Let me begin by defining monoculture. What is that? Monoculture – the cultivation of a single crop in a given area. Any why is this bad? Remember when Elm trees where the most widely used street tree in suburban america? No? Not surprised. The death of Elm trees due to Dutch Elm Disease began in America in 1928 and by 1989 75% of the estimated 77 million Elms in North America were dead. And that is just in North America.
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Tree diseases and pests come an go in cycles through history. What happened to the Elms is just a good example that everyone can relate to. However, what it showed us is that DIVERSITY is important. We are all guilty of finding something that works and running with it because we know it works and it’s easy. When it was decided by landscape architects, designers and city planners that Elms were a great street tree in our neighborhoods, it became the standard. Now as you drive around our cities you are seeing many different types of trees. Some are tall and offer shade like Maples and Oaks. Some are shorter and offer beautiful spring flowers like Crabapple and Dogwood. After what happened with the Elms the designers began to understand that a diversity of plants will prevent a widespread death from happening again.
Emerald Ash Borer
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And happening again it is, for does history not almost always repeat itself? Many are aware that there is an insect that is causing Ash trees to die out over the past few years. The Emerald Ash Borer is quickly becoming to the Ash what Dutch Elm Disease was to the Elm. Or how about Hemlock Woolly Adelgid that is devastating our Hemlock trees. Or the Asian Longhorned Beetle who loves to snack on our native Maples? Whether it be insect or disease the result is the same – if we plant too many of one type of tree, what happens when something comes along that devastates that one type.
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So I ask that you take this concept into consideration when choosing which trees to plant. Maybe you want to add a tree to the back yard. Maybe the town has just removed a street tree in front of your house and you are looking to put something back in it’s place. Maybe you or your organization is looking to donate a tree to a park…or a school…or your church. Taking an inventory of the types of trees that are in the area and choosing something different than what is everywhere is important.
However, maybe you don’t know what types of trees there are on your street. This is where certified landscape professionals and arborists can help you. We can help you choose the perfect tree for your location based on your site, sun and shade patterns and more, while keeping diversity in mind. While we may not be able to prevent insect and disease epidemics we can offer homeowners and municipalities treatment options, many of which are proactive and completely safe for humans, pets and our environment. So I ask you to consider diversity in your future plantings. If you have any questions about tree, pest or disease identification feel free to contact me in regards to a consultation at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Liz Snyder, CNLP