The 2018 SMA Urban Tree of the Year is native to much of the Eastern United States and is cold hardy to Zone 4 and heat hardy to Zone 8b or 9. You may associate it with forests, but not so much with urban forests. Yet it definitely has its place in cities so long as its basic needs are met. It is the majestic tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera), a member of the magnolia family that reaches 60 to 90 feet in height and 30 to 50 feet in width. It’s named tulip tree because of the shape of its leaves, which emerge first, and its showy flowers, which follow and can be borne higher up in the canopy and somewhat hidden from view by the leaves.
Recently, Council members such as Past President Andy Hillman, Secretary Steve Harris, Board Member James Kaechele, and myself (Blog Editor Michelle Sutton) attended the Annual Conference of the Society of Municipal Arborists (SMA). It was held November 13-14, 2017 in Tulsa, Oklahoma prior to the Partners in Community Forestry Conference on November 15-16.
SMA conferences are open to and welcoming of anyone and everyone interested in urban forestry but tend to draw most from professional city foresters, parks superintendents, state UCF coordinators, urban forestry nonprofit staff, and the like. Many continue on to the “Partners” conference, organized by the Arbor Day Foundation, where they are joined by hundreds of community forestry professionals, volunteers, and activists.
A bus tour of Tulsa (human pop. ~ 400,000) highlighted the long and productive collaboration between the Tulsa Parks and Recreation Forestry Section and the nonprofit group Up with Trees, founded in 1976. Urban forestry in Tulsa was first formally recognized in 1992; its longtime city forester, Mike Perkins, recently retired from the City and went to work as operations manager for Up with Trees. Arborist Dave Zucconi then took the city forester position, rising from the ranks of Parks and Recreation. Tulsa benefits from the longtime positive working relationship between Perkins and Zucconi, who gave a very animated tour and are rightfully proud of their accomplishments and those of their colleagues.
The Municipal Forestry Institute (MFI) is an exciting, high-level training opportunity educating professionals in the leadership and managerial aspects of urban forestry. This week-long intensive educational program delivers a challenging opportunity to grow a more successful community tree program. It’s a place to learn and master leadership and management tools for program administration, coalition building, strategic thinking, program planning, and public relations. Invest a week in your professional and personal development! MFI 2018 will be held February 18-23 at Wisdom House Retreat and Conference Center in Litchfield, CT.
Council Board Member Mike DeMarco attended the 2017 Municipal Forestry Institute (MFI) on scholarship from the Council and NYSDEC. MFI is an immersive, weeklong leadership training for urban forestry professionals. Here, we learn about DeMarco’s takeaways from MFI, his current position, and his work and educational background.
DeMarco says, “I would like to give a big shout out and thank you to the New York State Urban Forestry Council and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Without the support and positive push from members of these organizations, I would not have been able to take part in MFI 2017.”
Mike DeMarco: Prior to any thought of a career in urban forestry, I spent most of my early and mid-20’s following an obsession with creating music and working as a master control operator at WWNY- TV7, a local news station in my hometown of Watertown, NY. After a few years of work in TV, I felt that something was missing in my life—that is, until 2008 when I found Tree Watertown (Watertown’s Street Tree Advisory Board). I began attending meetings and quickly discovered my love for the urban forest.
Before I knew it, I was being mentored by two individuals that have since played a huge part in my journey. They encouraged me to pursue higher education and in the fall of 2012, I graduated from SUNY-ESF with a BS in Natural Resource Management and a minor in Urban Forestry.
Our Council’s blog was viewed more than 19,500 times in 2016! Here are the year’s seven most-viewed posts.
Over a thousand people read Participate in the Reintroduction of the American Chestnut … by Simply Planting a Few Nuts. “Now comes the part of getting the blight-resistant trees into the forest. That is where you come in! We need people all over NY and in other states to plant pure wild American chestnuts so they have trees to cross with our blight-resistant tree, when it is approved for release, hopefully in the next few years.” -Allen Nichols, President of the American Chestnut Foundation, New York Chapter
Some blog posts resonate long past their original publication date date. Transplanting and a Deeper Look at “Fall Hazards” was one of the top five posts in 2015 and was the second most viewed post in 2016. Former NYC Director of Street Tree Planting Matt Stephens and Taking Root Editor Michelle Sutton coauthored this story questioning commonly held beliefs about “fall hazards,” mostly as it applies to B&B trees, but they also discuss the interaction of the fall season with other production methods, like bare root. Nina Bassuk helped craft the section called “The Five Branches of Transplanting Success,” which should be of interest to anyone planting trees.
Kristy King and NYC Forest Restoration: Dreaming Big for the City’s Natural Areas Many readers wanted to learn about the work of the NYC Natural Resources Group, which manages 5,000 acres of forested natural areas across the five boroughs of NYC, and about Director of Forest Restoration Kristy King. Her dream for NYC: “… that all forested areas are dominated by native species and that invasive species have been managed to the point that natural forest regeneration is occurring and that the public holistically values the natural resources in their area.”
NYSDEC Urban Forestry Intern Jennifer Kotary: Get to Know Her! Many blog readers were keen to know about this dynamic up-and-comer. “My internship research involved in-depth exploration of what communities are doing to protect and build green infrastructure across the state. Via Mary’s [Kramarchyk] assigned projects, I was able to produce tangible evidence that there is quite the statewide collective will to plant and nurture an expanding canopy as well as many career and volunteer opportunities to do so.”
From Scottsville to Long Beach: Urban Forest Master Plans, Management Plans, and Reports introduced blog readers to the growing compendium of Urban Forest plans and reports on the Council’s website. Communities creating or re-envisioning their master plans can survey what’s already been done in New York and use these plans as templates. NYS EPF (aka Cost-Share) Urban Forestry Grant funds are available for management plans or master plans, provided these plans include a specific work schedule made up of goals, tasks, and a timeline. Go to link above > Browse > DEC > 2016 Urban and Community Forestry Grants Program (Round 13)- Tree Planting or Tree Maintenance Projects.
SMA’s 2016 Urban Tree of the Year: Musashino Zelkova generated a lot of buzz. ‘Musashino’ has been a successful and popular street tree for many more years in Japan, proving itself useful as a narrow, upright form of zelkova. It can tolerate drought and heat and is pH adaptable and pollution tolerant. See a list of all the past SMA Urban Trees of the Year here.
Gary Raffel: Get to Know Him! Gary has served the Council in a variety of capacities, including as a board member. “I started Dynamic Tree Systems in 2002, offering general tree care service as well as Plant Health Care and Integrated Pest Management programs. I later wanted to find a niche in the industry and purchased a Tree Radar Unit at a time when there were only three of us in the U.S. and eleven people in the world using the equipment. A few years later I became the company’s international trainer, such that when a new unit was sold I would fly to the particular client and spend a week training them on their new equipment (I still do that, in addition to Dynamic Tree Systems).”
The 2017 Society of Municipal Arborists Urban Tree of the Year is native to much of the Eastern United States. Hikers from New York to Tennessee who ascend to dry ridges will often see the deeply furrowed, blocky barked trunks of chestnut oak (Quercus montana) (syn. Q. prinus). The bark is so distinctive, it may be the only ID feature one needs.
There’s growing interest in using chestnut oak in the urban environment because it is pH-adaptable, handles dry soils and periods of drought, has a beautiful mature form, requires minimal pruning, and tends to be free of major pests and diseases.
The common name “chestnut oak” owes to the leaves looking like those of American chestnut (Castanea dentata) and indeed both are members of the beech family, Fagaceae. Other common names for chestnut oak include rock oak, rock chestnut oak, or mountain oak—referring to its customary sighting in dry, rocky soils on ridgetops, where it has a competitive advantage. However, if chestnut oak is open-grown in the moist, well-drained soil that all trees dream about, it will be significantly bigger than its scrappy ridgetop cousins. Typically it reaches 50 to 70 feet (15 to 21 m) tall and almost as wide. It’s hardy in USDA Zones 4 to 8 and prefers full sun.
Two posts ago, Dewitt Naturalist Christine Manchester did a lively report on her takeaways from the Partners in Community Forestry Conference that took place Nov 16-17 in Indianapolis. 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 fortunate to be sent by the Society to cover its conferences for the past twelve years.
SMA has nearly 1900 members from around the world. Members include municipal arborists, urban foresters, nonprofit staff, community volunteers, parks superintendents, educators, DPW directors, landscape architects, natural resource folks, and a big contingent of students. SMA is for everyone who cares about the urban forest and wants a national and international perspective!
In this pictorial I attempt to convey some of the positive energy that reliably infuses the annual SMA conference. It’s a short conference, but a very rich one designed to further the mission of the SMA, “Leading the world in building the confidence, competence, and camaraderie of the family of professionals who create and sustain community forests.”
Whether you are an urban forest professional or a longtime volunteer and advocate, I highly recommend you attend the SMA conference, and then stay for the Partners conference. In 2017, SMA and Partners is heading to Tulsa, Oklahoma. The SMA portion will be Nov 13-14, 2017, and the Partners Conference will be Nov 15-16. Hope to see you there!
A repository of more than 30 roundtables from CITY TREES magazine 2005-2017 is freely available on the home page of the Society of Municipal Arborists (SMA) website, www.urban-forestry.com.
The roundtable format was a suggestion from Dr. Nina Bassuk that City Trees took and ran with. Each roundtable contains advice and anecdotes on a theme from 8 to 10 professionals. The information will be of interest to anyone involved in the urban and community forestry (UCF) world!
The topics are: Bees, Bioswales, Building Bridges Between LAs and MAs, Building Bridges with City Depts, Part I and II, Cemeteries, Climate Change, Consulting, Contract Growing Partnerships, Drought, EAB, Fall Planting, Flood Damage, Gas Lines and Trees, Historic Trees, Invasives, Large Tree Relocation, Medians, Memorial Trees, Palms in the Urban Forest, Pruning Cycles, Pyrus Problems, Sewer Lines, Slopes, Social Networking, Teaching, Tree Boards, Tree Lights, Urban Forestry’s Location in City Departments, Urban Fruit Trees, Urban Wood, Zoos.
Sample entries from roundtables follow. Please go to www.urban-forestry.com to take advantage of this resource and learn more about the SMA, which welcomes members from all spheres of the UCF world (paid or volunteer).
by Michelle Sutton, Taking Root Editor
The Society of Municipal Arborists (SMA) has voted Zelkova serrata ‘Musashino’ the 2016 Urban Tree of the Year. The yearly selection must be adaptable to a variety of harsh urban growing conditions and have strong ornamental traits. It is often a species or cultivar considered underutilized by urban foresters. The SMA Urban Tree of the Year program has been running for 20 years, and recent honorees include yellowwood (2015), ‘Vanessa’ parrotia (2014), and live oak (2013). You can see the full list of past winners on the SMA website, www.urban-forestry.com.
Zelkovas are native to Japan, Korea, and Taiwan. J. Frank Schmidt & Son Co. introduced Zelkova serrata ‘Musashino’ to the North American nursery trade in 2000. Named after a city in Tokyo (which itself is a city but also a prefecture containing multiple other cities), ‘Musashino’ has been a successful and popular street tree for many more years in Japan, proving itself useful as a narrow, upright form of zelkova. It has the genetic potential to reach 45 feet (14 m) in height and 15 feet (4.6 m) in width at maturity. It is hardy in USDA Zones 5 to 9.
The Society of Municipal Arborists (SMA), with funding from the Urban Forest Foundation, sponsors municipal arborist exchanges. The purpose is to create a way for municipal arborists to exchange urban forestry expertise, management ideas, and technology through in-person contact and on-site experience. What better way to find out how other forestry practitioners operate than to spend time with each other?
In the past year, NYC’s Director of Street Tree Planting Matthew Stephens visited Casey Trees in Washington, D.C. (you can read about his experiences here) and Casey Trees Arborist for Residential Plantings Marty Frye came to NYC Parks. Here’s what Marty learned from his time in the City. [Side note: The SMA is exploring opening up the exchange to utility arborists and to nonprofit community forestry professionals.]
New York City Parks is exemplifying what strong, informed municipal work in the public interest should look like. I had the distinct pleasure of spending time with members of the New York City Parks Department, digging into the nuts and bolts of how this work gets done. I also had the opportunity to compare both the wild side of the “back woods” of New York with its street side counterpart. This arborist exchange was professionally exhilarating and left me craving more knowledge.