Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Illinois Stop the Spread = Planting Success

Story by Jennifer Behnken

     Earlier this year, the Callery pear (also known as Bradford pear) was featured as a potentially problematic tree for land managers and residents alike. This ornamental pear species is escaping into the wild and potentially becoming an invasive species. This problem is occurring across the state of Illinois, even as ornamental pear species are continuing to be used as a landscape plant along streets, sidewalks, businesses, and residential lands. The need for high maintenance pruning combined with Callery pear's short life span and proneness to splitting indicates increased frequency in tree replacement and potential strain on city tree management budgets.

     Many partnering organizations have united to bring awareness to these issues and establish the Illinois Stop the Spread! campaign. This campaign, adopted from Missouri's efforts, will provide a positive solution to the problem of the Callery pear by identifying and promoting available species of native trees which consumers, landscapers, and city planners may select as alternatives. These alternative native species were planted and displayed for all to see in a community demonstration area at Attucks Park and Green Earth, Inc. Pyles Fork Preserve in Carbondale, Illinois.

Jennifer Behnken, SIU Urban and Community Forestry Coordinator welcoming volunteers

Demonstrating the correct
planting technique
     The day of the planting arrived with warm weather, blue skies, and eager volunteers. Approximately twenty-five people took time out of their busy schedules to participate in our planting event. Volunteers included forestry students from Southern Illinois University, Green Earth members, local residents, and Illinois Stop the Spread! partners. The event started with a welcome and description of the campaign's objectives followed by a tree planting demonstration and overview of proper planting methods provided by Jennifer Behnken, SIU Urban and Community Forestry Coordinator. Volunteers then strapped on their gloves, grabbed a shovel, and immediately set to work. Although the ground was saturated from a previous rain event, everyone sunk their shovels in the soggy clay soil and put their backs into it. Each tree was planted with thoughtful efforts, grunts, and smiles.

     Randy Montgomery, the grounds supervisor from Carbondale Park District, watered the trees, thanks to a watering tank donated by Nancy Garwood from the Illinois Native Plant Society. The volunteer crew set to work hauling woodchips to the trees, donated by a local tree service. A caravan of wheelbarrows traveled back and forth from the woodchip pile with Jesse Riechman, coordinator of the Southeastern Illinois Prescribed Burn Association and chair of the Illinois Chapter of the Society of American Foresters, taking the lead with his ATV and trailer. Thanks to those who photographed our event, including Karla Gage, Coordinator of the River to River Cooperative Weed Management Area, and Lisa Thomas, Green Earth volunteer. Thanks also to Nathan Speagle from Green Earth, for providing a free lunch and refreshments to nourish the bodies of hard-working volunteers!

     All in all, thirty-seven trees of fifteen different species were planted. Their container sizes ranged from 3-gallon to 20-gallon, hence the need for individuals with strong muscles and backs. To visit the planting, please visit Attucks Park at 800 N. Wall St. in Carbondale, Illinois. This is a volunteer project and as such, we are asking for your help. Please consider donating to Green Earth Inc. to supplement our efforts (visit greenearthinc.org). Funds will be used to offset costs of printing outreach materials which will be free to the public, as well as materials for tree maintenance, such as fertilizer and mulch. Even one dollar can go a long way; all support is greatly appreciated!

     Stay tuned for the next planting installment in the fall to include more native tree and shrub species and interpretive signage implementation in May 2015. Many heartfelt thanks to those that have made this project possible! We hope it serves as a template to generate grassroots efforts towards deterring the spread of Callery (Bradford) pear trees and the beginning of a statewide awareness program. Consider alternatives to plant in your backyard and help Illinois Stop the Spread!

"Illinois Stop the Spread local partners, to date, are: Carbondale Park District, Green Earth, Inc., Illinois Forestry Association, Illinois Native Plant Society, the Illinois Wildlife Action Plan - Invasive Species Campaign, Keep Carbondale Beautiful, the River to River Cooperative Weed Management Area, Shawnee Resource Conservation and Development Area, Inc., Southern Illinois University Carbondale, the Society of American Foresters, and the University of Illinois Extension."

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