Palm Beach: Planting native trees

Palm Beach: Planting native trees

Photo: Kim Frisbie, Palm Beach Daily News
“…Trees protect coastal communities from severe flooding and storms by slowing water’s strength and absorbing excess water in the soil, preventing billions of gallons of runoff annually. And let’s not forget ecological restoration; a tree can be home to hundreds of species of insects, fungi, moss, birds, mammals and plants…

But not just any tree; we need to plant natives if we are to create sustainable habitats for our indigenous insects, birds, and mammals…

The following native trees all thrive in South Florida and will bring a wealth of bees, butterflies, birds and clean air back to your gardens.

Let’s start with lignum vitae (Guaiacum sanctum), often considered the ‘royalty’ of native Florida tropical trees, and also known as the tree of life due to the resinous wood that was once thought to possess magical qualities. With a canopy of dark green leaves, this excellent multi-trunked shade tree, sprinkled with lovely blue flowers in spring and summer, deserves a place of honor in any garden. Yellow fruits split open to reveal bright red seeds loved by a variety of birds. Skipper butterflies frequent the flowers while new growth provides larval food for the lyside sulpher, a rare butterfly of the Florida Keys.

Tolerant of full sun or part shade, not particular as to soil type, and oblivious to wind and salt, this is also ideal for seaside plantings. Slow growing, reaching only 10-15 feet, this is not found farther north than coastal Palm Beach, so we are fortunate to be able to include it in our gardens. As the exceptionally hard black wood is prized by woodworkers, it has been over-collected and is now considered endangered, having disappeared from most of its original habitat. All the more reason to add this to your landscape!

Black ironwood (Krugiodendron ferreum) is a 25-foot evergreen tree with the densest wood of any North American plant. Slow growing, with shiny, oval, dark green leaves and a narrow crown, it’s exceptionally drought tolerant and will thrive in full sun to part shade. The greenish flowers are extremely fragrant and attract a variety of pollinators. Juicy, sweet black fruits ripen in fall and are coveted by birds, who find good cover in the dense branching habit. Cold tolerant to the mid 20s, this is adaptable to a wide range of landscape conditions, and makes a wonderful accent tree or understory specimen. Plant it where it’s wonderful fragrant flowers and interesting form will be appreciated.

Bahama strongbark (Bourreria succulenta) is a rapid growing, shrubby evergreen tree 10-20 feet tall, with clusters of fragrant white flowers in summer followed by abundant orange-red berries in fall and winter. Hummingbirds, butterflies and a multitude of pollinators are drawn to the flowers while the fruit provides food for numerous birds and small mammals. I saw one in a friend’s garden last week and its canopy was literally alive with butterflies. Medicinal tea made from the leaves was used by native Bahamians to give them strength and a ‘strong back.’

Cinnamon bark (Canella winterana) is a wonderful small tree for a sunny or partly shaded landscape. With a dense rounded crown, lush, glossy aromatic leaves, and clusters of beautiful maroon flowers that become bright red berries, this is loved by birds and wildlife and is a nectar source for the beautiful Schaus swallowtail. The bark produces a lovely cinnamon fragrance when bruised. Tolerant of most landscape conditions, this will make a wonderful addition to your garden as a specimen or used as informal screening.

Gumbo limbo (Bursera simaruba), is one of my favorite native trees, with its spectacular cinnamon bronze-colored peeling bark. Mature specimens given room to show off their magnificent coppery trunks and lovely broad canopies are simply stunning. This thrives in any soil, in sun or shade, and is an exceptionally fast grower, reaching an ultimate height of 60 feet. Tolerant of salt spray and cold temperatures into the 20s, it will do well in any landscape setting, and can be propagated by simply sticking a cut branch into the ground. While the rich green foliage is deciduous for a short period in late winter, small white flowers appearing at that time attract numerous insect pollinators and the reddish fruits are loved by birds and mammals.

There are many more excellent natives: palms, oaks, maples, magnolias, pines, cedars, acacias, and the list goes on. We just need to recognize the importance of adding these diverse species to our landscapes…”

— Kim Frisbie, Palm Beach Daily News
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“Ormond Beach to plant over 100 palm trees in Granada Boulevard medians. Lethal Bronzing Disease has infected and killed palm trees in 31 Florida counties. City staff said that likely won’t happen here.”

“Ormond Beach to plant over 100 palm trees in Granada Boulevard medians. Lethal Bronzing Disease has infected and killed palm trees in 31 Florida counties. City staff said that likely won’t happen here.”

Photo: Brian Bahder, UF/IFAS
“For over a decade, palm trees in Florida have been facing a plague with no cure…Lethal Bronzing Disease (LBD).

City Landscape Architect Cara Culliver said there have been no cases of the disease in Volusia County. The palms that were chosen for the project are Phoenix dactylifera ‘Medjool’ palms, which she said are less susceptible….

Don Spence, an associate professor of Biology at Bethune-Cookman University with a doctorate in plant pathology, likened the spread of LBD to malaria — just like mosquitos spread the disease in humans, insects spread LBD to different trees.

Plants infected with LBD don’t live long-term, Spence said. And while the disease has yet to be documented in Volusia, it doesn’t mean it never will be. Medjool palms, he said, are susceptible to the disease because they share the same Phoenix genus.

‘It’s just outside of our borders and it likely will be here in the near future,’ Spence said… Native vs. non-native

The planting of Medjool palm trees poses another question: Why not opt to plant native species?

The Medjool is native to the Atlantic Coast of Morocco, according to the GroundWorks website. Crape Myrtles originated in Asia.

Culliver said requirements from the Florida Department of Transportation play a big role in plant selection. All proposed trees and palms must have 8-foot trunk at installation to create for motor vehicle visibility. That limits what can be planted.

Cities are also bound to follow the FDOT Bold Landscape Standards, meaning they have to plant large mature palms or trees to create a bigger visual impact. The Medjool palms and Crape Myrtles abide by these requirements.

However, Culliver said that some native plants are used in medians across the state, including Coontie, Dwarf Yaupon, Holly, Muhly grass and sand cordgrass.

Spence said that while there are many native plants the city can use, the problem derives from maintaining grass in the medians. That can adversely impact the planted trees…”

— Jarleene Almenas, Ormond Beach Observer
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Tracey Arpen presented with 2019 Charles E. Bennett Champion of the Environment Award

Tracey Arpen presented with 2019 Charles E. Bennett Champion of the Environment Award

“…The Charles E. Bennett Champion of the Environment Award which was created in 2001 originally by the Florida Coastal School of Law. The Jacksonville Environmental Protection Board took over presenting the award in 2010. The award is presented to recognize someone who has served as an advocate for the environment and its protection for many years.

Our recipient this year, Tracey I. Arpen, Jr., has been a quiet champion for Jacksonville’s environment, responsible land use, tree protection and scenic beauty for more than thirty years. During that time, he has been involved in or led virtually every effort promoting the enhancement of these issues.

Tracey has devoted his life and career to efforts that have preserved, protected and enhanced our beautiful North Florida environment. He has been president of JaxPride (and City Beautiful Jax), CAPSigns (Scenic Jacksonville), Greenscape of Jacksonville, JCCI, The Mandarin Community Club and currently serves on the board of directors of Citizens for a Scenic Florida, Scenic Jacksonville and Greenscape. He is a former member of the City’s Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee and served as chair of the State Attorney’s Select Committee on Environmental Crime. In 1990 he received the Jacksonville Bar Association’s Lawyer of the Year Award. He is also the recipient of the Lee and Mimi Adams Environmental Award, the JaxPride Leadership Award and the Distinguished Leadership Award presented by the National Association of Community Leadership Organizations.

Tracey Arpen’s lifetime commitment of leadership and dedication to the environment has had a significant and lasting impact on our community for which we are all grateful. Congratulations on this honor!”

— Jacksonville Environmental Protection Board

Visit Environmental Protection Board Awards site


“Trees transplanted on Florida’s highways provide motorists’ benefits”

“Trees transplanted on Florida’s highways provide motorists’ benefits”

Photo: As seen in Villiages News
“…Beauty and stress relief are probably the two most meaningful benefits trees bring to highways,’ said Andrew Koeser, an assistant professor of environmental horticulture with the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences…

Recognizing these advantages, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) transplants many kinds of trees along the state’s highways, including palms, the variety most widely associated with the Sunshine State. Indeed, about 51 percent of the transplanted trees are palms. The rest include crape myrtles, buttonwoods and many other varieties.

To assess the success of its tree-planting program, FDOT awarded Koeser grant funding to study how well the transplanted trees survive and thrive.

Koeser and his team surveyed 2,711 trees along rural and urban stretches of the state’s highways. They found that more than 98 percent established themselves. That’s another way of saying the trees have survived the hardships of planting and are growing into the surrounding landscape.

‘The establishment rate is among the highest on record,’ said Koeser, a faculty member at the UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center in Balm, Florida…

Brad Buck is with the University of Florida.”

— Brad Buck, University of Florida in the Villages News
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“When are trees worth millions of dollars? When they cover parts of your city.”

“When are trees worth millions of dollars? When they cover parts of your city.”

Photo: Water Institute, USF
“Take Tampa, for example, which has established an Urban Forest Management Plan. According to a 2016 assessment by the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and the University of South Florida, the city’s 32.3 percent canopy coverage saves Tampa $7 million in annual energy savings, $121 million a year in carbon sequestration and storage, and $3.4 million in storm water treatment savings.

Because trees provide shade and air to breathe, many cities have passed laws to prevent the removal of healthy and structurally sound trees, said Andrew Koeser, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of environmental horticulture based at the Gulf Coast Research and Education Center in Balm.

Koeser and his colleagues wanted to know the impact of tree ordinances on Florida cities’ canopy. He led a newly completed study that looked at 43 cities in Florida. Researchers showed that Florida cities with tree ordinances that protect large trees have 6.7 percent more tree canopy coverage than those that don’t.

Some densely populated cities are only covered with, say, 17 to 18 percent tree canopy coverage, so 6.7 percent represents a significant increase, Koeser said. For example, in a city the size of Tampa this canopy increase could translate into millions of dollars saved each year in electrical and storm water treatment costs.

Although not part of the study, Koeser and his team have offered an example, given their past work quantifying tree-related benefits in Tampa. If canopy coverage for this city was increased by 6.7 percent, from 32.3 percent to 39 percent, Tampa could save an additional $1.47 million a year in energy costs.

The latest research shows the effectiveness of tree protection efforts and will inform local governments that are considering tree ordinances, said Koeser, who presented his team’s findings March 21 at the UF/IFAS Urban Landscape Summit in Gainesville…

For the new study, Koeser and his team conducted a dot-based canopy analysis of 43 Florida cities, using aerial images from 2014 and pairing the results with a comprehensive survey of urban forestry practices conducted by the University of Wisconsin the same year. Those cities included Sarasota, Davie, Orlando and Fort Lauderdale.

For the analysis, they laid 1,000 random dots over aerial imagery for each city and recorded how many of those dots fell on trees. If, for example, 330 dots fell on trees and the rest fall elsewhere, they estimated 33 percent canopy coverage.

The study has been accepted for publication in the journal Landscape and Urban Planning.”

— Brad Buck,
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