Help Repair Our Urban Forest – Plant Diversely!
Written by: Paul Scharfenberger, Certified Arborist WI – 0841A
Many of you have seen or heard of the devastation to our urban forests when Dutch Elm Disease swept through decades ago. A few of our area neighborhoods lost nearly every single tree on the street. These streets went from beautifully canopied shelters, to looking barren and stark in a matter of months. Some people lost the one beautiful, mature tree in their yard and had to go from a 100+ year old tree, to an empty space. In general, we seem to have a hard time learning from history. This happens as the next fashionable tree gets planted more than most, setting up the same potential problem in the future. Over the last 30-50 years a high percentage of Ash and Maples have been planted, creating a similar potential to repeat what happened with Dutch Elm Disease.
Currently, Emerald Ash Borer is at the cusp of wiping out high percentages of our urban forests over the course of a few short years. Unfortunately, we have seen much of this damage already and it will get far worse over the next few years. Maples are also being planted at high numbers since they have a lot of good qualities. Yet, if some disease or insect ever starts targeting them, we will be in the same predicament we are currently in with Emerald Ash Borer and were in with Dutch Elm Disease.
There is hope! We must plant diversely in order to make up for the loss we are about to incur and help prevent as substantial a loss in the future. History does repeat itself. At some point new diseases or insects will threaten different species. But we can greatly reduce their impact by planting varied tree and shrub species.
Research has shown that green space, filled with trees and shrubs, actually helps us emotionally. Think about how it feels to drive into a neighborhood lined with mature trees, or sit in a backyard on a summer afternoon under the shade of a large tree with the wind gently moving the leaves about. Compare that to the feel of a newly developed landscape where small trees do not provide the same shade in the afternoon heat. Planting diversity can also allow a wow factor on your property! You could plant a Horse Chestnut with large cone shaped flowers in the spring or a Witch Hazel that blooms in fall. A Hackberry, London Plane Tree, or Kentucky Coffee Tree are all nice choices for a shade tree with unique characteristics. The list goes on!
Please consider planting a tree this autumn or in the coming spring to make up for all of those we are currently losing to Emerald Ash Borer. It will add value to your property and likely happiness to your daily life. Call your Wachtel arborist for ideas on the variety of great trees that can help improve diversity in your yard and the urban forest in general!