This is an article, adapted for TAKING ROOT, that I originally wrote for Upstate Gardeners’ Journal in 2013. It’s about the amazing metro-Buffalo-based community tree advocate Ed Dore and how a portion of the upstate community tree planting movement has evolved in the last 15 years. –Michelle Sutton, TR Editor
Ed Dore and a Glimpse into Upstate’s Community Tree Planting Movement
When you read here about ambitious and successful volunteer tree planting collaborations in upstate New York, Ed Dore wants you to say not, “Isn’t that great they do that?” but rather, “Hey, let’s do that here!”
Dore owns Dore Landscape Associates in Pendleton, founded in 1982, about half an hour east of Buffalo and one mile east of the Erie Canal. Though he eschews recognition, Ed Dore is highly regarded for his talent in helping volunteer communities of all kinds partner with one another to plant trees in public spaces.
He and his industry colleagues have been involved in community tree planting efforts in earnest since 1999, but Dore tracks the movement back to 1974 when the Western NY State Nursery and Landscape Association (WNYSNLA) planted its first Arbor Day tree. The inaugural tree was planted on Goat Island in the Niagara River, near Niagara Falls.
“In a Queens Forest, Compiling a Picture of Urban Ecology,” New York Times, December 2, 2014. Urban Forest as canary in the coalmine for environmental health; using high-tech sensors to monitor microclimate. Includes quotes from NYC Chief of Forestry, Horticulture and Natural Resources Bram Gunther.
… and it’s one that’s close to our hearts, in the sense that the Tree of the Year (TOY) is none other than the one featured in bloom in our blog’s banner up top, yellowwood (Cladrastis kentukea). What serendipity!
Surrey, BC Urban Forester Emily Hamilton, who attended NY ReLeaf last summer at Hofstra before she relocated to Canada, wrote a column earlier this year in City Trees about yellowwood. Hamilton wrote:
Like me, you may have a dog-eared, well-worn copy of the Urban Horticulture Institute’s (UHI) Recommended Urban Trees: Site Assessment and Tree Selection for Stress Tolerance. Another fantastic resource for urban foresters and UF volunteers that has just been updated is the Cornell Woody Plants Database.
Nina Bassuk says, “What makes the site unique is its focus on matching woody plants to site conditions, a feature sometimes lacking on other plant selection sites and a consideration that is sometimes lost in the design and plant selection process.” With its extensive image collection and cultural information, the site is also very useful for woody plant ID and study.
Each entry includes ultimate size and shape, USDA Hardiness Zone, light requirement, salt tolerance, moisture tolerance range, insect and disease considerations, and key ornamental features. Impressively, each entry has Nina voicing a short audio lesson that reinforces ornamental and ID features. Nina says this is a work in progress, as she is re-recording some of the entries for better audio quality.
There is a Course Plant Walk section, which you can use to find a series of plant walks through the beautiful Cornell campus based on different criteria like species (e.g., oaks, maples, and rosaceous and flowering trees) or tolerances (e.g., dry site and wet site trees); click on Maps to see the walk route.
The database was originally the outgrowth of the year-long joint Horticulture/Landscape Architecture (LA) course, “Creating the Urban Eden,” taught by UHI Director Nina Bassuk and Dept of LA Chair Peter Trowbridge.
The site had modest beginnings as an “online textbook” circa 2000. The first version consisted of a FileMaker Pro database running on the Cornell network from a Mac under a desk in the main offices of the Department of Landscape Architecture. Since then, the site has grown significantly more sophisticated with three major revisions that added additional features and functionality. The most recent upgrade was supported by a SUNY Innovative Instruction Technology Grant in 2013.
Two posts ago, Mike Duran-Mitchell shared reflections from the 2014 Partners in Community Forestry Conference that took place Nov 5-6 in Charlotte, NC. Just prior to Partners were professional meetings and conferences like that of the Society of Municipal Arborists (SMA). I edit SMA’s online magazine, City TREES, and have been lucky enough to be sent by the Society to its conferences for the past ten years.
Charlotte was a special conference for SMA, as this year it marked the organization’s 50th Anniversary. SMA was founded in 1964 by eight municipal arborists who met in Olmsted Falls, Ohio to discuss founding a professional society. They wanted to elevate the status of the profession and provide educational opportunities and camaraderie for its members.
There were 21 founding members; today, SMA has more than 1400 members from around the world. Most of the members are municipal arborists or urban foresters, but some are parks superintendents, DPW directors, landscape architects, and some are community volunteers. SMA is for everyone who cares about the urban forest!
To celebrate the 50th Anniversary, members planted trees in its honor and posted pics of the tree plantings on the Society’s Facebook page and Twitter feed. A celebration at the conference took place, with a photo roll of images from throughout the Society’s 50-year history, and with a beautiful sheet cake that attendees ate for dessert at the Tuesday night banquet. Noteworthy in the photo roll was the presence of increasing numbers of women at SMA events over the years!
Very popular among this year’s attendees was a pre-conference workshop at Bartlett Tree Laboratory in Charlotte. There, participants learned about research on the effects of different types of growing media on tree growth; elm cultivars and pruning of them; and rootball disturbance experiments.
Elizabeth Murray is a former Village of Scottsville Trustee and a past chairperson of the Village’s Forestry Board, and now serves as the Forestry Board’s clerk. She provided this background narrative about Scottsville’s two successful cost-share grant awards and their implementation. Following that is a quick Q&A with Elizabeth.
In late 2009, the Village of Scottsville assembled an ad hoc “Forestry Committee” comprised of several residents, an Eagle Scout candidate, two Village Board trustees, the mayor, a local member of the U.S. Forest Service, and the Village’s Superintendent of Public Works. This committee was formed in response to concern over the village’s aging tree population and tree work recently conducted by a utility company on right-of-way trees.
You can count on Mike Duran-Mitchell to live-tweet important events in urban forestry, like our own NY ReLeaf Conference at Hofstra on Long Island last July and the recent Partners in Community Forestry (PCF) Conference in Charlotte. Mike is the Director of Tree Giveaways for the New York Restoration Project. Here’s a short reflection by Mike on the PCF Conference followed by some of his tweets, which are infectiously enthusiastic.
Mike Duran-Mitchell: This year’s Partners in Community Forestry (PCF) conference, held in Charlotte, NC, was a wonderful opportunity to forge broad partnerships and share best practices from across the country. The challenge, issued by Arbor Day Foundation’s Dan Lambe at the beginning of the conference, was to think about your program through a “what if?” context.
Whether it was the NYS Urban Forestry Council’s own Andy Hillman sharing an anonymous quote comparing the pain of “a trained volunteer who leaves” to the “untrained volunteer who stays,” a trip to the Bartlett Tree Lab to watch researchers chop up container-grown tree rootballs with an ax, or Dr. David Howlett at the Nevada Division of Forestry describing the results from researching biochar as a street tree planting medium, best practices were revealed to us through the “what ifs?” of programs involving planting, maintenance, stewardship, and many other aspects of urban and community forestry.
During her 2014 New York ReLeaf Conference plenary talk, Urban Horticulture Institute Director Nina Bassuk lifted up some underutilized trees for urban use. One of them, American smoketree (Cotinus obovatus) was growing just outside the conference room doors on the Hofstra University campus, where a mature specimen stood protectively behind a newly planted youngster. American smoketree is native to the U.S. South and Midwest.
Naturally and by training, American smoketree has a more tree-like habit than European smoketree (C. coggygria), and it matures up to 30 feet (9 m) tall and 20-30 feet (6 to 9 m) wide—twice as big as C. coggygria. It is hardy to zone 4 or 5, depending on which reference you consult. It is deer resistant and tolerant of drought and poor soils but doesn’t like to have wet feet for prolonged periods. Missouri Botanical Garden voted it one of its “Tried and Trouble-Free” tree species.
As part of her plenary talk at the 2014 ReLeaf Conference at Hofstra, Urban Horticulture Institute Director Nina Bassuk held up some underutilized trees that have worked well for her in Ithaca’s urban environs. Among them was ‘White Shield’ Osage orange (Maclura pomifera). In future posts we’ll cover others she recommended, like American smoketree (Cotinus obovatus).
‘White Shield’ Osage Orange
‘White Shield’ is the most readily available cultivar of Osage orange (Maclura pomifera) on the market. Although Osage orange is native to Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Texas, it grows readily beyond its native range. Because of the thorny nature of its juvenile (non-fruiting) stems, it was used as a natural fence for keeping in livestock. By hedging the tree, the juvenile, thorny form is perpetuated. In Ithaca, there is a remnant of such a hedge right in the middle of a residential neighborhood.
Osage orange is dioecious, meaning that male and female flowers form on separate trees. This is important because the fruits on female trees are enormous, about 6 inches (15 cm) in diameter. They are a conglomerate of beautiful green seeds and fruit that hangs on the tree until ripe in early fall. They then fall to the ground and could cause injuries and property damage, not to mention the mess. I’ve heard it reported that the fruits repel cockroaches and were sold in urban greenmarkets as a natural insecticide.
Luckily, male (fruitless) cultivars like ‘White Shield’ are readily available. ‘White Shield’ is an exceptionally fast-growing form once established. Branches are distinctly upright with glossy green leaves. Another especially beautiful cultivar is ‘Wichita’, selected by the late John Pair. Both of these selections originate from Oklahoma.
Osage orange has a lot going for it as a tough urban tree. Once established, it tolerates very droughty, windy, and hot sites. It can handle a wide range of pH, including highly alkaline soils, and is purported to be tolerant of wet conditions as well. It can also tolerate salt spray. It has no serious pests, and transplants easily. It matures at 20 to 40 feet (6 to 12 m) tall and similar spread.
It is considered hardy to Zone 4a; however, we have occasionally noticed some twig dieback perhaps due to failure to harden off sufficiently before winter in our zone 5. It readily grows out of the dieback during the following summer. Fruitless cultivars of Maclura pomifera like ‘White Shield’ are definitely worth a look. —Nina Bassuk, Director of the Cornell Urban Horticulture Institute
In this second blog post about Nina Bassuk, we learn about her extensive home landscape. She is also an accomplished flutist who graduated in 1969 from the Music and Arts High School (now known as the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts) in her native NYC. Nina says that recently she reunited with some members of her high school class to play chamber music at the art exhibit of some other former classmates. She is also accomplished on the piano.