Monday, March 6, 2017

The Big Tree Blog Part 2

Part 1 of The Big Tree Blog established that we need trees because they: clean the air, increase bio-diversity, bring water to micro-climates, and they create cooling shade. Now let's explore what trees are best for South Florida? Where can we get them? Where should we plant them? When should we plant them? How can we help trees?

Native Plant Day
This event takes place every year in the month of March and is the premier event for information on attracting wildlife, butterflies, and birds using native plants. Information is available from mini workshops, books, environmental partner’s booths and exhibits and walks thru the different parks that the event is held each year. Lots of friendly experts are happy to talk with you and you can select the trees and plants that work for your landscape, buy them and take them home to plant! Create your own bio diverse backyard oasis.
We will be at Native Plant Day this event this year with a Rain Barrel/Water Conservation Workshop and will also be presenting on how to attract butterflies and pollinators with a special look at the 39 butterflies that are imperiled in South Florida.

Plant a Million Trees 

Plant a Million Trees website counts the trees planted in the mission to plant a million trees by 2020 to reach the goal of 30% tree canopy. We have 3 years to go and this website links you to grant opportunities, tree planting events and outlines how you can plant a tree and register it on the site. With a  population of 2,693,117 two people could team up to plant one healthy right tree in the right place and we could more than reach this goal and shoot onward to attain 50% tree canopy. 
We can do this Miami!

Adopt-a-Tree events begin in the early months of our rainy season (May thru October) to ensure that young trees are planted during our peak rain months and long sunny days of summer. The Adopt-a-Tree program provides Miami-Dade single-family or duplex homeowners with two FREE trees every year, even if they have adopted trees in previous years.

Environmentally Endangered Lands                                                                                         Miami-Dade County’s Environmentally Endangered Lands (EEL) Program’s focus is the protection and conservation of endangered lands and they need your help. Volunteer workdays are fun, hands-on activities throughout all kinds of interesting natural areas and you will learn-ask questions! 
 This is an excellent opportunity to see and learn about plants grouped together in their natural habitat and observe firsthand how they interact with wildlife. Community hours are available through this volunteer program.

Miami Dade County Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces
Contact your neighborhood park or explore a new park. Simply select a park or parks, call them and ask about volunteer programs.

My neighborhood park is the Fruit and Spice Park which has volunteer Tuesday nights every week (4:00 p.m. to sundown) except the last Tuesday of each month. We plant seeding trees used for grafting workshops, as well as tend the extensive vegetable/herb gardens and much more. We also plant some of the really unusual tropical fruit that can be found growing at this park and we are invited to plant for ourselves as well to take home to our own gardens.
Special group volunteer events can also be coordinated by contacting Louise King at

Planting the Right Tree in the Right Place
Florida-Friendly Landscaping’s Principle #1, Right Plant, Right Place is even more important to review before planting trees than any other plant. Most trees will outlive the person planting the tree and should be around for future generations as well. Key factors that should be considered are: species appropriateness, location/space for trees to develop to maturity(both space for roots and canopy), quality of trees being planted, how to plant the tree and care given to maintain trees.
 Miami Dade County has a Street Tree Master Plan in place which indicates tree species that are best suited for selection as street trees and notes recommendations that we plant quality trees as well. 
Goals of the Street Tree Master Plan

  • ·         Plant quality trees in public rights of way
  • ·         Develop and execute a Tree Management Plan to craft sustainable tree structure
  • ·         Promote the design of urban spaces that adequately fit trees
  • ·         Encourage local growers to produce the quality and species for public rights-of-way
  • ·         Educate policy makers and the public on the importance of adequate tree canopy
  • ·         Promote the expansion of the overall canopy in Miami-Dade County to at least 30 percent by 2020. This target reflects both the initiatives of the Street Tree Master Plan and other canopy restoration efforts in Miami-Dade County to create a greener, more walkable, livable community.

Many of the trees included in the Street Tree Master Plan may also be the right tree for your yard and additionally there are numerous resources for information on trees for South Florida. If you would like to maximize benefits to wildlife you can select trees that also provide, berries (food) for birds and small mammals, nectar rich flowers for pollinators, and/or serve as a larval host plant for butterflies and more. For example, live oaks (Quercus virginiana) provides cover for wildlife, nesting space for owls & other birds, acorns for squirrels, pollen for bees and humming birds and the rough texture of the truck and branches allows for growth of air plants and orchids and is also a larval host plant for 3 butterflies. And of course this large tree provides a mega amount of shade!

 Above, Angel Oak, a rare old giant, photographed by Clyde Butcher. Angel oak is approximately 500 plus years old, has a circumference of 28 feet and produces over 1700 sq. ft. of shade.
Not enough space for an amazing live oak? Many smaller oaks may fit your size constraints, visit The Institute for Regional Conservation’s Natives for Your Neighborhood page to view trees and plants for Miami Dade neighborhoods sorted by your zip code.
For additional great resources, information on tree species, where to buy them, how to plant, how to care for them contact your local Extension Office, in Miami Dade County you can find us at

The more we discover and understand about the natural elements of our world the more we discover how interconnected all life is. This is about making the world a better place for all life and that includes us! We need Trees and they need us to plant and protect them.

Barbara McAdam
Urban Horticulture Program Specialist
Florida Yards & Neighborhoods/Florida-Friendly Landscaping
UF/IFAS Extension- Miami-Dade County
Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Department

Monday, January 30, 2017

The Big Tree Blog   
 Part 1

Trees are the giants in the landscape; the keystone plants capable of creating and maintaining micro-climate niches in nature and within the landscape. 

My youngest son, Reid at age 11 and 5’-7” tall, standing beneath a large mahogany at John Pennekamp State Park, Key Largo, Florida.

To better communicate the value of trees (and natural resources) data bases have been created that calculate the monetary benefits. We have outlined some of the vital services trees provide as well as what they need from us to their job. Sources for free trees and ongoing tree planting citizen involved programs will be included in The Big Tree Blog Part 2.

Trees clean our air and are an integral component of the entirety of living organisms that maintain the balance of our naturally self-sustaining earth system. To understand how, a review of middle school science is noted below.

Trees (plants) sequester carbon dioxide and release oxygen and water as part of the complex process of photosynthesis.  A trees (plants) ability to intake carbon dioxide, water and powered by the energy of sunlight produce sugars used for plant growth and oxygen is almost magical. Six molecules of carbon dioxide plus six molecules of water plus sunlight produce one molecule of glucose plus one molecule of oxygen are released into the atmosphere.An acre of pine trees (~120 trees) has the potential to sequester roughly 5 tons of CO2 per year.”

To put it simply, add 6 units of water to 6 units of carbon dioxide, stir in sunlight and you yield a unit of sugar, a unit of oxygen and a unit of water.

Visit the Botanical Society of America to calculate how many acres of trees are needed to offset your carbon footprint.

Life in the Trees
Additionally, we know that trees greatly increase plant and animal life diversity in the environment whether natural forest, farmland or urban landscape and parks. Tomás Carlo, associate professor of biology at Penn State notes “This is important because higher plant diversity is associated with increased provision of ecosystem services, such as nutrient cycling and the production of food and water.” This links us right back to the entirety of living components that contribute to creating our self-sustainable earth and the integral role trees play.
Ongoing research by Sanford University, notes 908 different species (plant & animal) documented in a gradient of forest trees in Costa Rica.  You can view a recap of notes from the extensive 10 year research project in Futurity’s post “Even 1 Tree Adds Biodiversity to In-Between Areas”  

All around us trees are hosting an almost unnoticed habitat for birds, butterflies, moths, lizards, bees, insects, and other plants in our urban environment, perhaps not on the scale of the redwoods or trees growing in a tropical rain forest. Every tree makes a difference and it is estimated that collectively trees provide for 80% of the world biodiversity and filter more than half of our water in the United States.

Trees and Water
“Islands of the Future”, a five-part documentary produced by Längengrad Film Produktionc, beautifully illustrates how trees on the island of Madeira capture moisture from winds blowing across the ocean. Some of this water is absorbed by the tree roots. Excess water drips off the leaves and both recharges ground water and feeds an extensive man made system of waterways, providing water for the island.

Trees are Cool!
Trees provide a huge natural element to buffer the driving forces of climate change by the bringing water into the environment, shielding against winds, and providing cooling! However, planting more trees in our landscapes cannot alone make a significant shift to cool temperatures. We will need to change our habits, as well as grow and preserve habitats. With a concerted effort in all areas that effect our climate, we can begin to make a shift to correct the balance of nature and planting trees. Many programs, plans, and resources already in place to help us.

A Look Back at Old Giants

Below:The Shelton Family next to a Castanea dentata in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The oldest, recently documented, American Chestnut was a dead stem at least 270 yrs. old (photo © courtesy of Great Smoky Mountains National Park Library and The American Chestnut Foundation).

                                                                           Above: Long leaf Pine Forests were once                                                                            abundant in early America                                                                                   

Above: Existing old growth trees in Tongass National Forest in Alaska                  

Largest specimen of Gumbo Limbo in North America photographed at De Soto National Park, Bradenton, Florida by Jason Collin

Meet us here in February for another look at these giants and what we can do and where you can find free trees that will be the right tree for you.

Barbara McAdam
Urban Horticulture Program Specialist
Florida Yards & Neighborhoods/Florida-Friendly Landscaping
UF/IFAS Extension- Miami-Dade County
Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Department