White Mountains Online

Arizona's White Mountains
Wildlings Identification & Gathering


The only seedlings and saplings on the Lakeside District that are available for transplanting are ponderosa pine. These young trees may only be taken from underneath the powerlines. The price is $5.00 per tree up to 10 feet, minimum $10.00 permit.

Dig all trees at least 300 feet away from any major roadway. Fill all holes from which trees are removed.

Transplanting Evergreen WildlingsThe best season for transplanting seedlings and saplings is in the spring before the tree begins to put out new growth or in the fall when the tree is dormant before the ground is frozen and snow falls.

Take advantage of periods when the ground is moist to move trees. Keep roots moist during transplanting. Usually smaller trees can be transplanted and kept alive easier than larger trees.Digging:

Mark a circle on the ground around the tree making the radius of the circle somewhat larger than the width of the ball. A tree 2 to 3 inches high should have a ball 12 inches in diameter. A tree 8 or 9 inches high should have a ball 24 inches in diameter.

Dig a vertical trench just outside the marked circle going down below the zone of abundant fibrous roots. The depth of the ball varies with the size of the tree. A ball 12 inches in diameter should have a depth of 9-10 inches. (slightly deeper for pine which has a long tap root). A ball 24 inches in diameter should have a depth of 16-18 inches.

Cut any lateral roots flush with the inside face of the trench. To avoid jarring the soil loose, use pruning shears or a saw instead of an ax for the larger roots.

Push off all the surplus soil with the back of the spade toward the ball. Trim the sides to slope inward so that the diameter at the bottom of the ball is a few inches less than at the top, and the surface of the ball is smooth.

If the ball is not more than 18 inches in diameter and the soil is compact, adhering firmly, simply undercut the ball and tip it over on a square of burlap. Then lift the ball from the hole. Next draw burlap tight around the ball and pin in place with nails. If the soil is loose, reinforce the pinning with heavy cord, net fencing of light rope drawn around the ball. Pinning and roping should be completed in the hole before lifting.

  • Prepare a hole that is at least a foot wider than the ball diameter and about 5 inches deeper than the ball.
  • Heap up a low mound in the center of the hole. Measure the depth of the ball as accurately as it is possible then adjust mound height to insure leaving the tree at the same level held in its former location. Lower the tree into the hole then shovel in enough soil at the base of the ball to hold it in place.
  • Loosen the burlap, but do not remove. Shovel in top soil or prepared soil until the hole is about half full. Tamp down to reduce air pockets.
  • Fill the hole with water and when this has soaked away, fill with soil up to ground level.
  • Build up a 3-4 inch ridge around the outer edge of the ball to reduce runoff from watering. If the soil in the ball appears more compact than adjoining backfill, see to it that the ball is well moistened at the start of planting.
Care After Planting:

To keep the tree growing upright, a stake should be driven into the ground beside it to about 1 foot in depth and the tree fastened to the stake with wire running through an old garden hose. To the newly planted tree, proper watering is the most important of all measures. The soil should be kept fresh at all times and occasionally be well saturated to make sure that roots have not dried out. Water logging should be avoided.

Classification of Tree Sizes Within a Forest:
  • Seedlings: up to 3 feet high
  • Saplings: 3 feet to 10 feet high; up to 4 inch dbh*
  • Poles: 4 inches to 12 inches DBH
  • Standards: 1 foot to 2 foot DBH - saw timber
  • Veterans: over 2 foot dbh - saw timber

DBH = diameter at breast height which is 4.5 feet high to measure diameter volume

For more information, please feel free to contact the
USDA Forest Service, Lakeside Ranger District at 520.368.5111
or you may write us at 2022 W. White Mtn. Blvd.,
Pinetop-Lakeside, Arizona 85935

Be sure to check with the Lakeside Ranger Station for current information on gathering permits or fees that may be required.

White Mountains Online wishes to express our appreciation to the
USDA Forest Service, Lakeside District for providing this information!

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