Save the trees: Assessment details biggest issues, ways to keep canopy healthy

How are your trees?

I know there’s a lot going on, and I’m guessing tree health might be low on your list of concerns. But we also know that trees are critical parts of our urban landscape – they give us shade, habitat, and beauty, among other things.

The Greenification committee learned a lot this spring from Heartwood Tree Service, which completed a tree canopy assessment for NoDa through a tree care grant from the city of Charlotte. We asked Heartwood to look at our street-adjacent trees along 36th and North Davidson streets (see map). The company noted some interesting details, and also some areas you might want to address to keep your trees and our shared canopy healthy.

Overall, Heartwood found that 31.6% of assessed trees were in poor condition and 63.7% were in fair condition, with very few trees in good condition. The biggest issues were nutrient deficiency, pests, and pruning.

  • Nutrient deficiency: Heartwood noted that most trees in NoDa could benefit from a fertilization program with a low-nitrogen fertilizer applied in spring and fall, and said trees with limited root zones and trees showing chlorotic foliage should be prioritized. The company recommended soil sampling for problem areas.
  • Pests: Pests and disease included armored scale insects in red maples, whiteflies in privet, and the hackberry wooly aphid.
  • Pruning: The company recommended we try to maintain a three- to five-year pruning schedule for reductions, thinning, and deadwood removal, especially near buildings and power lines, and in parking lots and other high traffic areas. Of the trees inventoried, 35% need one or more of the pruning recommendations. The three most common species (willow oak, crepe myrtle, and red maple) comprise 63% of the pruning recommendations.

Planting fewer Rosaceae family trees (like cherry, Bradford pear, apricot, and photinia), more evergreens, and more large-form trees will lead to a more resilient and healthier canopy over time in this area of NoDa. Of the trees assessed, 15.4% were crepe myrtles and 13.7% were willow oaks. A greater diversity of trees will prevent loss from pests and disease. It’s good to have a balance due to the stresses of the urban area.

The report also noted that roots have bumped up against concrete sidewalks and parking lots. Construction practices can help prevent damage and loss from this.

Overall, it seems we have some ways to help keep our NoDa trees healthy, so we can continue to enjoy all they provide: nice shady spots in our community, cleaner air, homes for many animals, and many more great services.

The full report, including more maps about specific trees, is online here (Note: the assessment was in late January, so some trees might be out of date. It was a busy spring, so getting to this took some time!).