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Memorializing through reforestation: the Flight 93 National Memorial

Readers from outside the U.S. may or may not remember, but Flight 93 was the one hijacked commercial flight on September 11, 2001 that failed to reach its target (presumably Congress or the White House) due to a passenger revolt, crashing in a field in southwest Pennsylvania. The crash site was subsequently turned over to the National Park Service as an official National Memorial. Though dedicated last year, the tree-planting is not yet complete. I’m struck by the scale of it: not just one tree per passenger, but one grove per passenger, as an article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reminds us.

This is the second year of the reforestation effort. The goal is to have 150,900 new trees at the location. The Flight 93 memorial includes 40 groves of trees, one grove for each passenger or crew member who died on Sept. 11, 2001 when the plane crashed as the passengers and crew battled terrorists. The memorial is operated by the National Parks Service.

The seedlings were planted by volunteers—more than 500 of them. The website says only that they are “a mixture of several native species.” (The nursery is a little over 100 miles away, so perhaps the genotypes were fairly local in origin.) The memorial groves themselves have already been planted; this subsequent, three-year effort is to provide a windbreak for the groves.

The impulse to memorialize through afforestation seems especially appropriate given the location in Pennsylvania, the only one of the states named for its forests. However, Pennsylvania also has a long history of industrial exploitation, and the Flight 93 site was no exception. As the website points out:

Part of the architect’s vision for the memorial is that it will be a place of renewal. Reclaiming the land after decades of surface mining has left much of it in open grassland.

“Reclaiming” is of course a far cry from true restoration or healing, whence the need for tree-planting. It’s interesting to me that the national trauma of 9/11 has pointed to another trauma, one we ourselves have inflicted upon the land. By tying them together like this, the memorial gains a meta dimension — a woods re-created in part to memorialize itself.

Madronas in bloom

Fidalgo Island Crossings:

As I drive around the area, I am seeing Madronas blooming profusely everywhere. Along the Highway 20 corridor into Anacortes, the trees are revealed as giant clouds of white blossoms all along the roadway. I had never realized how many Madronas were growing there.

These are special trees to Pacific Northwesterners, and this year, they are really putting on a show for us. The Madrona (also called Madrone and Arbutus) has been correctly described as one of Nature’s works of art. The ‘Lem’s Cameo’ Rhododendron in the foreground of the photo is a Madrona relative.

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…

A tree called Zoom

Portland Tree Tour:

I don’t know the story of how this tree acquired the name “Zoom.” It had been named before my children were enrolled. Zoom is a large, multi-trunk western red-cedar, Thuja plicata, located outside the Children’s Museum. It is perfect for climbing. My son fully explored the spreading lower limbs from the age of 3 onward. Older children climb to the very top.

Climbing trees aren’t hard to find, but this tree offers more than that. The lowest hanging foliage makes a curtain and ducking underneath one enters a new place — the shade is cooling, sounds are filtered out, outside views are screened — you’re not standing at the base of Zoom, you are within Zoom.

“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)

How to identify a porcupine tree

I like to joke that the porcupine is my totem animal: it’s bristly, solitary, likes caves and loves trees! If you live in the northern U.S. or Canada, winter is the best time to look for signs of the North American porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum). Rebecca in the Woods shows us what to look for.

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.

A worship-worthy tree

Madrone by Jill WussowField biologist and photographer Jill Wussow shares some lovely photos of Texas madrones at her somewhat alarmingly titled blog Count Your Chicken! We’re Taking Over! “If you haven’t seen the glory of these bad boys,” she says, “I suggest you book it over to Texas or New Mexico when you get the chance and worship them just a little bit.”

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.

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