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American Society of Landscape Architects


April 2007 Issue

Tough Native Trees
These deciduous trees are unfazed by heat, cold, and many other environmental challenges.

By Guy Sternberg

Tought Native Trees Photo Courtesy of Guy Sternberg

Urban life can be difficult for trees. Heat islands, impervious pavement, soil compaction, high pH, road salt, wind-tunnel effects, imported insects and diseases, and air pollution all jeopardize their health and survival. Add to that list of woes the occasional drought, flood, or ice storm that Mother Nature conjures up, and the possibility of finding a tree that will meet these challenges and provide some landscape appeal may seem remote.

Planting aggressive exotic species is only a short-term solution. Many of these trees are weak wooded, not fully hardy, subject to insect damage or diseases, or ill adapted to the needs of local wildlife; others prosper to the point of overwhelming native plants, eventually becoming invasive species.

A better solution is to select a native tree with a tough constitution. With attention to the characteristics of the site, reasonable efforts to prepare it for planting, and extra care for the first critical season, many native trees will adapt to, and even thrive in, stressful landscape conditions.

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