How NOT To Select Street Trees

street trees
The Invasive Chanticleer or Calery Pear

Two summers back I was in the middle of getting my certification in Urban Forestry from Cornell University Cooperative; we were studying what street trees are best to plant. For me, knowing how to plant and tend to street trees was essential knowledge. With The Long Island Conservancy in formation, this was a responsibility.

There were arborists from all over LI and NYC, and we got to talking about street trees. In the class there was someone from the NYSDEC who was curious as to what street trees The Town of Islip had on their list since they were strongly recommending using native trees where possible.

Well I now have the street tree list.

Street Trees

In this list you will see that four of the nine recommended trees are listed as native.

Problem #1: The Red Jewel Crabapple, while native, is invasive. You DO NOT want birds eating the berries then pooping them in our woods.

Problem #2 The American Chestnut was all but obliterated by the Chestnut blight starting in 1904. The Long Island Conservancy is actually leading the charge on Long Island to restore this tree. We have 200+ saplings that we have in a breeding program and are actively planting Mother Orchards where with transgenic pollen that confers resistance to the blight. The Town of Islip does not have any American Chestnut trees. I wish they did. I have no idea what they in fact have.

Problem #3 The Chanticleer Pear aka The Bradford Pear is a known invasive that is anything but “sidewalk” or “wire friendly.” Come to Sayville and check out the sidewalks on main street, all heaving up, or see where this rapidly growing tree has to be constantly pruned so that it doesn’t grow into the wires. It is short lived, and falls apart quickly, but I guess the price is right. It too ends up in our woods, with devastating effects.

Problem #4 Acer Rubrum, or Red Maple, makes the list twice. Now Red Maple is one of our favorite trees. It provides all sorts of benefits to local wildlife. The second listing is for the “October Glory Red Maple,” which is “native-ish” — a cultivar. The issue here is that this tree is known for heaving up sidewalks.

However, this is a fast-growing cultivar; in turn, the October Glory Maple Tree root system can quickly raise and damage sidewalks. To prevent damages to your home’s foundations, you should consider keeping it at a distance of at least 10ft from the house.”

So for those scoring at home, that is one tree in nine that makes ecological and practical sense as a street tree.

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