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A Legacy of the Urban Forest

September 26, 2018

So what makes a great “tree-mendous” story? Maybe the tale about that “pet” squirrel you’ve hand feed nuts in your lap, who you once saw run off with an acorn, carve out a shallow hole planting the seed that turned into a now thriving oak. Or that favorite tree, like Jenny and Forest would hang on as children.

This story perhaps builds less Hollywood drama or squirrely behavior, yet is a tremendous example of the simple efforts which enrich the urban forest. The account begins with a young couple relocating from Munster Indiana to Batavia Illinois in the 1970’s. The migration of Robert and Patricia, with their three children, was just the start of the transformation of a newly developed suburban lot in Batavia, just west of Fermi Lab. Their planting efforts transformed a treeless, turfed double lot, into a tree-saturated parcel rich with diverse tree species and native understory. In no time grass cutting turned to pruning and yup, raking.

Immediately upon settlement, the folks began planting trees.  The palette of trees included Oaks, Hickories, Maples, Pines and Firs. As the kids grew, so did the tree. The richness of the urban landscape transformation imprinted an appreciation of arboriculture for the kids and neighbors.

One of the folk’s offspring, Scott, settled in Carol Stream with his spouse Trish. Following the Batavia experience, the couple transformed their suburban lot to a tree rich parcel. The before and now photos barely illustrate the improvement planting trees made to the neighborhood. Scott and Trish planted an array of trees: front parkway - Red Sunset Maple; front yard - Little Leaf Linden, Sugar Maple, Norway Maple, Lilac Tree; front side yard- Red Oak; back yard- Service Berry, 3 Redbuds, 17 Arborvitae, and a White Pine. 

Scott’s sisters followed suit in Glen Ellyn. Both however moved into properties already rich with mature trees. Sister Sandy settled in Glen Ellyn Woods, and the name implies rich with mature hardwood oaks.  Sandy has several examples of how trees and time make a quick urban forest. Even in a wooded area she planted trees in the footsteps of Robert and Patricia. A mix of hemlock, white pine, tulip and sweet gum now share the landscape. Surprises included a fringe tree rescued from a nursery clearance pile to a now mature pin oak acquired a bare rooted six-inch long whip delivered in an envelope for a ten trees for ten bucks plant-a-tree deal. Finally, a beautiful Burr Oak, yes, planted by a squirrel and surviving attempts to weed it out of a ground cover bed: now towers over the home - keeping the wood in “The Woods”.

Tremendous tree stories all begin with the profound and simple act of simply planting a tree. Everyone who has ever planted a tree likely has a great story. The planting effort, however it occurs builds a legacy of the urban forest. So plant a tree or two a year every year, either on your own or by aiding others. You’ll grow to love it! The results are tremendous! 

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