Recently, I visited my son in Durham, North Carolina traveling on to Asheville, near the “cradle of forestry.” Native redbuds and dogwoods dotted the bare-branched forests; some past-bloom others just-popping-open as we climbed into the mountains. We visited the North Carolina arboretum and wandered through planned to native landscapes. It was a true “tree geek” adventure.

Seeing the beautiful blooming North Carolina natives, many of which we find planted in our urban forests, reminded me of the old argument about natives vs. introduced species in the landscape. Considering that the places we plant trees here in the Pacific Northwest urban setting are far from native settings (with disturbed soils, restricted rooting space, overhead utilities and other vertical and horizontal restrictions), it is often difficult to argue for planting native trees. The palette would be very restricted, and we may end up planting ‘liabilities’ instead of receiving the expected benefits trees provide (think Douglas fir or Big-leaf maple in a downtown four-foot concrete cut-out). Happily, non-native trees adapted to our area, like redbud, can fill those urban niches that native trees cannot. On the other hand, non-natives can prove invasive, think Norway maple.

Our native trees need wide open spaces to thrive. Those spaces might include natural areas, parks, trail corridors, institutional properties such as schools, churches or hospitals, or anywhere there is available space above and below ground for the spread of tree canopy and roots.

The root message here is that it is important to plan in “tree-time,” thinking long-term, to accommodate the growth and survival of trees in our community forest in order to receive the benefits trees provide.

Alternatively, we could plan for rotating native  species in and out of the most urbanized planting sites in our landscape before the tree begins to decline or the impact to hardscape becomes apparent, but that is a subject of another article.

Does your community need assistance planning for trees? Give us a call, we can help! 360-902-1382 or 800-523-8733.