Sand on the Southern Trees

By Eileen Grant

This past spring, having just finished the Tree Stewards class, I stepped into a new world of trees, especially tree identification.  After the class I couldn’t walk my dog around Alexandria without looking at trees and labeling them… or at least trying to! (That’s a Red, no, a White Oak, that’s some sort of a fruit tree, or maybe not?).  I have my handy tree ID book that I leaf through to figure out what is what. I know I’m driving my husband crazy.

Southern Live Oak's have a mystical beauty.

Southern Live Oak’s have a mystical beauty.

I continued  this in Duck, NC this year with the beautiful trees surrounding the house we stayed in.  I didn’t bring my tree ID book so I used the VTree App on my smart phone. For the twisting green trees surrounding our house the app initially gave me the identification of “Exotic Olive Tree”.  The strange identification showed me how much I have to learn (and how aps don’t always know everything).  I quickly figured that wasn’t correct.

By process of elimination (and a lot of help from the computer) I learned the many trees surrounding our house and neighborhood were Southern Live Oaks. There were thousands of them around Duck (note to self, when there are thousands of trees around chances are they aren’t exotic) and all over Southeastern North America.  Southern Live Oaks, technically classified as Quercus virginiana, are particularly iconic in the Old South, often living past seventy years.

Southern liveoak leavesThe reason it’s called a live oak is because it’s essentially evergreen and doesn’t lose its leaves in the fall thus doesn’t look dead in the winter. The leaves are very different than other oak leaves as well.  They are almost like Holly leaves without the thorny part, also resembling small Magnolia leaves.  They are little, waxy and tough.

They are so wide spread in the Southeastern region because of their deep tap roots that anchor them and on top of that a widespread root system.  This helps them during times of strong winds (surviving hurricanes).  They can also withstand floods but grow well in sandy soils.  They’re also resistant to salt spray. The primary use for these trees is food and shelter for wildlife of all kinds (from butterflies to quail to black bears).  Because the wood is hard and heavy it was used for ships during the wooden ship building years.

Southern Live Oaks make great climbing trees!

Southern Live Oaks make great climbing trees!

The house we rented sat back a good 25 yards from the street and the front yard was a forest of these trees.  They almost looked magical in some light, growing at odd angles and covered with some sort of fungus.  My beach trip this year definitely had a different twist to it because of them.

 

 

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Grate Project Protects Our Street Trees

City trees lead a hard life struggling with tree grates, strangles by light wires, and collecting cigarette butts

City trees lead a hard life struggling with tree grates, strangles by light wires, and collecting cigarette butts

By TreeSteward Richard Fontwengler

In March of this year teams of Tree Stewards fanned out along the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor to inspect street trees growing in planter pits with tree grates.  Arlington County, short on resources to survey the condition of tree grates, requested help in identifying those trees that were having problems living within the often limited space provided by the grates.

Vincent Verweij, Arlington County Urban Forrester, saw this project as a “fantastic educational opportunity for Tree Stewards and a clear assist to the county’s efforts to protect and maintain street trees”.  With the Tree Stewards doing the assessment Arlington could used its limited resources to remedy any problems found and reported by the teams.

Trunk damage caused before grate was enlarged

Trunk damage caused before grate was enlarged

The teams counted and inspected 194 grates in the corridor and found that almost 60% (101) of the grates were found to need attention with 12% (22) overgrowing the grate, 21% (38) touching the grate, 13% (24) had roots lifting the grate, and 14% (27) had grown to within one inch of the grate and would need attention soon.

The findings highlight the potential problems of using grates in the first place.  While they do provide trees with some protection from compacting soil around roots and damage to the base of the trunk, too often they are not monitored and maintained properly.  Also, many of the grates had surprisingly small center holes so if the tree was not planted dead center in the planting pit, or was lucky enough to thrive and grow large, it was doomed to eventually come in contact with the grate.

Tree Stewards were able to see the evolution of tree grate design over the 30 years or so the grates have been used in the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor.  Styles ranged from the traditional heavy cast iron grates to those made of lighter metals or plastic/composites.  Some were more ornamental and some were more functional.  Virtually all the grates we inspected were installed by developers as part of their projects which accounts for the variety of grates found.

An example of a larger soil panel with sectioned grate that is easy to enlarge.

An example of a larger soil panel with sectioned grate that is easy to enlarge.

As a result of the problems we observed with tree grates and the continued threat to girdling and damaging street trees planted within grates, Vincent is now recommending that developers of new projects use simple soil pits without grates for their street tree plantings.  The county is also asking developers to do a better job maintaining their tree pits and street trees after completion of their projects.

Larger spaces are provided for tree roots in the "soil panels" now required
Larger spaces are provided for tree roots in the “soil panels” now required

 

Armed with the Tree Steward’s spread sheet report, the County Urban Forrester was able to enter the locations of trees/grates that needed attention and/or removal on a map for the maintenance crews.  While some of the grates can be modified to increase the size of the center hole most must be removed when a tree makes contact with the grate.  The crews are working through the list as they have time and most of the offending grates have now been removed.  In one instance the grates were part of a recent development and the developer was asked to do the work.

Large soil panels can also have flowers as a deterrent to walking on tree roots.

Large soil panels can also have flowers as a deterrent to walking on tree roots.

All in all a successful project and a perfect example of Tree Steward volunteers and the county working together in partnership to maintain and protect a most valuable resource:  street trees!

Posted in Community Service, Education, Tree Care | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Arlington National Cemetery Tree Walks

This Deodor cedar (Cedrus deodara) located near the Arlington House dwarfs TreeSteward in it's shade.

This Deodor cedar (Cedrus deodara) located near the Arlington House dwarfs TreeSteward in it’s shade.

Want a perfect way to combine your love of trees and honor our country’s heroes? Take a tree walk on your own or with out of town visitors in the Arlington National Cemetery.  There are more than 8500 trees throughout the 624 acres that provide shad and tranquility, and 140 are marked as memorial trees. Maps identifying the trees are available at the website at http://www.arlingtoncemetery.mil/docs/ANC_Memorial_Map_Trees.pdf.

Labels identify the tree species and provide a history lesson.

Labels identify the tree species and provide a history lesson.

An additional 36 Memorial Trees serve as a living tribute to the nation’s Medal of Honor recipients and each tree is a descendent of a historic tree.  Abraham Lincoln is honored with an Overcup Oak descended from the oak shading the Kentucky home where he was born, a descendent of the Water Oak Helen Keller climbed as a child is planted in her honor, and an American Holly descendent of Mount Vernon honors George Washington.  This tree walk provides a history lesson as well as a chance to identify tree species not often seen in our area. The map is at http://www.arlingtoncemetery.mil/docs/MOH_Memorial_Trees.pdf

ANC Trees and Heroes.  Who can ask for more?

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Tree Walk at Bon Air Park: Saturday, June 21, 2014

Learn how to tell the difference between red and white oak leaves

Learn how to tell the difference between red and white oak leaves

Come learn about trees — how to identify them, ideas for your yard, maintenance tips and much more.  TreeStewards will be leading walks and answering question at Bon Air Park this coming Saturday, June 21.  Walks will leave at 10 AM and 12:30 PM from the parking lot beside the tennis courts.

Magnolia flower

Which tree has these lovely flowers and will it fit in your yard? Come to the walk!

Bon Air Park is located at 850 N. Lexington St., at the intersection of Wilson Blvd.  The walks are part of the celebration of Master Gardeners and Extension Office 75th Year Anniversary.  Information tables on gardening, pollinators, and natural resources will also be at the park.

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Volunteers at Work: Please ask us why

Vols at work horizEarth Day is just another day to volunteer for TreeStewards.  This year members were involved in tree plantings at Tarleton Park in Alexandria, at homes in Falls Church, and along the streets of DC. Volunteers staffed tree sales in Parkfairfax and Ben Brenman Park,  and assisted with invasive plant removals throughout the region.  Plant sale TS

The new signs announcing a TreeSteward work event were effective at their debut in Alexandria with several stopping to talk and thank the volunteers.  And three people who were just passing by on walks stopped to help haul materials and one person wielded a pick axe through some tough rocks!

Hard soil plantingWe look forward to having them increase our educational outreach at future events.

 

 

 

 

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Class of 2014 TreeStewards Graduate

 

2014 Class graduates at Wakefield High School, scene of earlier pruning work day.

2014 Class graduates at Wakefield High School, scene of earlier pruning work day.

Training accomplished, final exams passed, the twenty-one members of TreeStewards Class of 2014 celebrated their graduation with former graduates and current volunteers.  Alexandria City Arborist John Noelle spoke on how useful volunteers are in maintaining our tree canopy; and he proposed a new project to examine the outcomes of city tree plantings which enthused many.

Alexandria City Arborist John Noelle thanked TreeStewards for their volunteer work and proposed new projects.

Alexandria City Arborist John Noelle thanked TreeStewards for their volunteer work and proposed new projects.

Upon receiving their certificates, all described their next volunteer project: coordinating neighborhood Tree Canopy Fund, working at information tables at Farmers Markets, assisting at upcoming Parkfairfax native plant sale, taking on restoration of trees at Timber Branch Parkway, serving on tree commissions and designing sculptures of good tree care for presentations.  Another crop of inspiring and dedicated volunteers joins the cause!

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Prevention through Education: The Home Show Strategy

The map showing tree canopy percentage was a big draw.

The map showing tree canopy percentage was a big draw.

Too often the first inkling of construction in our neighborhoods is the day the trees come down — but could this be prevented by education to the construction companies and residents planning to remodel or build a new house?

TreeStewards and the Arlington County Urban Forestry Commission tested this theory on March 8, 2014 at the Arlington Home Show. The information booth featured a large map divided into civic association areas with the tree canopy percentage shown for each so residents could compare theirs to the county average of 41%, and a sign advertising the Tree Canopy Fund.  The response was great! Over 150 individuals had conversations with those staffing the booth and many more picked up tree care materials.  We answered questions on best time to plant trees, how to select an arborist, and especially ways to prevent tree damage during construction.

Outreach to other exhibitors was also accomplished by TreeSteward John Wingard who visited vendors who often impact trees: landscapers, hardscape designers, deck builders, addition builders, remodelers and realty companies.  The brochures Avoiding Tree Damage During Construction and Treatment of Trees Damaged by Construction were provided. Builders who did larger projects of multiple houses were also engaged in a discussion of county permitting procedures that might provide flexibility in preserving trees and contacts were made for future discussions.

Finding ways to preserve trees in the midst of a building boom is challenging but necessary. We don’t know the final impact of our education at the Home Show, but we successfully reached an audience that does have ongoing impacts on trees.

If you’d like to join the small group studying ways to reform permitting and zoning, plant a seed in our comment box farther down to the right.

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