Education intern reflects on a summer of fun

by William Green, Communications Intern

While our staff is heroic and superhuman, Casey Trees couldn’t do what it does each summer without the help of interns. We sat down with Dahneé Gore in the education department to see what she’s been up to and makes her tick.

CT: What’s your background? Are you a DC native?

DG: Yeah, grew up in D.C., born and raised. I moved to Maryland in 2001. I lived in Upper Marlboro suburbs for 7 years. I was still going to D.C. high school, though. So, we moved back to D.C. November of last year. I’ve lived in the DM of the DMV area. I can’t say V, though.

CT: Where are you in school?

DG: I’m a rising senior at Washington Latin [Public Charter School]. It’s by Fort Totten station.

CT: How did you hear about Casey Trees?

DG: My college counselor, she emailed everybody and was like, “Casey Trees has a Summer Crew.” That’s what I originally applied for, and then Michael Ferguson handed me off to the education department.

CT: What’s been your favorite part about working in the education department?

DG: The kids! Oh man, I love children. I mean on some days, it’s like, “I’m glad you’re not my child.” But on the others, it’s really fun just being surrounded with good people. Priscilla and Kelsey are good people.

CT: Do you have one experience from this summer that stands out?

DG: Yea, when Priscilla told a joke. That is like the reoccurring memory of the day. Priscilla tells a joke, and a kid is like laughing hysterically, saying, “Oh, you’re so silly! Trees don’t have mouths.” And he was like, “She’s a comedian.” That was a really happy moment, so funny.

CT: Since this is summer, what’s your dream summer vacation?

DG: I’ll keep it PG. My dream summer vacation is to go to Brazil to visit my Aunt, to go to San Pedro. And to be there for the world cup! I’m a big sports fan.

Treelines: Week of August 11, 2014

Because urban forestry issues span a wide range of topics and are constantly a source of local, national, and international news, we think it’s important to provide you with the most up-to-date information on everything tree-related: from local and national headlines to the latest in research and technologies, to simply feel-good stories.

Look for our reoccurring Treelines every week right here on Tree Speak + updates on our social channels, Facebook and Twitter.

This week in the Treelines…

  • Plan to sell burned California trees sends sparks flying
    by Sharon Bernstein, Reuters via Yahoo! News

    “Fire officials say the tree removal, to be paid for by the sale of the scorched trees, will help thin the forest to make future blazes less intense while providing jobs for loggers and protecting the public. But environmentalists worry that the Forest Service, eager for money from the sale of the salvaged trees, will remove too much precious habitat.”

  • Massive tree-chopping begins in Hawaii to thwart rhino beetle
    by Catherine Cruz,  KITV4 ABC News

    “‘Agriculture officials have identified the first 100 trees that have to go. They’re infested with the mighty rhino beetle— a dreaded pest known to do serious damage. The process is painstaking. Trunks are cut down to a foot and a half and all the fronds with the tell tail v shape have to be disposed of properly or they can spread the pest around.”

  • Drought could reverse drop in bark beetle numbers
    by Jeff DeLong, RGJ

    “The amount of Nevada forest under assault from bark beetles and similar bugs dropped significantly last year, a promising trend experts said could be reversed in a big way should the current drought continue much longer.”

  • Local tree owners gaining ground on sawflies
    by Scott Harrison, KRDO.com

    “The recent invasion of the pine sawfly hasn’t been good for owners of ponderosa pine trees but it has been good for pest control businesses kept busy by the demand for service calls. Brendan Shank of Bug-Free Tree & Shrub Spraying in Security said he has responded to 20 calls daily for the past three weeks. “I’ve been doing this since 1992 and we’ve never had an infestation like this before,” he said.”

  • A fascinating glimpse into the tree of life
    by Mayank Vahia, DNA

    “How does a tree grow? There is of course a detailed biological explanation of how this happens. But let us look at it from another perspective.”

Don’t forget to check back next week for more Treelines! Any thoughts on these articles? Post your comments or questions below or via our social media channels - Facebook.. Twitter.. thanks!

Tree of the Month: Norway maple

co-written by Stephanie Juchs & Dr. Jessica Sanders

It’s a story all too common in American cities. A tree imported from elsewhere seems to take the rigors of urban life well, cities sing its praises and plant it widely, then said tree gets a little too comfortable and starts out-competing native species and cities have to declare the species invasive.

The tale of the Norway maple, Acer platanoides, is not much different than other non-native species that have come before or since. Once revered as the ultimate street tree that could withstand the abuses of the urban environment and quickly grew and shaded many of America’s city streets that lost their canopy to Dutch elm disease in the middle of the 20th century, the Norway maple is now classified by the United States Forest Service as highly invasive in our region.

Native to much of Europe, from Norway to the Caucasus region as well as western Asia, the Norway maple is now found throughout the northeast United States and the pacific northwest. Introduced in 1756 by botanist John Bartram he received seedlings from London then promptly went about selling the successful species (even supplying two Norway maples to George Washington to be planted at Mount Vernon in 1772). The early success of the Norway maple led to the creation of numerous cultivars to fit both aesthetic and biological challenges. With the need for fast-growing shade trees when Dutch elm disease decimated cities’ tree canopies during the 1930s and 1940s, the Norway maple and its various cultivars grew to become (what some estimate) the most frequently planted and occurring street tree in the United States. Now in many eastern cities, the “Crimson King” cultivar’s purple-red leaves or the “Parkway” cultivar ‘s resistance to verticillium wilt, in addition to many others, provide the shade for many city blocks.

Fast-growing Norway maples quickly form a dense canopy and tolerate many adverse conditions which made them successful in cities as well as potential invaders. Norway maples can withstand a variety of environments and tolerate high winds, frost and air pollution, as well as a wide range of soil acidity. They cope well with the typical street tree environment which can include heat, drought, salt spray and poor drainage. Prolific seed production and shallow surface roots also allow the Norway maple to out-compete natives (which is why you’ll often see sparse vegetation in Norway maple tree boxes).  However, the Norway maple’s tenacity and toughness does not make it immune to the serious threat posed to it and many other tree species by the Asian Longhorned Beetle. This non-native invasive pest prefers the maple genus as a host (along with several other genera) and doesn’t seem to discriminate against the native and non-native species found in the United States.

Even with its tolerance for urban life, the Norway maple was never a true substitute for its beloved look-alike, the native sugar maple. The sugar maple, which provides the primary source of maple syrup and the distinctive fall color seen in New England, should not be easily confused for its non-native counterpart. The interlacing furrowed bark of the Norway maple looks very different from the distinctive plated bark seen on the sugar maple and the samaras (or “helicopters,” as children often refer to them) on the non-native Norway maple are attached at a wide-angle with more flattened fruits when compared with the U-shaped attachment and bulkier fruits of the sugar maple. While both maples are oppositely arranged with 5-lobed leaves, the Norway maple has more distinct points and teeth than the sugar maple and it’s the leaves that provide the real clincher when trying to differentiate between the two. When squeezing the petiole (leaf stem) of a leaf, if milky white sap oozes out you’re looking at a Norway maple versus the sugar maple, which will exude a clear liquid, if anything at all. Both Norway maple and sugar maple are planted in D.C. and provide a good test for those testing their tree identification skills.

Filling a need for our canopy at the time when the District desperately needed it, the Norway maple was planted along many of Washington’s streets when Dutch elm disease swept through the city. However, time would show that their aggressive growing habits and prolific seeds would be undesirable and eventually classify them as an invasive plant.  While the city stopped planting Norway maples more than 10 years ago, they still exist in the current canopy as seen on the map below.  If we were to remove the city’s population of Norway maples today, we would decimate a large portion of the city’s canopy.  Every year, Norway maples planted in between the curb and sidewalk are strategically removed and replanted with a more desirable non-invasive tree.

For D.C. residents, since the Norway maple is now recognized as posing an environmental threat, its removal does not require replacement under the District Urban Forest Preservation Act and the Norway maple is not eligible for any of our residential planting programs. For more information about invasive species that threaten the District’s tree canopy and how to control these species, consider attending one of our non-native invasive removal workshops held in the spring or summer.

View map in full.

For more about many other species, check out our profiles on our Tree Species resource.

Treelines: Week of August 4, 2014

Because urban forestry issues span a wide range of topics and are constantly a source of local, national, and international news, we think it’s important to provide you with the most up-to-date information on everything tree-related: from local and national headlines to the latest in research and technologies, to simply feel-good stories.

Look for our reoccurring Treelines every week right here on Tree Speak + updates on our social channels, Facebook and Twitter.

This week in the Treelines…

  • 900-year old peepal tree revered as god in Nilgiris district
    via ONEINDIA News

    “A centuries old Peepal tree or Ashwatha in Sanskrit or Arasa in Tamil, in Kunda Kotagiri is still revered and worshiped as ‘god’ by the Kota tribe, a native group of Nilgiris district in Tamil Nadu.”

  • UTS researchers tackle Australia’s first urban tree analysis
    via UTS 

    “‘No one has ever before conducted a national analysis that has tracked and measured the number of trees in Australia’s most dense urban areas which makes this report significant,’ said Dr Anthony Kachenko, Research and Market Development Manager, National Urban Forest Alliance.”

  • Rare Half-Albino Redwood Tree Is Safe, For Now
    by Douglas Main, Smithsonian Magazine

    “There are only 10 known chimeras like this one, although this is the biggest…This chimera actually contains the genes of two different plants, one albino and one regular; this also allows it to produce both male and female cones, making it hermaphroditic (or if you want to be technical, monoecious).”

  • Deadly Fungus Is Decimating Trees Throughout the Everglades
    via WGCU npr

    “A fungus is spreading through the Everglades killing off countless trees. It’s wreaking havoc in this delicate ecosystem and scientists have said there’s no way to stop it. ‘Laurel wilt’ is a fungus transmitted by beetles, quickly killing swamp bay and red bay trees throughout much of the South since 2002.”

  • NEW STUDY: Health benefits of trees, quantified
    by James Hamblin, the Atlantic

    “In the current journal Environmental Pollution, forester Dave Nowak and colleagues found that trees prevented 850 human deaths and 670,000 cases of acute respiratory symptoms in 2010 alone. That was related to 17 tonnes of air pollution removed by trees and forests, which physically intercept particulate matter and absorb gasses through their leaves.”

Don’t forget to check back next week for more Treelines! Any thoughts on these articles? Post your comments or questions below or via our social media channels - Facebook.. Twitter.. thanks!

Treelines: Week of July 21, 2014

Because urban forestry issues span a wide range of topics and are constantly a source of local, national, and international news, we think it’s important to provide you with the most up-to-date information on everything tree-related: from local and national headlines to the latest in research and technologies, to simply feel-good stories.

Look for our reoccurring Treelines every week right here on Tree Speak + updates on our social channels, Facebook and Twitter.

This week in the Treelines…

  • Emerald Ash Borer Leaves Widespread Destruction of More Than Trees
    via ICTMN

    “As tree after tree is felled by the ongoing invasion of the emerald ash borer, more is becoming known about the impacts on the surrounding ecosystem. As it turns out, there are many.”

  • NYC has removed more than 2,400 damaged trees in Brooklyn since Hurricane Sandy
    by Marco Poggio & Doyle Murphy, New York Daily News

    “The city has removed more than 2,400 trees from borough neighborhoods that were flooded during the destructive storm in 2012, and countless others are headed for the chipper as forestry staffers continue to inventory the flood-damaged foliage.”

  • NEW TECH? Bluesky Tree Map Helps Identify Diseases in UK Trees
    via The American Surveyor

    “Bluesky, creator of the first ever National Tree Map, is working with researchers at the University of Leicester to investigate the use of airborne mapping systems to identify diseases in trees.”

  • Ontario island set on fire to help rare trees
    by The Canadian Press, via Blackburn News

    “Starting a forest fire on an island in the middle of the summer is not something people associate with Parks Canada, but that’s exactly what the federal agency had been carefully planning for years. Finally, with the weather conditions just right, fire crews descended on one of Ontario’s Thousand Islands on Tuesday to set fire to part of the land mass — all in the hopes that a rare, fire-dependent pine tree would rise from the ashes.”

  • A tree in India is bigger than the average Wal-Mart
    by Megan Willett, Business Insider

    “It may sound hard to believe, but the world’s widest tree, located near Kolkata, India, is bigger than the average Wal-Mart. The gigantic Banyan tree may look like a forest from far away, but it’s actually comprised of a myriad of aerial roots that cover 3.5 square acres of land, which equals roughly 156,000 square feet, or 14,400 square meters.”

Don’t forget to check back next week for more Treelines! Any thoughts on these articles? Post your comments or questions below or via our social media channels - Facebook.. Twitter.. thanks!

Who knew Happy Meals could be so… healthy? The prize that planted a seed in Kevin Connor


by William Green, Communications Intern

While you’ve probably had a fast food kid’s meal a time or two, it’s likely yours wasn’t as memorable as the one our volunteer Kevin Connor’s received once as a child. Setting off a long course of events, Kevin inexplicably received a tree seed as a prize in a McDonald’s Happy Meal™. Let’s hear the story straight from the source:

CT: What’s your background? Where did you grow up?
KC: I grew up in Towson, Maryland. It’s a suburb just north of Baltimore. I ended up going to a small college on the eastern shore of Maryland, Washington College, and I majored in environmental studies. I have a bias towards the ocean, especially oysters, but I would consider myself a pretty big fan of all nature.

CT: A tree seed isn’t exactly a typical Happy Meal toy, is it?
KC: It was actually a very tiny sapling and it was not a typical happy meal “toy.” I coerced my mom into taking me to McDonald’s for way more happy meals than any kid should have, but this was probably the only giveaway she really enjoyed.

CT: How old were you when you planted it?
KC: I know it was the late 80s, so I was either six or seven when we planted it.

CT: Did you take care of the tree?

KC: Absolutely. The funny thing about it was that we planted two pines that year, one in the front yard facing north and one in the back yard facing south. The McDonald’s pine went in the front yard and got plenty of sun and grew well. The one in the backyard I got from school and that was a failure. We tried and tried, but it didn’t get as much sun and it also suffered the abuse of our dogs ‘watering it’ when they were in the yard. It barely got above two feet tall after a few years before it died.

CT: Did you spend a lot of time outdoors growing up?
KC: I did not spend as much time outdoors as a kid as I should have. The one thing I did have was a strong appreciation for science and nature. That was definitely something my mom cultivated. We used to go to the Maryland Science Center and the Baltimore Aquarium all the time. She pretty much exploited my unbridled love for dinosaurs and sharks to sneak in some actual education about the environment.

By the time I got to high school, I had discovered my love for the Chesapeake Bay and I did my best to get outside more often. I was lucky enough to have a great biology teacher named Pat Ghingher. She took students on these great field trips to Smith Island and Fox Island and that helped foster my appreciation for the outdoors. Now I go camping a few times a year and I always bring a few field guides with me to I.D. birds and trees. I am pretty bad at it unless it’s really obvious, but I still think it’s fun. I think people need to understand the nature around them, whether it’s their garden or a national park, and the benefits it provides.

CT: How did you end up in DC?
KC: I was a sports writer right out of college and ended up working at a start-up newspaper called the Baltimore Examiner – it was actually the sister paper to the one here in Washington. I got burned out and I wanted to do something with my degree that made a difference. It was the best choice I ever made because about a year after I left they closed down. It turns out 2006 was not a good time to open a brand new newspaper. Found a job with the right mix of communications and environmental experience at a non-profit called Oceana and worked there for a few years before I came to work at Conservation International.

CT: What kind of work are you doing right now?
KC: I am a media manager with Conservation International. My job is to work with our scientist and experts to publicize our work in the general public. It can get complicated, but the main message we try to convey with our work is that people need nature to survive.

CT: What condition is the tree in now?
KC: The tree is in great condition. I got so excited when I was in college and it started dropping pinecones. When it was smaller, we did put some Christmas lights on it, but it has gotten too tall for that, it is probably near 30-feet now!

CT: What species is the tree?
KC: I am pretty sure it’s a Pitch Pine.

CT: If you’d gotten a Hot Wheels car in that Happy Meal, do you think you’d be a racecar driver today instead of a tree lover?
KC: As a child, I was what people called ‘husky’ so between 1987 and 1993 I got every Happy Meal toy that was available in the Mid-Atlantic. My mom and a string of great teachers made me want to work in the environment. It is amazing how much a good teacher can have an impact on science literacy. I was lucky enough to have an embarrassment of wealth in that department and I’m grateful for that.

Many thanks to Kevin Connor, volunteer with us + media manager and blogger for Conservation International. Find out more about him and read his work here.

Intern Alex Gabriel dishes the water cooler gossip at 3030 12th St. NE

From hidden talents(?) to unique interests, our intern Alex Gabriel is always amusing and apparently, always amused. We’re lucky to have him, though – here’s why:

Describe Alex Gabriel in three sentences or less.

One of my best friends described me as having only one emotion: amused. I think this describes my relaxed behavior and frequent chuckles.

Hobbies, interests, quirks, weirdest talent? Give us something.

Weirdest natural talents has got to be my ability to bend my fingers all the way back to lay flat against my dorsum (back of the hand). My learned talent is probably piano, I played for 10 years and kicked *** at it when I was in my prime. For hobbies and interests, I’ve always been enamored by art: visual, musical, and written. So I often read, write, visit galleries, and attend concerts.

All that comes to mind is… ow. What’s your background, and how’d you end up at Casey Trees?

I’ve lived in Chicago for the past 4 years, studying at DePaul. And, I found Casey Trees through vigorous Google searching.  I needed a summer job and neglected to find one a few weeks before the end of school. But I knew I wanted a job outside of Chicago – living there had become a routine for me – and I wanted a job that promoted some environment or social cause. Luckily Casey Trees popped up in my summer job search results.

Good ol’ Google. What have you gained so far from your experience with us? Water cooler gossip – spill it.

While hovering over the kitchen sink, I overheard that someone in the office got gluteal injections.  Butt as far as professional experience, I’ve learned to eat lunch while typing, manage myself – by setting time limits and expectations and, along with that, rewards and punishments: either increasing or decreasing the quality of my spirits and food budget. I have also learned many new biological facts about trees and about how nonprofits are able to make sustain themselves – something that may be crucial for a future career.

Ha, saw what you did there… lastly – any summer vacay plans?

I consider living in D.C. as my summer vacay. But, to make summer more titillating, I’m planning a few trips along the east coast, including New York, Baltimore, and Boston, and plan to make several festival appearances like the Spirit Festival and Mad Decent Block Party.

Heard MDBP is fun – enjoy!

Treelines: Week of July 7, 2014

Because urban forestry issues span a wide range of topics and are constantly a source of local, national, and international news, we think it’s important to provide you with the most up-to-date information on everything tree-related: from local and national headlines to the latest in research and technologies, to simply feel-good stories.

Look for our reoccurring Treelines every week right here on Tree Speak + updates on our social channels, Facebook and Twitter.

This week in the Treelines…

  • Carbohydrates Determine How Trees Weather Periods Of Drought
    by J Baulkman, University Herald

    “An international team of researchers led by Michael O’Brien, an ecologist from the University of Zurich, found that how well tropical trees weather periods of drought depends on the carbohydrates stored.  The findings are extremely important for assessing the resistance of tropical forests to climate change and reforestation.”

  • Measuring a tree’s carbon footprint
    by Brooks Hays, United Press International

    “Planting a tree is largely regarded as an environmentally friendly act. But when it comes to absorbing and emitting CO2, some are friendlier than others. Now, thanks to researchers at the American Society for Horticultural Science, we know the carbon footprint of the flowering Forest Pansy, or redbud tree.”

  • Caterpillar outbreak attacks pecan trees in Fort Bend County
    by Connor Hyde, Community Impact

    “An outbreak of Walnut Caterpillars has invaded Fort Bend County and is targeting the local pecan tree foliage. The caterpillars are approaching their third generation this month after causing devastating defoliation in June.”

  • How do we reduce damage from exotic invasives when management resources are limited? 
    by Peter Werner & others, the nature of cities

    “In my mind you can transfer that picture to plants and animals, too. That means, as I mentioned above, you cannot imagine a livable, busy city in which exotics, including plants and animals, do not play an important role.”

Don’t forget to check back next week for more Treelines! Any thoughts on these articles? Post your comments or questions below or via our social media channels - Facebook.. Twitter.. thanks!