Worcester Tree Initiative
AN INDEPENDENT PROGRAM OF TOWER HILL BOTANIC GARDEN
Worcester Tree Initiative
AN INDEPENDENT PROGRAM OF TOWER HILL BOTANIC GARDEN
Written By Tom Valovic
You’ve probably never heard of mulch volcanoes. Neither had I until recently. But one of the nice things about volunteering for an organization like the Worcester Tree Initiative is learning more about how to foster healthy growth of green spaces in urban areas. Creating and nurturing the trees that are foundational to those green spaces may seem simple but doing it right has its own complexities. As a former research analyst, I dug into this issue a little (so to speak). Here’s what I found.
Placing mulch volcanoes – also known as cones ---around the base of a planted tree is a widespread practice. But the problem is that it’s tantamount to over-mulching the tree; in other words, too much of a good thing. These mulch mounds can be as high as a foot or a foot and a half above the base of a trunk. It seems to be a safe bet that landscapers and other professional growers would know what a poor practice this is. But WTI is working to get the word out that this simply isn’t the case.
Why is this such a bad practice? Simply put, this kind of over-mulching is bad for a tree’s health and can even eventually kill them. Here’s what an article in the “Washington Post” said about this topic:
“Mulch is supposed to achieve these main goals: retain soil moisture, suppress weeds and moderate soil temperatures. The root zone of an established tree extends beyond its drip line, so mounding the mulch against the trunk does little for the roots, except to cause the roots immediately around the trunk, especially in young trees, to grow into the volcano. Also, the piled mulch softens the bark of young trees and trees with smooth bark, such as maples, beeches and crape myrtles, and invites insects, rodents and diseases to invade. The lower trunk, unlike the roots, cannot survive long-term with the constant moisture trapped by the collar of mulch. It is the equivalent of planting a tree too deeply.
The roots of a tree or shrub find their own level in an attempt to balance their needs for water and air. If you pile mulch too thickly above the roots, the existing surface roots are suffocated and new ones grow into the mulch. Not only does that leave them at risk of drying and dying when the mulch decays, but the roots "grow across the stem, potentially strangling the tree to death”… research scientist Jeff Gillman writes in his new book, "How Trees Die" (Westholme, 2009).”
In addition, the widespread use of mulch volcanoes sets a bad precedent. Homeowners see this happening extensively and assume that landscapers are engaged in a best practice. To compound the problem, those landscapers that are aware the practice is harmful apparently aren’t always educating those customers who ask for the volcanoes.
Like anything else, the cure for this practice is education and greater awareness. According to Ruth Seward, WTI’s executive director, WTI will be developing several educational initiatives in 2018 to address this issue. Stay tuned.
Tom Valovic is a volunteer with the Worcester Tree Initiative and a freelance writer and editor. Tom has written articles for “The Boston Globe”, “Annals of Earth”, “The Whole Earth Review”, and other publications.
Trees can grow for a long time even when they're planted too deep and improperly mulched but their weakened root system will eventually fail. Some trees stop growing and die, this one was alive to the bitter end until the rot in the trunk, fostered by years of improper mulching, caused it to topple over.
Written by Tom Valovic
You might have heard the term “Forest Bathing” being bandied about in the media these days and have been wondering exactly what it is and whether it’s just another fad. Forest bathing isn’t all that complicated. Simply described, it means spending more time in nature as an antidote to the helter skelter, “always on” aspects of contemporary life.
Forest bathing is a practice that originated in Japan. A recent article in the Atlantic described the Japanese connection, “In 1982, Japan made shinrin-yoku, or “forest bathing,” a part of its national health program. The aim was to briefly reconnect people with nature in the simplest way possible. Go to the woods, breathe deeply, be at peace. Forest bathing was Japan’s medically sanctioned method of unplugging before there were smartphones from which we needed to unplug. Since shinrin-yoku’s inception researchers have spent millions of dollars testing its efficacy; the documented benefits to one’s health thus far include lowered blood pressure, blood glucose levels, and stress hormones.”
It’s no secret that our lives have become very detached from nature and natural processes. Some of this has to do with our constant immersion in consumer culture. Another issue relates to living in and being so heavily dependent on the always interesting but artificial world created by the Internet and the many devices we now use it with. It’s becoming increasingly obvious that the more “screen time” you have, the more you need to balance that with healthy physical movement and immersion in natural spaces. Trees, forests, and natural spaces have powerful restorative powers.
There are more formal programs for forest bathing being offered by various organizations and requiring travel and/or session fees. There are even people being trained to be Forest Bathing Guides to steer folks through such programs. If you’re interested in these by all means explore, including a reasonably priced program being offered by Tower Hill Botanical Garden, the sponsoring organization of the Worcester Tree Initiative. The next guided forest bathing experience at Tower Hill Botanic Garden will be on Thursday, October 26th. It is being held in their conservatory which will be warm, lush, and verdant as the trees outside are entering dormancy. You can also try Tower Hill’s Yoga by Nature program on Wednesday evenings or go out to the woods with a group of families on Saturdays from 11am-12pm for their Free Family Nature Walks. But there’s no need to wait to get started. You can “get your feet wet” in forest bathing by simply taking some time out of your day to immerse yourself in nature and natural beauty and doing it in a mindful way. Rest and Enjoy.
For more info about Tower Hill’s Forest Bathing program and other events click here.
Tom Valovic is a volunteer with the Worcester Tree Initiative and a freelance writer and editor. He has written about Internet immersion and its effects on the natural world in “Digital Mythologies”
This summer we had the pleasure of working with some dedicated students through our Young Adult Forester’s program. We were hard at work in several locations throughout the city; Dodge Park, Knights of Columbus Park, The Eagle Statue on West Boylston Street, Kendrick Ball Fields, home of the Joe Schwartz Little League, and in Green Hill Park’s Memorial Grove. Each of these locations has young trees, planted this spring or last spring, that we tended to all summer. In five weeks we have managed to care for each of them and in some cases truly transform and rejuvenate them, with our team of hard working youth.
In Dodge Park, our first ward and ongoing labor of love, we have cleared the arboretum paths and spread fresh mulch to keep the weeds down. We also planted four species that were either missing or needed to be replaced, a Swiss Stone Pine, a Japanese Zelkova, a Sweetgum, and a Tulip Tree. In more recent weeks, in addition to watering the trees, we have taken on the reclamation of a few other locations in the park. The apple tree fruiting wall on the east side of the park had become surrounded by weeds and the trails themselves were becoming overgrown. Our team set out to clear the path and liberate the apple trees and finally did after several hours of effort as a group. We also gathered cardboard to lay down over the area and with volunteers from WPI on their Work on Worcester day we covered that trail with cardboard and mulch as we have done in other parts of the park. This effort, done properly, can offer a few years of weed prevention while the cardboard and then wood chips decompose. It’s a more eco-friendly solution to weed prevention than synthetic tarps or fabrics.
In addition to these projects the trees planted along the street, shading the sidewalk for pedestrians, were liberated from weeds and freshly mulched. The sidewalk now feels much roomier and more pleasant to walk down. One of our YAFs, who was able to walk to work, came down this sidewalk every day and said that even though it seems like a small change for each tree it makes a big difference as you’re walking.
Another project that we took on was caring for the trees and shrubs we planted at the Knights of Columbus Park near Coes Reservoir. There are over 25 new plants there, mostly evergreen trees and shrubs, that need water each week. We also put mulch around and regularly weeded around each of the plants. Our watering truck team helped with the water for all of the plants near the parking lot which helped a lot. The alternative is to bring 5 gallon buckets filled with water to the park with us and carry them to the trees. This is an effective method and necessary for certain situations but not ideal. We can happily report that these new plants seem to be happy in their new homes and will give the landscape a beautiful verdancy year round.
This year we returned to the Greendale Eagle statue on West Boylston Street. This is a small park area next to the old Barber’s Crossing and in front of the train and Saint Gobain factory. The area has benefited from plantings throughout several years. This year we planted 4 Swiss Stone Pines at the north end of the park intending to create a visual barrier to the aging factory building behind in years to come. However it’s not just these plants that we’re caring for, we
have also unearthed some overplanted Douglas Fir Trees and created mulch beds around 2 Kousa Dogwoods which were being damaged by mowers trying to reach the grass around their trunks. We also weeded and mulched the 6 Tulip Trees and the garden beds around the statue which has given the whole park a fresh and cared for look.
We returned to Kendrick Ball Fields which is just off of West Boylston Street on Brooks Street. Last Spring we planted 10 evergreens between two of the baseball fields. The area was badly overgrown before we planted there and sadly it had returned to that state when we arrived this summer. The students were the most reserved about going into this park because of the sheer magnitude of the task before them but we resolved to liberate the trees and create large mulch beds around them to keep them safe for the rest of the season and hopefully beyond. Using a weed whacker with heavy steel blades on it we blazed a trail through the brush and found each tree. We then cut the weeds out of the trees and dug their roots out from a 6 foot diameter around them and put four inches of mulch around each of the trees. In the process we tried to take extra care not to get poison ivy, which seemed to be carpeting much of the hillside.
We’re thrilled to say that as of this week you can see and get to all ten trees and that they are weed free. We hope that they will be able to grow above the weeds and flourish but we expect we will have to go back each year to fight back the growth.
And finally, we cared for the trees at Green Hill Park’s Memorial Grove. With nearly 100 trees needing water every week we had quite a job cut out for us there but we’re proud to say we worked out a good system to get the job done. Green Hill Park Association President, Brian McCarthy, rented a truck each week so that we could go out with about 40 buckets and water the trees. We work on a rotation, about half of the buckets are getting filled at any given time while the other half, already filled, is being distributed to the trees. Thankfully we were able to drive the truck through the grove from tree to tree or else we wouldn’t have been able to do this. We also took time to prune these trees, fix stakes to keep them growing upright, and to remove weeds and fix their mulch rings.
Every day was filled with productive work and after 7 weeks we really accomplished a lot (if we do say so ourselves!) And this really doesn’t even get into the watering truck’s work, they’ve been doing their part too and they’re faster than ever this year! We’re extremely proud of the impact that these young people have had on the urban forest. They worked very hard and they learned and gained valued experience while working for us this summer. We enjoyed working with last summer's YAFs and thank them for being part of our team. We look forward to seeing all that they will do in the future; if we’re lucky we may even have the pleasure of working with them again next summer!
On Friday, May 19th, WTI planted 20 trees with volunteers from TD Bank, Claremont Academy, and the Worcester Boys and Girls Club. This was the culmination of our TD Green Streets Grant, awarded in 2016. The planting this May was the last step in a multitiered project. We are so grateful to TD Green Streets for including us among other amazing projects in urban forests around the country from Rhode Island to Florida.
In addition to this planting our project included an education program at the Boys and Girls Club where WTI spoke to youth twice a week for four weeks, teaching them about topics such as the value of the urban forest, forest pests, how to check if a tree is healthy, and planting a tree. We taught a similar curriculum over the course of a year with students at Claremont Academy, a program which we continued this year as the Claremont Green Team.
The 20 trees were a mix of Tupelos, Hop Hornbeams, Lindens, and Ginkgo trees planted on the perimeter of Clark University’s new practice fields. The fields are located right next to the Boys and Girls Club on Tainter Street. There is also a pedestrian path connecting the two segments of Tainter Street, connecting the neighborhoods on either side of the fields. The fields are fenced off from the public but the Boys and Girls Club will have open access to the fields for their club activities.
We know it is important to engage people young and old with the environment in their own backyard and we are excited that through this project we were able to grow that environment for residents of Main South. Several of our projects this spring have focused on this neighborhood or other similarly under forested neighborhoods. We will keep working with the communities all around Worcester to ensure that all of our city is vibrant and verdant.
by Derek Lirange
At this time of year it can be hard to slow down long enough to reflect on all of the things that have happened and then actually tell the story!
In the past month and a half we have hosted or led nearly 20 events from our Spring Fling to trainings and talks at Tower Hill, and our Arbor Day Celebration and other plantings. So far we have planted 50 trees this season with another 80 to go in the next two weeks! Plus we will be having a giveaway at the end of the month.
To say things have been busy would be putting it lightly, but today, with another tree to plant in the afternoon, I find myself with enough space to write a quick update.
If you haven’t been following our Instagram or Facebook pages you’ve missed out on some snapshots from our many events this spring. We’ve been in Green Hill Park at the World War I Memorial Grove planting trees, we’ve been to Kilby Street planting trees with the Main South CDC’s Main South Youth Corps. We planted fruit trees with the crew at Hector Reyes House and Youth Grow Farm with the Regional Environmental Council. We even participated in 3 Jane Jacobs in The Woo “Jane Walks”, the Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP) Walk where we planted a tree and talked about the importance of trees to public health, the Pop Up Parklet in Downtown next to Dead Horse Hill where we contributed a tree to the landscaping, and the tour of Newton Hill and a segment of the East-West Trail which was co-led by our own Director, Ruth Seward. The other day we even got interviewed for a book being written about Worcester!
We owe a lot to our partners at the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) and the USDA. Much of our work is supported by the Reforestation Program and the Asian Longhorned Beetle Eradication crews dedicated their Arbor Day this year to volunteering for us. We also want to thank the City of Worcester for letting us lead the charge on the Arbor Day Celebration and for their help with a delivery of wood chips for the newly planted trees last week in the Memorial Grove.
In addition to all of the planting we’ve been doing I mentioned that we had led or participated in several trainings/talks at Tower Hill. We’re most grateful to the Tower Hill team that has been embracing us as their own for the past year. We’re thrilled that we get to now lead talks for their members and the public at the Gardens. We talked about pest management for our first talk and tree pruning basics in our CUT IT OUT class. There will be a follow up to this course for flowering trees and shrubs on June 17th. You can register ahead for that event on our Upcoming Events page. We also got to attend and became audience participants in the discussion of the book Urban Forests with the author, Jill Jonnes. Her talk was so good that we want to give you another chance to hear from her and are planning to have her visit again in the fall.
Last Wednesday we planted at the Francis Perkins Branch of the Worcester Public Library, planting with some of the kids at their after school program and with DCR. This weekend we went back in Green Hill Park planting another 38 trees with the Massachusetts Sierra Club, members of the Green Hill Park Coalition, and students from Wachusett Regional High School. This Friday, May 19th, we’re planting 20 trees next to the Boys and Girl’s Club at the new Clark Athletic Fields with volunteers from TD Bank, the Boys and Girl’s Club, and Claremont Academy. We’re grateful for the TD Green Streets grant awarded to us for this project and to all of the partners who will be joining us to help with the planting.
And there’s more to come. Keep an eye out for our upcoming projects on the website and on our social media profiles. We appreciate hearing from you so let us know how we’re doing in the community with an email, a like, or by sharing our posts so more people can see what we’re up to.
Tree of the Week
Theme: Cold Weather Champions
Whitebark pine, also known as Pinus albicaulis, are found in high mountain landscapes in western North America and Canada. Grow in the western united states and canada areas such as sierra nevada, the cascade range, the pacific coast range and the rocky mountain. In these areas the whitebark pine are typically the highest elevation pine tree. They prefer cold windy, snowy, and moist climate. Temperatures around -5C (25F) in January are perfect for the trees development and growth, though they can withstand much harsher conditions.
Whitebark pine is one of a group of pines found in the same regions. They tend to be slow growing but long lived trees; depending on the conditions whitebark pines can live up to 250 years or more. Their height varies but in good conditions will grow between 40 and 60 feet. At the limit of their range this species stays low to the ground and only grows to about 3 feet or less. Their needle shaped leaves grow in bundles of five, which is different from other members of the group such as lodgepole pine which have two needles per bundle. The needles, which are short and rigid, grow from 1 to 3 inches long with a green- yellow color. Another distinguishing set of features of whitebark pines are their cones. The Whitebark pine is monecious, producing both male and female flowers and cones on the same tree. Male cones are pinkish while the female cones are deep red and sometimes purple. Both cones remains on the tree for several years.
The seeds inside of the cone are essential to the animals that live in that area. Small mammals and birds such as nutcrackers, woodpeckers, finches, and other granivorous birds all depend on the seeds from this tree as part of their diet. Human also eat their seed, sometimes raw or roasted after collecting them during the fall season.
The Whitebark pine plays an important ecological role in the places where it grows. Because the tree can grow in harsh climates and poor and rocky mountainous soils the roots of whitebark pine stabilize that soil and protect the watershed at large. But there are environmental factors that have led to a decline in population of this tree. In some populations a fungal disease called white pine rust is killing these trees but a much more threatening pest is the mountain pine beetle which has ravages pines west of the Rocky Mountains. At the moment they are kept at bay by the harsh climates in the high peaks of the Rockies and northern Canada but if climatic changes continue this pest could break out to the east which would unleash yet more devastation on our nation’s forest.
Tree of the Week Theme: Cold Weather Champions!
This month’s theme is cold weather campions. Today we’re covering the Subalpine fir, a slender conifer found in the western United States and Canada. It is native to fairly high elevation, cool, moist sites from the southern Rockies to northwestern Canada, including Utah.
The vegetation zone that this tree grows in is named the Subalpine zone, which is the zone which transitions from denser forest to the tree line, geographic areas where weather conditions are too harsh for trees to grow. The subalpine fir is named for this zone. The Subalpine fir can endure temperatures as low as –58 degrees fahrenheit. As a result, they form extensive forests in the high, cold mountains throughout western North America. They also are tolerant of very wet conditions, including the swampy grounds near beaver ponds or other wetland areas. The tree has a very distinctive crown that is slender due to its short stiff branches. These trees look like minarets poking above the forest, growing up to 160 ft tall in good conditions.
The Subalpine fir cones mature in one growing season and the tree produces an abundance of cones each year near the tops of the tree. Male cones are in small clusters on underside of twig ends and are bluish. Female (seed) cones are about 3-½ inches long and dark purple when mature. They always grow on upper branches in an upward position on twigs. When these cones mature, the cone scales and seeds fall off leaving a woody spike-like cone on the twig. Like the cones of the other firs, they disintegrate on the tree, leaving a central spike.
The needles have blunt ends and are often notched at the tip. They are blue-green with a single white band on the top and two beneath. Needles all tend to turn upwards, but often a few stick out from the underside of the branch. The bark is gray, thin and smooth with resinous blisters that become shallowly furrowed on older trunks.
Throughout much of the Rocky Mountains, the subalpine fir assists in protecting watersheds and rehabilitating the landscape. Forests in which subalpine fir grows occupy the highest water yield areas in much of the West. They also provides habitat for various animals. Mule deer, elk, moose, woodland caribou, black bear, and grizzly bear often use subalpine fir habitats during the summer. Its seeds are eaten by several species of small mammals and birds.
The wood of subalpine fir is not ideal for use in outdoor projects since it decays fairly quickly which can only be offset using a large amount of preservatives. However it can be used for wall studs and because the wood pulp from the tree is used to make various wood products. Small trees are also extensively used for Christmas trees.
Native Americans used various parts of subalpine fir for numerous purposes. The crushed needles could be used for healing and cleaning on cuts or as a perfume. The sap was also used medicinally to clean wounds but also in tea as a remedy for a cold. Entire branches were also used as a home air freshener; who needs artificially scented candles when you can have the real deal?
Tree of the Week Theme: Cold Weather Champions!
Tamarack also known as Larch (Larix laricina), are unique trees in the landscape; they are deciduous conifers. Tamaracks usually live about 150 years. Their height varies but they can grow between 65’ and 150’ tall. The tamarack, prefers colder climates and can be found extensively throughout Canada and the northern United States but can also be found in the south on high mountain peaks. Despite the breadth of its range the tamarack is underutilized as a landscape tree. It in a perfect conical shape and it can grow as well as and be as beautiful as many of the imported species often used in its place.
The leaves on the Tamarack grow light green in the spring and stay on the tree through the summer in distinct clusters of 15-25 needles that look like crowns. In the fall, Tamarack’s three-sided leaves turn golden yellow and fall off of the tree. Even after the leaves have fallen, the distinct nodes on its branches make the tree easily identifiable. The Tamarack can also be identified by its small ball-shaped cones. The Tamarack tree is among the few conifers that lose their leaves in the Fall. They do so gracefully, taking on a beautiful fall coloration beforehand. The bark of Tamarack is reddish-brown, scaly, and can be delicate.
The tamarack tree is monecious, having both male and female flowers. They appear in the spring when the needles appear. The male flowers are yellow-green and the female flowers are red.
Tamaracks are very cold tolerant, able to survive temperatures down to at least −85 °F, and commonly occurs at the Arctic tree line at the edge of the tundra. Trees in these severe climatic conditions are smaller than farther south, often only 15 ft tall. They can tolerate a wide range of soil conditions but grow most commonly in swamps, bogs, or in wet to moist organic soils.
The word “Tamarack” was derived from the Abenaki Native American word “Hackmatack”, which means ‘wood for making snowshoes’. The Ojibwa people of Minnesota used the roots of the Tamarack to sew together pieces of birch bark to make their canoes as well as other things out of birch bark. Tamarack is also known for its rot-resistant wood, which has been a sought after commodity for a long time. The wood is very sturdy and today is used for house frames, railroad ties and fence posts.
The Ojibwe utilize the other parts of the tree for medicinal purposes. They crush the leaves and bark and either apply the mixture as a poultice, or place it on hot stones and inhale the fumes. Tamarack bark can be made into a tea. This tea can be utilized as a diuretic and laxative. It is also used as a remedy for sore throats. The sap of Tamarack can even be chewed to aid in indigestion. The tender spring shoots are nutritious, and can be eaten when they are boiled. The inner bark (cambium layer) of the tamarack tree can also be scraped, dried and ground into a meal to be mixed with other flours.
One tamarack that I am aware of in Worcester can be found in the Dodge Park Arboretum. Heading down the hill from the beginning of the loop it can be found starting to fill out its space on the northwest corner of the loop. I encourage you to check it out periodically this year as it goes through its many beautiful transformations from season to season.
Tree of the Week Theme: Christmas Trees!
The Balsam Fir (also known as Abies balsamea) is a very well known Christmas tree. Balsam fir trees are fast growing evergreens that are native to a wide part of North American. As a Christmas tree, balsam fir has several desirable properties. It has a dark-green appearance, long-lasting needles, and attractive form. It also retains its pleasing fragrance.
The Balsam fir can be expected to grow in hardiness zones 3–5. This is an evergreen tree so it keeps its foliage year-round. The balsam fir grows at a slow rate, with height increases of less than 12" per year, with a height of 45–75' and a spread of 20–25' at maturity.
The scientific name "balsamea" is an ancient word for the balsam tree, it was named because of the many resin containing blisters found in the bark. Balsam fir bark is thin, ash-gray, and smooth except for numerous blisters on young trees. These blisters contain a sticky, fragrant, liquid resin. The species has been sometimes referred to as "blister pine". Upon maturity, bark may become up to a 1/2 inch thick, red-brown and broken into thin scales.
The Balsam fir has both male and female flowers on the same tree. The species is wind pollinated, and cones mature in a single season. At maturity, cones are 2 to 3 1/2 inches long with bracts (modified leaf) shorter than scales. The presence of these short cone bracts is a distinguishing feature when balsam fir is compared to others. Upon ripening in September to November, cones fall apart.
Balsam bark was an important source of food for some Native American tribes. Inner bark was peeled from the tree and used to make breadstuffs. Tea is made from dried balsam needles, and is said to help sooth sore throats and congestion. The buds and resin are used in folk medicine to treat numerous ailments including bronchitis, burns, colds, heart ailments, scurvy and to heal wounds. The resin was also used as an ingredient in varnish and to fix coverslips to microscope slides. Early campers used piles of young balsam boughs as mattresses.
Balsam fir is important in forests because it provides food and cover for wildlife. Moose rely on balsam fir in winter as a major source of food. Deer use it for cover and shelter. The seeds and buds are food for birds including grouse, squirrels, mice and voles. The bark is browsed by black bears. Beavers occasionally use the wood for dam building.
Balsam fir wood is not prized for fuelwood, but industries that use balsam fir for pulp and lumber products are using increasingly larger quantities of wood waste for the production of energy. The wood is also used for light frame construction, interior knotty paneling, and crates. Wood resin in the bark blisters is the source of Canada balsam used for making of microscope slides. Resin was sold in stores as a confection prior to the advent of chewing gum, and resinous fir knots were once used as torches. A balm of balsam fir resin was used in Civil War as an external application to the injuries of combat.
Balsam fir boughs are often used for stuffing "pine pillows", with the aromatic foliage serving as a deodorant. Needles and small-diameter branches are ground or chipped and dried, and used in the manufacture of balsam fir pillows. Balsam fir pillows, as well as other items known as “fancy goods,” were made in Maine as early as the 1870’s by Shaker women in New Gloucester for sale to tourists. All parts of the tree are used so there is very little waste from the whole process.
Tree of the Week Theme: Chrismas Trees!
Leyland Cypress (x Cupressocyparis leylandii) is known for its rapid growth and slim shape. The Leyland Cypress has grown popular over large areas of the United States because of its legendary salt tolerance, thriving where many other trees will not grow. More and more Christmas tree farmers are growing Leylands due to their fast growth rate and beauty. The Leyland Cypress is very unique compared to the other two Christmas trees.
It grows well in a wide variety of soil and climate conditions and makes an excellent wind break as it provides a dense barrier with good color all 12 months of the year. You can find these beauties around homes, schools and parks.
The leyland cypress can be expected to grow in Hardiness Zones 6–10. This is an evergreen tree, keeping its foliage year-round. The Leyland cypress grows to a height of 60–70' and a spread of 15–25' at maturity. This tree grows at a fast rate, with height increases of more than 24" per year. The Leyland Cypress features dark green to bluish-green, scale-like needles that are flattened on evergreen sprays, pointed at the tips but notably soft. They produce small cones that are ½–¾" in diameter and made up of 8 scales.
This tree is a hybrid of Monterey cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa) and Alaskan cedar (Chamaecyparis nootkatensis). In 1888, six seedlings were discovered by C.J. Leyland at Leighton Hall in the South of Wales. The two parent trees were growing on the Estate and cross bred purely by accident. Crossbreeding between two Genus is a rare occurrence in plants and particularly in conifers. The resulting hybrid is sterile meaning that the original trees were the only naturally occurring trees of their kind. The trees that have now made their way around the world are all grown from cuttings that are either grafted on a root system or treated with hormones that cause them to grow roots.
In 1941, rooted cuttings arrived in United States, through California, for the first time. In 1965, they found their way to South Carolina where their potential for use as Christmas trees became apparent. The Leyland Cypress is a good choice for a Christmas tree because of it’s sprays of small, scaled needles on soft flexible limbs. It’s branches are upright and have a feathery appearance. The Leyland cypress has a very attractive shape and full branching overall.
In England, the Leyland cypress is used as in ornamental plantings and as a windbreak. In New Zealand and Australia, it is used for wood products. In the United States, it has become a valued landscape plant and one of the most sought after Christmas trees. In the landscape Leylands are aggressive allelopathic plants. This means they secrete a natural herbicide from their roots to reduce the competition from surrounding vegetation.
The Leyland Cypress are a great choice for a Christmas tree or simply a landscape tree. They provide winter cover for songbirds and game birds as well as privacy barriers for our backyards. Though Worcester is technically out of this tree's range (5b and 6 respectively) there are likely microclimates in the most developed portions where the urban heat island effect would keep temperatures higher through through the winter. Don't be surprised to see these trees in the city soon if they aren't here already!