By Natural Resources Commissioner Meagan Provencher
Our local tree canopy has been struggling as of late due to an onslaught of disease, bug issues, and climate stress. We are seeing a great decline in our tree numbers and the best way to fix that is to plant more trees. But we can’t just be “willy nilly” about what we plant. It’s important to diversify our tree canopy – especially when planting a tree on your private property. When you choose a new tree for your yard, take a quick inventory of the other trees already in your yard as well as in your neighborhood. Is your area heavy on Maples? If so, then try to plant something new outside of the Maple family such as an Oak (native), Elm, Planetree, Hackberry (native), or even a Ginkgo. Don’t have room for a large shade tree? Look to plant beautiful ornamental trees such as Japanese Tree Lilac, Redbud (native), Serviceberry, Crabapple or Magnolia. Many of these smaller trees will still cast a pinch of shade but they also reward you with flowers, fruit, fragrance, or fall color – sometimes even all on the same tree! There are even a few lesser known trees like American Hornbeam (native), Katsura tree, Flowering Dogwood, Seven Son Flower, Black Tupelo (native), and Beech that can be planted. All of these diverse trees (and many more) offer so many unique characteristics that they are becoming fast favorites of tree geeks and gardeners. Different fall colors, fruit or seeds for wildlife, flowers for pollinators, attractive bark/winter interest, and growth rates – all things needed to diversify our local tree canopy. Choosing a diverse species has so many rewards for both you and your community. It’s important to think outside the tree box when choosing a new tree for your yard. Go forth and find something new and fun!