I met this week with a really interesting chap. One of those who have a passion for, and a long list of stories to tell about their job. Danny Burbage is a man on a mission. The City Forester does not wear the sage cap and staff that the title may imply; he works for the city, dresses quite normally, and is responsible for adding shade and color to our streetscape. His mission is planting trees.
The mindset of a Charleston's city forester is a strange domain. They are trained to think in centuries not the few short hours or days of the Wall Street broker. They plan and plant in the full knowledge of never seeing the final result. They work for their children and grandchildren.
Trees, in short, are good for you. They absorb pollution, limit evaporation, disperse flooding, look great and add shade from the hot summer sun. The problem is that we do not yet have enough of them along the streets of Charleston. 25 years ago, in the wake of Hurricane Hugo, Danny spent time with his team planting trees that literally are now in early adolescence, 40 feet high and spreading over the roads. In another 40 years they will form a full canopy over the streetscape in a way found so often on the lanes of the nearby barrier islands.
On this day, we found ourselves on Amherst St. A once blighted part of the East Side where our work and that of others has made a huge difference in restoring the old and replacing the missing homes. So the question was posed about just what to plant. The city has guidelines around this; native varieties are favored as are factors such as salt, pollution and drought tolerance, canopy cover, height etc. We considered three varieties for this application. Live Oak, a pretty obvious choice with the drawback that it needs space on the sidewalk and is slow growing. Crepe Myrtle is great, grows quickly and is a modest size so unlikely to interfere with power lines. Mr. Burbage requested single trunk versions or otherwise we will plant a bush that will obstruct the sidewalk. We also looked at Chinese Elm, not a native but is pretty similar to north American Elm and resistant to Dutch Elm disease that wiped most of the stock out 30 years ago. It’s a big tree with lots of canopy cover and quite fast growing.
Next step will be to speak with the Neighborhood committee, I hope they favor the neighborhood going green!
For further tree related information have a look at the following link: http://www.charleston-sc.gov/index.aspx?NID=271
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