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Urban Tree of Merit: American Hophornbeam

ostrya gallery

Tree of Merit: Hophornbeam (Ostrya virginiana)

Story and photos by Cene Ketcham, Extension Arborist, Casey Trees 

Hophornbeam (Ostrya virginiana) is an attractive small to medium tree with big urban credentials. However, compared to other urban-tough trees like red maple, ginkgo, and honeylocust, hophornbeam has been regrettably underutilized.

Sometimes called “ironwood” like its bottomland cousin, Carpinus caroliniana, hophornbeam’s hard, dense wood makes it highly resistant to damage from wind, snow, and ice. Largely insensitive to site conditions, it takes indignities like air pollution, compacted soils, and droughty conditions in stride. Hophornbeam grows well in full sun to part shade, needs little pruning, and is generally free of insect pests and diseases. An excellent street tree in warmer climates, hophornbeam is intolerant of salt so should be avoided where road salting is common. 

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Impact of State Forestry Agencies & UCF Reaffirmed by NASF Survey

Title of 2016 survey
The 2016 National Association of State Foresters (NASF) Survey, “State Foresters by the Numbers,” shows that even as the funding for Urban and Community Forestry through state agencies has declined, the number of communities served has gone up.

In 2016, overall funding support for state forestry agency programs came from state government (65 percent), state forestry agency revenues (17 percent), federal government (7 percent), and county and municipal government (11 percent). These percentages varied slightly by region.

All 51 survey respondents showed their state forestry agency with the lead role in administering the Urban & Community Forestry program in their respective states. In New York State, the state forestry agency is NYSDEC, with the Urban Forestry program headed up by Mary Kramarchyk.

Spending on Urban & Community Forestry nationwide decreased 1 percent, or $0.4 million in 2016 compared to 2014. This follows sizeable declines in each of the last three survey cycles (2010, 2012, and 2014). However, communities receiving state forestry agency technical assistance for this program increased in 2016 to 8,831, with the majority of these in the Northeast (see table below).
Communities receiving assistance

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Urban Forest Ecology: Lichens! Bioindicators & Hidden Marvels, with Laura Wyeth

Lichens collage Perlmutter and Rivas Plata NC State
from Perlmutter and Rivas Plata, NC State, “Urban Lichens: Environmental Indicators” presentation

Lichens have been studied as bioindicators of air quality for more than 100 years. A terrific presentation called Urban Lichens: Environmental Indicators from NC State researchers dives deep into worldwide studies of lichens as bioindicators of pollutants.

More recently, researchers are finding that when toxic emissions are under control in urban areas, other factors affecting lichen abundance and diversity come into play, like temperature and humidity level. What is the urban heat island-lichen interplay? The theory: lichen abundance and diversity on urban trees can be an indicator of the level of urban heat island effect but also an indicator of the success of urban heat island mitigation efforts, like tree planting. More research is underway.

In this fascinating article, Council member and horticulturist Laura Wyeth explores the truly enthralling biology of lichenssimultaneously vulnerable and cannily adaptive organisms. Michelle Sutton, Ed.   

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NYC Parks’ Liam Kavanagh Brings Big-Picture Discussion to Council Board

Liam Kavanaugh
NYC Parks Commissioner Liam Kavanagh. Photo by Michelle Sutton, from 2016 SMA Conference 2016

Last month, NYC Parks First Deputy Commissioner  Liam Kavanagh came and spoke with the Council Board at their meeting at the NYSDEC Region 2 office on Long Island. Commissioner Kavanagh discussed three national, big-picture urban forestry projects with the Board: the Ten-Year Urban Forestry Action Plan, a report on the Impact of Urban and Community Forestry Federal Grants, and the Urban Forestry Toolkit. Let’s look at each one.

1) The Ten-Year Urban Forestry Action Plan (2016-2026) was developed by and for the urban forestry community. It was funded by the US Forest Service and developed by the National Urban and Community Forestry Advisory Council (NUCFAC)* with extensive input from stakeholders. You can read an interesting interview with Liam Kavanagh about the Plan here.

The Plan’s purpose is to expand awareness of the benefits that our urban forests, including green infrastructure, provide to communities throughout the nation, and increase investments in these urban forest resources for the benefit of current and future generations.

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Pyrus, We Have a Problem: National Perspective on the Runaway Callery Pear

Callery pear foliage and fruit. Photo by Brett O’Brien

I moved from Rochester to the Hudson Valley in 2010. In the eight years since, I’ve noticed a steady proliferation of escaped Callery pears in the Valley. From one undeveloped bowl of land at a busy corner in my town emerges a cloud of white in the spring and some admittedly striking fall color come late October/early November. The problem is that not much else is growing there now, and many of these volunteer trees have reverted to thorniness, creating giant impenetrable thickets.

Callery pears have a mixed rating on wildlife value; on the one hand, bees and other insects visit the flowers in spring and a few species of songbirds eat the fruit after it softens in the winter. On the other hand, Callery pears do not support caterpillars in any significant numbers, so they do not provide adequate food for baby birds the way that oaks and other native trees do.

From University of Delaware Professor Doug Tallamy, Author of Bringing Nature Home
From University of Delaware Professor Doug Tallamy, Author of Bringing Nature Home

Why are self-sterile cultivars of Callery pear producing fruit? One way it happens is when fertile pear understock sprouts, flowers, and produces viable pollen. Another: by the late 1990s, the introduction of new Callery pear cultivars beyond ‘Bradford’, cultivars like ‘Aristocrat’ and ‘Chanticleer’, led to an unexpected dilemma: in areas where large numbers of Callery pears were planted, the self-sterile cultivars starting pollinating one another. Then came the fruit, then came bird dispersion of the fruit … and “Pyrus, We Have a Problem.” 

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Budget Update … and the Time for UF Advocacy is Always Now

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Thanks once again to the tireless Danielle Watson, Assistant Director of Government Affairs & External Relations for the Society of American Foresters, for this legislative update on the federal Urban and Community Forestry budget for FY 2018.

As readers know, Congress is still trying to negotiate a deal for FY 2018. They have until January 19th until the current Continuing Resolution expires (after which there is, as readers probably are well aware, the threat of a government shutdown). If Congress reaches a deal and extends the Continuing Resolution, they will likely extend it until Feb. 19th. At that point, assuming they have a deal, they would sign an omnibus bill including all the spending bills from various agencies.

Remember, the House version of the Interior bill (the one that includes the Forest Service) only cut U&CF by a small amount, but the Senate bill cut U&CF by 25%. Therefore, we can assume that the final number will be somewhere in between – unless they hear a lot of push back from advocates of urban and community forestry between now and Feb 19th.

Plus, they have to start developing numbers for FY 2019 – so it’s always a good time to let your representatives in the House and Senate know how important this program is and that communities across the country can’t afford cuts to U&CF. 

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Top Seven Blog Posts of 2017

bb-trees-on-truck-matthew-stephens

#1 Transplanting and a Deeper Look at “Fall Hazards”

Some topics really hold up … with nearly 1400 views, this was the top viewed blog post in 2017–even though it originally appeared in 2015! Former NYC Director of Street Tree Planting Matt Stephens and NYSUFC 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 will be of interest to anyone planting trees. 

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Action Alert: Senate Wants to Slash Urban & Community Forestry

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Urban forests are in need of your help! The Senate is suggesting a twenty-five percent cut to the US Forest Service Urban and Community Forestry Program for fiscal year 2018! Let Congress know that urban forests are important to everyone’s quality of life and any cut to the program is unacceptable. We need to call both our NYS Senators and our US Rep in the House.

Schumer: (202) 224-6542
Gillibrand:  (202) 224-4451

Here’s a sample script from which you can excerpt your script or email text. Start your communication by establishing your connection to UCF.

Dear Senator Schumer,
I work in the field of urban forestry as an educator, writer, and editor for organizations such as the NYS Urban Forestry Council. As your constituent, I am deeply concerned with any funding reduction to the U.S. Forest Service’s Urban and Community Forestry (UCF) program. The Senate proposed a 25% cut to this important program while the House of Representatives’ Appropriation Subcommittee on the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies recommended a funding level close to the FY 2017 amount of $28 million. I ask for your help to keep the FY 2018 amount for this program level with FY 2017, at the very least.

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2018 Arbor Day Grant Application Period Open!

2018 Arbor Day Community Grant Notice

planting Sophia
Pat Evens

The NYS Urban Forestry Council is pleased to announce available funding for small communities to have a 2018 Arbor Day tree planting event and to establish a community based forestry program. This funding has been provided by the USDA Forest Service and the NYS DEC Urban Forestry Program (and is not associated with the Arbor Day Foundation nor is part of the NYSDEC EPF community grants program).

Grants of up to $1,000 will be awarded to communities or non-profits (that work in partnership with communities) to celebrate Arbor Day 2018 by both planting a tree (or trees)and forming a volunteer tree committee or tree board within the municipality.  To be considered for a grant, please complete and return the application and requested documentation (PDF format) (Word format here).

Besides planting trees, the intent of this grant is to help promote and establish a meaningful community forestry program. Communities that are currently a Tree City USA or those that have any component of the Tree City USA program, such as a tree ordinance, tree board, tree inventory or management plan are ineligible. Previous NYS Arbor Day Community Grant recipients are also ineligible. 

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