Urban Trees

When an article was posted on Facebook listing the benefits of urban trees, I  made the following comment:  “Too much money is wasted planting palms”.  My reply was short and based on the content of the article which talked about the power of urban trees to cool, save energy, and heal.

In return, this comment was posted:  “Palms still provide shade, especially when they are not “hurricane” topped (an ugly and inappropriate practice), they are also native (at least the sable palm is), and provide a number of other necessary ecological services that free standing Live Oaks, Florida Maple, and other ornamentals do not – a single oak does not a hammock make, nor does a street line).

I felt my comment may have been misunderstood and I replied:  “Let me clarify… palms (in an urban setting) provide little more than aesthetic value.  Even if native palms were used, the shade provided from a mature palm pales in comparison to a shade tree.  I look at the Bismarck’s on Fruitville and see a big waste of $$$.  When you are tearing up green space and replacing it with asphalt… shade trees will provide comfort for us and shelter for wildlife… imo”.

The response:  Go look at mature oak hammock; observe how the palmetto, palms, oaks and other plants grow together … Then compare that to the impoverished (but post card appropriate) urban canopy. Florida wildlife needs Florida ecology (or an attempt to mom mock it within the urban setting).

I had to let it go when hammocks were mentioned because… well, just because.  I interpreted the article as referring to trees planted in urban settings where green space is limited, not building mixed hammocks in the wild.

I don’t dislike palms

Recently, we put a bike in a local show.  Before the judging,  we spent  a few hours baking in the parking lot where the show was set up.  Being July in Florida, we sought out the nearest shade which was found under a lone Sabal palm (at least it was native) poked in one of the medians.  I was thankful for that little patch of shade this 30′ tall palm tree provided and would have defended my place under it with my life.  But under the same circumstances, the cover provided by the same size oak (or Maple) would have been preferable and I might have considered the possibility of sharing the shade with others!  I don’t dispute the ecological benefits of palms, they produce seed and  some birds will make their nests in them.  I am not on a mission to  discredit palms or remove them from use in our city but when comparing the two in terms of energy savings, cooling effects, or property values, a tree is the wiser investment (imo!).

In urban settings, where green space is limited:

I don’t think it out of line to expect our government to use funds wisely.  Street plantings should restore the natural ecosystems that development destroys and sustainability should be considered.  In our  Street Tree Ordinance, the Board of County Commissioners make the following findings:

(1) Sarasota County is perceived by residents and visitors alike as a place of exceptional natural beauty and this perception is an important reason people enjoy living and working here.

(2) The natural beauty of Sarasota County and the health of its natural environment contribute significantly to the attractiveness of the County and thus contribute to the strength of the many businesses which benefit from these virtues and contribute, in turn, to the public economic well-being.  (Article III Street Trees Sec. 98-71)

Creating a sense of place:

There is a lot of talk of branding and how we want visitors to view Sarasota.  There will always be differences in opinion when it comes to public art choice or whether to invest in sports venues but how can there be arguments against making Florida look like Florida.  Streets lined with selections from Madagascar, the Canary Islands or South America don’t reflect the commissioners findings and I don’t see a  commitment to our natural environment.

Bismarckia nobilis, endemic to Madagascar

Bismarckia nobilis, endemic to Madagascar

If a decision is made to line the streets with palms, they should at least be native and say, welcome to Florida!  Observe the palms we plant.  Foxtails, Adonidias, Queen, Triangle, Date, Pygmy date… the list is extensive and does nothing to create or support our natural habitat.

I rest my case.

Almost…

Just for informational purposes I wanted to include a list of native palms:

Needle palm (Rhapidophyllum hystrix),

Saw palmetto (Serona repens)

Buccaneer palm (Pseudophoenix sargentii)

Paurotis palm (Acoelorrhaphe wrightii)

Royal palm(Roystonea regia)

Sabals: Scrub palmetto (Sabal etonia), Dwarf palmetto (Sabal minor), Cabbage palm (Sabal palmetto)

Thrinax or thatch palms: Florida thatch palm (Thrinax radiata), Keys thatch palm (Leucothrinax morrisi), Silver palm (Cocothrinax argentata)

Sarasota County Tree Ordinance 2011-023

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