Each year, members
of the Society of Municipal Arborists (SMA) vote for the SMA Urban Tree of the
Year. Praise for this year’s winner, American hophornbeam (Ostrya virginiana),
came from fans in states as far-flung as Wisconsin, New York, Virginia, and Texas.
Here, we hear from
the Council’s Dr. Nina Bassuk at Cornell and from her colleague, Dr. Eric
Wiseman at Virginia Tech. You can see the full list of SMA Urban Trees of the
Year going back to the program’s inception in 1996 here.
On October 5th, 2018, Nina Bassuk led a tour of the new Sustainable Landscapes Trail on the Cornell campus after an opening ceremony in which, instead of ribbon-cutting, officials celebrated with a “downpour” of water onto the permeable asphalt of the Peterson parking lot, which is underlain by CU-Structural Soil and also features a large bioswale.
A number of the 20 sites along the Trail are associated with the Urban Horticulture Institute/Nina Bassuk, including chinkapin oaks (Quercus muehlenbergii) in CU Soil outside Stocking Hall, goldenrain trees (Koelreuteria paniculata) and silver lindens (Tilia tomentosa) in CU Soil outside Weill Hall, the Tower Road Bioswale, the Ag Quad Biodetention Basins, and the Mann Library Entrance SITES Accredited Garden. Many of these projects involved Nina Bassuk and Peter Trowbridge “Creating the Urban Eden” students in their implementation. For instance, the creation of the Rice Hall Bioswale involved students using the research-based “Scoop and Dump” technique described here.
For nearly 15 years, Nina Bassuk and her grad students at the Cornell Urban Horticulture Institute (UHI) have been developing hybrid oaks for exceptional tolerance of urban conditions (drought, alkaline soil, etc.) Bassuk now has 230 hybrid oaks of 2-3 inch caliper in her research fields. “I’d be happy for villages and cities in NY to plant them out so I can continue to evaluate them over time,” she says.
She is offering them to municipalities of any size in April of 2019. The cost would be $50 per tree to cover the B&B process. Communities could arrange for transportation or pick the trees up themselves. Bassuk says it would be preferable to have at least five trees go to any one community so she can efficiently evaluate them around the state.
If your community would like to plant at least five of these unique, new oak hybrids, please contact Nina Bassuk at email@example.com. Read on for more background about this fascinating research.
Nina Bassuk Reviews Applied Tree Biology by Andrew Hirons and Peter Thomas
Reprinted from the April 2018 Arborist News (Volume 27, Number 2).
The first thing to notice in this very excellent text is the title, Applied Tree Biology. This is not exactly an arboriculture manual or a tree biology textbook. It very deftly explores tree biology and then links it to the art and practice of arboriculture. Although the “applied” part of the text is not limited to managing trees in difficult environments, there is a definite subtext focusing on the trials of trees growing in managed or urban environments.
Ten comprehensive chapters address tree structure (wood, leaves, and roots), seed growth, water relations, carbon acquisition, nutrition, interactions with other organisms, and finally, environmental challenges. Each chapter is lavishly illustrated with graphics and pictures; it is difficult to find a page that does not have some illustrative feature. Given that this book is up-to-date and rather dense in content, the illustrations are very welcome.
In April 2018, the Cornell Urban Horticulture Institute team of Nina Bassuk, Bryan Denig, Yoshiki Harada, and Barbara Neal released an extensive report on the elms (including American elms) of the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The report details a study conducted at the request of the National Park Service to examine the current conditions of the trees and soils on the tree panels of the National Mall, and it includes a fascinating history of the landscape. Here are some highlights from the report.
The National Mall elm trees are an important planting in the monumental core, yet they face several challenges. The soils of the tree panels are very compacted, most likely due to the constant pedestrian use and the numerous large organized events that take place on the Mall. Unevenness in the size and distribution of the tree canopy has resulted from decades of mortality (often due to Dutch Elm Disease) and the planting of certain elm varieties with growth forms that are seen as incompatible with the planting as a whole.
From June 17–20, 2017, the research team conducted a tree inventory and collected soil data and samples for later analysis. In addition, in November 2017, ground penetrating radar done by Council member Gary Raffel was used to document root growth for seventeen of the trees. This report deals with the current tree and soil conditions, while management recommendations are in a separate report to be released in late 2018 or early 2019.
Our own Nina Bassuk was interviewed for this Schenectady Daily Gazette article about the thus-far disappointing fall color in the Capital Region and throughout much of New York State. The article includes an arresting pair of pictures contrasting the fall color at this time in 2016 with the fall color now on the same mountainside in Cobleskill.
Bassuk says, “The two triggers that are important for fall colors are the shortening days and the cool nighttime temperatures. We haven’t had much of the cool nighttime temperatures. In fact, September was inordinately hot. It was also very dry. The drought in September caused some leaves to fall before they could change color, but I think it was the lack of cool nights,” she said. “In some places, you can look at some hills and it could be July.” Read more here.