Category Archives: Urban trees

A story of gaps in the understory

Philadelphia has a whole host of missing trees and none are more famous than the Great Elm of Shackamaxon. Jon Spruce journeys to the hereafter and back

At the time of its toppling, it was 283 years old, eight feet in diameter and twenty-four feet in circumference.
Its final height is in dispute but, if it was still alive, and even if it hadn’t grown an inch since 1810, it would stand above us all, today, as the reigning champion elm tree of Philadelphia.
Its place is commemorated with a statue of brother William Penn himself, right off Delaware Avenue, in Penn Treaty Park.

The American elm which symbolises survival

The recent devastating tornado which tore through central Oklahoma prompted a meditation on the symbolism of Oklahoma’s Survivor Tree, written by Melinda Householder on the Loose Leaf Blog:

As the search continues for those who are missing, I’ve found myself reflecting on the city, the loss and the challenges that are being endured. And, I am reminded of The Survivor Tree.

This 80-year-old American elm witnessed one of the worst terrorist attacks in our country. Prior to the Oklahoma City bombing of 1995, this lone elm stood in the middle of a parking lot, surrounded by concrete and cars, outside the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. While some folks enjoyed parking under the limited shade of its limbs, others thought it was an eyesore. Not much went into caring for this tree — until it was the only thing left standing.

Sycamore in a road drain

Loose and Leafy:

The tree grew so well, the space available to it became a little congested. At the top of the tree (which, I would guess, is about two feet high) leaves would rise above road level, only to be sheered off by the tyres of cars running over it. It isn’t a busy street so leaves would have time to grow and poke up — but they never lasted.

A perfect day among urban trees

Philly Trees:

Have you ever seen a photo of a newborn mammal? The way the light shines through the pink flesh, through the transparent eyelids and through the doughy snouts, a field of stars shining through every new finger and toe?

It shines through the new leaves in the same way.

I couldn’t take my eyes off the leaves…

“Food forest” planned for Seattle

The locavore and livable cites movements have found common cause in Seattle, according to TakePart:

Seattle’s vision of an urban food oasis is going forward. A seven-acre plot of land in the city’s Beacon Hill neighborhood will be planted with hundreds of different kinds of edibles: walnut and chestnut trees; blueberry and raspberry bushes; fruit trees, including apples and pears; exotics like pineapple, yuzu citrus, guava, persimmons, honeyberries, and lingonberries; herbs; and more. All will be available for public plucking to anyone who wanders into the city’s first food forest.

“This is totally innovative, and has never been done before in a public park,” Margarett Harrison, lead landscape architect for the Beacon Food Forest project, tells TakePart. Harrison is working on construction and permit drawings now and expects to break ground this summer.

Read the rest.

New study: U.S. cities losing 4 million trees a year

Eric Jaffe, writing in the online news magazine The Atlantic Cities (a spin-off of what used to be called The Atlantic Monthly), reports on the findings of a new study in Urban Forestry & Urban Greening.

Using aerial photographs to compare changes over time in 20 major U.S. cities, researchers David Nowak and Eric Greenfield of the U.S.D.A. Forest Service found that tree coverage is on the decline, while impervious cover — roads, buildings, sidewalks, and the like — is on the rise:

Tree cover in 17 of the 20 analyzed cities had statistically significant declines in tree cover, while 16 cities had statistically significant increases in impervious cover. … City tree cover was reduced, on average, by about 0.27 percent/yr, while impervious surfaces increased at an average rate of about 0.31 percent/yr.

Nowak and Greenfield collected recent digital aerial images for at least 1,000 random points in 20 large American cities, and coupled them with images at the same points from roughly 5 years earlier. Trained photo interpreters then classified the various types of coverage at each point: tree coverage, grass coverage, building coverage, and so on.

Their subsequent analysis showed clear trends away from tree coverage and toward impervious coverage. All but three of the cities had a statistically significant loss in tree coverage, with two others showing a non-significant loss (essentially no change). Houston (3 percent) and Albuquerque (2.7 percent) suffered some of the biggest loses. Only Syracuse showed a gain in tree coverage — and that of 1 percent.

The study is behind a paywall, but do read the rest of Jaffe’s article, which includes illustrative aerial photos from the study.
(Hat-tip: Growth Rings)

Tree stamps!

Evidently in pre-digital days, landscape architects would use rubber stamps to add trees to blueprints. Tom Turner at Gardenvisit.com shares “a scan of a very high-class set of tree stamps” which, as one commenter aptly put it, looks like a box of tree chocolates. It’s almost too cool for words.

How to save trees on construction sites

A Cape Cod, Massachusetts-based tree care company called Forest Keepers maintains a blog of Tree Care Tips separate from their business site with lots of interesting posts. Their latest, “Tree preservation in Concord,” describes an all-too-common situation: three large sugar maples struggle on a new construction site. The builder wants to do the right thing but waited till rather late in the game to call an arborist, and soil compaction, damaged soil chemistry and mechanical damage have all taken a toll. What to do? Read the post to learn how the Forest Keepers responded.

Trees and cultural landscapes

It’s not a blog post, but we like this photo exhibition at Garden Design website: “Landslide: Every Tree Tells a Story.”

In 2010, The Cultural Landscape Foundation and American Photo magazine, with support from The Davey Tree Expert Company and American Forests, created an original traveling exhibition about the irreplaceable trees and tree groupings—often associated with historically important people and events—that have shaped the development of communities and cultures, many of which are at risk.

As a media sponsor of The Cultural Landscape Foundation, Garden Design is proud to share the beautiful photographs and accompanying stories that are on display in the 2010 Landslide: Every Tree Tells a Story exhibition.

Check it out. Then visit The Cultural Landscape Foundation.

Clayton Bell, guerrilla orchardist

Clayton Bell is “an environmental hydrogeologist in Houston, Texas who is obsessed with growing fruit trees,” and his blog The Bell House is the latest addition to our linkroll of blogs about trees and forests. He blogs about pomegranates, Japanese lemons, trifoliate orange trees, how to root fig cuttings, and more. His latest post, “Squat Orchard,” describes how he started a pecan plantation on a vacant lot.

I planted the trees approximately 35 feet apart along the northern edge of the lot where they should be fairly out of the way. It also looks like water from the nearby homes drains to that area, which will be big plus if we have another brutally dry summer. I placed a 3-gallon pot with the bottom cut out around each tree to protect the trunk, and marked them with orange pin flags, small t-posts with some orange flag tape, and metal tags with the variety names. I’m hoping that this will be enough to keep the mowers that come around every couple of months from cutting them down. If I can fool the mowers into thinking that those trees are supposed to be there, then the trees’ chances of survival will be that much better. I’m going to go back later and add some printed labels with an official sounding name, for a little extra insurance.

Read the rest.

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