Friday, September 21, 2018

Right Tree Right Place

Trees should be be planted in areas with appropriate room for proper canopy and root growth. Trees planted in too small an area for proper growth can cause issues including conflicts with utilities, create trip hazards, damage/destroy infrastructure and can become a liability issue for both public and private property owners.

This is especially important as many of these trees damage power poles and utility lines during storm events. These trees also do not reach their full potential and often end up stunted and needing replacement much sooner than properly planted trees in good locations.  Right Tree Right Place Principles are discussed in additional detail by FPL, Arbor Day and on the City of Fort Lauderdale Green Your Routine website.

Images used courtesy of the Arbor Day Foundation and FPL.

"Improper tree species planted underneath utility lines"
 Image used courtesy of

"Live Oak trees planted in swale with insufficient root space"

Friday, September 7, 2018

Upcoming Quarterly Tree Giveaway September 2018

Here is some pertinent information for the City of Fort Lauderdale's next Quarterly Tree Giveaway. For additional information about the City of Fort Lauderdale's Tree Giveaway Programs please visit the below web link:

Friday, August 24, 2018

Hurricanes, Storms, and Your Landscape

As we are in the middle of hurricane season I am reposting an article I co-authored with my good friend Mark Torok from the Florida Forest Service (FFS) tackling the tough questions around tree care and storms.

Hurricanes, Storms, and Your Landscape


Mark Torok, FFS Senior Forester

Mark Williams, Urban Forester City of Fort Lauderdale

Living in Florida, sooner or later, given its history, your landscape is going to be exposed to high winds either from a hurricane, tornado or a storm. So what can be done to minimize wind damage in your Florida landscape?
For starters, have your existing trees inspected annually and/or structurally pruned by an ISA (International Society of Arboriculture) certified arborist who is also licensed and insured. To find an ISA certified arborist in your area, you can use the “Arborist Search” on the ISA website at Having your trees inspected annually (risk assessment) and structurally pruned every 2-5 years will help the trees become more wind-resistant by eliminating or minimizing structural defects such as cross branching, decay, codominant stems, deadwood and included bark in the trees.
If you are thinking about redoing and or enhancing your landscape, plant more wind resistant trees. Just like people, all trees are not the same; some are more wind-resistant than others. In general, trees species that are wind resistant are also good compartmentalizers. Good compartmentalizers are tree species that can recover well from wounds and that seal them off effectively preventing the spread of decay. Even trees that are in the same family can vary on how well they compartmentalize. For example, live oak trees are very wind resistant and great compartmentalizers while laurel oaks/water oaks are very poor compartmentalizers and not very wind resistant trees.
Another way to make your landscape more wind tolerant is planting trees in groups. In a natural forest setting, winds normally blow over a stand of trees instead of blowing through them unlike the total exposure faced by an individual, open-grown tree. Grouping trees together in tree islands/communal plantings simulates how trees grow naturally and mimics the buffering effect of trees within a natural forest community. But remember to use minimum tree spacing requirements which are typically planting trees at least 15-20 foot on center for tree species that develop large canopy crowns. In order for a tree to develop proper taper a certain amount of wind exposure is also necessary. Some examples of Florida native tree species that are often found growing in groups include slash pine, bald cypress, live oak and sabal palm.
Addressing any root defects that may be present before planting will also aid tree establishment and help ensure a well anchored root system.  Some additional information about tree root pruning is available at: ( Remember to plant your tree slightly above grade, install the recommended bracing system and to remove any circling, plunging and girdling roots that are present. The use of Florida Grade No. 1 (Grading Standard for Nursery trees set by FDACS) or above rated trees is also recommended as these trees are of high quality with excellent structure. Trees of this grade typically have greater vigor, establish faster and are free of structural defects commonly present on poorer quality/lower grade trees. Some additional information on proper tree planting and bracing is available at: (
Here are some high wind resistant native south Florida trees:
Gumbo limbo              Green buttonwood     Geiger tree

White stopper             Redberry stopper        Spanish stopper

Lignum vitae                Dahoon holly                Krug’s holly

Black ironwood           Bald cypress                   Pond cypress

FL silver palm              Cabbage/Sabal palm   FL thatch palm

Key thatch palm          Myrtle oak                     Live oak

Sand live oak

Here are some medium-high wind resistant native south Florida trees:
Pond apple                    Satinleaf                        Royal palm

Pigeon plum                  Wild tamarind             Sweetbay magnolia

Mastic tree                    Paradise tree               West Indian mahogany


Duryea, M.L. 2008. Trees and Hurricanes. Website: of the University of Florida Cooperative Extension Service. Gainesville, FL.
Gilman, E. 2005. Tree selection for landscapes. Website with 680 Tree Fact Sheets: of the University of Florida Cooperative Extension Service. Gainesville, FL.
Crawford, P. 2005. Florida Gardening Series, Volume 3 – Stormscaping: Landscaping to Minimize Wind Damage in Florida. Color Garden Inc. Canton, GA. 168 pp.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Trees and Wildfires

Trees face many challenges including pressure from overdevelopment, climate change, exotic pests/diseases, storms etc.. One of the most noticeable environmental challenges is wildfire. Fires are often created in nature due to drought conditions and lightning strikes. Fires can also be caused indirectly from human activities and something as small as a flicked cigarette butt in the wrong place can cause a devastating fire.
While fires can be disruptive and dangerous certain species of trees have evolved to tolerate and in some cases require periodic fire events to reproduce and thrive. The US Forest Service along with many State forestry agencies routinely conduct controlled burns to help eliminate undergrowth and improve the health of forests. The National Forest Foundation further discusses how trees thrive and survive in fire prone areas.

Image used courtesy of Mike McMillan/Spotfire Images

Image used courtesy of the Government of Alberta

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Vertical Forests

The typical urban environment includes many challenges for establishing a proper tree canopy. Limited space, utility and infrastructure conflicts, pollution, disease and inadequate root and canopy space are some of the more critical ones. These challenges have compelled Urban Foresters to seek out technology and outside the box thinking when it comes to finding places to plant trees. Silva cells, mounded planting, structural soil and use of the right tree in the right place has helped provide solutions for these challenges.
Recently architects and designers have found new places to start planting trees: on rooftops and within multi-story buildings. An article by Fast Company covers this latest trend. When dealing with an ever changing urban environment finding new places to plant trees should always be a priority as they provide a wealth of health and environmental benefits.

Image used courtesy of Fast Company

Image used courtesy of

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Visual Indicators of Tree Stress

How can you tell when a tree is under stress and requires attention or maintenance? Tree stress can be caused by both environmental and manmade factors including: droughts, lightning strikes, excessive rain and wind, construction damage, utility trenching, and a host of other factors.   Some typical visual stress symptoms include sudden leaf drop, unexpected leaf color change (green to yellow or brown), canopy and/or branch wilting, amounts of dead twigs suddenly increases and sudden branch or twig drop. Ensuring your tree is inspected annually by an ISA Arborist for defects, stress, and nutritional needs is a simple way to help keep your trees healthy and green.

For information on some of the most common tree stress signs and causes, please read this AccuWeather article.

Image used courtesy of
 Image used courtesy of TCN Journal
Image used courtesy of

Friday, June 29, 2018

The Future of Street Lighting and Trees

Trees and light poles/fixtures are commonplace along most streets in urban environments. While they both provide ample benefits related to quality of life and security, trees are highly regarded for their environmental attributes. However, it is not unusual for the positioning of tree canopies to conflict with safety and required on-street/pedestrian level lighting.
Older style light poles require significant maintenance to replace bulbs, which are often energy inefficient, and keep them clear from existing tree canopy. Efforts are currently underway to retrofit existing light poles with LED’s, incorporating smaller acorn light fixtures and pedestrian up-lighting into tree pits to avoid canopy conflicts. With technological advancement, research is also ongoing to potentially turn trees into light sources using bioluminescent (production of light by a living organism) genes.
How amazing would it be to have a tree lined street lit up at night using only the trees themselves! Bioluminescent animals, ferns and insects already exist in nature. According to a Fast Company Article, researchers are trying to isolate the gene that makes microalgae glow for the purpose of genetically engineering trees into natural streetlights. If successful, this could have a significant impact on future energy savings as their will be less reliance on electricity, use of traditional up-lights, and light poles along streets.