Trees, Trees, Trees!

Trees, Trees, Trees!
December 2, 2020 Anne Tan-Detchkov

Trees, Trees, Trees!

Did you know that Queens Botanical Garden is home to an Urban Forest with over 800 trees? Did you know that among those are crabapple, cherry, black walnut, red horse chestnut, birch, ginkgo biloba, and many conifers and pines?

Did you know that the pair of Blue Atlas CedarsCedrus atlantica (Glauca Group) – flanking the Main Street gate were moved to this site from the old World’s Fairgrounds? Have you seen the Maclura pomifera (Osage orange) tree and fruit – also called the hedge apple?

Queens Botanical Garden (QBG) was awarded a grant from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) in 2018 to conduct a Tree Maintenance Project to bring our tree collections into their healthiest state possible. This green space is so vital to the health and welfare of this community, and trees help make it so.

Trees are not only an integral part of the Garden’s botanical collection, but they are also vastly important for their impact on the quality of life in the surrounding community. Flushing is a densely populated community with many hi-rise apartment buildings and a great deal of commercial and car traffic.

Trees are vastly important to the urban landscape. We know that trees produce oxygen, but studies also show that trees improve air and water quality by removing pollutants such as ozone, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide, and sequestering carbon; reduce flooding and alleviate the burden of runoff water in times of heavy rain; reduce cooling and heating energy needs; and improve the quality of life for people and wildlife around them. The trees at QBG are improving the urban environment of Flushing and beyond!

“Healthy trees are so important for the environment and those of us living in it. They provide oxygen and store carbon; they’re habitat for wildlife and provide cooling shade on hot days. As a botanical garden it’s our job to showcase a healthy collection and demonstrate proper care for the public. We’ve been able to train high school and college interns, host volunteer tree care events, and bring in specialists to lead tours and demonstrations. At Queens Botanical Garden, we must lead by example and this NYS DEC Tree Maintenance Grant has helped us achieve this goal,” said Morgan Potter, Supervisor of Gardeners.

Here are a few facts about the Urban Forest here at QBG:

  • There are 825 trees in this 39-acre garden, averaging 21.15 trees per acre.
  • The most common tree species are Malus (Crabapples), Quercus palustris (Pin Oak), and Quercus phellos (Willow Oak).
  • Among the total trees found in QBG, 41% are native to New York State.
  • Using a forestry model from the U.S. Forest Service called i-Tree, we have a better understanding of their value as well as their environmental impact.
    • Pollution removal: 504.1 pounds per year ($9,740 per year)
    • Carbon storage: 314.7 tons ($40,800 per year)
    • Carbon sequestration: 7.912 tons per year ($1,030 per year)
    • Oxygen production: 21.1 tons per year
    • Avoided runoff: 17,240 cubic feet per year ($1,150 per year)
    • Structural value of trees: $1.8 million per year

QBG offers a welcoming, tree-rich natural respite for the residents of this community.  The positive effects trees have on human health and well-being are numerous. Studies have found that exposure to trees reduces the symptoms of stress and depression. People are more likely to exercise or walk if green spaces are nearby.

Shannon Borucke, QBG Tree Maintenance Intern, reflected on her time working on this project and the various things she learned:

“It is hard to put to words everything I learned working this season as an arborist intern, as every week brought a new task, a new challenge, or a new insight into how to provide wholistic care to trees. From a horticultural standpoint, I learned so many different methods on how to identify various problems that could be affecting a tree’s health, and then had to determine the best course of action to mitigate the negative effects. For example, I learned how to properly observe a tree for an Integrative Pest Management (IPM) inspection. It’s important to know what to look for when completing an IPM report; are there visible entry points and holes that expose the inner bark? What may have caused this injury? Is there discoloration on the bark or leaves? Is there fungal growth? How do the roots appear? These are just a few examples of key questions you must ask yourself when inspecting a tree for IPM, as a tree may have multiple disturbances to be addressed.

I also learned how to properly prune a tree, a task that is crucial in arbor care. Properly pruning a tree will enhance its health and growth, but an improper pruning will have the opposite effect and can become a permanent injury that will make the tree susceptible to infection in the future. Beyond this, the learning and application of soil amendments was the largest part of my internship, and arguably the most important reason to keep it next season. There is a specified science behind soil amendments; the type of applications selected to use, their combined benefits, and frequency of applications all determine how effective soil amendments will be in fortifying soil for tree roots. We decided to use basalt rock dust and developed a system to make compost tea on-site with the intention of using both as soil amendments for trees that needed the extra care. These two were chosen because they are ecologically beneficial, will re-mineralize and increase nutrient inputs into the soil when applied together, and can easily be applied together on a weekly or bi-weekly basis.

This task could not have been done properly if it wasn’t for the help of student interns every week and supervision of Morgan Potter [QBG Supervisor of Gardeners]. We had to develop a way of making and storing the [compost] tea, and then using both materials to properly apply the necessary amendments to the tree’s base and waterline. All the while, I also kept a constantly updated record of all the trees we had to apply the amendments to. Beyond this, the benefit of having a tree maintenance intern also proved that with a focus specifically on arbor care, so many more tree rings can be completed within the season before winter.

After spending months working with over 196 trees on-site, I would say that if I had to pick one, my favorite tree is the Ginkgo biloba. Ginkgo trees are resilient, beautiful, and truly unique. They provide many health and ecological benefits, too. My favorite part is how late into the autumn, when almost all the trees’ leaves have already fallen, you’ll still see the Ginkgo displaying such a vibrant yellow foliage for several weeks to come. Altogether, I am leaving Queens Botanical Garden with a strong understanding in sustainable tree care and gardening in a way I never could’ve imagined.”

Photos: Nick Biondo, Jess Brey, Susan Lacerte, Anne Tan-Detchkov