In the previous article, I discussed the appropriateness of matching street trees with the names of the streets. I picked the streets closest to where I live: Walnut, Poplar, Ash and Linden. In this article, I will pan out a few blocks — or miles — and discuss some other tree street names.
Hemlock. Let’s make this quick. Evergreens — of which hemlocks are one of the most refined looking — should not be planted along streets. This recommendation is due to the pyramidal shape, so pin oaks should be avoided as well. Hemlock, the Pennsylvania state tree, is best used in forests, where it has room to grow, and this means it is not best used in your landscape to anchor your foundation plantings.
Alas, hemlock, like ash, has recently come under attack from a predator, and is doomed if left untreated. However, the wooly adelgid can be defeated through regular non-chemical spraying.
Maple. I cannot imagine a neighborhood apart from silver maples. But this is the direction urban forestry is headed. The biggest problem with these fast-growing giants is that they do not compartmentalize decay well. So, once they are mature, all pruning should be extremely conservative.
Unfortunately, as we are finding out, utility pruning, such as is often necessary for street trees, is typically as gentle as a drill sergeant. So the trees become hollow and dangerous. Let’s care for the silver maples on our streets and plant more in our parks. And, let’s plant more durable maples on our streets.
Cherry. If you find a cherry tree already planted, or if someone else plants a cherry tree, fine. Enjoy it.
But you should never plant a cherry tree yourself. The wood is beautiful as lumber, and it is fun to split, and the fruit is excellent, and the flowers can hardly be topped. But the risk of disease or insect attack is too great to mess with this tree yourself. And, even if you are able to avoid cherry’s predators, you will find yourself pruning this tree continually, especially if it is a weeping version.
Because of this, and the fruit and bloom mess notwithstanding, cherry is not a good street tree. By the way, if your neighbors plant a cute umbrella-shaped cherry tree, tell them it is possible to prune it well, without resorting to hedge shears or endless interior dead wood.
Locust. From what I have seen, locust is the best street tree. As a shade tree commission, we always order plenty of locusts, because we somewhat honestly tell homeowners that they will not have to rake the leaves. Even though the leaflets are tiny, some varieties of locust will provide dense shade to cool the street in summer. The branch structure is open, giving plenty of options for directional pruning, and the tough wood resists decay.
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Joshua Arp is an ISA-certified municipal specialist, Clarks Summit’s municipal arborist and an operator of an organic lawn and landscape maintenance business.