Underutilized Trees for Urban Use: Quercus michauxii

Author Jean Zimmerman with one of Ithaca’s thriving swamp chestnut oak (Quercus michauxii) street trees, about 15 years old.

Council Board Member and Commercial & Consulting Arborist for SavATree Jean Zimmerman provided this superb story and photos. Jean is also an extensively published author (jeanzimmerman.com), centering much of her fiction and nonfiction around the history of Manhattan.

When saplings of swamp chestnut oak (Quercus michauxii) showed up on the streets of Ithaca, New York in 2007, even some knowledgeable arborists might have been surprised. Rarely seen in the colder northern precincts of Zone 5 central New York, Quercus michauxii hails from the Southern United States, where it keeps its feet wet in swamps and mixed hardwood forests. When I encountered striking specimens in the college town recently, I wondered how michauxii had wound up on the streets of “Mythaca.”

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Nina Bassuk/Peter Trowbridge ISA New England Talk

Nina Bassuk gave this talk on her and Peter Trowbridge’s behalf for the recent virtual New England Chapter ISA Conference. This video provides the very latest synthesis of their research on and experience with creating sustainable urban landscapes.


SMA Announces 2019 Urban Tree of the Year

American hophornbeam (Ostrya virginiana) coping admirably well with the heat on the student union patio at Virginia Tech. Photo by Eric Wiseman

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.  

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Updated Guide to Shrubs for Stormwater Retention

Woody Shrubs for Stormwater Retention udpated

Cornell’s Urban Horticulture Institute (UHI) has released the second edition of its Woody Shrubs for Stormwater Retention Practices (Northeast and Mid-Atlantic Regions). The updated and expanded 57-page guide is an essential resource for choosing plants that can provide low-maintenance, attractive cover for filter strips, swales, rain gardens, and other stormwater retention and infiltration practices.

“For plants to thrive in stormwater retention areas, they need to be able to tolerate both dry and periodically saturated soils,” says UHI Director Nina Bassuk, professor in the Horticulture Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science. “These can be tough sites with high pH and salt levels, so it’s important to choose the right plants for the job.”

In addition to profiling more than 35 shrubs—including their hardiness, sun and soil requirements, potential pest issues, and deer resistance—the guide also details site assessment and design considerations for stormwater retention structures. Descriptions also include cultivar information and ecological impacts, such as attractiveness to pollinators. Download the guide here.

 

Top Five Blog Posts of 2015

Our Council blog was viewed more than 14,000 times in 2015! Here are the top five posts:

NYC Urban Forester Sumana Serchan

Sumana Serchan: Get to Know Her! Sumana Serchan is an urban forester with NYC Parks and Recreation. Sumana has a master’s degree in Environmental Management from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and a bachelor’s degree in Natural Resources/Conservation from the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources (University of Vermont). She grew up in Kathmandu City, Nepal.

 

 

 

B&B trees on truck Matthew Stephens
Photo by Matt Stephens

Transplanting and a Deeper Look at “Fall Hazards” 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.

 

 

 

 

Biotope 18: Landscape, Wireless, Tree bed > 54”A New Method for Streamlining Tree Selection in NYC  Council President and NYC Parks Senior Forester David Moore shares how the City streamlined its system for making tree species selections for 25,000 street tree plantings a year using an ingenious categorization of “biotopes.” A municipality of any size can use this article to think strategically about their tree selection process.

 

 

 

 

Ithaca UFMPIthaca’s Urban Forest Master Plan: A Template for Other Munis Looking for a template as you craft or revise your community’s urban forest master plan (UFMP)? Ithaca once again leads the way. The newly revised document includes a master plan, tree inventory data, and arboricultural guidelines.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Longtime Council President Andy Hillman (l) handed the torch to David Moore at ReLeaf 2015.

A Releaf to Remember Part I in a series of pictorials about the awesome 2015 ReLeaf Conference at SUNY ESF. Close behind was the inspiring Reflections from Incoming President David Moore

 

 

Transplanting and a Deeper Look at “Fall Hazards”

B&B trees on truck Matthew Stephens
B&B trees dug properly—i.e., when dormant. Photo by Matthew Stephens

by NYC Parks Director of Street Tree Planting Matthew Stephens and Taking Root Editor Michelle Sutton

We coauthored this story questioning commonly held beliefs about “fall hazards,” mostly as it applies to B&B trees, but we also discuss the interaction of the fall season with other production methods, like bare root. The section, “The Five Branches of Transplanting Success,” should be of interest to anyone planting trees, period!  With the help of Nina Bassuk and others, we tried to break down the complex interactions at work with transplanting. This article originally ran in Arbor Age (Fall 2015).  

The nursery industry is reluctant to dig certain species of trees in the fall, yet the “fall hazards” lists can vary significantly among nurseries. Also varying is the experience of nursery customers, including city foresters who plant hundreds or thousands of trees each year. In addition to digging season, there are other interacting factors at play in the fall planting picture.

A More Nuanced Look
Cornell Urban Horticulture Institute Director and street tree expert Dr. Nina Bassuk says, “Those fall hazards lists are generalizations. Typically the trees that appear on those lists are trees that are more difficult to transplant, period. In spring they don’t become easy to transplant; they’re just observed to be easier in the spring than in the fall.”

Tree Pittsburgh Director of Urban Forestry Matthew Erb has overseen the planting of more than 25,000 trees (mostly B&B) since 2008. “I’m sure if you look hard enough, you will find nearly every species on someone’s fall hazard list,” he says.

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Bassuk, Luley, and Nowak Receive Awards at ISA Orlando

Chris Luley accepting his R.W. Harris Author's Citation Award, granted to authors for sustained excellence in the publication of timely information pertaining to the field of arboriculture.
Chris Luley accepting his R.W. Harris Author’s Citation Award, granted to authors for sustained excellence in the publication of timely information pertaining to the field of arboriculture.

In early August, at the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) Annual International Conference and Trade Show in Orlando, Florida, three of our New York urban forest luminaries won prestigious awards.

Cornell Urban Horticulture Institute Director Nina Bassuk received the Alex L. Shigo Award for Excellence in Arboricultural Education. Urban Forestry LLC Principal Chris Luley received the R.W. Harris Author’s Citation. USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station Project Leader and Research Forester David Nowak received the L. C. Chadwick Award for Arboricultural Research. In the past, Nina also received the Research award and David also received the Author’s award.

What follows are the videos that ISA produced for each recipient. We can take pride in the accomplishments of these New York-based professionals who, among their many good works, have contributed immensely to the efforts and mission of the NYS Urban Forestry Council.

Ithaca’s Urban Forest Master Plan: A Template for Other Munis

Ithaca UFMPLooking for a template as you craft or revise your community’s urban forest master plan (UFMP)? Ithaca once again leads the way. The newly revised document includes a master plan, tree inventory data, and arboricultural guidelines.

To borrow from the Pittsburgh UFMP, “An Urban Forest Master Plan is a road map, providing detailed information, recommendations, and resources needed to effectively and proactively manage and grow a city’s tree canopy. More importantly it provides a shared vision for the future of the urban forest to inspire and engage stakeholders in the care and protection of trees.”

Ithaca Shade Tree Advisory Committee Chair Nina Bassuk says, “Ithaca’s newly revised UFMP has components that many municipalities might be interested in, including specs for soil, soil volume, and nursery stock. It also has our tree care guidelines for site selection, tree selection, tree protection during construction, tree removal, and even our solar panel policy.” There are meticulously rendered tree planting details for varied circumstances including planting with CU-Structural Soil.

Nina says, “I would also like to point folks to our Community Forestry website, where resources include several management plans and ordinances that might be of interest, and advice on creating master plans.”

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Nina Bassuk Receives Frederick Law Olmsted Award from Arbor Day Foundation

RELEAF 255Last fall, the NYSUFC nominated beloved Cornell Urban Horticulture Institute (UHI) Director and longtime former Council President Nina Bassuk for the Arbor Day Foundation’s Frederick Law Olmsted Award. Current Council President Andy Hillman read the award description and said, “This appears to have been written for Nina!”

The Frederick Law Olmsted award recognizes an outstanding individual with a lifelong commitment to tree planting and conservation at a state or regional level. Further, it honors someone who: shows outstanding personal commitment over their career or lifetime for the betterment of the environment, mobilizes people in tree planting and care, makes unique or extraordinary contributions and commitment with regards to tree planting, landscape, conservation, education, or research, and serves as a role model and mentor to others.

The Council is so very pleased to announce that Nina received the Frederick Law Olmsted Award for 2015. Here is a video the Arbor Day Foundation made about Nina’s work that shows why she was the perfect candidate:

It was challenging to summarize Nina’s accomplishments in the three pages indicated by the award nomination guidelines. Here are some highlights:

  • Thanks to Dr. Bassuk’s research and extension efforts in bare root transplanting technology, tens of thousands of trees have been planted in New York and the greater Northeast that would otherwise not have been. In 2014 alone, 8800 bare root trees were purchased by 93 municipalities across 11 states from Schichtel’s Nursery in Western NY.
  • Dr. Bassuk has been the City of Ithaca Shade Tree Advisory Committee Chair since 1985, and she served on the Ithaca Parks Commission from 1991-2003. She served as the President of the NYS Urban Forestry Council from 1990-2001 and thereafter as a Board Member.

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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.

Screenshot 2014-12-01 06.11.09

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