Minneapolis 2040: Tree Edition

Screenshot from a classic 2002 Minneapolis Park Board film.

Minneapolis residents may be wondering who is digging holes in their neighborhoods and dropping little trees in them. It’s the Forestry Division of the Minneapolis Park Board.

Trees are great for the environment. They’re good for public health. They can calm car traffic. Maybe they reduce crime? They definitely make streets vastly more pleasant places to live and spend time.

They say the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. So I like to think of this as Minneapolis 2040: Tree Edition. Little trees need help becoming the big trees people will rely on in 20 years. Water is maybe the most important thing we can do for them:

Trees younger than five years old need one inch of rainfall each week to stay healthy. If there is not enough rain you should water your trees. Slowly pour at least four five-gallon buckets of water over the tree roots, or put a hose under the tree and let it run gently for one hour.

You can find and adopt a newly planted tree in the boulevard near your home using this interactive map — you can even give your tree a human name.

Green icons are trees that have been adopted already.

Below is a comically ancient video the the Forestry Division of the Park Board actually delivers to your home in DVD format, if you happen to get a tree planted in the boulevard near your home (the boulevard is the patch of grass between the sidewalk and the street). This video touts the ability of trees to raise property values and obscure unsightly buildings. You should watch at least the first 30 seconds.

As with other kinds of neighborhood amenities, this Baltimore study found there is a “significantly lower proportion of tree cover on public right-of-way in neighborhoods containing a higher proportion of African-Americans, low-income residents, and renters.” If a lack of trees is a problem in your neighborhood, you can help fix it by requesting some trees. You might even consider organizing a tree canvassing crew to make detailed notes of where trees are needed in your area.

You can request a free boulevard tree from the Forestry Division by calling 612-313-7710 or emailing forestry@minneapolisparks.org. If you’re unsure how much space is enough for a tree, the Park Board’s website says new trees need at least 25 feet of separation from nearby trees. You don’t have to be the owner or resident of a property to request a planting on the boulevard adjacent to that property. The deadline to request spring plantings is November 1.

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6 Responses to Minneapolis 2040: Tree Edition

  1. Daniel Hartig
    kingledion May 21, 2018 at 8:49 pm #

    What kinds of trees are they planting? I’m a tree nerd, I want to know.

    All the ash in the Twin Cities have to come down sooner or later, with the Emerald Borer coming through.

    Are they emphasizing fast growing trees (you could plant aspen and have them over 30′ in less than a decade), or long lived (oak, basswood, and maple)?

    • Mike hess May 21, 2018 at 11:34 pm #

      You get a choice from about a dozen or so – I went with a catalpa – it just arrived tonight. Fortunately they are embracing the diversity in tree species strategy.

    • Lindsey Wallace
      Lindsey Wallace May 23, 2018 at 9:35 am #

      MPRB has been planting a variety of trees, aiming for variety on each block. My block has a number of disease resistant Elms. Apparently they can grow up to 3 feet per year. I’m impressed by how much bigger they seem this year than when they were planted last summer.

    • Adam May 23, 2018 at 1:07 pm #

      I got a Japanese Tree Lilac due to low power lines on my boulevard strip. They are being used quite extensively now wherever height is an issue. I’ve seen a lot of Ginkos and Maples planted in my neighborhood as well.

    • J B May 25, 2018 at 11:33 am #

      In St. Paul I was recently given the options of: autumn gold ginkgo, Princeton Sentry ginkgo, Sentry American linden, swamp white oak, hackberry, Kentucky coffeetree (espresso or stately manor), northern catalpa, new horizon elm or accolade elm. They specifically said no maples, in order to increase tree diversity on our street (mostly maples before). I chose hackberry, but was also considering catalpa and swamp white oak.

  2. Jay Adams May 22, 2018 at 2:39 pm #

    The Forestry Department plants street trees, but the Minneapolis Park Board is on a similar mission. I’ve seen all the species below in street plantings (except Sweetgum and the China native, “Hardy Rubber Tree”). Here’s part of an email they recently sent me.

    The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) has been expanding the range of public tree species in the city for the past half-century. But before a species is widely introduced, it undergoes an experimental trial as part of MPRB’s ongoing collaboration with the University of Minnesota’s (U of M) Department of Forest Resources.

    The partners coordinate trial plantings, sharing information on species that are growing in U of M research environments as well as “in the field”: that is, along streets and on parkland in Minneapolis. Thanks to U of M research, MPRB has been able to plant hundreds of disease-resistant cultivars of elm trees and an array of other options, as it works to develop a diverse, healthy and resilient urban forest.

    What makes a top tree?
    Beauty alone won’t cut it. Trees at the top of MPRB’s planting list must also stand up to a host of challenges, including:

    -Restricted growing space due to buildings, utility lines, curbs, sidewalks
    -Drought
    -Salt from road maintenance
    -Compacted soil
    -Air pollution
    -High winds
    -Damage from vehicles, lawn maintenance, snow removal

    The species below have proven their mettle and make up more than half of the 8,000 trees that are getting planted this spring.

    River Birch
    Long a mainstay of floodplains along the Mississippi River, this species has become common throughout southern Minnesota. It is noted for its striking curled bark, tolerance for compacted soils and resistance to a pest that attacks many other birch species.

    Buckeye – various cultivars
    This tree provides dense shade and spectacular fall color; the autumn splendor’ cultivar, among those being planted by MPRB, was developed at the U of M. It has an unusual palmately compound leaf structure (five leaves radiate from a single stem) and yellow spring flowers that are currently in bloom .

    Kentucky Coffeetree
    As its name indicates, this tree grows in the upper South of the U.S. but has also long been a part of the Minnesota River prairie. The female trees of this notably tough species are distinguished by seed pods that persist through winter – but only seedless cultivars will be planted along Minneapolis streets.

    Oak – various cultivars
    This mighty and long-lived species was the focal point of the once-common oak savannas that spread across the Midwest. Today it’s also esteemed for the benefits it provides as a habitat for an amazing array of insects and wildlife.
    They named Quercus robur (English Oak), but probably meant one of Minnesota’s five or so native species.

    Serviceberry
    A tried-and-true Minnesota favorite, this is among the smaller species MPRB is planting. It boasts white springtime flowers (in bloom right now), dark blue summer berries prized by birds and humans alike, and gorgeous red autumn leaves.

    Catalpa
    Common throughout the Midwest, the catalpa readily adapts to adverse growing conditions. Its glossy, heart-shaped leaves provide maximum shade, and large clusters of fragrant white flowers in mid-June are an ornamental bonus.

    London Plane (relative of American Sycamore)
    First noted in their eponymous city in the mid-1600s, the plane tree is remarkably long-lived, thriving amid pollution and enduring drought. Those qualities, plus its dense shade, beautiful mottled bark and impressive size, have made it a popular urban tree around the world.

    Gingko Biloba
    MPRB is planting fruit-free gingko cultivars, to the relief of anyone who’s smelled its fruit ripening in the fall. The gingko is famed as a living fossil, meaning it has existed virtually unchanged for hundreds of millions of years – or ever since dinosaurs may have been munching on that odiferous fruit.

    2018 trial plantings
    MPRB is also testing several species that are more common to warmer climates, but gaining ground farther north, thanks to innovations and newer cultivars: the hardy rubber tree, whose thick leaves resemble those of the elm; the bald cypress, a swamp native developing a new reputation as a tough and adaptable street tree; and the American sweetgum, another southern species once used for soaps, adhesives and pharmaceuticals.

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