Essential and Updated: The Cornell Woody Plants Database

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.

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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.

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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.

Check out the Cornell Woody Plants Database!

A young 'Canada Red' Prunus virginiana
A young ‘Canada Red’ Prunus virginiana

NYS DEC Cost Share Grants & The Fayetteville Example

Trees in Fayetteville's Beard Park were pruned as part of the Village's successful grant. Photo by Kristen Pechacek
Trees in Fayetteville’s Beard Park were pruned as part of the Village’s successful grant. Photo by Kristen Pechacek

About the NYS DEC Cost Share Grant Program

NYS DEC is committed to providing support and assistance to communities in comprehensive planning, management, and education to create healthy urban and community forests and to enhance the quality of life for urban residents through its Cost Share Grant program.

The availability of the next round of funds will be announced in late spring 2015, and the due date for applications provided at that time. At least $900,000 in grants will be available to municipalities, public benefit corporations, public authorities, school districts and not-for-profit organizations that have a public ownership interest in the property or are acting on behalf of a public property owner.

Communities may request from $2,500 to $50,000, depending on municipal population. Funds are made available from the Environmental Protection Fund and will be managed and allocated by DEC.

Read more…

To Fire You Up About Collaboration: The 3M Urban Wetlands Restoration Project in Columbia, MO

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The 3M Flat Branch-Hinkson Creek Wetlands on reclaimed/restored land in the city of Columbia, Missouri. Foreground: buttonbush and cattails; background: mixed bottomland hardwood species. Photo by Brett O’Brien

“Collaboration” and “Partnership” can be empty buzz words or they can be impressive manifestations of passion, hard work, and HEAPS of patience. In his article, “Collaborative Effort in Columbia, MO Spearheads the Renewal of a Former Sewage Plant Site into Wetlands Habitat,” Columbia Park Natural Resources Supervisor Brett O’Brien tells an exceptional tale of collaboration, with abundant pics. The article starts on page 28 of the Sept/Oct 2014 edition of City TREES, the magazine of the Society of Municipal Arborists.

How did Columbia go from this:

3M siteto this?

spring 2014and from this:

3M_Wetlands_Pumphouse (5)to this?

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Photos Courtesy Columbia Parks and Recreation

This is a must-read for all urban foresters and their allies, even those with no connection to urban wetlands restoration, because the collaborative aspect speaks to us all.

 

UF Must-Read: TD Bank’s Report on the Value of Toronto’s Urban Forest

 

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photo as seen on sweetandloveable.com

One of the summer’s most widely circulated urban forestry-related stories was about the TD Bank Group’s evaluation of the economic value of Toronto’s urban forest. TD Bank Group, which acts as a think tank as well as an advisory group of economists and has a full-time environmental economist on staff, is chaired by Senior Vice President and Chief Economist Craig Alexander.

In a great interview with Alexander on the Alliance for Community Trees (ACTrees) website, he said that his group found that for every dollar of maintenance, the trees are returning between $1.35 and $3.20 (a 220% return) in benefits. Alexander says, “It’s a good investment. We aren’t including things we can’t measure like the intangibles of being able to go to a park and enjoy the trees. This is a low ball number because you can’t measure everything.”

TD Bank Group Chief Economist Craig Alexander
TD Bank Group Chief Economist Craig Alexander

It’s thrilling for City of Toronto urban foresters and indeed urban foresters everywhere to get this kind of affirmation from economists from the second largest bank in Canada (eighth largest bank in the U.S.). In their capacity as a policy think tank, Alexander said his group of economists does research on the environment and that this is the first of their reports on “natural capital.” He says, “Economics measures GDP, but there is a lot that doesn’t get measured, including the value of the environment.”

In the ACTrees article, Alexander says, “The challenge we have on public policy and environmental issues is at the end of the day, you have to have a dollars and sense argument on your investment. This kind of data also really helps politicians and government officials to make decisions. Everyone is facing fiscal constraints… we need to economically appreciate what trees do. In the aggregate the numbers are really impressive.” This is something urban foresters have known for a long time, but coming from TB Bank’s Chief Economist, it will greatly add to this awareness among the populace.

You can read the full TD Bank Group report here.
You can read a great profile of Toronto’s urban forestry program here, starting on p 10 in the July/Aug 2011 issue of City Trees.

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The Nature Conservancy’s Bill Toomey: Healthy Trees, Healthy Cities

bill-toomeyWe are excited that the Nature Conservancy’s Bill Toomey will be our Conference keynote speaker at Hoffstra later this month (register here!). Bill oversees the Healthy Trees, Healthy Cities project of the Nature Conservancy. Healthy Trees, Healthy Cities is an initiative of The Nature Conservancy with programs currently running in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and Tennessee.

Bill is currently the Director of Forest Health Protection working as part of the Nature Conservancy’s North American Forest Priority and the Conservancy’s Urban Conservation Strategies Initiative. Most recently, Bill served as the Executive Director of the Highstead Foundation, a conservation non-profit based in Connecticut, which advanced forest conservation work throughout New England. Prior to that he worked for The Nature Conservancy for 10 years in the Connecticut and Massachusetts Chapters where he held positions as stewardship ecologist, landscape project director, and major gift fundraiser. He has also worked for the City of San Jose, California where he managed the residential recycling and composting program. Bill holds a bachelor’s degree in Biology from Fairfield University and a master’s degree in Soil Science and Ecology from North Carolina State University. Bill is also an ISA certified Arborist and is a member of the CT Urban Forest Council.

Here’s a link to a great interview the Conservancy did with Bill about his background and the Healthy Trees, Healthy Cities initiative, and here’s an excellent video about the Nature Conservancy’s Urban Strategies:

From the Healthy Trees… site:

Healthy Trees, Healthy Cities is improving the health of America’s trees by engaging people in hands-on tree care and inspiring a new generation of environmental stewards. How do we do it?

We start with:

  • Assessing urban forest health to inform tree planting and management;
  • Training volunteers in tree stewardship and tree health monitoring;
  • Engaging youth and the public;
  • Raising awareness about the importance of trees and what people can do to keep trees healthy through education and outreach; and
  • Working with local partners to ensure the successful implementation of the program.

Cornell Urban Hort Institute: Interesting Research Continues Apace

The Council’s longtime Board member and beloved speaker, Nina Bassuk, gives us an update on three areas of research underway at UHI. Dr. Bassuk will be the plenary speaker for the NYSUFC Conference this July. (Register now for best rate!) 

UHI researchers are attempting to fast-track propagation of alkaline-tolerant oaks that should come onto the market in the next five to ten years.
UHI researchers are attempting to fast-track propagation of alkaline-tolerant oaks that should come onto the market in the next five to ten years. Photos Courtesy UHI.

New Oaks for Tough Sites 
Dr. Nina Bassuk founded and directs Cornell’s Urban Horticulture Institute (UHI) and conducts applied research in the areas of plant improvement, transplanting technologies, and soil remediation.  “We think of everything we do in terms of potential practical value to the field,” she says.

For example, owing to hybridizing work UHI has been doing since the early 1990s, some oak introductions will be coming onto the market in the next five to ten years that could be game-changers: a whole series of oaks—not just English and bur oak—that can tolerate a pH of 8.0! That means oaks with foliage that stays green in the alkaline soil conditions prevalent in urban settings (and we are increasingly recognizing that in terms of plant stress, “urban” conditions are everywhere—not just in cities.)

Read more…

Historic “Great Trees” Returning to NYC

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Willow cutting taken in September of 2008 from the parent willow, a giant crack willow (Salix fragilis) in Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx. Photo Courtesy NYC Parks

In January 2008, a small group of intrepid high school students from New York City’s John Bowne High School joined a team of arborists from Bartlett Tree Experts high in the canopy of one of Central Park’s oldest trees. They sought to make sure that this tree, a European Beech planted at the direction of Frederick Law Olmstead during the construction of Central Park, would have a legacy beyond its natural lifespan. They were surrounded that winter morning by organizations united by an ambitious vision: to clone New York City’s aging historic trees and populate the five boroughs with their offspring.

The NYC Historic Great Tree Cloning Project, sponsored by the TREE Fund, Bartlett Tree Experts and the New York City Parks Dept, exemplifies how advances in tree science have changed the landscape for tree preservation. In addition to protecting the existing tree canopy, urban forestry in the 21st century allows for preservation of the genetic material of culturally and environmentally significant trees to ensure that they are not lost forever. Additional support for the project was provided by the Coleman Company, Inc., Marmot Mountain LLC and David Milarch, co-founder of the Champion Tree Project International.

Read more…

The Story of BROW: Planting Street Trees Beyond the Right-of-Way—and What it Means for New Yorkers

By Al Wegener, Landscape Consultant

Is it legal for a municipality to plant street trees beyond the right-of-way (ROW)—that is, on private property?

Sugar maple in New Paltz shows effect of cutting by utility, age and decay, with no room within ROW for planting new tree. Photo by Al Wegener
A sugar maple in New Paltz affected by utility pruning, age, and decay, with no room within ROW for planting new tree. Al Wegener

It’s a question I’ve run into a lot when planning street trees with towns and villages.  That’s in part because with the widening of our roads over the years and the construction of sidewalks, there is often insufficient soil volume in the ROW to support street trees.  Furthermore, some highway superintendents want a ROW free of trees so they can do street maintenance operations more easily. Also, trees in the ROW may conflict with utility lines, a battle neither “wins.” So it’s really tempting to plant just a few feet beyond the ROW, on what might be an open and inviting lawn. But is it legal to do so?

Read more…

Phenology, the Urban Forest, & Nature’s Notebook

by Theresa Crimmins, USA National Phenology Network; theresa@usanpn.org; @TheresaCrimmins and Dudley Hartel, Urban Forestry South, USDA Forest Service; dhartel@fs.fed.us; @treeobs

Urban foresters and urban forestry advocates are well suited for tracking recurring seasonal events such as leafing, flowering, and fruiting. The study of these phenomena is known as phenology. Adding this activity to your weekly routine has a lot to offer; this simple measurement can help you or your urban forester choose the best time to perform management activities, serve as an early warning indicator of trouble brewing among your trees, offer education and engagement opportunities, and support research. And, it’s fun!

Phenology observer Brian F. Powell
Phenology tracking can be done by urban foresters, tree lovers, and urban forest advocates. Photo by Brian F. Powell

Schedule management activities. Tracking phenological events such as leaf-out and leaf drop can be very informative for planning. For example, knowing when leaves are falling from different dominant tree species can help public works crews schedule street sweeping operations for maximum efficiency. The Twin Cities of Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota are using residents’ observations of when different tree species are dropping their leaves to schedule street sweeping activities. Such well-timed removal keeps leaves out of storm drains, which improves water quality in city lakes and impoundments.

Read more…

New, Free UHI Guide to Woody Shrubs for Stormwater Retention

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Harrison Street bioswale in Syracuse by Ethan Dropkin

New from the Cornell Urban Horticulture Institute (UHI) is Woody Shrubs for Stormwater Retention Practices (Northeast and Mid-Atlantic Regions), a free 56-page guide by Ethan Dropkin and Nina Bassuk. The Guide includes an extensive suggested plant list with beautiful photos and helpful illustrations. It will be of interest to anyone working with vegetated filter strips, bioswales, rain gardens, specialized tree pits, and stormwater planters.

Read more…