Trees are suffering. First, there are the pests; among the most current are the emerald ash borer, the mountain pine beetle, and the wooly aldegid. Then there are the ravages of fires, hurricanes, and other natural disasters; it was awful to see the defoliation in the Caribbean earlier this year (though growing conditions there should promote faster replacement than we’d see in Buffalo). And then there are the always-ongoing threats of bad planting and bad maintenance.
One of only two trees on our actual property—we are surrounded by trees we don’t own—was just cut down last week, the last in a series of must-do pre-winter tasks. A big sugar maple, it had been weakening over the past five years, and now posed a serious threat to neighboring structures. We think it’s many decades old, but aren’t sure of the exact age. During garden tours, visitors have always been surprised to be seeing such a large tree in an urban courtyard garden; it grew directly against an even older Victorian carriage house.
Tree replacement has been a big thing in Buffalo since a 2006 freak October snowstorm that many called Arborgeddon, and now my friends are losing their ash trees. But I don’t think I’ll replace this one—it was not a very generous spot for a mature tree ever, and I have enough structure from the largish stump that remains, not to mention the wall behind it. I’m sure I can figure something out and make this work. In any case, after having seen what it took to get the thing down, I’d never want to have to risk making anyone go through that again. Fences were sawn apart and heavy machinery made a mud pit out of a nicely planted shade bed. The possibility of people losing power and cable service was raised.
As much as I love an urban canopy, trees in densely built areas like mine are never problem-free. Still, they persist. A 320-year-old American sycamore is surviving just a few blocks away. It’s currently battling a bout of anthracnose, but it survived the burning of Buffalo in 1812, so I have high hopes.