid-story there are some scattered pole-sized ash and bitternut hickory. The understory consists of scattered seedling to pole-sized hackberry, elm, and some bitternut hickory.
Stand 3A
This area is south of the creek. The overstory of this stand consists of scattered large-sized bur oak, red oak, and honeylocust, along with some pole to small sawtimber-sized bitternut hickory, black walnut, and elm. The understory consists of scattered seedling to pole-sized bitternut hickory, elm, and hackberry. We also found a few of the non- native invasive shrub honeysuckle in this stand.

Stand 3B
This area is north of the creek. The overstory of this stand consists of scattered small sawtimber to large-sized honeylocust, green ash, silver maple and black walnut.  The understory consists of scattered seedling to pole-sized trees.

Stand Identification Areas

Stand Identification Areas

Mark offered the following management suggestions:

A significant priority for managing all stands of your woodlands should be to keep non- native invasive species such as honeysuckle, garlic mustard, multi-flora rose, autumn olive, Oriental bittersweet, and others from taking over your woodland areas. This is not something that will be accomplished over-night; instead it will have to be a long-term effort. If you just let the area go un-managed species such as garlic mustard and honeysuckle could destroy or significantly reduce the quality of your woodland in the future.

If there are any quality trees in any stand that have vines encroaching the living crown of the tree, then cut the vine (s) to promote tree health. If vines are left in desirable trees they can grow up into the living crown and cause competition for light.

Historically portions of forests in this county were often described as open woodlands meaning they had limited understory vegetation. Looking at the 1930’s photo of the property portions of this woodland were much more open compared to now. Through portions of this property (especially stand 3A) there are large scattered oak trees in the overstory and mostly seedling to sapling-sized elm, bitternut, and hackberry in the understory. Basically, in areas like this there are no new oak coming because it is not tolerant to shade, and it needs full availability to sunlight to become re-established. If areas like this are left alone, eventually as the oak decline in health the remaining forest cover will be elm, bitternut, and hackberry.The bottom-line is if you want to maintain some oak component in this stand (3A) and others such as 1A and 1B you will need to start managing for new oak now or before significant large oaks decline in health.

In the few areas where there are pockets of scattered large-sized oak such as stand 3A and small portions of 1A and 1B consider re-creating a few small pockets or areas of open oak woodland. To re-create an open woodland look and to give oak an opportunity to re-generate, consider using a combination of mechanical removal and possibly prescribed fire to accomplish this task. Try a small manageable area (1/4 to 1 acre) at first, and then in future years if you like the results you can expand the area where the conditions are similar.

This task can be very difficult to accomplish and is not a process that will occur overnight. If prescribed burning is not used in combination with mechanical removal, the understory competition will continue to re-invade these areas. Also, opening up a stand to more sunlight can give sun-loving species such as wild raspberry and multi-flora rose an opportunity to become established. If prescribed fire is not used continued mechanical work will be needed to maintain openness. Even if this process is successful, it may take many years (20 years or more) and extensive time and funding to establish new oaks. With the above caution noted, below are some suggestions that can be used to open up parts of these stands (1A, 1B, and 3A) and increase the potential to regenerate oak in the future.

Consider using the Forest Stand Improvement (FSI) practice called weed tree removal in portions of these stands where there are pockets of larger oak to promote the existing oak and potential re-generation of new oaks. In specific portions of these stands, consider removing seedling to pole-sized hackberry, mulberry, honeylocust, ironwood, hawthorn, elm, and selective bitternut hickory to create a more open-woodland like area. Leave any shagbark hickory and oak alone, along with some scattered bitternut hickory.

**Note: Do not do this work between March and October 1 to avoid wounding any existing oaks during the removal activities. Wounding oaks at this time can make them more susceptible to the fungus that causes the disease oak wilt** In areas where an open woodland will be created remove all listed species (unless noted) above that are 4 inches in diameter or less and treat the stumps with a herbicide labeled for this use to prevent re-sprouting.

1930's Aerial Photo

1930’s Aerial Photo

Miechelle and I would like to thank Mark Vitosh for his insightful suggestions and very helpful Forest Stewardship Plan.  He has given me enough work to keep me out of mischief for many years to come!


The story of Old Man’s Creek has been recorded in the “History of Johnson County, Iowa, 1836 – 1882“, printed in 1883 and reprinted in 1979.  The following text is taken directly from this reference —

Mr. W.F. Smith of Washington township, relates how the name of “Old Man’s Creek” originated.  He says they called it Pa-pa-to  see-po; but some other settlers give it as Push-I-to-see-po.  Mr. Smith says this creek was their hiding place for their old men, women and children, when the braves went off “on the war path.”  The Musquakies and other Sac and Fox tribes were at mortal enmity with certain Sioux tribes on the headwaters of the Iowa river, and beyond.  And when the Sac and Foxes were ready to make a foray on their up stream enemies they would send their non-combatants out onto Papato creek for concealment, in case they should be worsted in the fight and be pursued down the river by their victorious enemies.  In Liberty township, about four or fives miles up the creek from its mouth, and then about a mile from the creek there is a high knoll of land between the creek and the river; from the top of this knoll both streams can be seen; and also the surrounding country of a great many miles.  This place is called the “Indian lookout,” and formed a way mark to reckon localities from in its neighborhood by the early settlers, but had been used by the Indians to watch for their returning warriors coming down the river with good or bad news, or with enemies pursuing, and communicate it by a short run of a mile or two to the home camp, when the canoes would have to go eight or ten miles farther around by way of the streams.  Mr Smith’s theory is that the name Papato (or Pushito, or Peshito, as some give it) was a combination of Indian words meaning simply “old and young,” without any distinction of man or woman — and simply meant a place of safety or concealment for the old men who could not go to war, and the children.  Yet with their meagerness of language and narrowness of ideas, it is altogether likely that “old man” or “old men” would be the dominant and foremost element of the name or expression, and the idea in their minds with regard to it.


Last modified on January 31st, 2013
Posted on May 22nd, 2012