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!

To the point: Summer interns William Green & Luke Foley

We have an influx of interns this summer, but the ones helping to bring you the stories you might not read otherwise (like interviews such as this one) are William Green & Luke Foley. We’d love to tell you more, but really, they should do the talking:

CT: Who is William Green, and what are his hobbies?

WG:  A budding journalist who grew up climbing the big magnolia tree in his front yard and is psyched to be working at Casey Trees. I’m a big-time movie buff (shout-out to the AFI documentaries), occasional biker and frequent attendee of local punk rock shows. I’m in my 4th year here in DC and I discover something new about it all the time.

CT: And what makes Luke Foley tick?

LF: I’m a music buff completely addicted to music festivals (or any live show), an avid DC sports fan who you can find at as many Nationals games as possible, a weekend warrior of the soccer pitch, and a novice mountaineer looking to bag every peak in sight.

CT: Woooof, we’ve got some active fellas. Now give us your stories.

LF: Born in Baltimore, but raised in Wellington, New Zealand until the age of 15. My high school, Saint Anselm’s is actually right up the road from Casey Trees on South Dakota Ave. I’m currently pursuing majors in History and Citizenship & Civic Engagement at Syracuse University, something that really helped me to identify environmentalism as a passion.

WG: I’m originally from Nashville, Tennessee (and no, I don’t like country music, I don’t know Taylor Swift and I’ve never been on the ABC show “Nashville.”) I’m at George Washington University studying American Studies. I always knew I wanted to do journalism/communications , and D.C. is the city to do it. This is my 4th internship in the District, and I’d say it’s on track to be my best one.

CT: Interesting – so you could easily say the road to Casey Trees for you two has been a diverse one.

LF: I was actually tipped off by my Dad, who volunteered a couple times for CT and said it looked like a great organization to check out. I did, and found an organization with a compelling mission that had position that sounded right up my alley, and here I am.  

WG:  One of the big things for me personally was that it was locally focused. I think when nonprofits have huge, sprawling missions they tend to lose focus on the actual impact to the communities they operate in and the work becomes somewhat abstract. That was not the case with Casey Trees – the staff live and work in the community and are invested in CT’s success. Plus, everybody loves trees. (RIP to the Lorax.)

CT: Number one favorite thing about trees?

WG: One word: shade. DC summers are BRUTAL, and while you can’t escape the humidity, you can at least escape the unrelenting sun in the shade of a healthy, native, and well-cared for tree. They also help you escape the rain, which we seem to have had a lot of lately. Plus they provide homes for DC’s famous black squirrels, and who doesn’t love seeing one of those?

LF: My whole family is obsessed with hiking so I was raised on trails and have always had a deep appreciation for the outdoors. I did break my arm falling out of tree once upon a time, so while that memory isn’t particularly fond, it is certainly memorable.

CT: Last one – Luke, what’s your favorite DC slice of pizza/ burger/ tofu/ cupcake/ glass of water?

LF: I hate to go with a chain franchise, but it’s gotta be Z Burger on Wisconsin Avenue; the onion rings are killer.

CT: And William, you’re a celebrity. What are you famous for?

WG: My sweet tooth. I don’t think I could survive without a daily dose of sugar. Cupcakes, cronuts or some other made-up food fad that will be gone in a week; I’ll eat it all. I know northerners love Dunkin’ Donuts, but I have a soft spot in my heart for Krispy Kreme. I may be missing the southern staple of Waffle House up here in DC, but at least I can get a good doughnut, greasy and bad for you, the way they’re meant to be.

Posting signs on trees is illegal in Washington, D.C. – but what can you do?

by Suraj Sazawal, Advocacy Associate

Nailing a sign to a tree in the District is an easy way to get the wrong kind of attention – not only is it against the law, but it could also harm the tree.

And not only does the Urban Forest Preservation Act of 2002 state someone can’t “wound, destroy, or in any manner injure” trees (Page 4, Title II, Section 13), but Rule 24-108 according to the D.C. Municipal Regulations (DCMR) says “(108.2) the placing of any advertisement on any tree in public space is prohibited.”

Young trees or ones with existing decay or insect problems, in particular, are at an increased risk of being damaged by posting signs or banners on them. “This is not just about aesthetics. People need to understand how trees can be damaged and about the cost to replace trees,” says Emily Oaksford, Planning Associate.

For those of you looking to advertise appropriately, here are some ways to advertise without harming the city’s beautiful trees:

Offenses like these and others happen more regularly than you may think (or like), but there are things you can do:

  • Report the sign to the Mayor’s Service Request Center by calling 311, going online to, or even using the city’s 311 smartphone app (Android or iPhone).
  • Take photos of the tree, sign and nail/screw/etc. to document the damage.
  • Contact the sign’s business and inform them of the issue.
  • Consider writing a blog or article submission for neighborhood blogs or listserves, or even places like us (email:
  • Notify the District Department of Transportation (@DDOTDC), local council members, and other neighborhood agencies via social media.

Patriotic trees: Four for the 4th!

by Jim Woodworth, Director Tree Planting

Look people, we know you’ve probably got lots planned for summer’s greatest holiday: BBQs and weekend trips to the beach, fireworks and parades, picnics and parties galore. But we know there’s going to be two staples to everyone’s Independence Day celebrations: sunshine and shade. That’s why while we’re all commemorating the birth of our country, don’t forget to think about some of the tree species that have watched over our nation’s biggest moments (and myths):

WHITE OAK – Quercus alba

“The Charter Oak” was an unusually large white oak tree that became a famous hiding spot for, according to tradition, Connecticut’s Royal Charter of 1662 to thwart its confiscation by the English governor-general. Legend has it (dundunduhhhh) that the evening of the meeting between the king’s agents and colony officials was a stormy dark night – suddenly, the candles blew out and the ensuing darkness concealed the spiriting of the parchment charter out a window and into the night, where the document was stowed in a cavity of the old white oak.  The charter was not found and stayed safely stowed beyond King James’ reach, and the oak became a symbol of American independence (it’s even commemorated on the Connecticut State Quarter).

Widespread across the eastern half of the United States, many white oaks figure prominently in history, mythology and lore. They are an important shade tree and a source of hardwood for the construction of flooring, furniture, barrels and ships. White oak is abundantly represented in both the American Forests National Register of Big Trees, as well as the National Park Service Witness Tree Protection Program, an effort to identify and document historically and biologically significant trees in the greater Washington, D.C. area. “The Wye Oak” was the state tree of Maryland (and the largest white oak in the U.S.), as well as the initial inspiration for the champion tree program. On Northampton Street in Northwest D.C., the 105-foot tall “Northampton White Oak” was crowned local champion in the National Register of Big Trees. While the acorns are an abundant food source for many types of wildlife, and crushed acorn flour is making a resurgence as a boutique baking ingredient, the tree is host to hundreds of butterfly and moth species. Don’t deny – white oak is truly an amazing species.

CHERRY TREE – Prunus serotina

Perhaps the best known story about George Washington’s childhood is that he chopped down his father’s favorite cherry tree and admitted the deed when questioned: “I can’t tell a lie, Pa.” Though the anecdote is largely unsubstantiated, is remains a popular moral lesson that adults still want children to learn from history today, especially as taught by example from the lives of great national heroes like Washington.  Nevertheless, it is probably also the best known anecdote about a cherry tree as well! When most of us consider cherry trees in D.C., we undoubtedly are drawn to the monumental stand of ornamental Japanese cherry trees of historic descent, which are an annual reminder of how trees can be such powerful international symbols of beauty, peace, and global citizenship. But the cherry tree George Washington most likely chopped down was our humble native black cherry, Prunus serotina.

This sun-loving pioneer species is a moderately long-lived tree, widespread across the eastern United States, and particularly abundant along roadsides, abandoned land, and forest-margins. The fruit of black cherry is suitable for making jams and cherry pies, as well as popular flavoring for soda and ice cream. Black cherry is also another powerhouse for wildlife habitat, supporting birds and hundreds of associations with caterpillars, butterflies and moths. It has been loved to death by the eastern tent caterpillar, known to defoliate entire groves some springs.  Black cherry is a valuable timber species, and perhaps the premier cabinetry wood, known for its strong red color and high price.  The Allegheny National Forest of northern Pennsylvania, once home to old growth hemlock and beech, is now actively managed to allow the more valuable black cherry to thrive for timber production. We can certainly appreciate why Washington may have chopped it down.

EASTERN REDCEDAR – Juniperus virginiana

“I will unite with any one to do right, and with no one to do wrong!”

Just across the Anacostia River, one can walk the halls of Cedar Hill, home of the famed abolitionist and women’s rights advocate, Frederick Douglass.

 Born into slavery, Douglass escaped to spend his life fighting for justice and equality for all people, moving to Cedar Hill in 1877 and living there until his death in 1895.  His tireless struggle, brilliant words and inclusive vision of humanity continue to inspire and sustain people today.

That Douglas chose to live on this hill adorned in trees overlooking the capitol is not surprising – that he chose to call it Cedar Hill, however, is interesting.  Redcedar is a humble, patient, tenacious tree, growing well under adverse conditions. Both drought tolerant and cold tolerant, it adapts well in rocky, sandy, and clay substrate. The fine-grained, soft brittle pinkish- to brownish-red heartwood is fragrant, very light and very durable, even in contact with soil. Because of its rot resistance, the wood is used for fence posts.

The wonderfully colored and aromatic wood is avoided by moths, so it is in demand as lining for cedar chests.  Juniper virginiana is tireless, year-round performer in the landscape, buffering winter winds, providing habitat and winter cover, shelter and privacy. It suffers slowly through tough soils and drought. This is an abundant tree, found in many habitats, and one of the first trees to occupy old abandoned fields, pastures, roadways and eroded land. It is unusually long lived among pioneer species, with the potential to live over 850 years.

WHITE FRINGE TREE – Chionanthus virginicus

In 1786, Thomas Jefferson, then living in France, wrote Philadelphia botanist John Bartram, Jr., for seeds of this showy, spring flowering tree to share with his Parisian friends. Its delicate, fragrant white blossoms bloom in late spring and are followed by a dark blue berry-like drupe, which  deer, quail, wild turkey and song birds enjoy.

Fringe Tree (Chionanthus virginicus)
 or “Old Man’s Beard” was, among the many trees grown by Thomas Jefferson at Monticello, one of his favorites. The “snow flower” (as its Greek name translates) is a wonderfully delicate and diminutive small native tree that should deserve more consideration in our small urban settings. It can easily hold its own against many non-native ornamentals for any compact, space-constrained sunny spot, whether in typical residential yards or easily fit under utility wires.

Outdoorsman, data enthusiast, dog lover – so much to like about Richard Houston

One of the many new faces that seem to keep popping up around our offices, Richard Houston was hired back in the spring into an entirely new role – that of CRM Administrator. We can’t do what we do without data, and now we’ve got the man who will keep us organized and efficient. Don’t be shy – get to know him yourself:

CT: For our constituents who haven’t meet you yet, who are you?

I’m a bit of a computer nerd who likes to escape to the woods for weekend hikes away from cell service. I didn’t develop the habit during college out west at U.C. Berkeley where I studied political science, but the outdoors there sure did push me in that direction.

CT: You’ll fit right in here, bud – how’d you end up with us @ Casey Trees?

I had a former roommate who actively volunteered with Casey Trees and had known of the organization a year prior to coming on board. During the spring of 2014 I heard a mention of Casey Trees on WAMU, which prompted me to go to the website. While clicking through I saw the perfect position for me, and decided to join the team.

CT: Hometown? A favorite place inside or around the Washington D.C. area?

I grew up just outside of D.C. in Fairfax County, so I’m more or less a District local (although I miss the west coast during the summertime in DC).

One of my favorite parts of the area is Roosevelt Island. The foot traffic is pretty low and I can take my dog for a nice, long walk.

CT: When was the last time you did something to defend a tree’s honor?

This past snowy winter, every time I shook the snow off of a tree’s branches onto the heads of unsuspecting friends, I lightened the burden that tree had to carry.

CT: Now that’s considerate – good job
;) You look like a cat-person. Are you?

Have to say that I’m a dog person through and through. I have a lab-weimaraner at home who is an endless ball of energy…at 5:00 AM.

CT: If you could do one thing in the rain, what would it be?

Start a campfire. I mean, how useful would that be while hiking and when the sky opens up with a chilly rain? Turn to your fellow campers and say, “I got this.” Then start a roaring fire with wet wood and tinder. Take that, elements.