Tag Archives: trees

A Spot in the Shade: Summer Shade Trees

Summer is just around the corner  in Westchester County!  The summer months can surely bring unbearable heat at times which cause so many to run to their air conditioned houses. Let’s look at a way to escape the summer heat while still enjoying some fresh air. We waited all winter to get outside so let’s not lock ourselves back up indoors! An obvious escape from the high sun is to find a shady spot. When thinking about your landscape design, it is a good idea to incorporate some Shade Trees. Typically these are deciduous trees that produce a thick leaf coverage in the warmer months of summer then shed their leaves upon the arrival of the cooler seasons.

Let’s take a look at some of the shade trees that can help to offer a “cool spot in the shade” and also improve the overall appearance of your landscape design. This is definitely something to think about as you are designing the layout on your property. Maybe some of these trees are already on your property and now you can see them in a new light!

Weeping Willow Tree
Besides their obvious charm and elegance, Weeping Willows also serve as a fortress from the blazing sun during the summer months!  The weeping willow is a medium to large-sized deciduous tree that has the potential to grow up to 60 feet tall. They tend to grow rapidly, but unfortunately have a short lifespan. The beautiful shoots are a yellowish-brown, with very small buds. The leaves are patterned and spirally arranged. They are light green, with finely serrate margins and long tips. A cool summer breeze tends to animate these gorgeous trees and they are a very sought after addition to any landscape design!

White Birch
The White Birch Tree, also known as the European birch, can grow up to be 30 to 60 feet tall and features “drooping” branches. These trees have smaller leaves that offer a nice diffused shade.  Birch trees in general are tolerant of most soil and climate conditions. They do, however, like moisture during the dryer summer months. Birch trees grow very fast, which is a plus if you are planning a new layout design while the peeling white bark can stand out in a landscape.

Silver Maple
The Silver Maple is the fastest growing of the Maple trees.  Its branches spread out, producing a gorgeous canopy in the hot summer months! They can grow in upwards to 80ft and have a “wingspan” of up to 40ft! It is a very adaptable tree but it does require the most sunlight out of all the maples. The leaves are simple and palmately veined with deep angular notches between the five lobes. These trees are often planted for ornamental purposes because of their rapid growth and ease of propagation and transplanting. They are highly tolerant of urban situations and are frequently planted next to streets.

So get out there and enjoy the beautiful weather that mother nature is serving up! Plan a picnic or grab your favorite book and find your spot in the shade under your shade tree of choice! Plus, by turning off the air conditioners we are saving money and energy which helps reduce your carbon footprint. Enjoy your summer!

American Chestnut Trees

American chestnut trees accounted for a large portion of forest specimens pre-1900’s.  Once a pathogen was introduced to American chestnut trees due to the importing of Japanese chestnut trees, American chestnut trees began to disappear.  Since the decline of these majestic beauties communities and scientists have teamed up to create organizations to preserve, protect and bring awareness to the amazing American chestnut trees!

Healthy American chestnuts in Lesesne State Park. (Credit Vicky Sawyer)

(Credit Vicky Sawyer)

The Tallest American Chestnut Tree in North America

The tallest American chestnut tree in North America is rooted in Maine and is 115 feet tall.  This amazing discovery prompted members of the American Chestnut Foundation to visit the tree and gather information.  Forest scientist Brian Roth estimated the American chestnut tree to be around a century old after examining the specimen.

Tallest American Chestnut Tree Susan Sharon MPBN

via Susan Sharon MPBN

Scientists have sampled DNA from this tall American chestnut tree to preserve in a living gene bank; information gathered will assist in research to restore the chestnut to its historic range.  Read more about the tallest American chestnut tree in North America via NPR here.

The American Chestnut Foundation

American Chestnut Foundation

Committed to the conservation, protection and expansion of America’s forests since 1990, The American Chestnut Foundation has planted more than 45 million trees!  The American Chestnut Foundation has also replanted forests destroyed by both human action and natural disasters.

 

All About Conifers

Conifers are a common plant which can be found across the globe.  Characterized by their unusual needle-like “leaves” and cones, conifers are easy to identify.  If you were to take a quick glance into a wooded area, you would most likely see various conifers, which have also survived the Jurassic period.

Leaf Structure

Conifer Leaf Shapes Westchester Tree Life

via ext.colostate.edu

Conifers can be identified by one of their three different leaf structures.  The Pinaceae family which includes pine, spruce and fir trees grow needle-like leaves, while conifers of the Cupressaceae family (such as junipers and arborvitaes) grow scale-like leaves.  Lastly the Taxaceae family has a flat, feather-like leaf structure.

Conifer Westchester Tree Life

via slideshare.net

A Conifer’s Cones

Conifer Cones Westchester Tree Life

via stillblog.net

The word “conifer” means cone bearing.  Within a conifer’s cones lies the secret for conifer reproduction.

Conifer Life Cycle Westchester Tree Life

via boundless.com

While other plants produce flowers, conifers produce cones.  A single conifer produces both the male and female cones necessary for reproduction.  Male cones produce pollen while female cones contain seeds necessary for reproduction hidden between the female cone’s scales.

Tree Care Westchester

A row of young conifers stand in front of a more mature conifer forest; via edbookphoto.photoshelter.com

 

 

 

The Benefits of Urban Parks

There have been some interesting studies in recent years regarding the benefits of time spent walking in nature, out among the greenery.  Taking a break during the day to go for a walk can improve your mood and increase your memory and attention, whether you choose to walk down a few city blocks or stroll through a wooded area.  However, research has shown that people who enjoy their walk in a green space experience a significantly greater improvement than those who take their walks among buildings and traffic.

Benefits of Urban ParksSpending time in nature improves memory, attention, and mood across all ages.  The benefits to children with attention disorders and adults suffering depression seem to be the most dramatic.  Why is a walk in a park more beneficial than a walk down a city street?  Scientists believe it’s due to the overstimulation a city street causes.  In this environment, your mind is constantly busy, navigating around other pedestrians and avoiding traffic.  A walk in the woods, on the other hand, gives your mind a break.  You can simply walk and use a more relaxed form of attention that allows the brain to refresh itself.

Benefits of Urban Parks 2The sad truth is, many people don’t have access to a green space where their brains can rest and recharge.  Making sure people of all ages and abilities can get to a park or other green space should be a priority when planning our cities and determining where to place parks.  More green spaces will improve the lives of everyone from, from business men and women on their lunch breaks to preschoolers taking a recess.

Benefits of Urban Parks 3If you’re interested in getting involved in your town or city’s park system, contact your Parks and Recreation department or ask the nearest Land Trust organization how you can support their efforts.  You can also research non-profits in your area that work to add greenery and access to parks to the community.

You can read more about the benefits of urban parks here.

American Yellowwood Tree

The American Yellowwood Tree (Cladrastis kentuckea) is a very pretty tree that’s rather uncommon in the Northeast.  Although the Yellowwood is hardy to Zone 4, it is more likely found from the Southeast with a range that extends as far west as Oklahoma and south to Alabama.

American Yellowwood Tree

American Yellowwood Tree

This uncommon tree get its name from the yellow color of its heartwood.  The bark of the Yellowwood tree is an attractive, smooth light grey.  Early in summer, the tree produces fragrant, white, pea-like flowers.  This tree also produces  fruit in the form of pods, each containing a few seeds.  The foliage ranges from bright green in summer to a show mix of yellow, orange, and gold in the fall.  The Yellowwood is a medium sized tree, growing to 33 to 49 feet tall.

Yellowwood Summer Foliage

Yellowwood Summer Foliage

Yellowwood Flowers

Yellowwood Flowers

Yellowwood Tree Fall Foliage

Yellowwood Tree Fall Foliage

When adding a Yellowwood tree to your yard, choose a spot in full sun with well drained soil.  This tree needs to be pruned every summer, so keep that chore in mind when deciding if this species is good for your yard.  You may need to protect the tree from sun scald and wind during the harsh winter months.

Another positive aspect of the Yellowwood tree is its health.  This particular tree is free from major diseases and pests.  If you are looking for a beautiful ornamental tree that will thrive in a suburban, or even urban, environment, the American Yellowwood Tree might be right for you!

Yellowwood Tree in Bloom

Yellowwood Tree in Bloom

The Amelanchier Tree

The Amelanchier tree has many names:  the Serviceberry, Sarvisberry, Sarvis, Shadbush, Shadwood, Wild Pear, Juneberry, Saskatoon, Sugarplum, Wild-Plum and Chuckley Pear.  The Amelanchier has an interesting backstory to follow many of its nicknames.

Amelanchier Residential Westchester Tree Life

The Amelanchier tree is a short tree or large shrub ideal for adding beauty to your landscape.

This tree of many names was often used as an indication to mark the time of year when shad fish came to spawn, thus the nicknames Shadblow or Shadbush.

Amelanchier Tree Westchester Tree Life

Westchester Tree Life Amelanchier

Early colonists referred to the Amelanchier as the Serviceberry.  The colonists referenced the blooming of the Amelanchier as a sign that the ground had thawed enough to bury the dead, after a long winter.  The name Serviceberry was a term derived from funeral service.

Amelanchier canadensis Westchester Tree Life

Amelanchier candensis

The Amelanchier is also called the Juneberry for it’s bountiful boughs of berries produced in June, which attract  birds.

Serviceberry Westchester Tree Life

A tree that features something beautiful each season, the Amelanchier tree’s bright green leaves turn a bright orange and deep red during Autumn.

Amelanchier Westchester Tree Life

The Amelanchier’s leaves are bright during fall.

Once the tree has shed its leaves for winter, its silvery bark resonates during winter snow.  This small tree, or large bush is a great addition to your landscape as a tell-tale sign that spring has sprung.

 

Why Do Leaves Change Color?

Autumn is a bright and beautiful season full of vibrant foliage, but why do leaves change color?  To understand this process, we have to explain the process of photosynthesis.

Why Are Leaves Green?

Westchester Tree Life NY

Image Courtesy of Homegiudes SFGate

Plants absorb sunlight which transforms the water and carbon dioxide they have absorbed into oxygen and glucose.  Glucose is a kind of sugar which plants use as energy; glucose is a fundamental building block in the life of a healthy plant.

Photosynthesis is the process by which plants transform water and carbon dioxide into oxygen and glucose.  Chlorophyll  is a chemical plants have which assist  in the process  of photosynthesis.  Chlorophyll is what gives leaves their green color.

When Leaves Change Color . . .

Fall Leaves Westchester Tree Life NY

Once summer shifts into fall, and the days become shorter, there is less sunlight and water for the plants to absorb, therefore the plants must rest and live off of nutrients they have stored for winter.

As the bright green color fades from the leaves, we are able to see different colors which have been present in the plant all along.  The absence of chlorophyll makes it possible for us to see the underlying colors, from shades of red to plum.

Bright, Beautiful Autumn Leaves

National Geographic Leaf Westchester Tree Life New York

Photo Courtesy of National Geographic

Some trees, such as Maple trees, keep glucose trapped within the leaf structure long after the photosynthesis process has come to a halt. A combination of cool fall temperatures and sunlight sparks a chemical reaction which transitions these leaves from green to a vibrant red.

Now that you know why leaves change color, enjoy a lovely walk through our beautiful New England foliage!