Arbor Age

Arbor Age Jan/Feb 2013

For more than 30 years, Arbor Age magazine has been covering new and innovative products, services, technology and research vital to tree care companies, municipal arborists and utility right-of-way maintenance companies

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TREE OF THE YEAR The Society of Municipal Arborists presents The 2013 Urban Tree of the Year: assive southern live oak (Quercus virginiana) was bested by little redbud in the 2010 Society of Municipal Arborists (SMA) Urban Tree of the Year election. As this was announced at the SMA conference banquet in Savannah, Ga. of all places, many live oak fans cried,"We was robbed!"Those old wounds can now begin to compartmentalize as live oak gets its proper due as the 2013 SMA Urban Tree of the Year. Southern live oak is a decurrent tree with low,arching,wide-spreading branches. Depending on climate, its ultimate height ranges from 40 to 60 feet and width ranges from 50 to 80 feet or more. It is reliably hardy to Zone 7b. Southern live oak, the state tree of Georgia, is native to U.S. coastal regions from Virginia south to Florida and west to Texas, but it can be planted effectively in coastal areas all the way up to Washington State. It can freely hybridize with other oaks including swamp white oak (Q. bicolor) and bur oak (Q. macrocarpa). Southern live oak's suitability for urban use comes from its salt tolerance, ability to tolerate both dry soils and seasonally wet ones, tolerance of soils both acidic and alkaline, ability to grow in part shade, wind resistance, and lack of major pests. Professionals share their thoughts regarding Southern Live Oak Most people don't know one tree from another.That's to be expected, but live oak is one of those trees that just about everybody knows, can identify,and more importantly,loves.In the Gulf South they routinely live upwards of 300 years,a fact that provokes awe and a certain jealousy among us humans.Their physical strength,wondrous canopies,and near-evergreen nature serve to connect us with the past. I remember once in the early 1990s when R.J. Laverne (then with ACRT) visited Baton Rouge as a consultant to help us craft an urban forestry management plan.Having come down from Maine,he explained to me that he'd never really seen a live oak, so I took him on a tour that started with one of our older specimens.The thing I recall most was R.J.'s absolute wonder as he walked beneath the huge canopy and cradling low-draping limbs, just quietly touching and gazing at the thing like he was a child who'd just walked into Disneyland. Now,it's true that live oaks are not for everybody.They are enormous and greedy devourers of physical space.They eat sidewalks and curbs for lunch. They are no respecters of neither underground nor overhead space and frequently come into conflict with utilities.They also possess a disturbing predilection for included bark (when grown from random seedlings). 8 Arbor Age / January/February 2013 Spanish-moss-draped live oaks in Savannah. Photo by Bill Haws On the other hand, their low green canopies shield us from hurricane winds.Their strength and durability often keep them alive through the most egregious construction abuse.Their ecological value is as enormous as their size,and their cultural value is indescribably deep and wide, from the lumber in Cajun cabins to the massive ribs of Old Ironsides. It's fitting that an oak that's not really in the red oak or white oak class and not really evergreen nor deciduous should stand as the representative, in many people's minds, of an entire genus. It's also fitting that specimens that have stood naturally on my own native soil since the days before my own town even existed should be honored by SMA collectively with their mighty kinfolk across America. It just feels right. — Steve Shurtz, urban forestry & landscape manager, Department of Public Works, City of Baton Rouge, La. The two live oak species in our neck of the woods are the coastal live oak (Quercus virginiana) and the plateau live oak (Quercus fusiformis). Live oaks are one of the most versatile and valuable tree species we have.Not only do they help provide clean air and water,capture stormwater,and provide oxygen,beauty,and superb wildlife habitat;they are also extremely tough and drought hardy.When they do expire,large trees are valued for woodworking and smaller trees can be used for barbeques and fireplaces. In harsh tree wells in the urban environment where other species would give up the ghost, live oaks can survive and provide their wonderful shade and beauty. In our oldest municipal park in Texas, San Pedro Springs Park (second oldest in the United States), the old live 8

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