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Sunday, June 1, 2008

Proper Mowing

Many people who want a handsome lawn do not realize just how important the job of mowing really is. There are five dimensions of mowing to be considered. (a) Cutting height (b) Mowing Frequency (c) Mowing pattern (d) Blade Sharpness, and (e) Disposal of clippings.


Cutting height of different varieties of grass is mentioned below. Lowering the cutting height can be disastrous. Removal of a large portion of the leaf results in reduced carbohydrate production, because the leaves are largely responsible for photosynthesis.


The general rule for mowing is that no more than 1/3 of the leaf should be removed with any one cutting. Mowing frequency varies according to the time of year, weather conditions, and general rate of growth.


The mowing pattern is far less critical but should be considered. A side-by-side mowing pattern is acceptable if the 360° turns can be made on sidewalks or roadways. If the turf is thinning due to about face sums, try a circular cut.

Blade Sharpness

Sharp mower blades cut the grass blade cleanly. If the blades aren't they don't cut cleanly they will shred your grass. Shredding the grass blade makes the grass more susceptible to disease.

Do not remove clippings.

Short clippings decay quite rapidly and do not contribute to thatch formation. The only two situations when clippings should be removed (a) When excessive clippings may smother the lawn. (b) When surface clippings give the lawn an objectionable appearance.

The two most common errors of mowing are:

Lawn isn't mowed often enough.
Lawn is mowed too short.

The proper heights are:

Bluegrass (Common Kentucky) — 2" to 2 1/2"
Bluegrass (Improved Varieties) — 1 1/2" to 2"
Fescues — 2" to 3"
Ryegrass — 2" to 3"

Landscape Watering

One of the best ways to reduce the risk of potential insect or disease problems is to water the landscape properly. Nothing is more important to a plants ability to survive than proper watering. Too little water will reduce the plants ability to establish itself and thrive thereby leaving it susceptible to possible pest damage. Soils kept too moist will weaken a plant thereby leaving it susceptible to rot and other diseases. When asked to try and diagnose a particular insect or disease problem, more often than not it will somehow be related to moisture.

Factors that influence how often you may need to water are temperature, soil types, amounts of sunlight and mulch (types and amounts). The easiest way to check if supplemental watering is necessary is to check the soil. If the soil is dry to a depth of approximately ½", watering will be necessary. Some plants in the landscape could also be used as indicator plants. These are plants that typically will wilt or begin to scorch when sufficient water is lacking. When daytime high temperatures are in the mid-70s, watering once a week may be sufficient, whereas when the daytime high temperatures are in the mid-90s, watering as often as every other day may needed. Clay soils will typically hold more moisture than sandy soils so adjustments may be needed based on the soil types. Heat stressed areas of the landscape may also need more attention than the shaded areas. Stone mulches may also require more water than a wood type mulch since moisture will evaporate faster from the stone mulch.

As for the amount of water, the soil should be kept moist but not water logged. Watering once a week thoroughly is better than a quick brief showering every other day. Watering the area underneath the plant is best. Simply let a slow gentle stream of water run from the garden hose in this area. An occasional watering over the tops of the plants will also be beneficial in washing the plants free of potential insect problems. Yes, washing is beneficial in pest management.

The best time to water is in the morning. This gives the plants time to dry off thus reducing the possibility of disease problems. Midday watering is O.K. but realize that more water may be needed to offset the evaporation that occurs. Also, plants may scorch in the mid day sun if water is left on the plant surface. Evening would be the worst time to water. It lets the water sit overnight on the plant surface and increases the potential of disease activity. Watering at the least preferred time is still better than not watering at all.

Watering the landscape today is much easier than in the past. Complete irrigation systems can be installed using the latest equipment. Various types of irrigation heads, hoses, connectors and nozzles can be purchased at the local Home and Garden center.


Thatch is the layer of living and dead stems, roots, and crowns that forms a type of blanket over the soil of your lawn. A small amount of thatch (one-half inch or less) is acceptable and even good for the lawn. But when thatch accumulates to over one-half inch, it can become one of a lawn's most serious enemies.

Keeps out the good and protects the bad

Like an old-time thatched roof, the thatch on your lawn creates a barrier which prevents the free movement of water, air, fertilizer, and insect controls into the soil. Since thatch is an ideal breeding ground for many diseases and turf-destroying insects, a heavy thatch layer can quickly become a serious problem.

Grass clippings not to blame

Contrary to popular belief, grass clippings are not the prime cause of thatch build-up. Clippings are almost all water. Once dried, clippings add very little bulk to the thatch layer. Thatch is mainly made up of the heavier crowns, stems and roots. Clippings of moderate length can be left on the lawn without fear of quickly increasing the thatch layer.

Reduces lawn care effectiveness

Heavy thatch prevents fertilizer and water from reaching the grass roots. This can result in a lawn that is thin, off-color, and prone to disease, insect, and drought problems.

You have two choices.

You can ignore the thatch, and hope it will decay before it does any harm. However, a thatch problem will almost always get worse with time, not better.

The second alternative, the option we most often recommend, is core aeration because it offers the least amount of disturbance to the healthy plants.


Crabgrass is an annual weed. This means it dies completely every year and sprouts new from seed produced the year before. A healthy crabgrass plant produces up to 4,000 seeds during its short one-season life.

Why it's such a problem

Crabgrass is a very fast-growing plant. It has to be because it only has one season to live. Since it grows so fast, it can choke out slower-growing permanent grasses in your lawn. Once crabgrass gets a foothold, a cycle of summer crabgrass followed by winter weeds begins, leaving patches of bare dirt in the seasons in between.

Stopping the invasion

To get crabgrass under control, a thick stand of desirable grass has to be established. To do this in one season, the best approach is to concentrate on eliminating the crabgrass through the spring and summer. Use of pre-emergents (to stop the seed from sprouting) or post-emergents (to eliminate the plants once they germinate), or a combination of both is the best way to do this. Plan your seeding for late summer or early fall, and try to establish the new grass soon enough to mow it two to five times during the fall. Then an application of pre-emergent the following spring will be effective against any crabgrass, without harming your new turf.


Common errors.

The most common error committed by people is light irrigation. Too little water too often encourages a multitude of problems such as shallow root system. The need for watering depends mainly on your soil and of course, the weather.

Rainfall is no guarantee.

Light showers merely wet the surface. Short down pours do the same. Most of the water is lost in runoff before it can soak in.

How much water is needed?

A lawn will use as much as two inches per week in hot, dry weather — a fraction of that when it is cooler. If you decide your lawn needs water, you should put on enough to wet the entire root zone.

When is the best time?

If you can, avoid late afternoon or evening irrigation. Grass that stays wet for a long time favors development of diseases. However, do not avoid watering at these times if this is the only time you can water. The important thing is water. Avoiding late afternoons is secondary to providing the needed water. In heavy clay soils prevent watering to the full amount at one time, frequent watering is then necessary.

Growing Grass In Shade

Grass plants have four basic needs

In order to survive they need light, air, water, and nurtrients. In other words, you need sufficient amounts of L.A.W.N. in order to have a full, healthy lawn. Even if one of these basic needs is not met, the grass may begin to decline and eventually die.

The problem we come across, in many older landscapes, is heavy shade caused by large trees. Trying to maintain turf in these areas is very difficult and often times impossible due to the lack of one or all the ingredients in L.A.W.N.


The lack of light is the most obvious problem that shade creates. Turf requires 3-4 hours per day to remain thick and healthy. Lawns receiving less than this tend to be thin and weak.


Although air is available in shade areas, location of trees or the amount of trees in the yard can create a problem with sufficient air movement or circulation. This can cause excess dampness, which can lead to disease or fungus activity.


Between 1-2” of water each week throughout the growing season is required for a healthy lawn. The lack of rain is a problem because the tree will act as an umbrella and not allow rain to get to the ground. Because of this, the soil under the tree does not receive adequate moisture or valuable nutrients that rain provides.


The nutrients that do reach the turf, either by rain or fertilization, are being taken up by the roots of the tree as well as the turf roots. A complete soil test will show the nutritional make up of your soil and will determine the type of fertilizer required for your situation. (See our seasonal tip about soil testing.)

Here are a few tips on how to possibly improve the situation:

Do you need the tree?

Often times, too many trees were planted because people did not realize how big they would be when full grown.

Thin the tree

You can thin the tree by removing some inner branches or raise the canopy by removing some lower branches.

Add some topsoil

Tree roots are near and often on the surface not allowing enough soil for turf plants to grow. They’re also robbing the plants of valuable nutrients.


Only after doing some or all of these other things, loosen the soil with a rake and reseed. Some varieties of grass do better than others, so be sure to read the labels and stay away from annual varieties.


Whenever you do any seeding, be sure to keep soil damp by watering daily for about 3-4 weeks. You may have to water more often each day depending on the type of soil you have. You can cut back to weekly watering once you establish good turf growth.

Soil Testing

Whether you are trying to establish a lawn or simply maintain an existing one, you need to first know what condition the soil is in. The success or failure of any crop, from corn to turf grass, can be linked directly to the health of the soil in which it is growing. Without the proper nutrient levels in the soil, plants will be unable to thrive and remain healthy.

A complete soil test should be done in order to determine your soils pH and nutrient levels. This is done by pulling several soil cores from throughout the lawn area. Remove the cores at a depth of about 1-2 inches, then remove any thatch from them and put them in a bag or other suitable container for shipment. Once the sample is collected, send it to a qualified laboratory for testing.

Your local extension agent can usually provide you with a listing of qualified labs for this type of work. Once you receive your test results, you can then determine your fertilization requirements as well as any additional soil amendment requirements, such as lime, that may be needed.

Most fertilizers for home lawns contain 3 major nutrients, nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, all of which are necessary for good plant health. Each of these nutrients are responsible for different portions of the plants development. If your soil is lacking in one or more of these nutrients , you may see a decline in the health or vigor of your turf.

At One Step, we believe so strongly in the importance of soil testing, we have made this the foundation of our exclusive "Natural Care Plus" lawn care program. We begin each of our full service customers with a complete soil test for their lawn. Once we know the pH and nutrient levels of each individual lawn, we can then tailor our program to deliver exactly what is required for optimum turf growth and development.

Planting Trees and Shrubs

Think of the tree you just purchased as a lifetime investment. How well your tree and investment grows depends on the type of tree and location you select for planting, the care you provide when the tree is planted, and the follow-up care the tree receives after planting.

Planting the Tree

The ideal time to plant trees and shrubs is during the dormant season—fall after leafdrop or early spring before bud-break. Weather conditions are cool and allow plants to establish roots in the new location before spring rains and summer heat stimulate new top growth. However, trees properly cared for in the nursery or garden center, and given the appropriate care during transport to prevent damage, can be planted throughout the growing season. In either situation, proper handling during planting is essential to ensure a healthy future for new trees and shrubs. Before you begin planting your tree, be sure you have had all underground utilities located prior to digging.

If the tree you are planting is balled and burlapped, or bare rooted, it is important to understand that the tree's root system has been reduced by 90-95% of its original size during transplanting. As a result of the trauma caused by the digging process, trees will commonly exhibit what it knows as "transplant shock" (TS). TS is indicated by slow growth and reduced vigor following transplanting. Proper site preparation before and during planting, coupled with good follow-up care will reduce the amount of time that plant experiences TS and will allow the tree to quickly establish in its new location. Carefully follow eight simple steps and you can significantly reduce the stress placed on the plant at the time of planting.

A: 2-4" layer of mulch

B: Keep mulch 2-3" back from trunk

C: Cut burlap and rope away from top third of root ball

D: Trunk flare — keep visible

E: Use two opposing, flexible ties — when staking is necessary

F: Gently pack back-fill, using water to settle soil around root ball

G: Set ball on firmly packed soil to prevent settling

1. Dig a shallow, broad planting hole.

Make the hole wide, as much as three times the diameter of the root ball, but only as deep as the root ball. It is important to make the hold wide because the tree roots on the newly establishing tree must push through surrounding soil to establish. On most planting sites in new developments, the existing soils have been compacted and are unsuitable for healthy root growth. Breaking up the soil in a large area around the tree provides the newly emerging roots room to expand into loose soil to hasten establishment.

2. Identify the trunk flare.

The trunk flare is where the roots spread at the base of the tree. This point should be partially visible after the tree has been planted (see diagram). If the trunk flare is not partially visible, you may have to remove some soil from the top of the root ball. Find it so you can determine how deep the hole needs to be for proper planting.

3. Place the tree at the proper height.

Before placing the tree in the hole, check to see that the hole has been dug to the proper depth, and no more. The majority of the roots on the newly planted tree will develop in the top 12" of soil. If the tree is planted too deep, new roots will have difficulty developing due to a lack of oxygen. It is better to plant the tree a little high, 1-2" above the base of the trunk flare, than to plant it at or below the original growing level. This will allow for some settling (see diagram). To avoid damage when setting the tree in the hole, always lift the tree by the root ball, and never by the trunk.

4. Straighten the tree in the hole.

Before you begin backfilling have someone view the tree from several directions to confirm the tree is straight. Once you begin backfilling it is difficult to reposition.

5. Fill the hole, gently but firmly.

Fill the hole about 1/3 full and gently but firmly pack the soil around the base of the root ball. Then, if the tree is balled and burlapped, cut and remove the string and wire from around the trunk and top 1/3 of the root ball (see diagram). Be careful not to damage the trunk or roots in the process.

Fill the remainder of the hole taking care to firmly pack soil to eliminate air pockets that may cause roots to dry out. To avoid this problem, add the soil a few inches at a time and settle with water. Continue this process until the hole is filled and the tree is firmly planted. It is not recommended to apply fertilizer at the time of planting.

6. Stake the tree, if necessary.

If the tree is grown and dug properly at the nursery staking for support is not necessary in most home landscape situations. Studies have shown that trees will establish more quickly and develop stronger trunk root systems if they are not staked at the time of planting. However, protective staking may be required on sites where lawn mower damage, vandalism or windy conditions are concerns. If staking is necessary for support, two stakes used in conjunction with a wide flexible tie material will hold the tree upright, provide flexibility, and minimize injury to the trunk (see diagram). Remove support staking and ties after the first year of growth. Leave protective staking in place as long as necessary.

7. Mulch the base of the tree.

Mulch is simply organic matter applied to the area at the base of the tree. It acts as a blanket to hold moisture, protect against harsh soil temperatures, both hot and cold, and reduces competition from grass and weeds. Some good choices are leaf litter, pine straw, shredded bark, peat moss, and wood chips. A two to four inch layer is ideal. More than four inches may cause a problem with gas exchange. When placing mulch, care should be taken so that the actual trunk of the tree is not covered. This may cause decay of the living bark at the base of the tree. A mulch free area, one to two inches wide at the base of the tree, is sufficient to avoid moist bark conditions and prevent decay.

8. Follow-up care.

Keep the soil moist but not soaked, overwatering will cause leaves to turn yellow or fall off. Water trees at least once a week, barring rain, and more frequently during hot weather. When the soil is dry below the surface of the mulch, it is time to water. Continue until mid-fall tapering off for lower temperatures that require less frequent watering.

Other follow-up care may include minor pruning of branches damaged during the planting process. Prune sparingly immediately after planting, and wait to begin necessary corrective pruning until after a full season of growth in the new location.

After you've completed these eight simple steps, further routine care and favorable weather conditions will ensure that your new tree or shrub will grow and thrive. A valuable asset to any landscape, trees provide a long-lasting source of beauty and enjoyment for people of all ages. When questions arise about the care of your tree, be sure to consult One Step for assistance.

Trees and Turf

We’ve all seen thinning grass under large shade trees; large surface tree roots that cause safety hazards and mowing obstacles; young trees that don’t seem to grow; and tree trunks badly damaged by lawn mowers or string trimmers. All of these undesirable affects can be caused by trees and turf growing too closely together.

Woody plants and turfgrasses are both critical components of design plans for homes, offices and parks. Trees and turf offer distinct personal, functional, and environmental benefits. Personal preferences for color, fragrance and form should complement the functional properties of size, shape, density, and placement of plant material.

Turfgrasses provide many of the same environmental benefits as trees. They (1) change carbon dioxide into the oxygen we breathe; (2) cool the air by changing water into water vapor; (3) stabilize dust; (4) entrap air polluting gases; and (5) control erosion.
Turfgrasses, in addition to being environmentally beneficial, are attractive in formal and informal designs. There are many advantages to combining trees and turf in the landscape.


When trees and turf are used in the same areas, extra attention must be given to plant material selection in addition to the usual hardiness, climatic and soil needs. An effort should be made to make the trees and lawn compatible. Grass is generally a sun-loving plant. Most grass species will not grow well in areas that get less than 50 percent open sunlight; however, new varieties with improved shade tolerance are being introduced. Consult your garden center specialist or sod producer for recommendations of shade-tolerant grasses for your area.

In areas where the lawn is the primary design feature, select woody plants that do the least damage to grass growth and maintenance. The woody plants should be small, have an open canopy (trees that allow sunlight to penetrate to the ground) or have a high canopy. Select trees that do not root near the soil surface; surface rooting is most serious where a shallow topsoil is present. Remember, tree roots get larger as the tree gets older.


Trees, shrubs, ground covers, and lawn grasses all require sunlight, water and rooting space for growth. Each plant in the landscape competes with the neighboring plant regardless of types or species. Some even produce chemicals that are exuded from roots to restrict growth of nearby plants. For each plant to do well, it must have adequate space. Since perennial woody plants increase in size each year, they require additional space over time. The landscape design should provide adequate space for these plants.

While shade may be the greatest negative, tree-related influence on turf growth, tree roots also create problems. Contrary to general thinking, most tree roots are in the top three feet of soil. More importantly, the majority of fine, absorbing roots are in the top six inches of soil. While grass roots ordinarily occupy a much greater percentage of the soil volume than the tree roots and out-compete them for water and nutrients, especially around young trees, grass root density is often much lower in areas where trees were established first. In these situations, tree roots compete much better for water and nutrients and prevent or reduce the success of establishing new turf.
Competition is especially important when transplanting, seeding or sodding. The newest plant in the area must be given special treatment and must receive adequate water, nutrients and sunlight. This frequently means that competing sod should be removed from around transplanted trees and shrubs, or that some of the lower branches should be removed from existing trees above a newly sodded lawn.
Mulching is an alternative to turf around trees and its use eliminates potential competition. A 2 to 4 inch layer of wood chips, bark or other organic material over the tree rooting space is recommended because it: (1) helps to retain soil moisture; (2) helps to reduce weeds and control grass; (3) increases soil fertility when mulch decomposes; (4) improves appearance; (5) protects the trunk from injuries caused by mowing equipment and trimmers that often result in serious tree damage or death; and (6) improves soil structure (better aeration, temperature and moisture conditions).

Maintenance practices

Maintenance practices for trees and turf are different and treatment of one can unintentionally damage the other. Because tree and grass roots exist together in the upper 6 to 8 inches of the topsoil, treatment of one may damage the other. Fertilizer applied to one plant will also be absorbed by the roots of a nearby plant. Normally this is good; but excessive fertilization of either trees or turf can result in tree-crown or grass-blade growth greater than that desired.

Trees and shrubs are broadleaved plants as are most weeds in lawns. Many herbicides or weed killers that are used in turf can cause severe damage to trees when misapplied. This can occur on windy days causing the drift to fall on non-target plants or on hot days when the herbicide may vaporize and diffuse into the air. While most herbicides do not kill tree roots, some, such as soil sterilants and a few others do. Herbicides that can cause tree damage have statements on their labels warning against using the product “near trees.”

Problems can also result from misuse of other pesticides and fertilizers. Label instructions should be followed precisely, and pesticides/foliar fertilizers should not be applied on windy days. Consult your garden center staff for advice on pesticide selection and use.

Watering of lawns is beneficial to trees if the watering is done correctly. Trees need the equivalent of one inch of rain every seven to ten days. Applying frequent, shallow watering does not properly meet the needs of either trees or turf and can be harmful to both.

Turf growing under or near trees should be mowed at the top of its recommended mowing height. Mowing off no more than one-third of the grass blade’s height and letting the clippings remain on the lawn will do much to ensure a healthy and vigorous lawn. In an ideal situation, tree and turf maintenance would be handled by the same individual in order to maximize the benefits of all maintenance practices.

Special situations

Construction damage prior to lawn establishment.

Compaction of topsoil containing tree roots by heavy equipment kills more trees around homes than disease organisms. Compaction is greatest when the soil is wet. Consult a tree care expert about tree protection prior to home construction projects.

Fill dirt around existing trees.

Fill dirt is frequently added around existing mature trees so that a level or more visually desirable lawn can be established. Fill dirt changes the ratio of oxygen to carbon dioxide around tree roots and the roots may die. Consult a tree care expert before adding fill constructing soil wells around tree trunks.

Establishing lawns around existing trees.

Preparation of a seedbed for lawns requires disruption of the upper 4 to 6 inches of topsoil. This soil contains the feeder roots of trees. Damage to tree roots often results in declining tree tops.

Tree root buffers created with turf.

A sufficiently wide strip of turfgrass between trees and hard surfaces such as building foundations, sidewalks and roads can help to reduce the potential damage caused by tree roots as well as provide an area where water and nutrients can soak into the soil and be beneficial to both turf and trees.

Lawn watering in arid sites.

Homes are sometimes built in woodlots. In the West, this is especially damaging when dryland trees encounter watering required to maintain grass. Excess water at the tree trunk encourages growth of fungi that can kill trees.

Numerous other special situations exist. Sod producers, arborists or garden center operators will have suggestions for correcting or alleviating problems that may arise concerning trees and turf.

Think turfgrass growing around trunk-scarred, weak trees need not be a common sight in the landscape. With proper preplanning, proper plant selection and placement, and reasonable management, the many and varied benefits of both trees and turf can be readily achieved.

Landscape In Drought Conditions

Landscape Plants

Common symptoms of inadequate water for trees and shrubs include leaf scorch, wilting, premature coloration and leaf drop. The consequence of all of this is a reduction in carbohydrate production, leaving the plants experiencing stress and becoming more susceptible to damage by insects and diseases. In addition, if plants are stressed in the fall they are more susceptible to winter freezing damage and dieback.

Steps you can take during drought situations.

1. Irrigate plants thoroughly. Recently transplanted woody plants need special attention due to their limited root systems. During periods of prolonged drought even established plants need to be irrigated. Water slowly in order to percolate down into the soil rather than run off the surface. Containers that hold water and let moisture slowly trickle out can make this process easier. A commercially available product called a Treegater® does the job, as does a large plastic bucket with small holes drilled in the bottom or a soaker hose.

2. Mulch plants with a 2 to 4 inch layer of organic material (shredded bark, bark nuggets, wood chips, etc.) to conserve soil moisture, reduce weed problems and improve soil structure.

3. Inspect all plants for insect and disease problems and manage them as necessary.

4. Prune out dead branches immediately.

5. Do not fertilize. If fertilization is necessary, wait until adequate soil moisture is present to avoid fertilizer burn.



  • Improves soil structure
  • Adds organic matter
  • Aerates
  • Retains soil moisture by reducing soil water loss
  • Encourages root development
  • Suppresses weeds
  • Protects against temperature extremes
  • Reduces erosion


Organic mulch

  • Shredded pine bark, cedar, wood chips
  • As they decompose, they add beneficial organic matter to the soil


  • Mineral base, stone, brick chips, lava rock
  • Tend not to blow around
  • Generates heat

Proper technique:

Proper depth should be 2-4", over mulching can lead to plant suffocation.

Never bury stems or pile mulch up against the trunks of trees and shrubs.

This holds moisture in the wrong place leading to rot, decay, dieback and even plant death. Trunk flares should always be visible.

Leave an area of approximately 2-3" around the base of the plants clear of any mulch.

Make mulch donuts, not mulch volcanoes.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Economic Benefits

Individual trees and shrubs have value, but the variability of species, size, condition, and function makes determining their economic value difficult. The economic benefits of trees can be both direct and indirect. Direct economic benefits are usually associated with energy costs. Air-conditioning costs are lower in a tree-shaded home. Heating costs are reduced when a home has a windbreak. Trees increase in value from the time they are planted until they mature. Trees are a wise investment of funds because landscaped homes are more valuable than nonlandscaped homes. The savings in energy costs and the increase in property value directly benefit each home owner. The indirect economic benefits of trees are even greater. These benefits are available to the community or region. Lowered electricity bills are paid by customers when power companies are able to use less water in their cooling towers, build fewer new facilities to meet peak demands, use reduced amounts of fossil fuel in their furnaces, and use fewer measures to control air pollution. Communities also can save money if fewer facilities must be built to control storm water in the region. To the individual, these savings are small, but to the community, reductions in these expenses are often in the thousands of dollars.

Trees Require an Investment

Trees provide numerous aesthetic and economic benefits but also incur some costs. You need to be aware that an investment is required for your trees to provide the benefits that you desire. The biggest cost of trees and shrubs occurs when they are purchased and planted. Initial care almost always includes some watering. Leaf, branch, and whole tree removal and disposal can be expensive.

To function well in the landscape, trees require maintenance. Much can be done by the informed home owner. Corrective pruning and mulching gives trees a good start. Shade trees, however, quickly grow to a size that may require the services of a professional arborist. Arborists have the knowledge and equipment needed to prune, spray, fertilize, and otherwise maintain a large tree. Your garden center owner, university extension agent, community forester, or consulting arborist can answer questions about tree maintenance, suggest treatments, or recommend qualified arborists.

Environmental Benefits

Trees alter the environment in which we live by moderating climate, improving air quality, conserving water, and harboring wildlife. Climate control is obtained by moderating the effects of sun, wind, and rain. Radiant energy from the sun is absorbed or deflected by leaves on deciduous trees in the summer and is only filtered by branches of deciduous trees in winter. We are cooler when we stand in the shade of trees and are not exposed to direct sunlight. In winter, we value the sun’s radiant energy. Therefore, we should plant only small or deciduous trees on the south side of homes.

Wind speed and direction can be affected by trees. The more compact the foliage on the tree or group of trees, the greater the influence of the windbreak. The downward fall of rain, sleet, and hail is initially absorbed or deflected by trees, which provides some protection for people, pets, and buildings. Trees intercept water, store some of it, and reduce storm runoff and the possibility of flooding.

Dew and frost are less common under trees because less radiant energy is released from the soil in those areas at night.

Temperature in the vicinity of trees is cooler than that away from trees. The larger the tree, the greater the cooling. By using trees in the cities, we are able to moderate the heat-island effect caused by pavement and buildings in commercial areas.

Air quality can be improved through the use of trees, shrubs, and turf. Leaves filter the air we breathe by removing dust and other particulates. Rain then washes the pollutants to the ground. Leaves absorb carbon dioxide from the air to form carbohydrates that are used in the plant’s structure and function. In this process, leaves also absorb other air pollutants—such as ozone, carbon monoxide, and sulfur dioxide—and give off oxygen.

By planting trees and shrubs, we return to a more natural, less artificial environment. Birds and other wildlife are attracted to the area. The natural cycles of plant growth, reproduction, and decomposition are again present, both above and below ground. Natural harmony is restored to the urban environment.

Communal Benefits

Even though trees may be private property, their size often makes them part of the community as well. Because trees occupy considerable space, planning is required if both you and your neighbors are to benefit. With proper selection and maintenance, trees can enhance and function on one property without infringing on the rights and privileges of neighbors.

City trees often serve several architectural and engineering functions. They provide privacy, emphasize views, or screen out objectionable views. They reduce glare and reflection. They direct pedestrian traffic. They provide background to and soften, complement, or enhance architecture.

Social Benefits

We like trees around us because they make life more pleasant. Most of us respond to the presence of trees beyond simply observing their beauty. We feel serene, peaceful, restful, and tranquil in a grove of trees. We are “at home” there. Hospital patients have been shown to recover from surgery more quickly when their hospital room offered a view of trees. The strong ties between people and trees are most evident in the resistance of community residents to removing trees to widen streets. Or we note the heroic efforts of individuals and organizations to save particularly large or historic trees in a community.

The stature, strength, and endurance of trees give them a cathedral-like quality. Because of their potential for long life, trees frequently are planted as living memorials. We often become personally attached to trees that we or those we love have planted.

Most trees and shrubs in cities or communities are planted to provide beauty or shade. These are two excellent reasons for their use. Woody plants also serve many other purposes, and it often is helpful to consider these other functions when selecting a tree or shrub for the landscape. The benefits of trees can be grouped into social, communal, environmental, and economic categories.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

St Helena gumwood

Common Name: St Helena gumwood
Scientific Name: Commidendrum robustum
Categories: National
Conservation Status: Endangered


National tree of St Helena.

Commidendrum robustum grows to a height of five to eight metres. It has a highly branching structure that forks low and produces an umbrella-like canopy. White flower heads droop from the ends of branches.

Why is this species important?

C. robustum is one of fourteen globally threatened and endemic tree species occurring on St Helena. This species was designated as St Helena's national tree in 1977. To help act as a symbol of the island's conservation and community spirit, a native forest of C. robustum was planted to mark the Millennium. The endemic plants of St Helena are of great biogeographical significance and provide the habitat for equally rare and unusual animal species. The gumwoods are known to be hosts for many endemic invertebrates, particularly weevils.

Where is it found?

C. robustum is found only on the sub-tropical island of St Helena in the South Atlantic, located 1,960 km from the south-west coast of Africa and 2,900 km east of South America. The area of St Helena is just 122 km². C. robustum woodland once stretched across one-third of the island at an altitude of 300-600m. The only woodland now remaining is at Peak Dale where about 1,000 trees grow on an area of 3 ha of steep slopes. There are smaller, scattered populations at Deep Valley (21 trees), Marias (<5>How do people use it?

C. robustum has been an important source of timber since the island was settled by humans in 1659. The timber has been used for fuel and building. Although not used today, with its highly branched nature and dense hard, fine grain the wood has the potential to be of local value in the future if it can be managed sustainably, as a windbreak, as a source of pollen for honey production, and for high value products for the tourism industry. One local carpenter has already established a small experimental plantation to provide wood for craftwork in the future.

Why is it threatened?

C. robustum is threatened primarily by the impacts of human activities. Since settling the island, humans have used C. robustum for timber and firewood. Forests have also been cleared for pasture. The introduction of goats and other browsing livestock to the island led to severe overgrazing and prevented regeneration. It is likely that timber shortages became apparent so quickly because the browsing of goats had been killing young trees for 150 years, so that the more accessible parts of the forests were in a senile state when later settlers arrived. In 1991 the Peak Dale C. robustum was attacked by the jacaranda bug Orthezia insignis, a sucking insect that takes the sap from trees. This threatened to devastate the remaining population until a biological control agent, a ladybird Hyperaspis pantherina, was introduced from Kenya.

What conservation action is needed?

A programme of conservation for C. robustum forests has operated since the mid 1980s, although lack of continuity and limited local resources have limited progress. Efforts at Peak Dale have included fencing off the site to prevent damage from browsing sheep and cattle, controlling the growth of exotic weeds and planting young trees, often with the help of school groups and volunteers. A programme of replanting has been in operation at Horse Plain Point. The Millennium Gumwood Forest Project has resulted in the planting of over 4,000 trees in a previously barren and degraded wasteland. The area was originally part of the 600 ha Great Wood that was lost through deforestation in the 18th and 19th centuries. C. robustum has also been established behind High Peak, at Pounceys, along the golf course and in the grounds of many of the island's first and middle schools.Attention is also being focused on small and disjunct wild populations that have either been attacked by the jacaranda bug or heavily invaded by alien plant species such as flax Phormium tenax , black olive Olea africana and ink, Cestrum laevigatum. Weeds have been cleared at a number of sites and gumwoods replanted to restock affected populations. Seeds have been collected from different populations and seedlings are being grown in nurseries ready for planting back into different sites.

Sideroxylon marginata

Common Name: el marmulano
Scientific Name: Sideroxylon marginata
Categories: Timber, Endangered
Conservation Status: Endangered (Unassessed Globally)

Where is it found?

The species is endemic to the Cape Verde Islands: Sto. Antão, S. Vicente, S. Nicolau, Boavista, Santiago, Fogo and Brava. In 1935, Chevalier collected and observed it on various locations where it no longer exists. Today the species is only found growing on steep cliffs and it is unknown which plant communities S. marginata may have been associated with.

How do people use it?

The tree has hardy wood and makes good quality firewood.

Why is it threatened?

In the Red Data Book of Cape Verde (Leyens & Lobin (eds.) 1996) S. marginata is classified as "Endangered", many populations consisting of only a few individuals. It is at severe risk of extinction on the islands of S. Vicente, S. Nicolau, Santiago and Brava and is classified as Critically Endangered. Where humans have access to the tree populations, the number of individuals continues to decline. Due to human pressure on the islands of S. Vicente, S. Nicolau, Santiago and Brava, these populations are described as ‘relictual’.

What conservation action is needed?

The main populations of the species are in one or more protected areas on the island and national law protects the species from picking and uprooting. Efforts have been made on the island to make people aware of the plant and the need for its conservation.


Quercus hintonii

Common Name: Encino of Hinton, Hinton's Oak
Scientific Name: Quercus hintonii
Categories: Timber, endangered
Conservation Status: Critically endangered


A deciduous small tree that grows up to 15 m in height and occurs in sub-montane to montane dry forest in Mexico. It has a dark bark and is characterized by bright red foliage in early spring.

Why is this species important?

This species represents one of the Quercus species considered of great importance in Mexico. Habitat of Q. hintonii has been seriously destroyed and reduced, undermining the viability of the species. Q. hintonii wood has a variety of local uses, being part of the traditional culture of Tejupilco people.

Where is it found?

Q. hintonii is endemic to Mexico, occurring in the south-east of Mexico State between 1300 and 2000 m. A recent study by the Sir Harold Hillier Gardens and Arboretum together with the University of Puebla has determined that this species covers just 46 000 hectares, distributed across three highly disturbed populations.

How do people use it?

Q. hintonii wood is used locally for tool handles, beams and fencing poles, but primarily for firewood. The wood is traditionally used to bake "las finas" bread, the characteristic taste of which is imparted by the smoke.

Why is it threatened?

The populations of Q. hintonii have been dramatically reduced as a result of habitat loss to the point where the species is considered in danger of extinction. Agriculture (maize and fruit trees), coffee plantation and road construction have all contributed to the decline in populations. The species has also been highly affected by grazing, which prevents regeneration.

What conservation action is needed?

The recent study as part of the Global Trees Campaign revealed that the current status of Q. hintonii population is strongly associated with the development and economic activities of the local communities. Conservation measures include the involvement of local authorities and landowners, training on plant propagation, field research, and the development of an education campaign.Collaborative research between Mexican experts from the University of Puebla and staff from the Sir Harold Hillier Gardens & Arboretum in the UK has led to the development of a conservation strategy for Quercus hintonii, which was presented to the Regional Education Co-ordinator, the presidents of municipalities and the authorities in charge of reforestation. In addition, an educational guide to the conservation of the species has been produced and an agreement has been reached to provide local training in oak propagation techniques.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Prunus lusitanica ssp. lusitanica

Common Name: palo de loro
Scientific Name: Prunus lusitanica ssp. lusitanica
Categories: Endangered, Timber
Conservation Status: Endangered

Where is it found?

The only confirmed native location is in Basque France, in the Vallée des Aldudes.

In 2000, a group of 20 to 30 Prunus lusitanica ssp. lusitanica was found at 850m in the vallée d'Ossau, near Bitet, in the Parc national des Pyrénées. This population has not been confirmed to be native, however, it is situated far from any garden or park and appears ‘ancient’ as the group includes an old, dry stump.

This sub-species is also fully naturalised in New Zealand though and is considered a weedy exotic. It is also listed in the Global Compendium of Weeds

Why is it threatened?

The species has an extremely limited range. Areas of the Vallée des Aldudes burned in 1990, however the majority of the individuals seem to have sprouted from the base.

What conservation action is needed?

Prunus lusitanica is fully protected in France (on the National List) by Ministerial decree of 20 January 1982, in which destruction, collection and sale are prohibited. The first locality has not benefited from any particular management. The new locality in the national park will be monitored and management needs prescribed by the park's scientific service.

Pot sam zacot

Common Name: Pot sam zacot
Scientific Name: Tambourissa quadrifida
Conservation Status: Not assessed

One of 10 endemic Tambourissa species in the country. This species is a striking tree, with cauliflorus flowers coming straight out of the trunk. The male flowers look like small red starfish covered in white paint marks. The female flowers look like a small wooden bell that takes the form of a small pot when it turns into a fruit. The fruit gives the tree its common name of ‘monkey’s chamber pot’ (pot sam zacot). When ripe the walls of the chamber pot open disgorging black seeds covered in bright orange flesh.

Why is this species important?
This species has no commercial value or local use.

Where is it found?
This species is endemic to Mauritius and is found in lowland coastal forest.

Why is it threatened? There probably about 100 individuals of this species. Lowland coastal forest is one of the most threatened forest types in Mauritius. Most individuals of this species are found in a privately owned forest where there are few laws to protect the plants.

What conservation action is being carried out?
None to date.


Common Name: pokemeboy, blackbrush wattle
Scientific Name: Acacia anegadensis
Categories: Endangered
Conservation Status: Critical - CR B1ab(iii,v)+2ab(iii,v)

Why is this species important?

Pokemeboy is confined to an area of 38 km², of which only 25 km² is suitable (terrestrial) habitat. The actual area of occupancy has been estimated as less than 10 km² of limestone. This legume is important for promoting succession of vegetation, as well as providing a suitable habitat and food source for the Anegada iguana, Cyclura pinguis, a species itself numbering less than 200 individuals.

Where is it found?

Pokemeboy is endemic to Anegada Island in the British Virgin Islands (part of the Caribbean island bio-geographic region).

How do people use it?

A dense, thorny evergreen acacia, it is planted for shade, but the roots also physically break the crusts of limestone rock on which it lives, allowing other species to grow and subsequentally increasing fertility.

Why is it threatened?

The island is under extreme pressure for residential and tourism development. This has already resulted in documented habitat fragmentation and loss, leading to a decline in the quality of available habitat. It has been suggested that this will accelerate in the next few years, resulting in a continued decline in the quality of the habitat and a reduction in the number of mature individuals.

Construction of marinas along the coastal areas has been an on-going issue in the BVI, as well as other tourism-related development.

What conservation action is needed?

As part of a year 2000 Darwin Initiative Project on Anegada, a collaborative effort between the BVI National Parks Trust, Fauna and Flora International and the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, Dr. Mike Gillman of the UK’s Open University is investigating the threats to and rates of regeneration of this species. Gillman has found relatively widespread adult trees, but little regeneration, giving concerns for the long-term survival of the species. Work is continuing and an ex situ population has been established at the JR O’Neal Botanic Garden on Tortola to investigate germination and seedling establishment.

Pilgerodendron uviferum

Common Name: Cipres de las Guaitecas
Scientific Name: Pilgerodendron uviferum
Categories: Timber, Musical
Conservation Status: Vulnerable


Cipres is an endemic evergreen conifer that forms pure and mixed forests. It is characterized by its narrowly pyramidal shape, growing to between 1.5 and 15 m in height, and by its scale-like imbricate leaves in four rows. It is a slow-growth species that may live 400-500 years.

Why is this species important?

Cipres forests form unique ecosystems in the Valdivian, Patagonian and Magellanic rainforests of southern Chile. The timber has been heavily exploited for decades and has great traditional use. In the XI Region of Chile the species has an extensive cultural and historical value, with generations of people linked to the exploitation and trade of the tree.

Where is it found?

P. uvifera occurs in Chile from 39° 30’ to 54° S in the Coastal and Andes Range of Chile. In Argentina it is possible to find this species on the eastern side of the Andes between 41° and 47° S. This species grows in extremely humid sites located in flat places, known as Magellanic moorland.

How do people use it?

Cipres wood is valued for its durability and resistance to decay. This and its straight trunk mean it has been used extensively in all types of construction, especially for beams and boards that are free from defects and knots. In rural areas it is frequently used for bridges, poles, fencing, boats and furniture

Why is it threatened?

Owing to timber cutting, cipres forest have been dramatically degraded and destroyed, particularly in the XI Region. Large-scale destruction of the forest during colonial times and the widespread opening up of the lowland area have led to the extinction of the species from most of its original distribution. Illegal harvesting is still occurring in many forests containing cipres. Extensive fire setting and grazing have prevented regeneration, contributing to the species’ decline. This species was placed on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which has reduced international trade.

What conservation action is needed?

The first initiative developed by Universidad Austral de Chile and Corporacion Nacional Forestal was the implementation of a demonstrative pilot of sustainable management and restoration of cipres forest. This activity involved the training of small-scale owners.Taking this initiative as a basis for future development activities, it is very important to promote sustainable management in unprotected areas. This promotion must reach the local forest owners that have used this species for decades. Other important measures include the development of alternative uses for cipres, such as non-timber forest products and eco-tourism. The restoration of degraded cipres forests is other important component that has to be considered in future conservation actions. The Global Trees Campaign is developing an initiative with Universidad Austral de Chile and local organizations to restore, conserve, and manage the remnant forests in the XI Region of Chile. These activities will be essential to provide sustainable tools for the benefit of Pilgerodendron uvifera in Chile.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Philippine teak

Common Name: Philippine teak
Scientific Name: Tectona philippinensis
Categories: Timber
Conservation Status: Endangered


A small tree confined to two areas in the Philippines, which produces a hardwood timber that is highly valued locally.

Why is this species important?

Philippine teak produces a valuable timber used locally and nationally for construction. It is also used locally as firewood. It is one of only three species in the genus Tectona, which includes the commercial teak Tectona grandis, one of the few tropical timbers successfully grown as a plantation crop. Philippine teak may have potential as a genetic resource for future teak breeding programmes aimed at improving supplies of this highly popular wood.

Where is it found?

Philippine teak is only known from Batangas province, Luzon Island and Illing Island, Mindoro, in the Philippines, where it is confined to limestone forest. Recent information suggests that it is found in highly disturbed forest edge, surrounded by agricultural land and degraded forest.

How do people use it?

Philippine teak produces a durable timber used locally for construction, being favoured as posts for housing etc. Trade is mainly domestic rather than international. Immature trees are said to be preferred for building materials, thus threatening the reproductive survival of the population. It is also used as firewood.

Why is it threatened?

Philippine teak is threatened by habitat destruction and over-exploitation for timber and firewood. The forests where it occurs are becoming increasingly small and fragmented as land is cleared for agriculture and other uses. The preference for immature trees for timber is an additional threat, since fewer trees reach reproductive age.

What conservation action is needed?

A conservation programme is needed to re-establish a stable natural population of T. philippinensis in its known habitat. A rapid assessment of the species and long-term ecological research is required to determine the physical and biological characteristics of the habitat, coupled with a recovery and management programme, public education, community consultation and resource stewardship, and policy initiatives. As part of the Global Trees Campaign, FFI has funded a recovery programme for Philippine teak, including all the above elements, led by the Philippine National Museum in Manila. The programme includes meetings with local stakeholders to integrate their concerns into the activities, and work on effective propagation of the tree for replanting. Work has been conducted in local schools to raise awareness of the plight of this rare tree. The programme involves local and regional representatives of the government Department of the Environment and Natural Resources, schools and universities in research, project implementation and monitoring. Attempts are being made to encourage the formulation of local policies for the recovery of the species.

Pericopsis elata

Common Name: Afrormosia, Assamela
Scientific Name: Pericopsis elata
Categories: Timber
Conservation Status: Endangered

Why is this species important?

Afrormosia is an economically important timber species that is considered an excellent alternative to teak.

Where is it found?
Pericopsis elata is a gregarious species restricted to the drier parts of semi-deciduous forests in Central and West Africa. It has been recorded from Cameroon, Congo Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana and Nigeria. It is a tree that reaches a height of around 50 m. The trunk is buttressed to about 2.5 m then fluted. It has a maximum diameter of about 2 m.

How do people use it?
This timber species is used for boat building, joinery, flooring and decorative veneers. Italy is the main importing country.

Why is it threatened?
Since 1948 trade in timber from P. elata has soared. Levels of exploitation have been unsustainable in all countries and the species’ habitat has declined. Regeneration is insufficient to replace lost populations. Because of concerns over the level of exploitation, P. elata is listed on Appendix II of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora).

What conservation action is needed?
Illegal logging is a major problem in the countries where P. elata occurs. Improved regulation of the trade is urgently needed. In Cameroon there have been recent prosecutions for exports of the timber in contravention of CITES. The CITES Plants Committee has recommended that P. elata is a priority for the CITES Significant Trade review process. This would help to ensure that exports are at sustainable levels. Certified sustainable forest management to Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) standards in areas where P. elata is harvested should be the goal. In Ghana a programme of enrichment planting has been undertaken. This aims to increase the stock of valuable species such as P. elata. It is seen as an artificial regeneration method that is being used to supplement natural regeneration. Enrichment planting plots were established in several areas between 1975 and 1978. P. elata is also one species where trials have been established with the aim of conserving the gene pool and providing a basis for afforestation programmes. In situ conservation of P. elata in forest protected areas is a priority need for the species.

Pau brasil

Common Name: Pau brasil, Pernambuco
Scientific Name: Caesalpinia echinata
Categories: Musical; National
Conservation Status: Endangered

National tree of Brazil, Caesalpinia echinata, commonly known in Brazil as pau brasil, gave its name to the country. Years of harvesting and reduction of the Atlantic Coastal Forest have reduced this species to the verge of extinction. Exploitation still continues, however, because its extremely dense hardwood is ideal for making bows for stringed musical instruments. It is also know as brasileto, ibirapitanga, orabutá, pau pernambuco, and pau rosado.

Why is this species important?

Pau brasil is the national tree of Brazil, the country to which it gave its name, and has strong cultural links to Brazil’s social and economic history. In the coastal forest ecosystems of Brazil it has been noted as an important habitat for orchids and other epiphytes. The species is famous for the dye extract taken from the heartwood, although synthetic dyes have now reduced this trade. The timber is highly valued by musical instrument makers for the manufacture of bows for stringed instruments.

Where is it found?

Pau brasil is confined to the Atlantic Coastal Forest of Brazil, an ecosystem recognized as a global biodiversity hotspot. It inhabits coastal regions with open forest and well-drained soils. Detailed information on the present geographical distribution of pau brasil is scarce, but in the last ten years remnant populations have been found in nine Brazilian states. The species is recorded in reserves in Bahia and Pernambuco. Determining the previous range of the species is also problematic because there are errors in the literature caused by incorrect identification and confusion with other related species.

How do people use it?

In the past, pau brasil was exploited for the dye that could be extracted from the heartwood. The exploitation of the dyewood dates back to 1501, the original collectors being called brasileiros. Until the mid-nineteenth century the dyewood was exported in huge quantities. Today, the bark and dye extract are used locally for medicinal purposes, and research is being undertaken to determine if the bark can be used to treat cancer.Traditionally pau brasil wood was also used to make hunting tools. The hard, compact timber is almost indestructible and was commercially harvested for use as a construction timber, in cabinet making and craftwork. It is still exported for the manufacture of bows for stringed instruments. During bow manufacture the wood must undergo shaping by heat and water, and then be able to retain the bend after being straightened by the pressure of the bow. It must therefore have the correct density, a straight grain with no knots, and must also be a suitable colour. Other woods have been used to construct bows in the past, but are thought to be of much lower quality.

Why is it threatened?

The extensive collection and export of the dyewood from pau brasil trees resulted in the loss of large areas of forest and the enslavement of local people. By the time synthetic dyes to replace it became available in 1875, dramatic population declines in the tree had already taken place, and these declines continued until the 1920s. Natural stands were almost completely destroyed but some populations remained in a few areas on the coastal plain, where they have since suffered from deforestation. Even after the dye was replaced with synthetic alternatives, exploitation of the timber continued. Timber is still highly sought after by bow manufacturers. There are no reliable figures for the amount of wood currently exported, but the annual world demand is likely to exceed 200 m3. The problem is exacerbated by the high level of wood wasted during processing; between 70-80 percent is lost as logs are converted to bow blanks, and a further 70-80 percent is lost in processing these into bows. Clear felling and logging also threaten the natural habitats of pau brasil, and utilisation by local people may be having a detrimental impact on the population levels

What conservation action is needed?

Pau brasil is listed on the official list of threatened Brazilian plants by the government wildlife agency IBAMA, and there is currently a reintroduction programme for pau brasil at Linareas Reserve. In 1997 FFI, with the Botanical Gardens of Rio de Janeiro and the Margaret Mee Foundation, convened a meeting to develop an action plan for the conservation and management of pau brasil. Agreement was reached amongst all participants on the recommended actions relating to different aspects of conservation and sustainable use. As part of the Global Trees Campaign, FFI is currently supporting education and public awareness about the conservation of this flagship species and will be working again with the Rio Botanical Gardens and the Margaret Mee Foundation to carry out a more detailed study into the distribution and conservation requirements of this species.