City Trees

January/ February 2014

City Trees is a premier publication focused on urban + community forestry. In each issue, you’ll learn how to best manage the trees in your community and more!

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Presenting Parrotia persica 'Vanessa' Your SMA 2014 Urban Tree of the Year Manager of Parks for Surrey, British Columbia Owen Croy wrote the Tree of Merit column in City Trees about Parrotia persica 'Vanessa' just last spring. He is gratified that this tree sailed on to take the big prize, SMA Urban Tree of the Year. Parrotia persica is most often called simply parrotia or Persian ironwood. Here's an excerpt of Croy's column about 'Vanessa' parrotia. T he Persian ironwood tree is native to the lower mountain slopes of northern Iran, and it has been planted widely in cities across Europe and North America for many years. It has great colour in the spring, with glossy, green, red-tipped leaves that later turn a darker green through the summer. Fall colour is spectacular, often with leaves of multiple colours on the tree at the same time: orange, purple, yellow and green. When older, this tree has flaky grey bark that is very attractive, giving it year-round appeal. The cultivar 'Vanessa' emerged from Europe in the 1970s and is now widely cultivated in North American nurseries. 'Vanessa' is upright, almost columnar, with branches that arch gracefully outward towards the tip. It is a slow-growing small tree, reaching a height of about 11 metres (36 feet) at maturity. Perhaps because of its slow growth rate, it seems that much of the available nursery stock is slightly smaller than would be typical for street tree planting programs. It is hardy in USDA zones 4-8. In Surrey, 'Vanessa' is being planted as a street tree where there are overhead lines in close proximity to the planting strips. Staff report that it responds extremely well to clearance pruning and has fewer crossing branches than either the straight species or the cultivar 'Ruby Vase'. Branch unions tend to be very strong, and 'Vanessa' doesn't seem to develop the levels of included bark that we have observed in other species of columnar trees. We have also noted that in well-irrigated soils, young 'Vanessa' specimens don't seem to develop fall colour that is as vibrant as the straight species, but only time will tell if this trait continues as the trees mature. Surrey Tree and Landscape Manager Steve Whitton adds that parrotia planted in the City's center about 10 years ago in structural soil (in a trench one meter deep by one meter wide) have grown very well. Whitton says, "They have more than tripled in size. This was a great success story for both structural soil and parrotia." Here are some additional testimonials to the value of Persian ironwood, and especially of 'Vanessa', to our city streets. This tree has proven in our setting to be incredibly resilient to drought stress and pests. With its versatility, hardiness, interesting bark, unique growth form, and spectacular fall colour, what more could you ask for in a city tree? —Lanny Englund, Manager of Urban Forestry in Coquitlam, British Columbia 6 A young 'Vanessa' on the streets of Surrey, B City Trees

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