The Toughest Street Trees

By Charlie Nardozzi

Urban environments are tough on street trees. Between air pollution, lack of high-quality soil, vandalism, and pests and diseases, street trees have a tough time surviving. One of the leading factors contributing to urban tree decline is improper tree selection and planting. Planting the wrong tree in the wrong environment often results in a stressed tree that doesn't flourish. If it does thrive, it may eventually have to be severely pruned so it doesn't interfere with power lines or buildings.

To help with selecting the right tree for the location, the U.S. National Arboretum in Washington, D.C., has teamed up with the University of Maryland and local utilities to run trials on the best tree species and cultivars to plant in urban areas. After four years they have begun to compile a list of trees that can meet the demands of Main Street while still having an aesthetic appeal.

Some of the best trees for a wide variety of geographic areas include Brandywine red maple (Acer rubrum 'Brandywine'), which reaches 25 feet tall and has an appealing globe shape and brilliant fall foliage. Natchez crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia 'Natchez') reaches 30 feet tall, has white flowers and beautiful cinnamon-colored bark, and is resistant to powdery mildew disease.

For more information on other choice urban street trees, go to: Power Trees.

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