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Give trees a chance

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Thursday, Sep. 26, 2013, at 3:36 p.m.
  • Updated Saturday, Sep. 28, 2013, at 9:22 a.m.

It’s been a tough few years for Wichita’s trees (what’s new?). First they were dying of thirst; then they were drowning. Drought and flood both damage tree roots, and open the way for diseases and insects to invade. The city of Wichita removed 6,000 dead trees last year, and is on a pace to meet or exceed that number this year.

But in this first week of fall, when the lushness of summer foliage is still upon us, tree experts are noticing something else.

“The resilience of the trees – it’s something that’s surprised me,” city arborist Gary Farris said. Even as Farris is depressed at the steady loss of trees – the city had removed 4,000 dead, dying or hazardous ones from public property by the end of August this year – he can’t help being in awe of all those trees that are hanging in there, and even looking beautiful.

“They've had it rough and they continue to grow. They continue to leaf out, they continue to grow in really, really harsh conditions. I’m impressed by it.”

But we can’t rest on any laurels that are out there, community forester Tim McDonnell said. There’s been too much age and too much weather damage to our trees to let the situation stand.

“For the next five years we’re going to see trees decline,” from insects including cankers and borers, to lack of water during the drought, to diseases, McDonnell said.

“Communities are dealing with an overmature canopy” where the trees are starting to go into decline, McDonnell said. “We need to get them replanted. We’re going to see some tree losses we haven’t seen in years. We’re losing the canopy. … We’re lacking the young trees.”

Fall is the best time to plant trees. Not only do tree roots get a head start on spring growth when planted in the fall, the additions give us something new to look at in the winter.

Given basic care, trees offer more than beauty – they offer shade, carbon-dioxide absorption, oxygen output, utility savings, increased property values – even stress relief.

Not caring for the trees we have can result in unsafe conditions and tree removal that can cost more than $1,000.

Read on to find out about tree care, planting, pruning, problems and selection.

Reach Annie Calovich at 316-268-6596 or acalovich@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @anniecalovich.

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