The Morton Arboretum partners with tree champions locally and in China

A group of people dig a hole in the soil
The Arboretum’s staff trained residents as Community Tree Champions, ready to help plant and care for the trees.
December 2, 2016

Helping cities and suburbs plant and care for trees around the world, from the western suburbs to Shanghai, China, is a priority for The Morton Arboretum.

One recent example of hands-on urban forestry took place this fall in Willowbrook, where the Arboretum’s Community Trees Program worked with Downers Grove Township and the homeowners of the Timberlake Civic Association to replant trees in suburban parkways.

Downers Grove Township staff removed trees killed by the emerald ash borer and other causes.

The Arboretum’s staff trained residents as Community Tree Champions, ready to help plant and care for the trees. With the Arboretum’s advice, the association purchased a diverse range of trees.

Then, on an autumn weekend, came the tree planting. Staff from the Arboretum and the township, residents, and Openlands TreeKeepers volunteers—many trained at the Arboretum—worked together to plant and mulch 49 young trees over two days.

It was a strong debut for the Community Tree Champions program, a three-hour tree-care training course for residents. “We hope to duplicate it in other communities going forward,” she says.

A group of scientists and researchers gather for a photo in front of mountains in Shanghai

At the same time, a world away in China, several Arboretum researchers were participating in the Symposium on the Urban Street Tree at the Chenshan Botanical Garden in Shanghai. Officials in that rapidly growing city face many challenges as they plant and care for trees, from typhoon winds and rain to waterlogged soils to a street tree population that is 75 percent just one kind of tree—London planetree.

The Arboretum brought its expertise to help. Chinese tree-care professionals heard arboriculture researchers Gary Watson and Jake Miesbauer speak on proper planting techniques and pruning to maintain a strong structure. Bryant Scharenbroch, soil scientist and Center for Tree Science fellow, spoke on assessing and improving urban soils for trees. And Nicole Cavender, PhD, vice president of science and conservation, spoke on the benefits of trees to people in urban areas.

The symposium was “highly successful in stimulating interest,” according to Cavender, and is expected to help Shanghai officials develop a more formal urban forestry program as they continue to collaborate with the Arboretum.