Take Root – All About Trees

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The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.
Chinese proverb

Note: this page is a work in progress that we will continue to improve with new information and sources.

Benefits of Trees

Not only are trees beautiful, they are essential to providing clean air, fresh water, clean soil, habitat for over 80% of wildlife and so much more. Trees are the reason that we are still breathing and alive today, and this is why it is so important that we do our best to preserve them.

Air

Trees work as filters for the air we breathe by absorbing harmful pollutants like nitrogen oxides, ozone, and carbon monoxide and release clean oxygen that are often emitted in urban areas. Trees also act as carbon sinks which means that they naturally absorb carbon dioxide in the atmosphere through photosynthesis. This means trees are natural combatants to climate change and increasing levels of greenhouse gases! A mature tree can even remove up to 48 pounds of carbon dioxide in a single year!

Water

Trees also play a role in grounding soil and absorbing excess water in order to prevent natural disasters like floods and landslides. In addition, the root systems of trees act like filters which absorb pollutants and slow the flow rate into the ground helping to prevent erosion and over saturation. This filtration mechanism helps to prevent toxic chemicals from entering the soil.

Biodiversity

Forests act as habitats to a large variety of species including mammals, plants, fungi, and insects. The older the forest is, the more complex its canopy cover is which subsequently means the forest can host a more diverse array of species. Trees are also very important to a lot of very important pollinator species like bees who rely on trees’ flowers to obtain nutrient-rich pollen and nectar that they use to make honey.

Benefits in Urban Areas

Trees are also extremely vital in urban areas where there is often lots of impermeable pavement. They help to reduce urban runoff and erosion by storing water, lower urban ozone levels, and shade asphalt to reduce the retention of heat in cities, known as the “heat island” effect. Additionally, trees have been shown to increase property values and in commercial areas, result in increased foot traffic and economic activity.

So, why should YOU plant trees?

Well, if the reasons above weren’t enough, did you know that planting trees near your home can also save you money and help you conserve energy? That’s right! If you plant trees in the right places around your home, you can obtain shade in the summer, warmth in the winter,  and wind-breaks year-round! The Arbor Day Foundation states that the overall effect of the shade created by planting a healthy tree is equivalent to 10 room-size air conditioners running 20 hours a day!

Make sure to visit these sites to learn how to plant your trees to take advantage of these amazing energy saving benefits!

And if that wasn’t already enough to convince you, did you know that trees are also beneficial to your health? Trees not only provide us with fresh oxygen and leave the air we breathe cleaner, they also help to reduce stress, anxiety, and reconnect us with nature. Everyone has surely experienced that immersing yourself in nature always leaves you feeling more relaxed and in fact research shows that within minutes of being surrounded by trees and green space, your blood pressure drops, your heart rate slows, and your stress levels come down. In addition to relieving mental health issues, trees produce many other benefits like protection from sun radiation, reduction of noise pollution, sensory relief (in urban areas) and medicinal properties. Did you know that trees are key ingredients for 25% of all medicines? The Amazon’s plants are said to be the source of many medicines making its ongoing deforestation even more concerning.

What Happens When an Area Becomes Deforested?

Unfortunately, deforestation is an ever growing problem in today’s society. Humans and animals both rely heavily on trees and when deforestation and land degradation occur humans can lose their jobs and livelihoods and animals can lose their homes and lives. The main cause of deforestation is agriculture and the main cause of forest degradation is illegal logging. Forests around the world are coming under greater threats especially as more countries around the world become developed and adopt more harmful practices. When deforestation occurs, not only are all the above benefits eliminated, but when trees are cut down and start to decompose they start to emit carbon into the atmosphere instead of removing it. This is a problem that needs attention immediately, and we can all do our part to help fix it by planting and caring for our own trees, supporting organizations that advocate for trees and denouncing industries that exercise harmful practices.

Additionally, when we remove the habitats that trees provide we give wild animals nowhere to go other than areas where people live leading to increased contact between species. This has been shown to lead to increased incidents of zoonotic diseases – that is, diseases transferred from animals to humans – such as COVID-19, SARS, and MERS.

Native Trees

What are native trees?

Every plant and every tree get its start somewhere. A tree (or any plant for that matter) is only native, however, if the species has naturally existed in its found area for years and years, without any human introduction of the plant into its ecosystem. These trees are indigenous to their area and have a number of environmental benefits! Maryland’s native trees are beautiful — read on to see some of our native trees! You may recognize some as being in your backyard or in your neighborhood.

Why are native trees so important? Why should I plant native trees?

  • In general, when you plant trees you help support the habitat of wildlife within a large circumference; you contribute to their food and shelter, and therefore their overall well-being. A community lacking its native trees oftentimes lacks its native insects, birds, and other creatures.
  • Native trees support our ecosystem, and each organism within the ecosystem. They help create a sustainable and thriving food chain.
  • Native trees, having naturally existed in its set ecosystem for so long, have already adapted to the surrounding environment’s climate and other conditions. They are fit to survive in their natural habitat, meaning that there is no concern as to whether its general location is appropriate for the health of the tree.
  • Simply put, trees add to the true beauty of Maryland. Nature is stunning!
  • If you are looking to plant native trees, it is likely that they are being sold and distributed in your local area, which is a great way to support your local community as well.

Here are some common trees, native to Maryland. Maybe you’ve seen some before!

Meet the Flowering Dogwood

The flowering dogwood is a relatively-small, very common native (yay!) tree in Maryland. In the springtime, it has beautiful white or pink flowers. It also has berries that support surrounding wildlife. They also shift to a beautiful burgundy color in autumn. Dogwoods grow best in areas with partial shade coverage, and regular moisture. Make sure that your flowering dogwood avoids direct and full sunlight for much of the day! Images coming soon!

Introducing… the Red Maple!

You may recognize the seeds of these stunning trees; you may have seen them on the streets, shaped like little helicopter propellers. They thrive in wet/moist soils, and bring beautiful color to Maryland’s land. Their leaves tend to be a maximum of 4 inches in length, and have star-like, pointed lobes. They are capable of reaching up to 60 feet at times! Images coming soon!

Local Tree Initiatives/Where to Buy Trees

What are some local tree initiatives near me?

Replant Anne Arundel – Watershed Stewards Academy in Anne Arundel
“In 2020, clean water grows on trees”

In response to the loss of over 2500 acres of forest in Anne Arundel county since 2013, WSA has partnered with Anne Arundel county to establish Replant Anne Arundel with the goal to plant over 4,000 trees and engage 800 residents throughout 2020. You can also apply to be a Tree Trooper where you will become a lead volunteer for Replant Anne Arundel’s efforts.

Tree-Mendous Maryland – Maryland Department of Natural Resources

Tree-Mendous Maryland is a program of the Maryland Forest Service that helps citizens to restore tree cover on public land and community open space in Maryland. It has helped more than 3,000 towns, communities, parks and schools to plant trees and shrubs.

Backyard Buffers – Maryland Department of Natural Resources and Watershed Stewards Academy

Backyard Buffers is a program designed to assist homeowners who have a drainage ditch, stream, creek, or river flowing through their property or live adjacent to such a waterway to create a streamside buffer of native trees and shrubs.

For more information contact Justin Arsenault: justin.arsenault@maryland.gov

Marylanders Plant Trees – Maryland Department of Natural Resources

Marylanders Plant Trees was launched in 2009 to encourage citizens and organizations to partner with the state to plant trees. You can even get a coupon for $25 off a native tree valued at $50 or more. Where can the coupon be redeemed?

Trees for Others – Arbor Day Foundation

This program offers people the opportunity to gift their loved ones with trees. A donation will plant a tree in one of our nation’s national forests. Here are a few great initiatives from the Arbor Day Foundation. By supporting the Foundation, you can earn 10 free trees to plant yourself or to have planted in a forest elsewhere!

Where can I buy trees?

Check out the Maryland Department of Natural Resources website to find a nursery near you!

Ideally, purchase trees raised locally to support local farmers and businesses.

Compost – Nature’s soil amendment

Read about the benefits of compost to the soil

Here is some info about composting at home.

Don’t have a yard? You can let Annapolis Compost do the composting for you.

How to Pick out the Right Tree for your Property

Important things to consider!

There are many important things to consider when picking out a tree for your property specifically. Where to start, though? Here are some things to start thinking about. Figuring out what aspects your yard can support will help guide you in what species of tree in particular you can plant.

Space

Ask yourself: Will there be enough space for the tree when it reaches maturity and has its expected dimensions (height, width, depth)? What are these dimensions?

Nearby trees, plants, wildlife, etc.

Ask yourself: Does the tree’s location interfere with the space of any trees or plants nearby? Does it create an obstacle or any complications space-wise?

Nearby Utilities

Ask yourself: Are there any buildings, roads, sidewalks, powerlines, telephone poles, etc. close by that may interfere with the health of the tree, or that the tree may negatively affect in the long term?

Available sunlight

Ask yourself: Based on the sunlight needed by the tree (e.g. complete shade, full sun, partial sun, etc.) is its location adequate? Is there available sunlight where the tree will be planted? Figure out what conditions your tree needs to be happy and thrive.

Available water

Ask yourself: Will the tree be able to obtain enough water in its location?

Growth speed

Ask yourself: How fast is it expected for the tree to grow? Will it grow too fast for my current landscape or take over too much of my yard at too quickly of a rate?

Adaptability

Ask yourself: If my landscape constantly changes from season to season throughout the year, will the tree be able to adapt to new conditions? How sensitive is the tree, and how strict do I have to be with its environmental surroundings?

Tree’s Purpose

Ask yourself: What is the purpose of my tree? Am I planting it for beauty/aesthetics? To bring increased shade to my yard? To reduce erosion? To increase the biodiversity and range of species in my yard? To attract a certain, desired species (e.g. of bird, insect, etc.)? This is perhaps the most important bit of information to consider. Link to DNR page that you paraphrased here.

Considering all of the above features will allow your tree to be as healthy as possible! Before planting, it is essential to do your research on the tree’s needs, the needs of your land, etc. Don’t be overwhelmed by all there is to consider! There are several resources available online if you get stumped. You got this! Once you find a location to fit your tree’s needs, you’re good to go.

Here is a great resource once you have thought everything through. It will provide you with options based on your needs!

Here is another great resource, showing native trees that could be YOURS! Need citation & permission to use graphic below.

How to Plant and take Care of your Tree 

Here are some great videos courtesy of the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay as part of its Tree Talks program.

Please DON’T plant your tree in a mulch volcano.

Too much mulch can kill a tree. Here’s a good article explaining this: “Americans love mulch — and many of us are misusing it

Extra Facts and Bits of Information

How can I tell how old my tree is without cutting it down?

Step 1: Measure the Circumference (c) of the Tree Trunk
Use a measuring tape that measures in feet and inches. This should be done at 4.5 feet above the ground.

Step 2: Calculate the Diameter in Inches
To find the diameter, divide the circumference you found in Step 1 by pi (3.14)

NOTE: You should deduct at least 1 inch from the diameter for the width of the tree’s bark, and more for trees with very thick bark (2.0 inch), less for trees with very thin bark (.5 inch).

Step 3: Calculate the Age of the Tree by Multiplying its Diameter by Growth Factor (Based on its Species)

Growth Factors:

  • Red Maple Species – 4.5 Growth Factor X diameter
  • Silver Maple Species – 3.0 Growth Factor X diameter
  • Sugar Maple Species – 5.0 Growth Factor X diameter
  • River Birch Species – 3.5 Growth Factor X diameter
  • White Birch Species – 5.0 Growth Factor X diameter
  • Shagbark Hickory Species – 7.5 Growth Factor X diameter
  • Green Ash Species – 4.0 Growth Factor X diameter
  • Black Walnut Species – 4.5 Growth Factor X diameter
  • Black Cherry Species – 5.0 Growth Factor X diameter
  • Red Oak Species – 4.0 Growth Factor X diameter
  • White Oak Species – 5.0 Growth Factor X diameter
  • Pin Oak Species – 3.0 Growth Factor X diameter
  • Basswood Species – 3.0 Growth Factor X diameter
  • American Elm Species – 4.0 Growth Factor X diameter
  • Ironwood Species – 7.0 Growth Factor X diameter
  • Cottonwood Species – 2.0 Growth Factor X diameter
  • Redbud Species – 7.0 Growth Factor
  • Dogwood Species – 7.0 Growth Factor X diameter
  • Aspen Species – 2.0 Growth Factor X diameter

What is an Urban Tree Canopy? And how does it differ from a forested area?

An urban tree canopy (UTC) is the layer of leaves, branches, and stems of trees that cover the ground. Increasing the tree canopy in your local area is a sustainable and cost effective initiative to improve society and our environment by enhancing the quality of air and water (and therefore the quality of human life), energy savings, public health, and community investments. The presence of tree canopies tend to promote greater physical activity in urban areas as well, and add a greater sense “green” perspective in urban areas where it can be easy to forget nature’s beauty. Plus, tree canopies are gorgeous.

Chesapeake Bay Urban Tree Canopy (UTC) Report Goals

The report recommends Annapolis adopt a 50% UTC goal to be attained by 2036, with remote sensing assessment of progress in attaining the UTC goal at 10-year intervals.  This goal would make Annapolis a leader in UTC in cities across the US. Thirty-six communities in Maryland have committed to participation in the Urban Tree Canopy Goal effort to date! Is your community/county involved? Check it out! Read more on the report

Check out Maryland’s State Tree, the White Oak! And learn about why it is our state tree.

Arbor Day (first Wednesday of April) brings attention to trees and helps people celebrate and appreciate the beauty and fantastic environmental impacts of trees each and every day. Stay informed and well-researched, and keep an eye out for great opportunities locally.

Involve your kids in the love of trees

Here are some great activities for tree-appreciation for kids

Maryland is doing great with its trees. Congrats to our neighbor, Montgomery County, for having the most trees planted in all of Maryland! See how your community/county does with respect to planting trees; scroll down to the “Tree City USA” section of this link! Annapolis is a Tree City too!

Tree Blog/News

Coronavirus pandemic delays tree-cutting incident in Annapolis

Sources:

We’d like to thank our two college interns, Olivia Fey and Caroline Krall for putting this information together. Stay tuned as we add to this and make it even better!

Happy planting!

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