Guest Post: At the Root: Trees Rule

At the Root: Trees Rule

By Guest Blogger: Eileen Stark, Portland, Oregon 

     Although the region’s unique wetlands and grasslands carry the greatest diversity of species, it is the forests that dominate and most distinctly characterize the Pacific Northwest. Structurally complex, dense, and immense ecosystems, forests sustain trees that substantially outgrow and outlive other plants and tolerate temperature variation and soil differences better. When the first European settlers arrived, conifers covered nearly the entire landscape of western British Columbia and Washington, and northwestern Oregon–from coast to Cascade crest–including the Puget Trough and parts of the Georgia Basin and Willamette Valley.Real Gardens Grow Natives
     These conifers (and other dominant species) are known as keystone species because of their strong and often unique effects on their ecosystem. Though they are greatly outnumbered by smaller plants in the forest, their contributions are mammoth. Cool, wet winters and mild, dry summers, along with rich soils, have made for optimum evergreen growing conditions.
     Conifers are able to photosynthesize during much of the year and are essential for watershed stabilization. Some species are the most massive on earth, often growing over 200 feet tall and living for more than 500 years. Worldwide, conifers represent the largest terrestrial “carbon sink,” where carbon is packed away in plant tissue above and below ground. The wettest forests–those on the west side of coastal mountain ranges–were once especially complex, with lush layering and much variation in tree age. Logging has eliminated much of the original, most productive old-growth forests, and massive clearcutting has resulted in severe fragmentation. Today, much forested land is “second growth” that has followed logging and wildfire.
     Garry oak (or Oregon White oak) ecosystems, where these oaks grow naturally, have become rare, with only a very small percentage remaining. The loss of these unique ecosystems puts all the species that rely on them in jeopardy, and indeed, some species have already been lost, while many of the remaining are at risk. If you live on land that was once part of a Garry oak ecosystem and are starting with a blank slate, consider planting Garry oaks and associated species like madrone (Arbutus menziesii), oceanspray (Holodiscus discolor), tall Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium), and baldhip rose (Rosa gymnocarpa). If your site is too small for large trees, grow the smaller associated species in a meadowlike garden or rock garden. Spring ephemerals include white fawn lily (Erythronium oregonum), Henderson’s shooting star (Dodecatheon hendersonii), and camas (Camassia quamash). Mid-bloomers include tiger lily (Lilium columbianum), nodding onion (Allium cernuum), stonecrop (Sedum spp.), harebell (Campanula rotundifolia), and western columbine (Aquilegia formosa); for late blooms try yarrow (Achillea millefolium var. occidentalis), showy fleabane (Erigeron speciosus), and goldenrod (Solidago canadensis).
     Most yards can support more trees, whether evergreen or deciduous, than they do. If you have the space, grow large trees–the oaks, the pines, the firs–that are quintessential to our region and will help replace some of the habitat that has been lost to development and logging. Just one Western red cedar (Thuja plicata) will provide dense shelter and nesting sites for various birds and small mammals, bark that can be used as nesting material, food for seed-eating birds and browsing mammals, and, as the trees mature, cavities for roosting and cavity-nesting birds.
     In urban areas, street trees that grow in parking strips could be native species (as well as the other plants you grow there). Some good choices for narrow parking strips (not less than 4 feet wide) include cascara (Rhamnus purshiana), Douglas maple (Acer glabrum), and black hawthorn (Crataegus douglasii), and for wider strips (greater than 6 feet wide) and without overhead utility wires, Garry oak (Quercus garryana), and Oregon ash (Fraxinus latifolia). Always check with your city’s urban forestry office before planting.
Excerpt from Real Gardens Grow Natives: Design, Plant, & Enjoy a Healthy Northwest Garden by Eileen M. Stark (Mountaineers Books, 2014)

 

Oxygen

Plant Trees – Leave Trees Standing – For better health for all living beings

Humans and other species thrive on oxygen. Trees and other plants create oxygen. So, you’d think if we wanted to live long, healthy lives and save other species – we’d plant as many trees as possible. Big trees also give off more oxygen than young trees – so, leaving big trees standing also makes sense for oxygen production.  the-tunnel-of-trees

If you’ve ever been in a plant store or the middle of a forest you know how good it feels to be breathing higher concentrations of oxygen.

So, for greater planetary health and better longevity – plant trees whenever possible and work to stop trees from being cut down everywhere.  The End


Well, not exactly. So, the thoughts above came from me mulling over a friend who has a tree in her front yard and two trees in her planting strip out front. She’s got yellow tags circling all three – and mentioned that the 2 trees in the planting strip are not well and that the big tree out front threatens her house.

Here’s where my mind goes.

  1. The trees in the planting strip – The City mentioned that she wouldn’t get permitted to have 2 trees there, and so if she replants she’ll only get to plant 1 tree. I didn’t look closely at the trees – but will encourage her to feed the trees and take care of them and see if she can keep them going. They are about 10 feet tall and possibly could grow much taller.  Every street tree adds to shade, oxygen, traffic calming, bird habitat, property value increase (I think it’s $10K per tree).
  2. The big tree in the middle of the lawn – the shade to the house in the Summer (the past couple summers in Portland have been incredibly hot) – probably reduces heating bills and glare + the other attributes mentioned above. Yes, there are costs to owning trees – pruning, caring for the tree.
  3. One thing that most people don’t think about is the whole canopy – the trees covering Portland and what the cumulative effect of many trees has on our lives. IMHO, the more trees the better = more oxygen. It’s also a beauty thing. I’m looking out a 2nd story window right now across the roofline of SE Portland and there are many trees. Remove one and you remove beauty for someone who is used to seeing your tree. + Autumn Leaves.

I hope you’ll reconsider when you think about removing a tree for some good reason. Tree companies who come out to talk trees make money from tree removal. The Urban Forestry folks at the City of Portland are also not in the business of keeping trees standing and we’re losing Portland’s canopy at an alarming rate. Mature trees are Biocarbon Heavyweights.

If you’re interested in this topic – we have a group on Facebook organized to keep tall trees standing. As well as an email list for this topic. Thanks for your consideration.

Oh, and plant trees (see above) – fruit trees, nut trees, shade trees – Friends of Trees is a great place to start.

Here’s to your health and our planet’s health.

moratorium on tree cutting in portland

3.19.18: Eileen writes: “Yes and don’t forget about carbon sequestration. And that regional native trees provide more food and other habitat for wildlife.”

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Road Scholar (Elderhostel) Program in Portland, Oregon – Sustainability issues

Portland, a great place for a Road Scholar program on sustainability

Portland, a great place for a Road Scholar program on sustainability

March 16, 2012

Road Scholar
11 Avenue de Lafeyette
Boston, MA 02111

Attention: Domestic Program Development

Hello!

My parents have been enjoying Road Scholar programs for many years. When planning to visit me in Portland, Oregon recently they were interested in combining their visit with one of your programs. It occurred to me that Road Scholar could offer a program around what this city is really excelling at – sustainable development, urban planning, mass transit and other related topics. I imagine participants might be interested in exploring these topics and taking some of what Portland has learned back to their own communities.

Portland has attracted some of the brightest minds in the sustainability movement. Their exciting work is creating a stir worldwide. I find living here fascinating (watch an episode of the new IFC show, Portlandia, and you’ll quickly see what I mean). I imagine some of your participants would enjoy visiting the “real” Portlandia and learning what all of the buzz is about.

Portland’s excellent food and natural attractions such as the Columbia Gorge would help make such a program quite popular.

Here are a few of the courses/topics I propose for a Portland Road Scholar program:

  • Community Gardens/Orchards
  • City Repair – a local group that works to make the city more livable cityrepair.org
  • Mass Transit – light rail/street cars/buses = Livability – streetcars? – we make them here!
  • Depaving – removing pavement and adding in community gardens – depave.org
  • Neighborhood Councils – Portland has more than any other city and they are effective at creating change
  • Neighborhood Art Walks: Last Thursday on Alberta St., 1st Thursday in the Pearl , and more
  • Reviving main street – small businesses thrive in Portland – Buy Local Movement
  • Bike Culture – seeing Portland by bike
  • Tree planting (Friends of Trees) and other eco-conscious ways that the City’s infrastructure is being improved – storm water, bioswales…
  • Hi-tech: Portland is a center for technical innovation. Participants could take part in social networking classes, learning how to document their Portland experience and share it with friends. I’ve been teaching classes in this since 2009 and I would love to offer my services.
  • Portlandia behind the scenes – why is Portlandia funny? A Portlandia screening in an old movie theater and then visits to some of the places shown in the series
  • McMenamins– This thriving local empire restores local movie theaters, chapels, and lodges into thriving brewpubs, restaurants and hotels. Their success speaks to Portland’s appreciation of history and culture of creative re-use.
  • The Re-Building Center – the re-use of building materials
  • Portland’s quality-of-life values: getting rid of the freeway separating downtown from the river led to many other improvements and helps make Portland one of the most livable cities in the United States. See also: our amazing urban growth boundary
  • Farmers Markets, food carts, local restaurants
  • Ecstatic and Tango dance – both are experiencing steady growth in Portland (we are also the center for NIA and other body movement therapies)
  • Alternative medicine –Portland’s alternative healthcare scene is thriving (acupuncture, massage, watsu, etc.)

These are some sample topics. I can imagine many more which could contribute to an evolving program for those who visit Portland.

As a 10-year Portland resident and an avid networker I have contacts with many experts on the above topics who would serve as excellent teachers. I would be glad to coordinate any and all aspects of this project and am also excited to collaborate, another Portland skill! I have long had an interest in teaching retired people life skills and this course could include tracks in financial management, alternative healthcare choices and other later in life skills.

Portland is a special place. It’s repeatedly listed as one of the most desirable places to live in the United States. If this idea interests Road Scholar let’s discuss the idea further. I hope we can make a Road Scholar Portland Sustainable City program happen. And, I’m sure my parents; Rich and Hannah Kaufman will be the first to sign up!

Sincerely,

Albert Kaufman