All posts by Jona Elwell

What’s In Store for Trees After All This Wacky Weather?

Remember when we wore tee-shirts in February and it was 70 degrees? Now that we’re melting out from a snowstorm, that seems far away. If you think you are thrown off by the weird weather lately, imagine how the trees are reacting!

With an unusually warm February and the early onset of spring, trees began blooming far ahead of schedule. Researchers noted there were two possible outcomes of the early bloom: high and low temperature swings could mean forming blooms are more susceptible to stresses, or they could extend the length of the blooming season.

So when temperature’s dropped into the twenties and we received an (unwelcome) blanket of snow in early March, already blooming trees became somewhat of a live experiment in how their species handle severe weather changes. Overall the colder weather could mean less of a show for spring-blooming ornamentals (like our famous cherry trees) and could nip back new leafy growth. However, generally the plants should be able to outgrow the damage. Even still, this was not welcome news for the beloved cherry blossoms and sensitive magnolias.

The hard freeze last week transformed the delicate, fragrant flowers of magnolia trees in wilted, brown piles in less than a day. And the fate of our cherry blossoms? Considering temperatures below 27 degrees kill about 10 percent of the blossoms and at 24 degrees or lower, about 90 percent of the pink petals die, their peak bloom status is uncertain. However, some of the trees that were in the near-peak stage made it through the freeze unharmed.

That is great news for blossom watchers, but will the cherry blossoms suffer the same fate as the frozen magnolia blooms? Can they survive the repetitive hard freezes? We should know the answer soon. After all, if we do not reach peak bloom, that will be for the first time in their 105-year history. Regardless of the cherry trees and their bloom’s fate, this certainly been a spring of firsts.

Photo courtesy of the Washington Post.

Who Run the World? Famous Female Foresters

March is Women’s History Month, so what better time to highlight and celebrate the contributions of women to forest-related fields.

Anyone who has ever used a circular saw has Tabitha Babbitt to thank. In a Massachusetts town dependent on the forestry industry, she often saw men wasting energy cutting logs on a pit saw. In 1810 she thought to attach a circular blade to her spinning wheel. The rest is history.

Forest Service employee Margaret March-Mount was better known as “Ambassador of the trees.” During her tenure at the Forest Service from 1913-1943, she worked tirelessly to encourage tree planting throughout the country. Her famous catch phrase? “Bombs explode, pines grow.”

When Margaret Stoughton Abell joined the Forest Service in 1930, she earned the distinction of the first women forester. She worked on nearly every project conducted at the Appalachian Forest Experiment Station and paved the way for future female foresters and scientists.

While Rachel Carson worked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1943, it wasn’t until she resigned in 1952 to pursue writing that she rocked the conservation world. Her bestselling book Silent Spring is widely credited with bringing the environmental movement into the mainstream.

In the 1970s, Wangari Maathai changed the world. The first woman in East and Central Africa to earn a doctorate degree, Maathai established a grassroots organization, the Green Belt Movement, to reforest land and empower women.

Green Party Presidential candidate, Minister of the Environment, United Nations’ Champions of the Earth, and the first rubber tapper ever elected to the federal senate – Brazilian Marina Silva has accomplished quite a lot. A native Amazonian, she remains one of the fiercest activists for environmental protection of the rainforest.

Not to mention our three tree-mendous International Society of Arboriculture Certified Arborists here at Casey Trees. Becky Schwartz, from our Tree Planting team, notes “Casey Trees expects a high level of professional development and education. I became a certified arborist to continue this precedent and increase my knowledge and expertise. I hope my work as the Casey Trees Community Tree Planting Manager and Arborist encourages women to join the field and supports those that are already doing great things.”

Jess Sanders, Director of Technical Services and Research, is also a certified arborist – in addition to having her Ph.D. in urban and community forestry. “My dedication to the field is what drove me to become a certified arborist,” Jess says, adding that “having the holistic background of research from my academic pursuits and as well as the practical knowledge from my certification has helped me tremendously.”

Maisie Hughes, Director of Design & Advocacy has “loved trees since I was a child. I would spend hours climbing trees or sitting under them trying to sketch them.” How did she land here? Maisie notes, “When I was in graduate school for landscape architecture, I was elated to find Casey Trees. I wanted be an arborist from the time I discovered arboriculture. It wasn’t a decision, it was a calling.”

We’re not only happy to highlight the crucial work our arborists are doing, but also excited to recognize and learn about the historical contributions of women in the field. Happy Women’s History Month!

Photo courtesy of the Forest Historical Society of a Ranger’s Clerk reading a precipitation gauge.

It’s a Mystree!

As you may know, we have a few tricks up our sleeves during the Canopy Awards.  In 2015, we created Camp Casey Trees, where guests got “campy under the canopy”. In 2016, we highlighted our efforts in D.C.’s parks by turning Dock5 — a warehouse — into a full on indoor park. Between croquet, photo booths, craft activities, and signature cocktails, we’ve been known to go all out when it comes to the theme.

So, what do we have in store this year at the Blind Whino? With a location full of intrigue and flair, you can bet we’ll pull out the stops this year. The picture is a hint, but that’s all we’ll give you. For now, anyways.

See you there!

A Fan of Cherry Blossoms but Not Crowds?

Ah, springtime in D.C. The humidity hasn’t set in yet, the rooftops of restaurants are opening up…and our impressive cherry blossoms arrive. Even the ever changing peak bloom date and looming threat of snow has not stopped the District in celebrating our iconic pink and white blooms. With the blossoms come the crowds, and lots of them – almost 1 million people flock to the Tidal Basin each year to view the flowering cherry trees.

What’s a Washingtonian to do? If you’re feeling festive and want to get outside to enjoy the warmer weather and beautiful trees, fear not! There are many ways to celebrate the cherry trees without setting foot on the National Mall.

Dying to see a cherry tree without being surrounded by people? See if there are any in your neighborhood with our handy cherry tree map of D.C.

Cherry blossoms aren’t your thing but still want to experience the beauty of blooming trees? Well have we got the thing for you – a map of all the flowering trees in the District. Give the colorful crapemyrtle, the fragrant liliac, or the unusual goldenraintree some love.

 When you’re done with your own personalized tree tour, you can continue the cherry blossomed themed fun with a variety of food and drink specials, including a cherry blossom pop-up bar, sake oyster shooters, or even a cherry pie-filled matcha cupcake! There is truly something for everyone this spring.

Opening Day

Even the cooler weather couldn’t stop us as we began the spring planting season at American University two weeks ago. For the second year, the workshop was split into concurrent classes, one for Team Leader candidates and one for homeowners. This allowed us to divide and conquer as we planted 31 trees at the center of campus along Nebraska Avenue.

The morning team leader session was designed for people who want to be Citizen Forester Team Leaders, and they spent the morning with games, a skit, and trivia to test their tree planting skills. All so they’re equipped to lead future Community Tree Planting events in their red vests. The morning residential planting session equipped any Tom, Dick, or Harry to plant and maintain trees in their yard.

It was a great start to the season, and we continued to plant at Dumbarton Oaks Park this past Saturday. Our volunteers braved the chilly temps once again to help continue to restore, reforest, and perform erosion control by planting 101 trees around the stream and hillside that was previously covered with invasive plants. This is the third round of reforestation that Casey Trees has completed in the Upper Stream Valley location: the first on was in April 2016, the second in November 2016.

The Tree Planting Workshop and the Dumbarton Oaks Community Tree Planting were a terrific way to open the 2017 planting season. We can’t wait to see more volunteers throughout the spring to help us reach our 40 percent canopy goal by 2032.