In last week’s live local column, I discussed foraging (looking or searching for food or provisions), specifically on fruit and nut trees. I decided to follow up with a look at some of the arbor-culture goings-on in our area, because, face it, growing it (food, plants, shrubs) means adding to our community’s green footprint—something I find of great local importance.
The most useful news this week comes with the annual Tree Fest, held at Independence Mall on Friday and Saturday, the 20th and 21st. According to Brion Capo, Wilmington’s “Urban Arborist,” “The collective of unofficially associated Tree Fest volunteers will give out [nearly] 10,000 trees.” In years past, I received the persimmon tree that my dogs ate (featured in last week’s column), a crab apple and black walnut tree. The Tree Fest offers a great opportunity to learn about food-producing trees, which flourish in our area. Plus, it allows customers to come home with one that will work for their yards. (Though, the event is free, a $3 donation is appreciated.) The trees are very young—bare-root seedlings from the NC Forest Service Nursery near Goldsboro—and will need to go in the ground quickly after purchase.
Historically, our community has taken trees very seriously. The tree canopy lining Market Street was added to the list of threatened historic places in 2011. Two of our neighborhood associations have really led the charge on re-foresting our city. The Residents of Old Wilmington (ROW) and Carolina Place-Ardmore Neighborhood Association (CPANA) have both been active with tree-planting initiatives.
Most recently, CPAHA completed a tree-planting project which includes trees on both public and private land. According to Greg Wessel, chair of the tree-planting committee, the idea “really ‘took root’ with [his] neighborhood [after they began] talking about doing neighborhood works projects.” Crepe myrtles and dogwoods aligned their streets, but they also selected live oaks over laurel oaks along city streets because of their hardiness and beauty.
“The laurel oaks were planted about 100 years ago and are at the end of their life spans,” Wessel says. “It is important to us to maintain the city streets with majestic trees. Cypress trees were selected because they are actually very good street trees, [and they] help tie in the neighborhood to the Wallace Park landscape.”
As an aside, he mentioned the now extinct Carolina Parakeet important in the seed dispersal of the cypress tree, which is one of the reasons why we see the tree in wet areas; the seed soaks in the water. For the tree planting, two of the residents, Tom and Jane Ellsworth, both longtime Full Belly Project volunteers, brought out Jock’s latest water pump to irrigate the trees. [Ed. note: Jock Brandis is the founder of local nonprofit Full Belly Project.] A nice little full-circle touch for community development.
According to the National Arbor Day Foundation, trees around a home can increase its value by up to 15 percent. Aside form the real-estate value of trees, the USDA estimates the “net cooling effect of a young, healthy tree equivalent to 10 room-size air conditioners operating 20 hours a day.”
The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) states there are 60 to 200 million places where trees can be planted along city streets. Essentially, they can absorb 33 million more tons of CO2 annually—“saving $4 billion in energy costs,” according to NWF.
Which leads us to the 5th Avenue Tree Planting Plan approved by our own city council last August. Through the plan, the entire stretch of 5th Avenue from Greenfield Park to Taylor Homes will have live oaks planted on the right-of-way, between the sidewalks and the street. No trees will be planted on the medians where power lines are, and the plan is entirely funded by private donations. Capo notes, “Eventually, 5th Avenue will be a beautiful tree-lined avenue with over-arching live oak trees extending its entire 2.4 mile length.”
Due to a gift from ROW, the first 50 trees will be planted as part of the 50th anniversary of the Historic Preservation Commission celebration. “We are planning a day of celebration and commemoration on January 26th when the final 10 trees (out of the original 50) will be planted,” Capo confirms. The festivities will begin at 2 p.m. at St. Stephen’s AME Church and conclude with a reception by the Historic Preservation Commission at the Bellamy Mansion. Capo cites this event as a great example of the benefits of a true public-private partnership for the City of Wilmington.
So, we should think property value enhancement, absorption of CO2 and, more so, endless possibilities of planting a fruit-bearing urban forest! How exciting it is to imagine canning our own jellies and preserves—right from our own backyards!
For help and a free tree, visit Tree Fest. January is a great time to plant trees to commemorate a new year and make a long-term investment in our community.