Native trees in our community

Sugar maple in fall(Enlarge) ©Janet Allen
Sugar maple in fall

Why wouldn't we want more glorious color like this in our yards?

This sugar maple (Acer saccharum) is actually in our backyard neighbor's property, right next to our fence. Even though it's not on our property, we (and the rest of the neighborhood) benefit from having solid, native trees such as these. Property lines are irrelevant as far as habitat is concerned!

Sadly, in our larger neighborhood, there's a trend to cut down very large trees and replant with smaller understory or ornamental trees, often non-natives.

Cutting down a silver maple ©Janet Allen
Another silver maple biting the dust

I don't know if it's fear left over from our traumatic Labor Day Storm of 1998, whether people don't want to rake leaves (since everyone has mostly just lawn), whether it's an aesthetic choice to highlight their large houses, or whether nurseries just push those smaller trees. Whatever the reason, we're leaving a severely impoverished neighborhood for those who come after us.

One reason the Labor Day Storm was so devastating was that people had planted mostly silver maples (Acer saccharinum) when our area was developed in the 1930s and 1940s—fast-growing for instant gratification, but not the best choice for the future.

In fact, it was our own silver maple that fell on our cars in the Labor Day storm, fortunately missing our house.

Kentucky coffee tree ©Janet Allen
Our seed-grown Kentucky coffee tree, already taller than the house in less than 30 years

The "future," of course, turned out to be us: the grandchildren of the generation who made this choice.

But we're creating an even worse legacy for our own grandchildren's generation: no large trees at all.

Sometimes people are reluctant to plant large native trees, thinking that they'll take too long to get large enough so they can "enjoy them." Trees, though, can actually grow quite quickly—especially if you plant them from seed and let them stay in one place.

And why can't we enjoy a plant at every stage of its growth anyway?

Creating more space for trees is an argument for different land-use planning. Why not group homes closer together and leave a larger common area that would have room for more such plants and the benefits they provide for the whole community?

One reason we don't have more space for a large tree, such as an oak, is that each house sits on an equal-sized piece of land, none of which is large enough for a large tree.