“Trees live perfectly fine in the forest without help so why do I need to care for my tree?” is a common question we get from homeowners. The answer is two-fold. First, trees die every day in the forest. It’s a natural part of forest life and competition. In fact, for every mature tree in the forest, there are many hundreds of seedlings and saplings that didn’t make it. The difference is, when a tree dies in the forest you barely notice in the grand scheme of things but when your newly planted tree in your front yard dies, you are sure to notice. Second, Urban trees actually behave differently and face different challenges than their forest counterparts.
Urban Trees Grow Faster:
On average urban trees grow 25% faster than their rural counterparts. In a new study covering 10 different cities across the world, researchers found that urban trees grow faster than rural trees. They’re not completely sure why, but the study suggested it could be due to the heat island effect that takes place in cities and in urban areas. With warmer temperatures, urban trees experience a longer growing period and an increase in photosynthesis allowing them to grow more each year. But that’s not necessarily a good thing.
Urban Trees Die Faster Too:
The same recent study showed that urban trees are aging faster as well and need to be replaced more frequently; however, more studies will be needed to determine the cause of rapid aging. But don’t let that stop you from planting or taking care of your tree, our Arborists report that currently, the main cause of urban tree death is stress, which can be combated by properly caring for your tree.
Urban Trees Have Different Soil:
In the forest, the soil is very nutrient dense, full of moisture, and not very dense. In fact, the first 6 inches of forest soil is typically 50% oxygen. This greatly differs from our urban soil. Urban soils tend to lack nutrients, experience drought, and are made up of only 10% oxygen. This makes it difficult for urban trees to grow and expand their roots which can affect the overall health of the tree. Homeowners can combat this through Aeration and Fertilizing with Bio-Stimulants.
Urban Trees Face Human Stressors:
Trees in urban environments encounter unique human stressors compared to their forest cousins. Human stressors are actions we take that cause stress to our trees. This includes; lawnmower damage to our tree’s trunks, soil compaction from driving over trees roots/frequent walking in a tree’s root zone/paving over a trees root zone, children pulling off bark/leaves/buds and breaking twigs, dehydration and chemical burn caused by exposure to de-icing salt. The best way to combat human stressors is to avoid them in the first place. But if you can’t regular maintenance of your tree can help your tree recovery from human stressors.
Many Urban Trees Aren’t Made For Our Climate:
Many trees homeowners plant in their landscape aren’t native to our climate. Native trees have evolved over the years to survive and flourish in our harsh winters and warm summer. When non-native trees are planted in homeowners landscape the rarely flourish without some extra help. The most common trees our Arborists see that have trouble in our climate are Colorado blue spruce (native to the rocky mountains) and Southern Magnolias (native to the southeastern US).
If you want your tree to flourish in our urban environment and live as long as possible, it’s best to engage in routine tree maintenance. If you’re not on an annual maintenance plan already schedule an appointment to meet with one of our arborists or call us at 703.573.3029. They will set you up with a custom plan that proactively maintains the health of your trees.