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LONDON - JUNE 12:Traffic drives down The Mall towards Buckingham Palace with British flags along the road in preparation for the Trooping of the Colour on June 12, 2013 in London. PARIS, FRANCE - CIRCA JULY 2013: Young man on a moped drives down a street at the famous Montmartre district in Paris. Cars Driving Down Main Street in Downtown Hendersonville North Carolina Featuring Historic Brick Buildings on a Perfect Sunny Day in the Appalachian Mountains of WNC. Previously, Vincent worked with a federal contractor, performing tree canopy assessments and creating flood maps with GIS. November 18, 2015By Vincent VerweijSoil is one of the most critical aspects of urban street tree survival. A big movement in urban forestry in recent years has been to expand the accessible soil volume for trees, to improve tree health, and consequently, the value it provides to us.
If space is not an issue, then tree plantings should be explored from a forest perspective where soil connects their roots and provides access to the water table. A truly healthy tree requires access to enough uncompacted soil to receive the necessary water, mineral nutrients, and oxygen it needs to thrive. In order to determine when an urban tree will reach its peak maturity and provide the maximum amount of benefits to its environment, we have to examine up to 1,000 cubic feet of soil volume for every large canopy tree (oaks, maples, lindens).
With a depth of three feet being the typical depth of tree roots in this region, this would require a 333 Square ft. The simplest and usually cheapest approach is to provide a simple open planting strip for trees. Structural soils are a different technology, which focuses more on the texture of the soil to support the sidewalk and trees. The issue of providing a healthy environment for our street trees goes beyond soil, but this research and advancements in planning documents and practice helps us address some major issues facing urban trees.
One of the assessments Arlington County uses to measure the success of our urban forestry program is through measuring tree canopy percentage, or Urban Tree Canopy (UTC) throughout the County. Tree canopy studies are usually performed using high-resolution satellite photo, and involves significant analysis by Geographic Information Systems technicians.
There are some limitations to urban tree canopy data, because this top-down data does not speak to what species of trees are in the community, the health of the trees, whether we have a vertically complete forest (trees, shrubs, grasses), or is an over-browsed unsustainable forest. Since 2008, another study was performed for the region, by Casey Trees and the University of Vermont. To truly identify trends in Arlington County on tree canopy, we will need to see future studies performed on the County.
Planning for protection: Communicating where contiguous, high value forest patches are in the County can help drive park planning, road construction, and other facility needs. Outreach: Some neighborhoods with low tree canopy have been targeted by outreach from our tree canopy fund partners to help residents become aware of programs for planting trees on their projects. Potential tree canopy and intelligent planting: A more positive way to look at tree canopy data is to identify possible planting spaces in the County. UTC analysis gives us a great idea of the general quantity of tree cover, and can help show trends in tree canopy in the County.
Bringing in social factors into the analysis: The City of Baltimore, as well as other pilot studies in the country, have analyzed how tree canopy correlates to wealth, social capital, and other social factors, such as age, family size and ethnic background. September 10, 2015By Vincent VerweijOver the last few years, Arlington has compiled resources and gathered input from experts and the public on what trees work best in Arlington to provide our community with the greatest benefit now and for the future. Because of our urban nature, we have to be very aware of the impact trees can have on surrounding structures, roads, utilities, and of course people. A tree’s appearance is often one of the first things taken into account when selecting species.
Form and size is part of the aesthetic of a tree, but often is looked at to fit the space in which the trees are grown. In an urban environment, we also have to worry about the stresses that come with roads, an increased pollution load.
Oaks and maples, London planetrees, tupelo, and other species on our lists are noted for their pollution tolerance, and are prioritized for street tree planting.
One of the major aspects of supporting trees in our county is for the environmental and natural benefit trees provide to our community and the Chesapeake Bay.
A high premium is also placed on trees native to our region, as native trees fare better in the long term, and provide the greatest benefit to our community. Every tree reacts differently to a site, and care should be taken when picking your species.
Inspecting trees at one of our historic forts, Fort Ethan Allen, foresters noticed a high level of death in the canopy.
Emerald ash borer is an insect that was introduced through the import of non-native ash trees. The loss has recently been linked not only to the cost of removal and treatment, but also the indirect health effects of the loss of nature (click here for more information).
The EAB is a shiny green insect that kills ash trees by eating the living part of the tree, right under the bark. The most obvious signs of stress and a likely infestation from EAB are when the tips of your ash tree’s branches show significant dieback (Figure 4). Ash trees are at their southernmost range in Arlington, which means you will not likely find many ash trees South of Arlington. Arlington county takes the threat from EAB very seriously, and has focused resources on treating champion ash trees and large (>30 inch) street trees for the pest. If you have an ash tree on your property, or suspect you do, feel free to send pictures for identification to the Virginia Tech Extension, who can help identify trees and insects to see if you need to think about treatment. Alonso Abugattas, Arlington’s Natural Resource Manager, recently spoke about different pollinators like beetles and bees, and touched on some of the limitations of focusing only on milkweed for pollinator value, so it’s time to talk about the importance of trees in a pollinator’s life cycle.
Many species are not as picky as the aforementioned species, and feed on a wide variety of trees. Douglas Tallamy, in his research on lepidoptera (moths and butterflies) identified a list of plant species with the highest value to this group of insects.As mentioned in an earlier blog post, one of our most common tree species, the oaks (Quercus species), are the host of the most lepidoptera in the region. Some of the species with great nectar benefit include some already-popular landscape trees, such as Red Maple (Acer rubrum), Eastern Redbud (Cercis Canadensis), American linden (Tilia americana) and Blackgum (Nyssa sylvatica). June 15, 2015By Vincent VerweijEvery year, I’m impressed by how trees handle standing outside in 90 to over 100 degree weather, without being able to move and, while providing shade, often not getting much shade themselves. Carbon dioxide in our atmosphere is one of the major drivers of climate change on the earth, and trees and their supporting soil play a large role in abating and slowing down its effects.
Unfortunately, trees will also have to live with significantly wilder changes in temperature. We have had to, by recommendation from the Virginia Department of Forestry, stop recommending the planting of one of my favorite trees, the Sugar Maple. Temperature, storms, loss of tree species, and dealing with invasive pests are tough issues to address, but while we may despair at what affects our trees, we also know we are working with the solution.
May 14, 2015By Vincent VerweijThroughout the years, residents, foresters, naturalists and other sources, have identified trees of unusual size in Arlington County. Champion Tree designation does not give a tree any legal protection (unlike our Specimen Tree Designation), but it does recognize it as a value to our community and ecosystem. While the height or trunk size can give you a good idea of how big a tree is, to standardize the ranking of champion trees, American Forests came up with some basic criteria.
The Civil War required massive resources for both sides of the war, and during the defense of Washington, 99% of the trees in what is now Arlington County were cut down for sight lines, fuel and construction material.
It is still possible that a tree exceeds this age, as it may have been kept as a shade tree for soldiers, not removed because it was in a stream valley, or otherwise not in the way, or useable for materials. April 16, 2015By Vincent VerweijWith spring in the air, trees and flowers popping up everywhere, let’s talk about the origin of flowering plants, specifically, one of the original flowering trees: the Magnolia. A less common native, Arlington does have some excellent specimens of this tree in Pimmit Run in north Arlington.
While tulip trees make magnificent open-grown trees, I do not recommend planting them close to buildings or along streets, as they have a tendency to drop limbs unannounced and do not tolerate root disturbance well. The only consistently evergreen tree on this list, it is native to the South, and the inspiration for every country song featuring the familiar scent of magnolias. Blooming right now in early April, this is the smallest tree in this collection of magnolias.


One of my favorite trees in the spring, this flower giant explodes in pinks, purples and whites all over the county. Trees don't do anything for making a city better all it does is make it more appealing for those who like trees and plants. I don't have studies or links handy to back these up, but tree cover in cities has been linked to a) increases in property value nearby, and b) reductions in urban heat-island effects.
What about cities in places that don't naturally have many trees which covers almost everywhere in Northern Africa, Arabia, many islands in the Indian Ocean or places in the Arctic. I think we'll all stipulate that planting trees in the desert or an arctic wasteland makes no sense. Prior to that he worked at an arboretum mapping trees, and he has a long history working with nonprofit tree planting organizations. When given the chance to live and grow in the appropriate quantity of healthy soil, trees can handle a lot of negative environmental factors. These techniques were developed to address limitations in Arlington County’s urban corridors and they serve as our best efforts in this less-than-ideal environment for trees. This is where the bulk of our tree canopy will come from, but providing a healthy street tree inventory is not precluded through these technologies.
The soil volume of one tree could be shared with the soil volume of another tree; therefore, the individual soil volume per tree may be lower than what is examined. The advantages are many-fold, including reduced impervious cover, and full access to soil for the tree, to water and nutrients. This is appropriate for residential areas, but is typically not preferred in heavy commercial areas, where benches, fire hydrants, sidewalks, street lights, utilities, and access to parking are both desired and required. It’s essentially a reinforced sidewalk in between tree pits, which allows uncompacted soil to live in harmony with a sidewalk reinforced by steel rods, which are placed before pouring concrete.
These products look like large open plastic crates, with the capacity to support the sidewalk and anything on those sidewalks, while also containing soil accessible to nearby trees.
Improved environmental conditions can help us look at a wider palette of species, and help integrate more appropriate trees into our ecosystem. Virginia Tech defines Urban Tree Canopy as the layer of leaves, branches, and stems of trees that cover the ground when viewed from above.
This study used the same resolution and similar methods to the 2008 study, and showed a significant decrease in tree canopy in Arlington County.
Recent studies have started for the entirity of the Chesapeake Bay (of which Arlington County is part), and this will include state-wide tree canopy assessments. Using these kinds of analyses, these communities have improved their outreach in areas with low tree canopy, and significantly improved support for improving the natural side of their cities. Urban foresters have put together several lists of recommended trees for different situations. Historically, many trees were picked to plant because of their fast growth (such as Silver maples or Bradford pears), but these trees were not always the most structurally sound trees. Trees are still primarily seen as a landscape feature, even with growing appreciation of their other essential values. Some trees are selected to be particularly narrow, short, broad, vase-shaped, pyramidal, the list goes on. It does give us a much more restrictive list to pick from, so ultimately, much of our tree canopy’s diversity will have to come from trees in natural areas, or more protected landscaped areas on private and public land.
Many of our regulations and tree canopy requirements were originally created for the benefit to stormwater runoff reduction and pollution reduction.
There exist occasions where native trees may not be appropriate, due to space, cultural or aesthetic restrictions, which is why non-invasive non-native trees are still on our lists, but we work to find and foster the right places for our highest value native trees.
Having learned over time that monocultures, or large groves of the same species, can lead to serious issues, Arlington county tries to balance the species planted, so we have as diverse palette of trees as we can.
There is no tree that meets all of the restrictions discussed in this article, and there is no “golden bullet” tree. The insect is easily identifiable, and foresters found dead specimens throughout Arlington, after finding the trees they had infested (see Figure 2). When the tree’s leaves are mostly gone from the very tips of your tree, it’s time to call an arborist to inspect your tree. Where monarch butterflies eat primarily milkweed leaves, many other species are dependent on tree leaves for their early stages of development.
Also noted in some of the research are smaller trees with human food value, as well, such as American Plum (Prunus americana), Persimmon (Diospyros virginiana), and Black Cherry (Prunus serotina). The process of evapotranspiration is how trees transport water through their roots, trunks, branches and eventually out of their leaves. If the ground is very dry, the tree struggles to keep up demands from the leaves for water and nutrients. Trees play a large part in sequestering carbon in their roots, soil, and organic leaf litter, but also have to deal with the consequences of climate change. Through photosynthesis, growing their trunks with the resulting stored energy, and storing carbon in the soil, trees are one of the best solutions to this issue.
Take care of your trees so they live to an old age, and plant appropriate, climate change-tolerant trees where space allows, and do our part in slowing down climate change.
This created a very bare community, but it also gives us a good idea of how old a tree can be.
Unless you use a tree corer or remove the tree and count the rings, it is very hard to ascertain a tree’s age beyond the guidelines provided. Driving around Arlington around April, and even later, you will see these trees scattered throughout the landscape. In its original range, it gets to larger tree size, but here it tends to top out at 30 feet tall.
The leaves are gigantic, sometimes up to two feet in length and the tree gets fairly sizeable.
This is commonly referred to as the tulip poplar, an unfortunate relic of colonial times, when Europeans did not have a better name to give this tall, straight tree. Designers from the American Society of Landscape Architects and Fuss & O'Neill created a vision for an inter-connected series of green "complete streets," with new, safer bicycle lanes, a pedestrian-friendly "festival street," and a central hub for new street-level sustainability education programs right in front of ASLA's door (and below its green roof) on I Street. My worry is that designs like the one shown in the photo with a mini bike lane separated from street traffic by a planted median with trees is not only impractical to the everyday functioning of a street but looks ugly.
One of the reasons I choose to live in DC vs the suburbs was less trees and other plants which would equal better health for me.
His current work with Arlington ranges from tree inspections to plan review to restoration of natural areas.
Administrative regulation 4.3, the regulation prescribing tree planting and soil for Arlington County projects, is being rewritten with proposed ideal soil volume targets. Healthier, more long-lived trees help us get the return on investment from these trees, in environmental and social benefits in the long term. Urban tree canopy provides many benefits to communities including improving water quality, conserving energy, lowering city temperatures, reducing air pollution, enhancing property values, providing wildlife habitat, facilitating social and educational opportunities, and providing aesthetic benefits. Showing which civic associations show below average tree canopy can help communicate the need for tree protection for both public and private projects.
Large reforestation projects tend to be easier to manage than individual street trees or plantings, and this data can help us identify potential locations for this. These lists can be found here, and this article will speak to some of the aspects we look for in trees to plant in our community.
We take this into account when recommending trees, and recommend resistant varieties (as with the Elm), or restrict planting of certain species (as with the Ash).
This is why certain species that may have low environmental value, but high cultural value, such as ornamental cherries and European hornbeams remain on our recommended tree lists. This is often related to how people want their site to look, but can also be done to reduce interference with utility lines, provide sight lines for signs and roads, or overhead clearance for paths underneath.
Unfortunately, many trees that adapt readily to short-term stress are opportunistic, invasive species, and the damage caused by these species to our natural areas is too great to risk additional invasion. Large canopy trees provide the most interception of stormwater, capture the most carbon, and, in the right place, live the longest. Consulting with arborists, our extension service, and landscape architects, along with digging around the internet for research are all tools to find the tree that fits your site best.
It was introduced to our area through a careless landscape company introducing infected ash trees.


The hole they make to enter the tree is fairly easily-identified, too, having a distinct D-shape (Figure 3) However, when you find the insect, it’s often too late, and keeping a close eye on the health of your ash tree is the best way to identify and manage for this pest.
When you catch it at this stage, there is usually still a chance to treat the tree or make an educated management decision on whether to remove the tree. However, we are home to some of Virginia’s largest ash trees, and they are still an essential part of our ecosystem. We will continue to treat our highest value trees as long as we can, and hope to have these trees outlive the greatest impact to the species.
For example, the spicebush swallowtail caterpillar (Papilio troilus, Pictured above right), only feeds on spicebush (Lindera benzoin) and sassafras (Sassafras albidum), both native understory trees.  The zebra swallowtail (Eurytides Marcellus), only feeds on young pawpaw (Asimina triloba) leaves. Even here, not all flowers are created equal in pollinator value, but research has highlighted some high-value trees here, as well. This article will talk about how trees deal with regular summer heat and the long-term aspects of how climate change will affect trees.
This process brings nutrients and water to all parts of the tree, and essentially allows the tree to breathe.
To replace these trees in our plant palette, we have started to look southward for options.
Hurricanes, ice storms, and other wind events cause major damage to our trees, and we need to be cognizant of this in our planning. When looking at very large trees and the environment they grew up in, we usually start at the maximum age of 130 years and work down based on the species growth rate and its likely history. Champion trees are generally older than the average tree, but may just be lucky, or in a perfect spot for that species’ growth.
The flower is less rounded than typical magnolias and is not always visible from the ground as its a tall tree.
Similar in bark and arrangement as the Star Magnolia, it does tend to get a little larger, with trees reaching up to 40 feet. Go anywhere from Southern Europe and Northern Africa to India trees don't do anything for the cities people could care less about tree. One of the goals of Vincent’s work is to maintain the County’s 40 percent tree canopy target in the long term. This is one reason older projects have healthier trees, as requirements for compaction were significantly more lax, allowing for root intrusion.
Staff, when working with private projects, advocate for expanded soil volumes beyond the required 5 X 12 tree pit. Cross-analysis was performed with intensity of development, parks prone to deer browse and invasive plants, and areas with disease-prone trees, and it seemed that all issues were the cause here. They are non-invasive, attractive trees, that add to our community with their color and beauty.
The Urban Forest Masterplan outlines many of the benefits we seek from planting and maintaining trees in the county.
Willow oaks and red maples, for example, are great urban trees, but are widely overplanted throughout the county. Days of research went into compiling the lists on our website, and they are still evolving, as we learn more about each tree, and get input from the community. This pest has been a major killer of our ash trees for the last few years, and it struck again this year, at several parks (Ft. This prevents transpiration in the most exposed leaves, but also prevents growth, hindering the tree in the long term. With trees being able to store up to a ton of carbon over a 40 year period, and their associated energy cost reductions, they are one of the greatest tools in the fight against climate change.
In Arlington, we are in a particularly special place, with trees typically found only in the North and only in the South converging in one place. While non-native species may be an option, Arlington County prefers to plant native species, and expanding our definition of what is native to this region may be the best solution to the predicted pressures to our trees. Planting trees in groves, to distribute energy from storms, and ensuring trees are not planted in inappropriate locations, near critical facilities, are some of the preventive measures we can take.  Additionally, providing preventive pruning and hazard removal can be used, but this is more of an extreme solution to a potential problem, and may expose other trees to additional threats.
Don’t let a low age degrade the value of the tree, though, as its value is in what it provides, not its history. Finally, flowers, which co-evolved with animals like insects and bats, carried material from one tree to another, allowing them to expand their range significantly faster. This tree is common in magnolia bogs, one of which exists in Arlington’s Barcroft Park.
The leaves are thick and leathery, creating a little bit of a mess, but if swept under the tree they will decay and return their nutrients easily.
I believe it’s the eagerness to see the white cherry trees in bloom that confuses many people in its identification. The tree does not affect their livelihood, income, jobs etc unless it is one which has fruit that is consumed by humans. Secondly, on the road side, there is a grate inlet shown in between the roadway and the facility defeating the point of the raingarden. Poor compaction may create a great environment for tree roots, but unfortunately, also destabilizes sidewalks, so this is not a solution, unless we can alleviate the stability issue through some of these techniques. All the trees in this urban park are in structural cells, allowing them to grow larger and faster, while also supporting the harder gravel surface above the soil.
A tree that may work in one place may not work somewhere else, so always do your research before choosing a tree that may be with you for decades. Where possible, we restrict the use of these trees, but there remains a high demand for them from developers, as they tend to be very reliable. Never hesitate to reach out to staff with suggestions or new information, as these recommendations are part of a living document, and mature with the trees we plant. Ethan Allen, Quincy Park, and Doctor’s Run were particularly hard hit) While the impact is much larger in the Midwest, where the tree species diversity is much smaller, it has had a major impact on some of our most beloved parks and street trees. Dealing with storms is a difficult topic to plan for, as it is not a predictable budget item, but we need to be aware of the impact they will have on our trees.
Its flower is the least obvious of the magnolias, but when viewed up close it’s a real treat. Aside from being an excellent large evergreen tree, it’s often used by children as a beginners climbing tree, as its lower branches tend not to be pruned away in the nursery allowing for easy access.
Some of my favorite places to view these trees are at the Cambridge Courts apartments off Fillmore Street and Rt.
Some street trees and stormwater management makes sense but "greening" the streets does not need to be our primary focus. Roadways and lawns are far greater point sources of waterway pollution than walkways which dont carry vehicles.
This was installed in 2013, and even with minimal watering, all the trees are doing very well.
This can be a very costly solution for a tree, because it will also cut off the ability to gain nutrients from those leaves. Like the umbrella magnolia, it’s sometimes hard to see the flower, high up in the tree, but when you do (or when a squirrel chews one off) it’s very detailed and delicate.
The nectar from this tree creates a deep, dark honey, unrivaled by many of the other nectar sources in the area in its complexity.
Additional layers of stone or sand underground could also help boost absorption rates. Crisscrossing an east-west system of green streets along Eye street would be a new north-south green "festival street" running down 8th Street, transforming an underused, garage-heavy street into an active, pedestrian-friendly zone. But the street-level stormwater management systems proposed for I Street wouldn't be "lipstick on a pig," said Chris Ferrero, who runs urban planning and landscape architecture at Fuss & O'Neill but represent an "integrated series of events, a system." Some 6 additional feet would be added onto the sidewalks, giving 2-3 feet for "green gutters along the curbs" and another 2-3 feet for a step area to get to bridges that would take people across the new gutters.
Intermixed among the new green gutters would be rain gardens, which all inter-connect with the existing tree pits and proposed permeable pavement systems. On 9th Street, creating a new "two-way cycle track," a dual-direction bicycle lane, actually creates an opportunity to create yet more green infrastructure.
Hiring landscape architects to turn the concepts into real designs also sounds like a next step, given the positive early feedback from the DC planning office. At the end of the intensive, two-day design charrette, Chris Shaheen, who manages the public space programs with the DC planning office, said "we've tested many of these ideas here and there, but this brings it all together.




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