Continuing Care and ID at Four Mile Run Park

volunteers at hawthorn

Deer guards were wrapped around the trunk of this Hawthorne

Just like human babies, newly planted trees need ongoing care and protection. In April 2013, TreeStewards and Casey Trees planted twenty-five young trees in Four Mile Run Park off Mt. Vernon Avenue.  And over the last two summers, TreeSteward Kurt Moser has filled the water bags as needed and watched over them.  The Hackberry, Redbuds, Hawthorn, Yellowoods, Kentucky Coffeetree, Swamp white oaks, London Plane tree, and American Elm are all doing well and show new growth. Unfortunately the hophornbeam planted closest to the path fatally attracted deer last winter that used the trunks as rubbing posts. Something had to be done to protect the remaining trees!

DSC03518At the fall workday of November 2, TreeStewards removed the summer’s watering bags for winter storage, examined each tree to ensure no trunk damage and wrapped each trunk loosely with a stiff plastic deer guard. Now deer will come in contact with the plastic and not the sensitive bark, we are hoping. The tree guards cost about five dollars each, less than 1% of the value of the trees worth in benefits from clean air and stormwater management so we know it is worth the attempt.

wire cutting into tree trunk

An example of bad staking that used wire: this tree’s trunk will never recover. (TS did not plant this one!)

Note in the photo that these trees were staked although best practice is to allow young trunks to strengthen as they sway with the wind. Also note the ties between trunk and stake is loose to allow this movement. In this particular location, strong winds can blow young trees over before they have established structural roots so staking is necessary the first year. And stakes continue to provide protection from the human element: mowers, weed wackers, dogs, stray soccer balls. What is vitally important is that wires and ties are removed from trunks before they can damage it! These trees are regularly checked and the ties removed as needed.

The trees are beside Alexandria’s Sunday morning Farmers & Artisans Market, and border a popular walking path so it is the ideal place for outdoor education. Eleven tree identification signs were loosely hung on a sample of each species while the remaining fourteen have none. Test your winter tree ID skills by visiting the site and examining the Acer rubra sign – then find the other Red Maple. Then revisit next summer to test your leaf identification skills. Hint: not every species has two specimens and some have more.

ID sign of hawthorne

ID signage was attached loosely around the branch. Park maintenance preferred this method to signage in the ground.

TreeStewards will be holding tree identification walks in the area through the seasons.

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