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I want to link observations made by two group that share an interest in imperiled trees; Santa Catalina Conservancy and The American Chestnut Foundation.  The Santa Catalina Conservancy reports that their staff monitor 14 Cercocarpus trees know to exist on the island each summer.  Conservancy biologists visit the gully to assess the health and growth patterns of the individuals. They report that only 6 of these are pure Cercocarpus traskiae. Five individuals are hybrids meaning genetically they are a combination of Cercocarpus trakiae and Cercocarpus betuloides blancheae. The genetics of the 3 remaining individuals has not been tested so it is unknown if they are pure or hybrids.

Having been involved in both eDNA testing and statistical analysis I want to sound a note of optimism.  I have no access to the raw data but I want to suggest that it is reasonable to think that during genetic sequencing researchers may have selected the wrong probe for the genetic testing.  PCR probe selection is both tricky and critical to good speciation.  If one looks at the statistical analysis from The American Chestnut Foundation article on Out-Crossing Restoration Chestnut 1.0 Trees  they feel that hydridization is not a significant issue if their 1.0 chestnuts are planted in the forest.  While the circumstances affecting these two species are different, we can say three things.  
1)  Santa Catalina mountain mahogany trees exist in a secluded area surrounded by other pollen producing trees located in the immediate area.  
2)  This population occurs on a Pacific island significantly influenced by westerly winds.  
3)  The current genetic stock has developed over thousands of years with the exact same presence of Cercocarpus betuloides blancheae populations occurring on the mainland.  
That 5 of the 11 trees tested are believed to be hybrids of trees growing in California certainly seems to warrant a degree of scientific skepticism and a second look.
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Celebrating Endemic Tree Species

From the huge tree ranges of the willows and the common juniper, let’s consider the endemic tree species with very small ranges.  The smallest tree range in the continental US must go to Franklinia, today it has a native range of zero square miles.  It is a tree with a range that is lost in time. The species has not been seen in nature since 1790.  Seeds taken by the discoverer have been propagated in the Northeast.  Has anyone ever seen a specimen of … the dendrologist’s Ivory-billed Woodpecker?

Next week I will be in California with a trip planned to Catalina Island.  Hoping to get a glimpse of one of the rarest North American trees that I will likely ever see; the Catalina Mountain Mahagony.  There are believed to be only seven trees left that are mature enough to produce viable seeds.  I will take a camera and try to post a picture when I return.  
Another tree with an incredibly limited range that is on my list is the Georgia Oak.  I have three sibs that live in the Atlanta area, so I will certainly get a chance to visit Stone Mountain and ‘check this one off.’   
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Trees by the Numbers

Back in 1992 I developed a Local-Native-Tree database to permit people to identify the quadrant where they lived in the continental United States.  They could then get a list of all the native trees known to occur in their location.  My original idea was just to permit people who might want to plant, water and protect a tree to select a species that is a natural part of the local environment rather than a non-native, a cultivar or worst of all an invasive species.  Eventually, I started to think beyond that single capability and wondered “What else could I learn from this unique collection of more than 80,000 quadrant-species associations that make up the database that I had available?”  Looking at this large and daunting dataset, the first simple question I asked was “What species of tree has the largest range in the continental US?”  

Coyote Willow (Salix exigua) is also called basket, sandbar or narrowleaf willow and it occurs as a shrug to a small tree reaching approximately 25 feet high.  This unobtrusive tree is so under appreciated that it earned just two sentences in Dirr’s massive Encyclopedia of Trees and Shrubs.  The local native tree database tells a more interesting story.  This willow is capable of growing in a range that covers approximately 2,385,000 of the 2,959,064 square miles of land area comprising the continental United States!  When one looks at the full range of  S. exigua, the tree is even more impressive.  The species can grow from northern Alaska, throughout most western Canadian provinces, the majority of the continental US and reaches as far south as Mexico.  This incredibly large range suggests this humble tree has a tolerance to temperature extremes that is a wonder of the world.  Moreover, the trait isn't limited to this species.  Other members of the genus Salix also have impressive ranges.  In descending order of range size, these include S. rigida, S. interior, S. amygdaloides and S. nigra. What could we learn about temperature tolerance if we investigated the genome of this extraordinary genus?

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Tree Poem about Planting Trees

How to Plant a Tree

Allow for growth; dig twice as wide and deep.

Add soil amender to the raw red clay.

Remove the rope. Take burlap bag away.

Surround the root ball, mulch and go to sleep.

And as the roots unfold and slowly creep,

you’ll dream of branches long that lean and sway.

And after many years, you’ll see—one day,

against the sky, bright leaves that softly sweep.

No matter where you roam, it will remain.

And it will stay and wait for you, alone.

Out there, it will withstand the cold, the rain,

and, in December, winds that cry and moan.

And when you then return, one day, in pain,

you’ll find there shade—a shelter and a home.

-- Alan Sugar

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Arkansas Champion Bald Cypress Tree

Contributed by Alison

#greatamericantree This is the state of Arkansas Champion Bald Cypress Tree. the tree has a circumference of 516 inches, a crown spread of 93 feet, height of 120 feet, with a bigness index of 638. The land is owned by U.S. Fish and Wildlife service. This tree is special due to its size, age and the tree is majestic, photos do not do it justice. The Tree is located in Arkansas County on US Fish and Wildlife property. Think of the stories this tree could tell. This tree likely survived the logging in the past from being in a swampy location.

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Fusiform Rust Never Sleeps

Disease of slash and loblolly pines persists in the southeastern United States

by Zoё Hoyle, SRS Science Delivery Group

Fusiform rust, a fungal disease caused by Cronartium quercum f. sp. fusiforme, is the most damaging disease of slash and loblolly pines in the southeastern United States. There are currently over 60.3 million acres of slash and loblolly pine timberland in the Southeast, some of the most productive forests in the world. Forest managers rely on continued fusiform rust risk monitoring to choose which slash and loblolly pine stock to plant to avoid losses from the disease.

Newly published findings based on U.S. Forest Service Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) data show that though fusiform rust levels in slash and loblolly pine stands in some areas are lower than observed in the 1980s, in other areas the incidence of rust has changed very little in the last 30 years.

In 1972, annual South-wide losses from fusiform rust were estimated at around $28 million. Since then, millions of research dollars have been spent developing methods to select, breed, and outplant rust-resistant slash and loblolly pine stock.

Part of this effort included developing hazard zone maps for both slash and loblolly pine based on the analysis of FIA data. Published in 1997 in a report by Forest Service researcher Dale Starkey, the maps were widely used by forest pathologists, tree improvement specialists, and forest managers to make decisions about which planting stock to use on their lands.

As a result of decades of effort, productivity on pine plantations has doubled from what it was in 1940, and there’s been some evidence that rust incidence and tree mortality from the disease has been greatly reduced in areas once deemed “high hazard,” and especially on commercially owned lands where the best available genetic sources of resistance to fusiform rust have been planted.

Prompted by questions and statements from the field, KaDonna Randolph, research mathematical statistician with the Forest Service Southern Research Station FIA unit, was asked to update Starkey’s rust hazard maps using FIA data and evaluate changes in regional rust incidence between the late 1970s and the early 2010s.

Through the analysis of FIA data, Randolph and fellow researchers Ellis Cowling and Dale Starkey found that despite some decreases in fusiform rust incidence over the last 30 to 40 years, rust hazard remains high throughout much of the southeastern United States. They also found that rust incidence was about equal in planted and natural loblolly stands but was higher in planted versus natural stands of slash pine.

The results for slash pine were surprising. The reasons were unclear, but one reason may be the origin of planting stock, which was unknown and may be highly variable in terms of rust resistance.

Data from the analysis was used to update Starkey’s 1997 disease risk maps. The updated maps are included in the article and can be used to guide the planting of rust-resistant stock appropriate to specific areas.

“Because rust hazard remains moderate to high throughout much of the southeastern U.S. for both slash and loblolly pines, continued deployment of rust-resistant seedlings is recommended,” said Randolph. “It’s also necessary to continue rust research and monitoring programs so that the gains in genetic resistance achieved so far are not lost.”

Read the full text of the article.

For more information, email KaDonna Randolph at

Access the latest publications by SRS scientists.

Multiple branch cankers such as those pictured above are symptomatic of fusiform rust disease. Photo by Robert L. Anderson, U.S. Forest Service, courtesy of

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The essential elements of any landscape are trees. Trees are a long-term investment and also the longest living plants that we can grow in our garden. A healthy tree can live up to centuries if it is provided proper protection and is not harmed externally. However, it is so important to choose the right tree for the right place. If a tree is planted in a place where it doesn't fit in, it will devalue your property rather than putting any value to it. This is why it is essential to know why and where you are going to plant a tree. 

Choosing the Right Tree: 

Many people follow the approach of buying a tree first, coming home and then deciding where to plant it, which is a very wrong approach. You first need to make a complete survey of the place where you want the tree and then determine why you need it there, only then can you choose the right one. You cannot call a tree “superior” in-breed than the other. There are hundreds of excellent varieties out there to choose from. Hence, after you have decided which tree you want at what spot, move on to getting a soil checkup to determine if that specific breed can grow well in your garden. Once you have gone through this process, you can go and purchase the tree you want. Following are a few types of trees:

Large Trees

1. Green Ash

Green Ash is known to be very vigorous when young and eventually grown a broad crown as it matures. This tree is particularly strong and can grow in a number of soils and is also drought-resistant.

2. Red Maple

Red Maples is a tree that sings of spring. As soon as the spring spreads through the air, it starts to produce red, beautiful flowers. This tree is also the first to signal the start of fall, as it changes its colors.

3. White Oak

It is said that a full-grown White Oak is one of the most majestic of the trees. They have sturdy and thick horizontal branches. It grows slowly, but handsomely.

Medium Trees

1. Black Gum

One of the most beautiful tree species Black Gum has colors of scarlet and orange in fall. It is also extremely dense and lustrous green, with stiff, leathery leaves. The pros of planting this tree is the fact that it grows very fast.

2. River Birch

River Birch is known for its unique bark, which is salmon colored and comes off in thin layers. Eventually, as the tree matures, its bark becomes dark gray as well as scaly. Many people avoid planting River Birch because of its white birches.

3. Lacebark Elm

This tree is among the best ones for landscapes. They are durable and have beautiful barks. Its exfoliating bark is usually grey, with brown, green and orange underneath, but can vary in colors as well.

Small Trees

1. Japanese Maple

This small tree, or shrub as called by some, is grown because of its unique foliage. It has many different types however the ones that have beautiful red foliage are the most popular. For the best growth of this tree, a soil is rich as well as well drained is required.

2. Amur Maple

This is another smaller species of trees, which is extremely hard, short and round headed. Like many other maples, this tree develops bright red color during fall, which looks gorgeous. This tree has an extraordinary ability to grow in wet soil. However, it also can be grown in drier places.

Article by: Rachel Zoe - Certified Arborist at Enviro Frontier Sydney Tree Removal Company.

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The 2015 Great American Tree Competition

Help us find the Great American Tree for 2015! 

Everyone has a favorite tree. It’s a landmark to your community, has a compelling story, or makes a huge environmental contribution. It personifies perseverance or is a testament to history. It’s grand and noble or small and dignified. Whatever statement your favorite tree makes, nominate it - in the first annual Great American Tree Competition.

Guidelines for nominations:

Nominations must include a photo (high resolution preferred), a description of why the tree is special, tree species, tree size (height and/or diameter) and the tree’s location (GPS or address). Nominations may be posted to any of the following: On your state grove, Facebook, Twitter (@plantyourlegacy), or as an attachment to an e-mail. You may also go to your state grove by using your "state name" domain name (e.g.

All trees, no matter how they are submitted, will be posted to American Grove Great American Tree Page, where they will be voted upon. After winners from each state and/or territory are determined, an “all-star” urban forestry panel will cast its votes and The Great American Tree will be named. 


April 30: Contest Begins. Submit by commenting on this blog or post (must be a member) or via our Facebook or Twitter Accounts by clicking on the links below.
June 30: Deadline for Nominations
July 31: Voting
August 1 - August 30th: Review of the top five trees and selection of the Great American Tree by a national panel
September 15th: Winner Announced!


The first place winner of the Great American Tree contest will receive $500 and a complimentary scholarship to the Partners in Community Forestry (PCF) Conference in Denver, CO, November 18-19, 2015. Second place is $250 and a PCF scholarship, and third place is $100. The PCF Conference is designed to provide inspiration and tools that help strengthen community forests.

Share your enthusiasm for America’s appreciation of trees by posting the tree that you think should be the Great American Tree! #greatamericantree

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The Survivor Tree

Believe it or not, this week marks the 20 anniversary of the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City.  One notable survivor of that fateful event is an elm tree which sat in a parking lot across from the Murrah building, and which is now the centerpiece of the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum. The following link is a short NPR interview with Mark Bays, the Oklahoma State Urban Forestry Coordinator, who played an important role in the tree's stewardship and survival.

The Survivor Tree

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Spring Green 2

As leaves bud out, a vibrant green envelops us. As the green comes to you take a deep breath and internalize the brilliance of green.  The Chinese refer to the spring as part of the Wood Element, and the associated color is green. According to traditional Chinese medicine the seat of the wood element within the human body is the liver and gall bladder. While that connection is not intuitive to the western mind, I enjoy the connection because it gives me a way to incorporate that green within my body. You may also bring the green into what many know as your third eye, a place just above the bridge of your nose and between your eyes. The third eye is a place you bring not just the color green but the full multi dimensional energy of green including its smell, sound, touch. It is here that you can access it in the dark of night or other moments you choose to access it to be further enveloped in green. Last year, I shared the following about spring green.

Spring overwhelms me. I attribute this to trees coming out of dormancy with such vibrancy. It is difficult not to notice the curtain of green envelop you, particularly on wooded lots. The green is not just overwhelming in color, but also in volume. Once wide open views become views into the color green and your vista contracts from expanse to the tree nearest to you. In the southeast, we are often exposed to this shocking transition in our surroundings as the Southeast has many, many, deciduous trees. This in opposition to the wide open vistas I grew up with in the West, so it is not surprising that my initial reaction to the spring tree phenomena is one of being closed in upon. However, having lived in the southeast for 20 years, I have been able to temper this initial reaction with one of wonder. The wonder of green, of a tree's abilities to spring forth such massive amounts of energy, and simply the wonder of trees. The contraction also has the affect of turning your spirit back towards you, creating a feeling of introspection. Trees shade us, but also impose their wills into the space around us in the form of leaves and green. It is as if a waterfall of green spouts out of nowhere and immerses you into it as if you were swimming in a lake. I take this annual rite for what it is, and try to swim and splash within it without the panic of losing the vista around me.

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From in Dallas, TX

We know it can be tempting to take care of much needed tree pruning on your own. Often, we just hire the guy down the street that's "handy with a chainsaw". Who doesn't want to save some money? Problem is, poor "cheap" pruning can permanently ruin the look of your valuable trees and often leave them susceptible to storm damage, disease and ultimately decline and death. Here are five of our top common pruning and trimming mistakes we see on trees around the DFW area.

  • Topping: This is usually one of the most obvious and ugly of tree pruning mistakes. It happens a lot with crapemyrtles (known as "crape murder") and other trees that were too large for the place they were planted. With crapemyrtles, it's also done because people think it will get them more blooms (it won't). Topping involves cutting away a large section of the top of a tree's crown, or all the leafing branches across the top half of the tree. What you're left with is a very ugly deformed specimen with severely weakend branch structure.
  • Bad Timing: There are good times to prune and bad times to prune; it depends on the species and condition of the tree. In Texas, for example, oak trees should not be pruned from February through June, due to the spread of oak wilt disease. If a tree is already stressed, it should not be heavily pruned. You should always have your trees inspected by a certified arborist before you let anyone take a chainsaw to it, unless you're willing to lose the tree completely.  Pruning west-facing branches isn't a good idea in the heat of the summer; when you remove large limbs that shade the tree from the hot western sun, you can cause sun scald on red oaks, maples and other susceptible species. Sun scald results in wounds and damage to the trunk bark that can severely damage your tree.

Oak Wilt Disease

  • Improper Cuts: A very common tree trimming mistake when removing branches is to cut them off too close, or flush, to the main trunk. By doing this, you remove the branch collar; an area of tissue with specialized cells that help heal the wound. You'll recognize it as a small swelling, or bump, right where the branch meets the trunk. The callous that the branch collar cells creates will prevent disease from entering the trunk. When you cut that branch off flush to the trunk, you're opening a wound that can allow in disease and pests, putting your tree on a path to an early demise. Bark tears can occur when the proper steps are not taken when removing large branches. If you make the wrong cut in the wrong order, you can end up with a large branch falling and tearing or splitting your main trunk.
  • Over Pruning: No more than about 15% to 20% of a mature tree's foliage should ever be trimmed off at one time. In fact, 5%-10% is usually adequate. When you remove too much of the canopy, you'll leave the tree unable to produce enough food, transfer nutrients and structurally support itself. People often over trim and thin their trees in hopes of getting the grass beneath to grow properly (which rarely happens).  If you have multiple trees in an area where you'd rather grow turn, often a better practice is to remove selected trees to let in more light, and perform structural pruning on the remaining trees so that you can have both healthy trees and turf.

Broccoli Tree

  • Raising the Canopy Too High: Otherwise known as Lion's tailing, or as we like to call them "Broccoli Trees". Again, unskilled labor often removes far too many large lower branches in an effort to raise the canopy and grow more turf grass. What you end up with is a very tall bare trunk with a small amount of foliage canopy left at the top. It looks like a lion's tail, or stalk of broccoli. You can read more about this pruning mistake and the problems it causes HERE.
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Parks & People: Shade is the Secret

Park Pride of Atlanta hosted a conference this week at the Atlanta Botanical Garden with keynote speakers Peter Harnik, Director of the Trust for Public Land's Center for City Park Excellence and Cynthia Nitkin, Senior Vice President at Project for Public Spaces. 

These articles by the Saporta Report summarize the conference theme, Parks and People.

Parks can ignite growth in cities 

by Maria Saporta

As more people move to the City of Atlanta, having quality parks is key

by Saba Long

Examples of the latest techniques in park building were discussed, including the Atlanta Beltline. (Another great example is Ellis Square in Savannah, a park on top of an underground parking garage.)

In her presentation, Cynthia said the key to having a great park is offering food, free wi-fi, seating and shade.

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The Fate of Trees

The Fate of Trees: How Climate Change May Alter Forests World Wide

This is an interesting read from Rolling Stone on the impact of climate change to our forests.  Its not a very rosy picture.  25% of the worlds land surface is covered by forests, which are great consumers of the carbon we produce.  Increased mortality from heat stress, drought, insects, fire, urbanization can be expected as we move towards mid century.  It becomes a clear imperative that we protect and enhance our urban forests.

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The new trend in re-development is for most lots to be teardowns (even of solid brick homes in good shape) to accommodate mega-houses with detached garages which is the new building trend. The footprints of the new homes are so large compared to the original houses that all the older trees are cut down because their root systems cover much of the lot area, and most alarmingly, there is no room for even newly replanted trees to reach the healthy canopy size of the trees lost, there is simply not enough space left on the lots.  
Previous infill in the 70's and 80's left enough space on lots for trees to grow back, this is why some of our neighborhoods that had less trees in the 70's are now recovering some canopy. But the new trend precludes canopy recovery for future decades -- which is not healthy for the City, because it exponentially increases the heat island effect, ground level ozone, poorer air quality, lower oxygen levels, and increases stormwater management problems and degradation of streams to the point of loss of species, physical loss of land, and increased infrastructure costs.
Allowing over 50% of Atlanta's landscape to be converted from green, resource-positive pervious surface (trees/forest) to resource-negative impervious surface (roads/bldgs) is simply un-sustainable, and this needs to be addressed a comprehensive way that includes the tree ordinance, zoning codes, and watershed management regulations which must work in concert rather than in conflict with each other. 
For example on the 145 Norwood site, over 30 trees are planned to be cut in order to create a detention pond. The detention pond is needed because all the large historic trees will be cut, and the ground they stand on will be replaced with so much impervious surface and stormwater runoff that a detention pond is needed. Cutting more trees in order to solve a problem caused by cutting trees just makes no sense, but it is becoming the new trend, already a common practice in the City of Decatur neighborhoods adjacent to ours.
There is no reason we can't build decent, even luxurious homes and still retain the trees that hold our soils together to prevent excessive runoff, that keep us healthy, and that make Atlanta's neighborhoods special. 
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11 Principles of Urban Tree Preservation

  1. Design with nature not against nature.
  2. Forest front property has value.
  3. If it feels wrong to exchange money for healthy trees it probably is wrong. Your intuition is valuable.
  4. Change tree ordinances to make tree removal in new development and renovations the exception, not the rule.
  5. Trees are anchors to life, life that is irreplaceable in our lifetime.
  6. Trees are like streams, we don't allow just anyone to dam or redirect them.
  7. Replants are not the equivalent to existing healthy trees.
  8. Not all trees are equal, have a way to measure species, contribution, and condition of trees.
  9. We cannot expect people not to remove trees in the Amazon when we cannot protect them in our own backyard.
  10. Developers and builders are not the enemy, we are. If you leave a $100 bill on street and it gets taken, whose fault is it?
  11. Aim high and own it, similar to how a developer wants 22 houses on one acre, we want want builders to design around healthy existing trees.

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