Sunday, October 30, 2022

Episode 640 (10-31-22 Halloween Special): A Water-related Halloween-themed Tree Quiz

CLICK HERE to listen to episode audio (5:22).

Sections below are the following:
Transcript of Audio
Audio Notes and Acknowledgments
Related Water Radio Episodes
For Virginia Teachers (Relevant SOLs, etc.).

Unless otherwise noted, all Web addresses mentioned were functional as of 10-28-22.


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio, with a special episode for Halloween 2022.  This episode is part of series this year of episodes related to trees and shrubs.

SOUND – ~5 sec and fade - Tree creaking in wind.

Creaking wood is often part of a scary Halloween soundscape of dark forests or old houses.  Does that creaking have anything to do with water?  That’s one of five questions this episode poses, challenging you to make connections among Halloween, tree parts, and water.  After each question, you’ll have about three seconds of some Halloween music to consider your answer.  Good luck, and I hope you do TREE-mendously.

No. 1.  Scary human skeletons are a common Halloween feature.  In humans and other animals, skeletons support the body.  What part of trees, through which water and nutrients are transported, functions as the trees’ structural support?  MUSIC - ~3 sec.  That’s the xylem, also called the wood, which makes up the bulk of a tree trunk.

No. 2.  Blood is a featured in many a frightful Halloween scene or costume.  Blood is a water-based fluid that humans and other animals use to transport oxygen, energy molecules, and other biochemicals to body parts.  What part of the tree carries energy molecules and other biochemicals to tree parts?  MUSIC - ~3 sec.  That’s the phloem, which makes up a relatively thin layer just under a tree’s bark.

No. 3.  Ghosts or other specters are often depicted in white or black.  How do light and dark colors affect water in a tree?  MUSIC - ~3 sec.  Dark colors in or around trees absorb more solar radiation and therefore can increase temperature.  The light color or some trees, such some birches, can help reduce this effect.  Temperature, along with humidity, affects water movement into and out of trees, particularly by affecting transpiration, that is, the evaporation of water from plant parts.

No. 4.  Wind whistling through trees is weather people often associate with Halloween nights.  How does wind affect the water in a tree?  MUSIC - ~3 sec.  Wind can increase transpiration both by bringing drier air to leaves and by moving away air that has absorbed moisture from the leaves.

And no. 5.  Back to creaking wood.  How does water or dryness affect sounds in wood?  MUSIC - ~3 sec.  In wooden houses, creaking can result from temperature and humidity changes that swell or shrink the wood.   In trees, a crackling or popping sound—detected by scientists using microphones placed next to tree trunks—can result from air bubbles within the tree trunk, caused by tree dehydration.  Incidentally, frequent creaking sounds in trees may be an indicator of weak tree structure, so a creaking tree sometimes not only sounds scary but also is reason to be wary.

I hope your Halloween this year and in years to come includes fun and functional trees along with adequate good water for them and for you.  We close with the full 50 seconds of the Halloween music you’ve heard during the questions.  Here’s “A Little Fright Music,” composed for Virginia Water Radio by Torrin Hallett, currently with the Symphonic Orchestra of the State of Mexico.

MUSIC – ~50 sec – instrumental.


Virginia Water Radio is produced by the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, part of Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment.  For more Virginia water sounds, music, or information, visit us online at, or call the Water Center at (540) 231-5624.  Thanks to Stewart Scales for his banjo version of “Cripple Creek” to open and close this episode.  In Blacksburg, I’m Alan Raflo, thanking you for listening, and wishing you health, wisdom, and good water.


Virginia Water Radio thanks Kevin McGuire, Virginia Water Resources Research Center, and Eric Wiseman, Virginia Tech Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation, for their help with this episode.

The wind and creaking tree sounds were recorded by Virginia Water Radio in Blacksburg, Va., on October 5, 2014.

“A Little Fright Music” is copyright 2020 by Torrin Hallett, used with permission.  As of October 2022, Torrin is the associate principal horn of the Symphonic Orchestra of the State of Mexico.  This music was used previously by Virginia Water Radio most recently in Episode 601, 10-31-21.  Thanks very much to Torrin for composing this music especially for Virginia Water Radio.

Click here if you’d like to hear the full version (1 min./11 sec.) of the “Cripple Creek” arrangement/performance by Stewart Scales that opens and closes this episode.  More information about Mr. Scales and the group New Standard, with which Mr. Scales plays, is available online at


(Unless otherwise noted, photographs are by Virginia Water Radio.)

A strange “face” seems to peer out from the stump of a downed willow tree at the Virginia Tech Duck Pond in Blacksburg, October 10, 2022.


Used for Audio

Pete and Ron’s Tree Service [Tampa, Fla.], “Sounds Your Tree Could Make and Their Causes,” online at

Maya Wei-Haas, “What Does a Dying Forest Sound Like?”;  Smithsonian Magazine, April 21, 2016, online at

Baird Foundation Repair [Texas], “Why Do Houses Creak?” online at

Steven G. Pallardy, Physiology of Woody Plants, Third Edition, Elsevier/Academic Press, Burlington, Mass., 2008.

Peter Scott, Physiology and Behaviour of Plants, John Wiley & Songs, Ltd., West Sussex, England, 2008.

John R. Seiler, John W. Groninger, and W. Michael Aust, Forest Biology Textbook, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Va., 2022, online at, as of 10-11-22.  Access requires permission of the Virginia Tech Department of Forest Resources and Conservation, online at; phone (540) 231-5483.

Texas A&M University AgriLife Extension, “How Trees Grow,” online at

University of California-Santa Barbara, “Science Line: Why do black objects absorb more heat (light) than lighter colored objects?  What do wavelengths have to do with it?”; online at

For More Information about Trees and Shrubs in Virginia and Elsewhere

Arbor Day Foundation, “Tree Guide,” online at

Center for Watershed Protection, “Trees and Stormwater Runoff,” online at

Chesapeake Bay Program, “Field Guide: Plants and Trees,” online at, “Flora of North America,” online at

James P. Engel, “Shrubs in the Understory,” February 2012, online at

Oscar W. Gupton and Fred C. Swope, Trees and Shrubs of Virginia, University Press of Virginia, Charlottesville, 1981.

Sanglin Lee and Alan Raflo, “Trees and Water,” Virginia Water Resources Research Center, Virginia Water Central Newsletter, pages 13-18, online at   (A Virginia Cooperative Extension version of this article—“Trees and Water,” by Sanglin Lee, Alan Raflo, and Jennifer Gagnon, 2018—with some slight differences in the text is available online at

Penn State Extension, “Trees, Shrubs, and Groundcovers Tolerant of Wet Sites,” prepared by N. Robert Nuss, and reviewed and revised by Scott Guiser and Jim Smellmer, October 2007, online at

Plant Virginia Natives, “Virginia Native Shrubs—Backbone of Our Landscape,” undated, online at

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service, Forests of Virginia, 2018, Resource Update FS-264, Asheville, N.C., 2020; available online at

U.S. Department of Agriculture/U.S. Forest Service, “State and Private Forestry Fact Sheet—Virginia 2022,” online (as a PDF) at

U.S. Department of Agriculture/Forest Service/Climate Change Resource Center, “Forest Tree Diseases and Climate Change,” online at

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)/Natural Resources Conservation Service, “PLANTS Database,” online at

Virginia Botanical Associates, “Digital Atlas of the Virginia Flora,” online at

Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation/Natural Heritage, online at   See also “The Natural Communities of Virginia: Ecological Groups and Community Types,” online (as a PDF) at

Virginia Department of Forestry, “Virginia’s Forests,” online at  Some of the useful pages at that site are the following:
“Benefits of Trees,” online at;
“Common Native Trees of Virginia,” 2020 edition, online (as a PDF) at;
Tree and Forest Health Guide
, 2020, online (as a PDF) at;
“Trees for Clean Water Program,” online at;
“Virginia Statewide Assessment of Forest Resources,” November 2020, online (as a PDF) at;
“Tree Identification,” online at

Virginia Forest Landowner Education Program, Virginia Cooperative Extension and Virginia Tech College of Natural Resources and Environment, online at

Virginia Forest Products Association, online at

Virginia Native Plant Society, online at

Alan S. Weakley, J. Christopher Ludwig, and John F. Townsend, Bland Crowder, ed., Flora of Virginia, Botanical Research Institute Press, Ft. Worth, Tex., 2012.  Information is available online at The Flora of Virginia Project,


All Water Radio episodes are listed by category at the Index link above (  See particularly the “Plants” subject category.

Following are links to other episodes on trees and shrubs.

Introduction to trees and water – Episode 621, 3-21-22.
American Sycamore – Episode 624, 4-11-22.
American Witch Hazel – Episode 639, 10-24-22.
Ash trees – Episode 376, 7-10-17 and Episode 625, 4-18-22.
Early spring wildflowers in woodlands – Episode 573, 4-19-21.
Fall colors and their connection to water movement in trees – Episode 638, 10-10-22.
“Fifteen Minutes in the Forest” video podcast series – Episode 637, 9-26-22.
Forest lands and work in Virginia – Episode 623, 4-4-22.
Maple trees – Episode 503, 12-16-19.
Photosynthesis – Episode 602, 11-8-21.
Poison Ivy and related plants, including the shrub Poison Sumac – Episode 535, 7-27-20.
Rhododendrons – Episode 574, 4-26-21.
Shrubs Introduction – Episode 630, 6-20-22.
Tree buds – Episode 622, 3-28-22.
Tree colors and changes in fall, including changes to water movement – Episode 638, 10-10-22.
Trees in watery habitats – Episode 626, 4-25-22.
Waterside trees as bird nesting habitat – Episode 627, 5-9-22.

Following are other music pieces composed by Torrin Hallett for Virginia Water Radio, with episodes featuring the music.
“Beetle Ballet” – used in Episode 525, 5-18-20, on aquatic beetles.
“Chesapeake Bay Ballad” – used most recently in Episode 632, 7-18-22, on Chesapeake Bay conditions.
“Corona Cue” – used in Episode 517, 3-23-20, on the coronavirus pandemic.
“Flow Stopper” – used in Episode 599, 10-18-21, on “Imagine a Day Without Water.”
“Geese Piece” – used most recently in 615, 2-7-22, on Brant.
“Ice Dance” – “Ice Dance” – used most recently in Episode 606, 12-6-21, on freezing of water.
“Lizard Lied” – used in Episode 514, 3-2-20, on lizards.
“New Year’s Water” – used most recently in Episode 610, 1-3-22, on water thermodynamics.
“Rain Refrain” – used most recently in Episode 559, 1-11-21, on record rainfall in 2020.
“Runoff” – in Episode 585, 7-12-21 – on middle schoolers calling out stormwater-related water words.
“Spider Strike” – used in Episode 523, 5-4-20, on fishing spiders.
“Tropical Tantrum” – used most recently in Episode 580, 6-7-21, on the tropical storm season preview.
“Tundra Swan Song – used in Episode 554, 12-7-20, on Tundra Swans.
“Turkey Tune” – used in Episode 343, 11-21-16, on the Wild Turkey.
“Wade in the Water” (arrangement) – used most recently in Episode 616, 2-14-22.


Following are some Virginia Standards of Learning (SOLs) that may be supported by this episode’s audio/transcript, sources, or other information included in this post.

2020 Music SOLs

SOLs at various grade levels that call for “examining the relationship of music to the other fine arts and other fields of knowledge.”

2018 Science SOLs

Grades K-3 plus 5: Force, Motion, and Energy

5.6 – Visible light has certain characteristics and behaves in predictable ways. 

Grades K-4: Living Systems and Processes
1.4 – Plants have basic life needs (including water) and functional parts that allow them to survive
4.2 – Plants and animals have structures that distinguish them from one another and play vital roles in their ability to survive.

Grades K-5: Earth and Space Systems
2.7 – Weather patterns and seasonal changes affect plants, animals, and their surroundings.
3.7 – There is a water cycle and water is important to life on Earth.
4.4 – Weather conditions and climate have effects on ecosystems and can be predicted.

Grades K-5: Earth Resources
2.8 – Plants are important natural resources.
3.8 – Natural events and humans influence ecosystems.
4.8 – Virginia has important natural resources.

Grade 6
6.6 – Water has unique physical properties and has a role in the natural and human-made environment.

Life Science
LS.3 – There are levels of structural organization in living things.
LS.4 – There are chemical processes of energy transfer which are important for life.
LS.5 – Biotic and abiotic factors affect an ecosystem.
LS.7 – Adaptations support an organism’s survival in an ecosystem. 

BIO.2 – Chemical and biochemical processes are essential for life.

Virginia’s SOLs are available from the Virginia Department of Education, online at

Following are links to Water Radio episodes (various topics) designed especially for certain K-12 grade levels.

Episode 250, 1-26-15 – on boiling, for kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Episode 255, 3-2-15 – on density, for 5th and 6th grade.
Episode 282, 9-21-15 – on living vs. non-living, for kindergarten.
Episode 309, 3-28-16 – on temperature regulation in animals, for kindergarten through 12th grade.
Episode 333, 9-12-16 – on dissolved gases, especially dissolved oxygen in aquatic habitats, for 5th grade.
Episode 404, 1-22-18 – on ice on ponds and lakes, for 4th through 8th grade.
Episode 407, 2-12-18 – on snow chemistry and physics, for high school.
Episode 483, 7-29-19 – on buoyancy and drag, for middle school and high school.
Episode 524, 5-11-20 – on sounds by water-related animals, for elementary school through high school.
Episode 531, 6-29-20 – on various ways that animals get water, for 3rd and 4th grade.
Episode 539, 8-24-20 – on basic numbers and facts about Virginia’s water resources, for 4th and 6th grade.
Episode 606, 12-6-21 – on freezing and ice, for kindergarten through 3rd grade.