Tree share programs help diversify local urban forest

Homewood residents still have an opportunity to obtain up to two new trees at half-price through the village's tree share program.
 
Homewood residents have until Sept. 28 to reserve trees. Village hall will be open on Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon for anyone who wants to participate. The deadline for Flossmoor's fall tree share program was Sept. 18. 

The two programs not only offer residents an affordable option for adding to the landscaping around their homes, they are increasingly important to the health of the urban forest, according to Bryon Doerr, Homewood arborist.

In March, Doerr gave a presentation at one of the Homewood Tree Committee's Green Thumb Saturday sessions. During his talk, he stressed the threats to local tree populations.

The H-F urban forest was hit hard in recent years by the emerald ash borer invasion, losing thousands of trees in the past decade. The source of the current threat to local trees is not so clear and specific.

The causes include age, changing climate and relative lack of species diversity, according to Doerr. 

The lack of diversity problem has seeds in the past. Doerr said it was once common for housing developers to choose inexpensive, readily available trees. The result was an overdependence on a few species, especially elm, maple and ash.

The ash trees are mostly gone, but maples are showing signs of distress. Losing two dominant species in a generation would create a big problem for the health of the area's urban forest.

Doerr noted the tree population in one Homewood neighborhood is 90 percent silver maple. Among the more than 10,000 parkway trees the village manages, more than 40 percent are maple and about 30 percent are silver maple.

"That’s one of the problems with monocultures," Doerr said. "The rule of Mother Nature is basically you can’t have too many of the same thing in too limited amount of a space for too long."

As Homewood removed infected ash trees, the public works crew added a wide variety of species to replace them. 

The tree share programs help continue the diversification of the local tree population.

Flossmoor's fall tree program gave residents a chance to purchase espresso Kentucky coffee, sweet gum, hackberry, bald cypress, northern catalpa, yellow buckeye, Canada serviceberry trees.

Homewood's program includes sugar maple, hackberry, sweetgum, American beech, white pine, shadblow serviceberry.

The programs have been getting increasing participation, too. Doerr said more than 50 trees were purchased by residents during September 2018, and Jason Baldauf, chairman of the Homewood Tree Committee, said 63 were sold during the spring 2019 session.

One unnamed resident has been moved to donate $10,000 to the village to help purchase more trees, according to Mayor Richard Hofeld.

In addition to the tree share programs, Homewood has received a tree-planting grant from Openlands, a conservation organization that seeks to protect natural spaces in northeastern Illinois. 

The grant requires community participation in planting the trees. The planting will take place on Oct. 26. Baldauf said more information about the time and place will be forthcoming.
 

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