Almost everyone in the green industry has created their own short list of favorite shade and ornamental trees. The criteria used to formulate those opinions vary. A grower’s or nursery professional’s opinion may not always concur with a landscaper’s or arborist’s advice. A grower may chose a species based on its popularity in the retail marketplace and the ease in which it can be propagated. A nursery often carries a tree species because of its popularity but also their experience with its overall performance in an area.
A landscape architect’s or designer’s primary focus may be based on the short and long-term aesthetics of a tree as well as the landscape’s overall design. Arborists and landscape contractors are directly involved in the long-term maintenance of the trees and plants, which offers yet another perspective on each tree species. Working to keep plants and trees healthy, these professionals see firsthand what works and what doesn’t in the long-term sense. The green industry in Texas differs slightly from other states in that professing the virtues of your favorite tree species can often progress to “them’s fighting words”.
Arborists deal with any and everything even remotely associated with the health and structural integrity of individual trees over an extended period of time. Tree climbers have an intimate knowledge about the strength of the wood for any given species as well as stronger/weaker branching habits. Climbers must install a rope around a limb to support their weight in a climbing saddle as they move throughout a tree. To a climber, knowing the strength of the wood or the limb structures for each species is critical to returning home in one piece at the end of the day. There are old tree climbers and bold tree climbers–but there are no old and bold tree climbers.
There are other opinions regarding tree species that can place them on a top rated list. A naturalist may see the many benefits of a species based on its valuable contributions to our environment (air, water, soil, wildlife and much more). A hunter or fisherman may see the many benefits a tree provides for their favorite wildlife. A gardener may see the great bounty a species produces, whereas a crop farmer may curse the exact same species.
So what is the top rated shade tree? The answer depends on many factors, but providing information on each commonly top rated tree species from many of these perspectives is a good start. From time to time, future articles will include tree species profiles intermixed with other “tree tips”. With a broad based perspective of tree species information, each person can construct their own top rated shade tree list—and let the fightin’ words begin.
To fire the first volley, next month’s article will profile our native Post Oak, Quercus stellata. Admittedly, it may not be available for purchase and others will say it is a very “sensitive” species to work with. However, I find they do quite well if the human species leaves them alone.
By: Steve Houser