Winter’s Icy Arrival Devastates Tree Canopy

With the first series of ice storms pounding parts of Texas and Oklahoma, saying that winter is here would be an understatement. It’s mindboggling to think a few short weeks ago the South was experiencing the peak of its fall foliage. As disheartening as it is, those same trees that shared their vibrant fall colors are the ones most susceptible to the after effects of the ice storm.

Ice Friday morning in Hugo, OK

Steve Houser, president of Dallas tree care company Arborilogical Services, explains, “With the warm weather, some trees were holding their leaves longer, and that made them more vulnerable to ice.”

You see, more leaves means more surface area for ice, which means more weight on branches, causing them to break.  Fallen branches, or whole trees for that matter, pose as a threat to public safety. Fallen trees can block roadways, tear down power lines, and cause other serious damage. The combination of strong winds and freezing rain serves as winter’s favorite recipe for disaster. However, winter’s assault won’t go without some resistance. To restore the loss of trees and help communities replant after natural disasters, check out our Community Tree Recovery program.

The effect of ice on trees is brutal. In fact, ice can increase the weight of branches by 30 times (Dolce, 2013). The snow storm is plowing its way east and icing over every surface along the way. Unfortunately for us, December and January are the most common times of year for ice storms to visit, which means the worst may still come.

Tree damage from an ice storm in Flat Rock, NC

Although we have no control over aggressive weather conditions, there are a few steps you can follow to ensure that your yard trees survive this winter. Read Brianne’s  Your questions about fall planting: answered! to see what you can do for winter tree survival. If this post didn’t reach you in time to prepare for the ice storms spreading across the country, think about donating to our Community Tree Recovery program to help plant trees and restore hope in areas affected by natural disasters.

Interested in learning how trees make it through the winter? Read Michael Snyder’s How do Trees Survive Winter Cold?




The importance of trees to disaster-stricken communities

700_wgiz8u07llhuw3fdmsurbtnjojmecbeb[1]The tornado outbreak that ripped across the Midwest last weekend left thousands of residents with nothing more than shattered homes, trees, rubble — the only souvenir left by the disaster covers the grounds where towns once stood— and, most importantly, hope.

The most recent storm is a reminder that natural disasters will strike anywhere, without an invitation. As a result, it’s vital we’re prepared to protect the areas affected most. The Arbor Day Foundation’s Community Tree Recovery was created out of the great need for trees in the wake of natural disasters, and began by providing tree relief to the Gulf Coast following Hurricane Katrina. Replanting trees after a tragedy helps survivors to look to the future; a reminder to be hopeful. Trees bring beauty, healing, and hope to areas in most need.

tree_tagcloud_1[1]Trees don’t only serve as means of beautification; they play an essential role in environmental sustainability. They help fight climate change by absorbing carbon dioxide and other pollutants from the air. They lower energy costs by providing shade around your home. When planted along streams and wetlands they prevent erosion and clean the water. Trees provide home to surrounding habitat, not to mention the nutritional value their fruits have to offer.  Unfortunately, in the rouse of natural disaster, trees are also the most common casualty. By replanting trees after a tragedy we help to restore a sense of hope to the community and its members.

After the severe tornado damage caused in Joplin, Missouri in the spring of 2011, the Arbor Day Foundation joined forces with the Wildcat Glades Conservation and Audubon Center to distribute 12,000 trees to residents in four Joplin-area locations.

“Trees are part of the long and important history of the people and the land of their state,” said Dan Lambe, Arbor Day Foundation vice president of programs.

As noted earlier, the 2005 Hurricane Katrina disaster is what lead the Arbor Day Foundation to team up with the National Audubon Society and launch the Community Tree Recovery campaign. The campaign has since planted more than 120,000 new trees to residents impacted by the storm.Tree Campus USA

You can help rebuild communities struck by natural disasters by donating to the Community Tree Recovery campaign. This fund allows us to be prepared to provide trees for distribution in communities like Joplin and New Orleans. Remember, trees bring beauty, healing, and hope to areas in most need.

Urban Forestry Plan is Key to Weathering the Storm

Let’s face it: no one likes to think about natural disasters, with their potential for devastation of our homes, neighborhoods, communities, and livelihoods. We’ve shared on this blog before about some of the communities hit hardest in recent years by natural disasters, and told the inspiring stories of citizens returning hope and healing to the places they call home.

Even still, there’s simply no way around it. Natural disasters are a fact of life.

When a natural disaster strikes a community, trees are invariably involved and many

Photo credit: Urban Forest Strike Team.

Photo credit: Urban Forest Strike Team.

times on the losing end of the event. Using the framework of the Arbor Day Foundation’s Tree City USA program, sound urban forestry management has proven essential to loss prevention and recovery of our treasured trees.

The scientific consensus is that climate change is occurring and that, in many cases, it is making natural disasters worse. Any planning to mitigate disasters should also include planning to reduce human-caused acceleration or magnification of climate change.

According to a survey by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, nearly three-quarters of U.S. cities are now seeing environmental shifts that can be linked to climate change. More than 1,000 city leaders have signed the U.S. Conference of Mayors Climate Protection Agreement to strive to meet or exceed Kyoto Protocol targets in their communities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

A healthy canopy of trees plays an important role in this effort. Trees need to be considered a vital part of every city’s infrastructure – right alongside the bridges, roads, sewers, electrical, and telecommunication grids – and appreciated for the natural workhorses that they are. For proof, one need not look further than the great role trees play in taming stormwater runoff during and immediately following natural disasters.

Sound urban forestry management through the framework of the Tree City USA program has been proven to be essential time and again. In fact, green infrastructure is the only part of a city’s infrastructure that actually increases in value and service over time.

Whether for preventative measures or recovery efforts, here are four key ideas your community needs for the best possible outcomes:

  • Communities with an established budget for tree care are in a better position than those that must compete for grants or appropriations. If your community is a recognized TreeCity USA, your community allocates the standard minimum of $2 per capita in a community forestry program.
  • Be prepared with an emergency management plan – and even better if it specifically includes a storm contingency plan. Unfortunately, it’s likely not a matter of IF you’ll need it, but rather WHEN you will.
  • Take time to “get it right” after a disaster. As in most things, it’s far better to move slowly with deliberate, well thought-out decisions and wise judgment than to rush into hasty action. This is particularly important when considering where reconstruction efforts will take place across a community and where trees should be replaced.
  • Lean on the expertise of your local tree board and their extensive list of contacts. These people will be an invaluable resource when it comes time to actually do the work of replanting trees.

For more information on best practices and ways your community can recover from natural disasters, see Tree City USA Bulletin #68.

Donate Now: Plant trees where they’re needed most.


Volunteers and local workers make a difference as drought threatens Joplin’s newly planted trees

Every year, natural disasters strike communities often resulting in a dramatic loss of trees that subsequently weakens the community’s environmental sustainability, economy, and sense of place.

Photo Credit:

The Arbor Day Foundation’s Disaster Recovery Campaign is a structured response to the destruction caused by disasters in communities across the nation.   By collaborating and organizing with key state and local partners, the Arbor Day Foundation “facilitates the distribution of trees to citizens in communities in need.”

After the severe damage caused by the EF5 tornado that tore through Joplin in May 2011, a variety of organizations banded together to plant nearly 7,000 new trees in the devastated city.

Through a joint initiative with the Wildcat Glades Conservation & Audubon Center, the Arbor Day Foundation developed the Joplin Tree Recovery Campaign.  This campaign distributed 12,000 trees to residents in four Joplin-area locations.

Foundation officials have described the Joplin Tree Recovery Campaign as an effort to restore Joplin’s precious and beautiful tree canopy to what it was before the May tornado.

An NPR news article details that, “sturdy varieties such as oak, sycamore and redbud — trees that can withstand strong winds when they’re taller” have been planted throughout Joplin.

In spite of all the progress made through the combined efforts of local and national supporters, Joplin’s young, newly planted trees are now struggling to survive a different environmental threat: drought.

Tom Meyer, manager of Carson Nurseries in Springfield, explains that young “trees are especially vulnerable to the drought.”

According to Meyer:

Freshly planted trees are real reliant on human beings taking care of them.  They need to water right at the root base, and there’s very little root structure beyond what was just planted. They can’t bring in residual water from farther out.

Fortunately, students on mission trips, volunteers and other workers from around the Joplin area have formed “bucket brigades,” toting heavy, five gallon buckets of water in the searing heat to around 562 young trees planted in Joplin parks.

Photo Credit: Joplin Globe

Thanks to these efforts and the perseverance and dedication to the restoration of Joplin, Ric Mayer, Joplin’s tree coordinator, estimates that presently, less than three percent of the newly planted trees will not survive.

The battle for the trees’ survival is not yet over.  Mayer believes that if the volunteers keep at it, there is hope for saving most of the trees in Joplin parks, but volunteers tend to be in short supply through August and September.

Any volunteers who want to water the trees in Joplin’s parks are welcome.  Homeowners are advised to not neglect their newly planted trees as well.

If you would like to donate to the Arbor Day Foundation’s Joplin Tree Recovery Campaign and help Joplin in its efforts to restore and maintain its tree canopy, please click here.

The following “before and after” photos portray the destruction caused by the May 2011 EF5 tornado that went through Joplin.

Photo Credit: Daily Mail

Alabama Tree Recovery Campaign kicks off tree distribution in 16 tornado-damaged communities

Last Monday, the Alabama Tree Recovery Campaign kicked-off the distribution of thousands of trees for people impacted by the April 27 tornado that swept North Alabama.

The Campaign launch was held at the former location of Mike and Ed’s Barbecue in downtown Tuscaloosa, a site plainly and visibly damaged to this day.

Alabama First Lady Dianne Bentley and Mayor Walter Maddox headlined the event and were joined by Alabama Assistant State Forester Patrick Glass and the Arbor Day Foundation’s Dan Lambe. The Campaign was launched in June by the Arbor Day Foundation the Alabama Forestry Commission as a multi-year, large-scale initiative to restore North Alabama’s community trees to their pre-tornado strength.

Several local mayors and state legislators also showed up at the event to lend their support.

In all, 16 communities will receive 30,000 trees this month in the first phase of this campaign, and the distribution is already underway.

This past weekend, the Birmingham News reported that the Pleasant Grove Boy Scout troop is giving back to its community by helping to hand out 3,000 seedlings. And, the local newspaper in Cullman, Alabama, whose downtown absorbed enormous damage, published a moving editorial about the importance of restoring community forests.

“Throughout Cullman, residents have long been proud of the old trees that shaded yards and portions of the commercial district, which added to the beauty of the area,” the Cullman Times editorialized, adding:

Trees are one of the notable defining features in many communities. The presence of this natural beauty enhances neighborhoods, business areas and the general livability of the community. Bringing the pleasant beauty of trees back to the storm-ravaged areas will go a long way toward rebuilding the beauty and spirit of the community.

The editorial dovetails nicely with this CBS 42 report on how the new trees are making a real difference for Cullman families who are faced with a barren landscape and are looking forward to replacing what they have lost.

The Alabama Tree Recovery Campaign is just getting started, and we’ll keep coming back to distribute trees until North Alabama’s canopy is fully restored.

Help us out if you can by making a donation at

Photo courtesy of the Alabama Forestry Commission.