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Lightning Strike Gives Douglas-fir New Lease on Life

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Stories from Our Urban Forest - Barbara Warren-Sams   Portland Urban Forestry Commission 2002 to 2006, and Beaumont Wilshire Neighborhood Tree Steward

I’m writing to share with you the survival story of a very old Douglas-fir from the early 1900s to the present—from mature tree to wildlife snag.

When my grandson, now fast approaching his twentieth birthday, was a fifth grader, he interviewed me about our tree and wrote a paper that he chose to title, “The Lucky Tree.” Why’d he choose “lucky”? Well, here are major obstacles that Lucky survived:

Doug Fir

In the early 1900s, I surmise that Lucky survived a massive cutting down of trees that led to Portland being nicknamed Stump Town!

In 1940 my father built a two-bedroom bungalow, including a walkway and a driveway, within several feet of mature Lucky’s trunk.

In the summer of 1962 my father had Lucky topped.

On October 12, 1962, a typhoon also known as “The Columbus Day Storm” or “The Big Blow” hit Portland causing massive tree loss in our northeast neighborhood and four days without power. A nearby neighbor reported to my dad that twice while he nervously watched our tree, its branches touched the front lawn.

Around 1980 my mom grew tired of the frequent need to remove thousands of cone- and millions of needle-debris from the yard, drive, sidewalk, roof, and rain gutters. My sister and I promised that we and her four grandchildren would help more with clean ups, sparing Lucky an untimely death.

I moved back into my childhood home and took over the Lucky tree’s care in 1989. Over the next twenty-five years, this included two instances of major pruning, removal of damaged branches and the second top, and then “rebirth” as a wildlife snag. 

Unfortunately, in June 2012, Mother Nature once again threatened Lucky who now stood about 140 feet high with a DBA of 14 feet. As I stood in my living room one early evening during a brief lightning storm, I heard the crash of thunder as if a bomb had exploded in the backyard. The next morning I stepped outside and found a few pieces of thick Douglas-fir bark lying near the front porch. I assumed that lightning may have struck one of the large upper branches.

To my dismay a month later I noticed that six or so feet of the Lucky tree’s top looked like a red-sprayed holiday tree. The June lightning storm immediately came to my mind and a sinking feeling to my stomach. I called an arborist who advised me to wait to see whether the damage would extend down the tree before making any decision. I must have sounded pretty distressed because he tried to convince me not to panic, not yet. I felt heartbroken.

Lucky’s becoming a wildlife snag occurred in two stages:

        First stage. The top continued to die until it involved the top third of the tree and then seemed to stop. In November 2012, I put out a bid to three certified arborists, in which I asked for two quotes—one for topping (my first choice) and one for removal if it came to that.

   Doug FirThe only response to my request for bids came from Springwater Arboriculture (it seems that not all certified arborists are equipped or eager to handle such a dangerous job). On November 28, 2013, Andrew Craig and his crew arrived along with a boom truck with telescoping crane to reach over numerous other large trees and multiple wires to remove and lower into the street two 25-foot sections from Lucky. Despite my sadness, I couldn’t help feeling a bit exhilarated by the tremendous effort to save my tree.

I crossed my fingers that all was well.

         Second stage. But it wasn’t. By June 2013, damage had extended another forty to fifty down the tree. I called Springwater again. Brian Top of LuckyFrench of Ascending the Giants also joined this second effort.

        No cranes this time. Brian spent a day and a half hanging from Lucky’s trunk, carefully removing eight- to ten-foot sections of the trunk and lowering them to the ground. Two small sections of bark were removed, holes drilled, and then the bark replaced. Several short, bare limbs were left for perching. The lowest branches were saved.

Lucky is alive and may be for a long time. Despite being described with the term “snag,” the new look has a certain elegance and dignity about it. I think if you saw Lucky you might agree. The new lease-on-life provides habitat for a large variety of wildlife large and small, including the many birds that frequent my yard (there’s been an upswing this past summer especially in daily visits from red-breasted nuthatches and northern flickers). Nearby neighbors have also spotted several owls and hawks.Author with Lucky

I want to thank Springwater Arboriculture, Ascending the Giants, Madrone Modern Arboriculture, and Collier Arbor Care for extending the life of one tough Douglas-fir that refused to “go quietly into that good night.”I also want to thank Karl Dawson from City of Portland Urban Forestry for giving me the opportunity to share with you the survival story of the Lucky Tree. If you would like more information, you can email me at birdiegirl2009@gmail.com.

Photos

1 Author with family in front of Lucky 1950

2 Removal of dead top with boom truck and crane

3 Final view of Lucky from street east of house

4 Author with Lucky feet away from house

Oregon's State Tree Turns 75

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Happy Diamond Anniversary Pseudotsuga menziesii

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the Oregon Legislature declaring the Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) as the official state tree. For much of the nation’s history, most Americans eyed trees simply as lumber or as obstacles to be cleared so they could farm the land. Honoring the trees that created so much wealth only started in the 20th century. Texas led the charge in 1919, interestingly naming the pecan its official tree, a native but one that had been taken into cultivation for its nuts. Perhaps because of the Great Depression, state legislatures seemed to focus on passing morale-boosting legislation during the 1930s. Indiana named the tulip poplar its state tree in 1931, followed by Idaho in 1935 claiming the western white pine as its official tree.  Georgia honored the southern live oak as its state tree in 1937, just ahead of the tree’s starring role as the iconic plantation tree in “Gone With the Wind.” Not to be outdone, the same year California declared both the coastal redwood and the giant sequoia as its official trees. The watershed year for choosing a state tree, however, was 1939. While the rest of the globe braced for world war, five states including Oregon voted declarations of official state trees – Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware and South Carolina.Doug Fir

Interestingly, Washington State waited until after World War II to name an official state tree. Although many were convinced the stately, long-lived western red cedar with its rich cultural associations with Northwest Native American tribes should bear the honor, promoting western hemlock’s future as a lumber tree won a majority of legislators’ votes. Oregon can boast that the official trees of five other states are also native here – from the aforementioned western white pine, western hemlock, and coastal redwood (albeit only to Curry County) to Alaska’s Sitka spruce and Montana’s ponderosa pine. British Columbia’s provincial tree – the Pacific dogwood – also is native to Oregon.

Douglas-fir was an obvious choice for Oregon’s official tree. The conifer is native to 35 of the state’s 36 counties and has served as one of the state’s most valuable resources. For decades, harvesting Douglas-fir was the principal engine driving the state’s economy. Along with its agricultural bounty, Oregon annually supplied the nation with millions of board feet of superb lumber from this fast-growing evergreen. The tree is named for Scottish plant hunter David Douglas, who collected plants in Oregon for eager English horticulturalists in the mid-1820s. Douglas-fir’s scientific name honors Dr. Archibald Menzies, a fellow Scot who had botanized in the Northwest a generation earlier. Dr. Menzies served both as physician and botanist on the early 1790s British voyage of exploration to the North Pacific, led by Capt. George Vancouver.

Today, our state tree has found favor in British plantation forests, where it was introduced by Douglas, as well as nations with similar, cool, maritime climates, such as New Zealand and Chile, where the tree is known in Spanish as pino de Oregon.

Want to see more state trees?   Take a trip to Columbia Children's Arboretum 10040 NE 6th Drive.  This 50 State arboretum was planted in 1970 by students of neighboring Columbia School, and while it is missing some trees/labels but it is a wonderful park to explore. 

2014 Street Tree Inventory and Summit Highlights

submitted by Kat Davidson

Seeking to empower residents to better care for their neighborhood’s tree canopy, PP&R Urban Forestry organized neighborhood stakeholders to conduct volunteer-led street tree inventories in Boise, Cully, Eliot, Foster-Powell, Kerns, Laurelhurst, South Tabor, Sullivan’s Gulch and West Portland Park in summer 2014. This was the most ambitious year yet for the project, and staff were pleased to see that the volunteer model held up to the increased volume! More than 280 volunteers donated 4,200 hours to the project measuring, identifying and mapping nearly 31,000 trees. In addition to collecting data in the field, volunteers entered all of the inventory data into ArcGIS at the Urban Forestry office. 

The project continued inventorying trees in unimproved rights-of-way, including planting sites without curbs, sidewalks, and paved roads. Inventorying trees in unimproved areas will allow the project to more accurately assess street trees throughout the City.

INVENTORY RESULTS

Results, recommendations, and maps were compiled into individual neighborhood reports. Reports are available here. An interactive map is also available for searching the 100,000 trees in the database by address. Inventory highlights are listed below.

Composition: 131 tree types were found, ranging from 73 in West Portland Park to 102 in Cully. Tree counts range from 1,100 – 3,700 trees/neighborhood. The most common trees across all areas are Norway maple, red maple, cherry, and other maples. Deciduous broadleaf trees make up most of the tree population, but evergreens were present and ranged from 2% of the population in Boise to 36% in West Portland Park.

Species diversity: The Cully neighborhood met recommended guidelines for species diversity, although the Prunus genus is close to being overrepresented. Maples are widely overrepresented at the species, genus, and family level. The rose family (Rosaceae) is also overrepresented, as is the Prunus genus, particularly in neighborhoods where many small planting sites exist.

Size class distribution: Across neighborhoods, just under 40% of the population is comprised of trees under 6” DBH. However, almost 60% of the population in Foster-Powell falls into this size class, while only about 24% of trees in Laurelhurst and Sullivan’s Gulch do. Larger diameter size classes (>18” DBH) are less represented in a majority of neighborhoods, but this class comprises a greater portion of the population in Boise (20%), Kerns (23%), Sullivan’s Gulch (27%) and Laurelhurst (39%).

Tree condition: Across neighborhoods, 87-93% of trees are rated in good or fair condition, 6-12% rate poor, and 1-2% are dead.

Stocking levels: In residential neighborhoods, stocking level ranges from 82% in Laurelhurst to 23% in Cully. Kerns represents the median stocking level, with 63% of its planting sites stocked. Almost 14,000 spaces have been identified for tree planting.

Undersized trees: About half or more of large planting sites in all neighborhoods are stocked with undersized trees. This ranges from 81% of all large sites in Boise to 48% in Foster-Powell and West Portland Park.

Planting site type: While improved rights-of-way comprise the vast majority (89% or more) of planting site types in most neighborhoods, they hold 60% of the trees in Cully and 86% in West Portland Park.

Planting site size: Large disparities were found amongst neighborhoods. Small sites, which support small form trees, range from a low of 0.1% of sites in West Portland Park up to 76% of sites in Boise. Planting site size corresponds to the mature size of a tree that can be supported in the site.

Annual benefits: Total annual environmental and aesthetic benefits provided by street trees ranges from $124,000 to $742,000 annually.

Replacement values: Replacement values of the street tree population range from $4.8 - $28.6 million.

TREE PLANS

On November 8, 85 participants convened at the Tree Inventory Summit to discuss results and begin creating tree plans. After presentations on the data and hearing from several guest speakers on species diversity, canopy, Heritage Tree history and tree maintenance needs, participants broke into neighborhood groups to draft tree plans. The tree plans include a vision statement, goals, action items, and recommendations for property owners.

Urban Forestry AmeriCorps members Elizabeth Specht and Danielle Voisin are serving as the Tree Plan Outreach Coordinators and will work with each neighborhood tree team to plan two stewardship events between now and June 2015 to help groups stay organized and help meet tree plan goals.

At the summit, Elizabeth and Danielle presented a menu of stewardship workshop options for participants to choose from, including planting, pruning, and maintenance events.

CONCLUSIONS AND FUTURE DIRECTION

Urban Forestry staff will continue to work with tree teams to provide tree plan guidance and ongoing support. Staff is exploring how to best integrate tree plans into ongoing stewardship efforts, as well as expansion of the program. Urban Forestry has set the goal of completing the east side of the City in the next two years. Previously, staff conducted an analysis of neighborhoods so that future efforts can be prioritized in neighborhoods that are low canopy, low income, and racially diverse in order to align with the Urban Forestry Management Plan goals.

Applications for 2015 inventories are due January 15.

For more information about the project, or to download presentations, data and 2015 inventory applications, visit the Tree Inventory Project website

Interview with Golden Diameter Tape Award Winner Louis Miles

by Jen Gorski

In 2010, PP&R Urban Forestry began the Tree Inventory Project to empower neighborhood groups to care for their urban canopy. Since then, 29 neighborhoods have partnered with Urban Forestry to inventory their street trees and create action-oriented management plans. Volunteers have identified, measured and mapped more than 100,000 trees so far!

Urban Forestry celebrates their accomplishments each year, and selects one volunteer in particular who has gone above and beyond to support the project. The recipient of this year’s Golden Diameter Tape Award honor is Louis Miles from the Hosford-Abernethy neighborhood. UF staff interviewed him to find out more about him and his love of trees. 

Q: How did you get interested in trees?Tree

Lou first rented an apartment in Ladd’s Addition, and while walking to the bus to go to work each day, kept noticing a For Sale sign on a house.  He has lived in that house for the last 30 years, and moving into the neighborhood is where his interest began.

American elms were first planted in Ladd’s Addition in the 1910s and they unfortunately started becoming afflicted with Dutch Elm Disease (DED) in the early 1990s. Ladd’s Addition focused on preventing the spread of DED by starting the non-profit Save Our Elms. Save Our Elms began inoculating neighborhood elms to fight DED in the 1990s, and since 1997, its members have also planted 347 street trees to replace failing elms and other trees in poor condition. The neighborhood is now way ahead of most other Portland neighborhoods with 92% canopy cover! Save Our Elms next street tree planting is March 7, 2015, visit the Save Our Elms website for more information!

Q: What inspired you to work with trees?

Part of the draw to become part of the neighborhood is the beauty of the American elms lining both sides of the street. Lou liked the formal look that the uniform lines of elms gave the neighborhood, and he became invested in ensuring that this look was preserved. He saw that the elms needed care and became involved with Save Our Elms, a neighborhood group that inoculates trees against DED to preserve them for as long as possible.

Q: How do you benefit from volunteering?

Lou gets to know his neighbors because he goes door to door to see if they are interested in having a street tree planted adjacent to their property. Save Our Elms is also a fundraising organization that raises donations every year to inoculate elms and also purchase, plant and care for approved new trees. Homeowners only need to agree to the species of trees the group recommends, and the initial work is done for them. Trees bring the neighborhood closer together and are the glue that creates a unique bond in Ladd’s Addition.

Also, Lou likes learning about the trees; it’s always an adventure!

Q: Can you tell us more about yourself?

Lou retired as a public defender for the State of Oregon, where he worked for 29 years. The first 7 years he commuted to downtown Portland, but in the last 22 years he was based in Salem.

It was a long commute but the fact that he was able to do some work at home was really helpful. He researched cases from trials and looked for errors in the rulings. Unfortunately he did not have the added benefit of attending the trials to observe all the clues gleaned from people’s body language. Needless to say, he knows the law extremely well and is good at analysis.

Lou also sings baritone every week in the Portland Gay Men’s Chorus. They have a holiday concert planned for December 5, 6 and 7. Their website is www.pdxgmc.org.

Q: What tree activities would you like to get involved with in the future?

Urban Forestry’s tree inventories and the neighborhood association Save Our Elms. Lou would like to contact landlords in Ladd’s Addition, an activity which has proved particularly challenging because many do not live in the neighborhood. It can be time consuming to successfully initiate contact with absentee owners.

Q: What are some favorite trees you discovered?

American elms, Kentucky coffeetrees and oaks.

Q: What were some of your favorite tree events?

Friends of Trees pruning workshops and Urban Forestry’s tree inventories.

Lou likes being outside far better than being inside and likes to focus on walking in safe, friendly areas that are set up with sidewalks. His favorite areas are closer to downtown Portland where street trees are concentrated.

Q: Is there anything you would like other volunteers to know?

How much fun it is to inventory trees! It’s especially fun to find tree species that aren’t so common and then figure out what they are.

Q: Is there any way you think Urban Forestry can improve the program?

It’s very good, as is. Volunteers get to do fun stuff because Urban Forestry staff have done the leg work to ensure things are well run.

Join the Portland Parks & Recreation Urban Forestry team!

Urban Forestry Staff

Permitting Office Assistant (Community Services Aide II)

$15/hour
Now - June 2015. 40 hours per week.

The CSA II will have significant administrative responsibilities including running reports, spreadsheet management, scheduling appointments, responding to phone calls, taking notes at meetings, sending weekly reports and preparing/editing documents.  Additionally, they will be largely involved in the creation of a tree inspector manual to include standard operating procedures and protocols.  The manual creation will include interviewing various City staff to understand Urban Forestry Tree Inspector processes and effectively conveying those processes in writing.  Position to include other tasks as assigned.

To apply: Send resume and cover letter to Casey Jogerst casey.jogerst@portlandoregon.gov. Position is open until filled.

Tree Care Workshop Instructor (job class: Community Service Aide II)
$15-$22/hour depending on experience
January – June. Part time and dependent upon scheduled volunteer events. Most events occur Saturdays and work from 7 am – 3 pm will be common.
The CS Aide II will help teach and lead volunteer work parties for community groups conducting street tree maintenance activities. This position requires a solid understanding of basic tree care and arboriculture principles, including how to properly plant and prune trees, as well as tree identification skills. The position will work directly with UF staff and AmeriCorps members to conduct stewardship events, including tree walks, tree planting, tree pruning, and other educational events. The ideal candidate has good public speaking skills, experience working with trees, understanding of Portland’s tree codes, and a passion for working with communities and volunteers. Organization skills, ability to work independently, and flexibility are also desired. Valid driver’s license with clean record required. Must be available for work on Saturdays when events are scheduled.
To apply: Send resume and cover letter to Angie DiSalvo angie.disalvo@portlandoregon.gov by December 15. For inquiries please email or call 503-823-4484.