Trees are incredible. They are beneficial to humans, wildlife, and the planet in multiple ways. Many trees can provide food for humans and wildlife. Many trees are used as housing and building frames, flooring, furniture, cardboard, or paper, and many of the products we use are either shipped in, or are stored in cardboard or paper. When you think about it, items that originated from trees are abundant in everyday life. Additionally, trees store water, and they take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen back into our atmosphere. Since trees are vital to this planet and the inhabitants of this planet, why is it that they continue to be clear-cut for development; and why are many new trees planted incorrectly?
As far as why trees are clear-cut for development, I am certain the reason is economics, however, in my opinion, this reason is not sustainable, and this action must be stopped. I believe that a wooded park with a narrow hiking trail would far outweigh the economical benefits of clear-cutting for development. But who am I to say this? Afterall, my background is Environmental Geography, and not Economics.
However, something I have become quite familiar with, is that new trees are often not planted correctly. I believe the main reason why this occurs is lack of up-to-date knowledge about how to properly plant trees. The primary issues I come across with incorrectly planted trees include, the burlap sack and wire basket not being cut or removed prior to planting, trees being planted too deep, and yes, the dreaded volcano mulching that is done after planting. The underlying reason why these three issues are incorrect has to do with the root flare of the tree.
Root flare is the area of the tree where the trunk transitions into the root system. It is a critical part of the tree that needs to be visible for oxygen exchange. Planting a tree with the burlap sack and wire basket attached, planting a tree too deep, or piling on a bunch of mulch up the base of the tree trunk, are all things that leave the root flare unexposed, and hinder the opportunity for the tree to thrive.
Another issue I have observed is, stakes and wire helping to hold tree upright after planting are sometimes forgotten about and are never removed. Any tags that are still on the tree should also be removed. Additionally, once planted, there may be a few branches that could use pruned, and if there are, these should be properly pruned.
As I briefly mentioned, I believe a lack of up-to-date knowledge is why many trees are still being planted incorrectly in 2020. Yes, there is a lot of different information on the internet about what I believe to be the correct way of planting trees. Unfortunately, there is also information which completely contradicts what I have said. However, much of the misleading information is also quite dated -- like how “smoking is good for you."
While there are many unfortunate situations where trees planted incorrectly succumb to the strain they are enduring and eventually die, I would like to share a success story of how incorrectly planted trees were correctly re-planted. While doing an active-construction SWP3 inspection at the new CMSD West Side High School in Cleveland in December 2019, I realized that the trees for the site had been recently planted. However, many were planted too deep, and some were planted with the burlap sack still attached. I explained the situation to the site supervisor Lucio Velotta of ICON, who said that he would make sure the trees are re-planted correctly. Prior to this, I had already seen several sites where trees had been planted incorrectly, and since they were already planted, they were not going to be re-planted -- so needless to say, I was cautiously optimistic when I was told that the situation would be fixed. Fast forward to June 2020, and to my surprise, the trees had been re-planted correctly! I was a kid in a candy store with the feeling of excitement I had while walking the site and seeing that the trees had been re-planted correctly. Root flare was now visible, and ones that previously had burlap sacks, were now removed. Lucio and his team at ICON deserve major kudos for ensuring the trees were correctly re-planted.
Since that success story occurred, I have had one other construction site where incorrectly planted trees were dug up and correctly re-planted. While there are some new construction sites where trees are correctly planted, I honestly feel that most are not. Over the past year, I have been working on my communication with regards to trying to make sure that trees are planted correctly the first time. Over the next year I will likely have to double-down on and adjust that communication, because many trees are still not being planted correctly. I have hope that someday soon that all trees which are planted, will be planted properly.
Blog Author: Chris Vasco, Urban Technican