trees matter blog

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  • Wed, June 01, 2016 8:50 AM | Danielle Corral (Administrator)

    On Saturday, April 30th VPA held its 4th annual Mesquite Pancake Breakfast in downtown Phoenix at The Space Between Park. We partnered with Copper Star Coffee, Hickman’s, Downtown Phoenix Inc, and The Orme School to feed over 100 people homemade Mesquite pancakes and to educate over 130 people on the importance of Mesquite as part of our 2016 Edible Tree Series Events. Mesquite trees not only provide valuable shade but they have also served as a nutritious food source for native peoples and animals. Thanks to everyone who came out to our sold out breakfast and tried delicious Mesquite flour--we couldn't have made it a success without you! Below are some photos from the event and to watch a video from it, click here.

    (each stack of Mesquite pancakes was served with sides of organic egg quiche, greens & native tepary beans, country potatoes, clean chicken sausage, and coffee)

    (mesquite lovers)

    (how to make mesquite flour)

    (mesquite pods)

    If you missed the breakfast, we'd like to share the recipe for our delicious mesquite pancakes with you here, and you can still join us on June 8th, 2016 for our Mesquite Presentation and Harvest Demonstration where you will learn how to harvest, store, and use Mesquite pods.

    The Mesquite Pancake Breakfast showed how trees--and the food that they provide--can bring a community together. Thank you to all the volunteers and mesquite lovers that showed up!

    And thanks again to our food donors and event partners!

    Did you love our breakfast? Help us make next year’s breakfast even better by leaving feedback on this survey:


    Resources: (link to video) (recipe link) 

  • Tue, April 12, 2016 5:11 PM | Danielle Corral (Administrator)

    On April 9, 2016 VPA partnered with Arizona State Forestry, Arizona State University, Arizona Nursery Association, and many others to help host the second annual Tour de Trees event in the Valley. Last year’s Tour des Trees took place in North Central Phoenix and this year it was held at the Arizona State University Tempe Campus. 

    During the one-mile free self-guided bike or walk tour, participants weaved through the amazing trees and vegetation of ASU’s Tempe Campus while learning from professional arborists on 11 different topics:

    For a complete route map, click here

    Tour des Trees ran from 8:30-11:30am and participants were able to use this amazing mobile friendly app (pictured below) created by Deborah Thirkhill from ASU to help people navigate through campus, as well as view photos and information on each tree type. (Thanks, Deborah!) Up to 50 valley residents participated in the event and 35 dwarf figs tree were given away.

    VPA’s Executive Director, Aimee Williamson, said of the event, “I hope that this year’s Tour des Trees brought more awareness of the importance of trees and their maintenance and that this will be shared by people with their friends, families, and community.”

    (an arborist, in front of a Mesquite tree, teaching a participant about the importance of planting the right tree at the right place)

    Tour des Trees was a perfect example of what trees do--bring communities together while providing valuable shade on a warm Arizona Saturday morning. Thank you to all the volunteers and tree lovers that showed up!

    And thank you to our tree partners!


    Resources:  (link to route map and flyer) (link to app)


  • Thu, April 07, 2016 11:17 AM | Danielle Corral (Administrator)

    As National Arbor Day approaches--it’s Friday, April 29th--, we thought we’d give a brief run-down of how the holiday came about and the ways you can celebrate it this year.

    The very first celebration of trees--or what we now term Arbor Day--was held in a small Spanish Village in 1805. Encouraged by a local priest protesting against the destruction of the Napoleonic Wars, the community planted a popular tree in the town square. Over the next several days, dozens of other trees were planted and a movement for the defense of trees began.

    About 70 years later, the American decision to formalize the celebration of trees as a national holiday was prompted by the journalist and tree lover, Julius Sterling Morton (pictured right). While serving as a member of Nebraska’s State Board of Agriculture (and before working as President Grover’s Secretary of Agriculture), Morton proposed that a day should be dedicated to tree planting and increasing the awareness of the importance of trees. Hence, the first Arbor Day was celebrated as a state holiday in Nebraska on April 10, 1872, where an estimated one million trees were planted on that one day! In 1885, Arbor Day was named a legal holiday in Nebraska and April 22, Morton’s birthday, was chosen as the date for its permanent observance.  

    While National Arbor Day is celebrated on the last Friday in April (beginning in 1970), many US states observe it on different dates depending on their tree planting season. Click here to learn when each state celebrates Arbor day. Globally, over 30 countries now celebrate Arbor Day, or a form of tree appreciation day. Click here to learn when and how Arbor Day is celebrated around the world.

    How can you celebrate Arbor Day this year? One way is to celebrate early by joining us this Saturday, April 9th from 8:30-11:30am at ASU’s Tempe campus for our second annual Tour de Trees where you can visit 11 magnificent trees and learn more about tree care. You can also officially celebrate Arizona Arbor Day by coming to the AZ State Capitol Museum on Tuesday, April 26th from 10-12:00pm for an awards and planting ceremony.

    Or, you can simply plant a tree.

    Contact a local nursery or register for a workshop here where you can receive up to two free trees. Planting a tree is easier than most people think, and you’ll be able to celebrate your tree’s “birthday” each Arbor Day.

    And remember--on April 29th take a minute to enjoy the shade of a tree and appreciate why trees matter. 



  • Mon, March 28, 2016 1:43 PM | Danielle Corral (Administrator)

    Last month we wrote a blog about how trees outside a window does more than provide something nice to look at—it helps student learn better.  Now a recent study shows how even looking at pictures of trees and other green spaces make us calmer. Participants of the study were given pictures of either trees and green places or pictures of concrete and buildings after they had completed a strenuous math problem. Researchers then tested the participants’ sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. The sympathetic system responds to stress by triggering the fight-or-flight reaction and raises our heart rate and makes us anxious. The second system, the parasympathetic, brings feelings of calmness and well-being.  When participants saw pictures of greenery after the math stressor, their parasympathetic system kicked-in and lowered heart rates, something that failed to happen with the group of participants who viewed pictures of concrete and manmade objects. The study suggests that viewing green spaces, such as trees, can help lower feelings of anxiety and stress and that actually visiting or seeing nature can create even greater feelings of relief and happiness. 

    Bottom line--at the very least, set your screen saver to images of trees or, if possible, scoot your desk next to a window.  Then, come get happy by joining us at the second annual Tour des Trees on Saturday, April 9th. This is a FREE (self-guided) bike and walk friendly event where we will be going around Arizona State University’s Tempe Campus and visiting 11 of their magnificent trees.  At each tree a professional arborist will be teaching an important tree topic like proper watering techniques (refer to the flyer below). You may learn a few new facts, but we guarantee that you will feel more relaxed after walking through a tree-shaded campus!

                                                                             (For a map and larger flyer to print, click here).

    Last year's Tour des Trees was a great time and we hope to see many of you again this year!


    Resources:  (original study) (map and flyer to print)

  • Sat, March 12, 2016 3:21 PM | Danielle Corral (Administrator)

    As we approach the beginning of spring, several customers have reached out to us with good news about their young Desert Willow trees.

    During the fall and winter Desert Willows undergo winter dormancy and young trees often look like a barren stick in the ground. New tree owners voice concerns that their trees are dead but we explain winter dormancy behavior and encourage them to continue caring for their trees. When consistent heat kicks in, we assure them, Desert Willows will show signs of growth such as small green buds on the tips of branches. Understandably, doubt persists as people watch a stick in the ground to continue to look like a stick in the ground for several months. This past month, however, as temperatures reached 80 and 90 degrees, Desert Willows have begun waking up! Below is a picture of a Desert Willow planted this past fall that appeared “dead” up until last week when the tree owner sent us an updated photo of new spring growth on the branches!

    Another tree owner was concerned about her newly planted Desert Willow but last week she noticed that the tree trunk had turned from an auburn-brown to a gray and bits of green buds began sprouting on the branches (pictured right--notice the two different bark colors on the left).

    It’s important to have patience with trees, especially young trees. Trees planted right when the cool weather sets in can go straight into winter dormancy for protection to conserve food supplies and, therefore, show minimal or no growth.  But, alas, when the heat hits they are ready to take off!

    If you are concerned about your tree, make sure to read our blogs on how to protect your trees during winter and how to diagnose and treat common tree issues. If your tree is exhibiting winter dormancy behavior, make sure to still properly water it and look for the following signs come spring:

    • The color of the main trunk might change from amber-brownish to a light gray as the bark matures
    • Young, small green or white buds appear on the main branches
    • Gently scrap the tree bark and look for white or green color underneath
    • Other small branches start to grow from the main trunk

    You can post any question on our ask the arborist forum where our volunteer certified arborist will provide free advice. If you have a Desert Willow (or other tree type) success story, please share it with us!


  • Fri, February 19, 2016 2:03 PM | Danielle Corral (Administrator)

    It turns out that trees outside a window do significantly more than provide a nice view.

    A recent study shows that a view of trees outside a classroom window helps students retain information better and recover from stress quicker. Although previous research has shown positive associations between green landscapes (trees, grass, plants) and student academic performance, this is the first study to support causal relationships between exposure to green campus landscapes and improved student performance. 

    In the randomized controlled experiment, 94 students at five different high schools were assigned to classrooms without windows, windows that opened up to a barren space (and no natural greenery) or windows with views of green space (trees, grass).  All students participated in a 30 minute activity and were then given a 10 minute break. It was specifically the 10 minute break that allowed (or didn’t allow) access to nature that led to marked improvement in a student’s attention capability and stress recovery (refer to the diagrams on the right).  The study reveals the important—but often overlooked--impact that school designs and green landscapes have on student academic performance.

    This year, thanks to a grant from the Arizona State Forestry, we are launching a School Tree Maintenance and Replacement initiative in order to plant and care for trees on school property and to educate children about the importance of trees (refer to below for a full description of the initiative).


    As studies continue to provide evidence of what we intuitively know—nature is a source of stress reduction and cognitive replenishment— it is important to integrate green space into school designs to provide students the proven benefits of a tree lined window. 


    Resources: (download PDF of original study) 

  • Fri, February 05, 2016 9:55 AM | Danielle Corral (Administrator)

    Last week we announced our new community tree program--Trees Matter--and showed how it fits into the City of Phoenix’s larger goal of greening the city by achieving 25% urban tree canopy cover by 2030. Not only is the valuable role that trees play in reducing carbon emissions being recognized by city officials, but it has also become an important topic on the world stage--urban forestry investment was included in the final Paris climate agreement! In 2014, we wrote this blog on environmentalist Lester Brown and his urging for the world to plant more trees.

    If you followed our Why Trees Matter blog series last year, you learned about the many other benefits that trees provide. One in particular--community development--has been the focus of a nationwide urban forestry program called Spreading the Canopy. In the US Forest Service sponsored initiative, five community forestry organizations worked to connect the health benefits that trees provide to the public health community. Their goal was to involve the health community into the greater conversation about the role that urban forests play in improving a person’s mental and physical health and the well-being of a city. By engaging others in the public health arena who would not typically be involved with trees organizations--such as hospitals, insurance agencies, municipal and state governments, and wellness organizations--a nationwide dialog began about how to develop and invest in more green spaces (parks, trees, grass) in order to improve public health.

    With the Paris climate agreement’s formal recognition of the crucial role that trees play in climate change and religious figures like Pope Francis joining the dialogue, the urban forestry movement is helping answer the world’s need for leafier cities.


  • Sat, January 23, 2016 12:21 PM | Danielle Corral (Administrator)

    This year VPA is launching a community tree program called "Trees Matter" in order to increase public knowledge of permaculture and trees in the valley. A large part of our efforts will be to educate others on why trees matter in the urban desert southwest. In a timely coincidence, Richard Adkins, the Forestry Supervisor for the City of Phoenix, was recently featured in this article where he discusses upcoming urban forestry projects aimed at increasing Phoenix’s tree canopy cover—the shade that we need when it’s 110ºF outside!

    Currently Phoenix has about 9% urban tree canopy cover but, Mr. Adkins explains, in the 1920’s the city boasted 50% tree canopy. The City of Phoenix is working towards a goal of 25% tree cover by 2030 which means roughly 5,636,000 new trees must be planted over the next 14 years, or 376,000 new trees each year. This amount of newly planted trees in less than 20 years, Mr. Adkins admits, is a very hefty goal considering that Phoenix’s current budget allows for the planting of 3,000 trees per year but the city also removes about 2,000 trees each year due to disease and damage. The Forestry Division, he adds, is hoping to receive enough money allotted to plant 5,000 trees a year and, therefore, achieve 75,000 newly planted trees by 2040. In order to reach his goal of 20% urban tree canopy cover in 25 years, Mr. Adkins stresses the need for everyone to plant trees on private property as well as public land. And this is where you and VPA come in…


    Last year thanks to those who participated in our SRP Shade Tree program and to the many volunteers who helped, we gave away 5,790 desert-adapted shade trees! This year with the help of a Community Challenge Grant awarded to us from the Arizona State Forestry Division, we hope to increase that number through our Trees Matter community tree program. We will also be partnering with the Arizona Community Tree Council and the Roosevelt School District to replace lost or damaged trees, to provide professional development for staff, and to create educational material for children such as coloring books that highlight why desert trees are so special!


    We hope you will follow us (and join as a volunteer) in the following year as we show others why Trees Matter!



  • Thu, December 03, 2015 2:06 PM | Danielle Corral (Administrator)

    As night temperatures in Phoenix fall into the thirties, it is important to protect young trees from such cold weather. Temperatures below 32 degrees for a prolonged time or over several nights can freeze tree buds/blossoms, fruit, leaves, and twigs. While the trees in our Shade Tree Program are desert-adapted and can, therefore, typically withstand freezing temperatures, young saplings can be vulnerable to the cold weather especially if they haven’t gone into winter dormancy and are, therefore, still actively growing. Below are things you can do to protect your trees from frost:

    • Cover your trees with a sheet, light blanket, or burlap sack. Hardware stores  sell sheets made of light, porous material specifically for frost protection but feel free to use whatever you have on hand except for anything made of plastic. Plastic traps moisture in and can damage the tree (the captured moisture can turn to frost). Also, thick blankets or covers can soak up moisture, become heavy, and press down on the tree. Ideally, you want the cover to touch the ground to retain the warmth under the cloth and around the tree (refer to the picture on the right and the diagram below). Remove the cover later in the morning when there is full sunlight and preferably when temperatures are warmer. Some of the coldest temperature occur at daybreak so if you can, wait a bit. Do not leave trees covered all day as this can damage them.

    • If your tree gets frost bitten, do NOT trim the damaged parts as they still provide protection for the remaining living parts of the tree. Wait until the spring or when you regularly prune your tree. Make sure to water your trees regularly during winter. Dehydrated trees are more susceptible to frost-- frost damage occurs when ice crystals form on the leaf surface drawing moisture from the leaf tissue so if a tree is already dehydrated, the additional dehydration damages or kills it. Wet soil also absorbs heat during the day so water your plants in the morning and do not overwater. Refer to our blog on How to Properly Water Your Trees.
    • For large trees or frost-sensitive ones such as citrus trees, string 100-watt electric outdoor light bulbs, such as Christmas lights (pictured right). Not only are you decorating for the holidays but you are warming your trees.  Make sure the lights are not too close to the trunk or branch that it could burn it.
    • Place mulch around deciduous trees (like our shade trees) to prevent them from breaking winter dormancy by insulating against fluctuating surface soil temperatures. However, do not place mulch around citrus trees, as it will hinder the capturing of heat that will protect the plant.

    If your tree is damaged or you have other questions, feel free to post them on our ask the arborist forum here.


    References: (ask the arborist forum) 

  • Wed, November 18, 2015 12:49 PM | Danielle Corral (Administrator)

    This past season we received many questions about common trees issues such as dry leaves/leaves falling off of trees, denuding from animals like rabbits, and transplant (re-planting) shock. While the best thing to do is to consult an arborist—remember you can post your questions on our ask the arborist forum—you can also try to diagnose what might be happening to your trees and treat them accordingly. Below are the most common ailments for young trees:

    Dry leaves/leaves falling off of trees

    It is important to water trees properly, as this is often the most common reason for leaves drying out, especially with young trees. When you receive your trees, check the moisture of the soil in the container it comes in. It should have the moisture level of a wrung out sponge, moist but not soggy. Too much water can be as bad as not enough. Sometimes between the time we receive trees from nurseries and the time we distribute them, the trees may have dried out so check to see if you need to water them right away. Once you plant your tree, it is important to water them DEEPLY, down to 2-3 feet.  Refer to our blog on How to Properly Water Your Trees for a watering guideline table. You might also want to invest in a soil probe to detect how deeply the water is penetrating, which you can find in most hardware stores.

    Pictured right is a Willow Acacia that is showing signs of dehydration—the leaves are starting to curl and crisp up, as well as turn brown-gray. Once the owner began watering more often and deeply, the tree recovered. Trees are very resilient—don’t give up on it if you start to see signs of distress. Try watering it more often and remember:  moist but not soggy soil

    Transplant Shock

    Once you plant your new tree it might show signs of transplant shock, like the one pictured left. When trees/plants are transplanted into a different soil environment they may go through an initial period of distress while adjusting to the new soil. Below are steps you can take to minimize the chances of transplant shock:  

    -  Keep the roots moist while you are planting the tree (you can briefly soak the tree roots in water before you plant the tree)

    - Make sure there is good soil contact on the roots. Lightly tamp the soil around the base of the tree with your foot. Don't stomp, but firmly push down the soil to make sure the root ball has good contact.

    - Do not cut the roots when you plant trees—they store important carbohydrates, nutrients, and hormones necessary for tree growth. Sometimes, though, we recommend scoring the roots if they are overgrown.

    - Water the tree once it is in the ground, even after it has rained and the soil is wet. This will help attach fine root particles to the roots.

    If your tree does show signs of transplant shock after you plant it--like dropping its leaves or appearing droopy--scratch the bark with your finger nail to see if there's green underneath the bark. If the small branches are pliable and green, be patient. The tree will likely produce new growth in a week or two. Water normally. And remember--moist but not soggy soil.

    Denuding by animals

    If you notice leaves on your tree one day and the next day find it stripped of them—or denuded—hungry wildlife is most likely the cause. Rabbits are common culprits of denuding so make sure to read our blog on How to Keep Rabbits Away from Trees. While the chance of a tree surviving an “attack” by an animal can be dependent on the species and age, most trees young or old can survive a single incident of defoliation (the loss of leaves). If your tree becomes denuded by an animal, water the tree as if it has leaves, don't over compensate. If it occurs in the heat of the summer, try shading the tree until the new leaves reach maturity.  And remember—dogs also love to “play” with new trees, so read about ways to keep Fido away from your tree.

    If you have a tree situation, feel free to post your questions on our ask the arborist forum and our certified arborist will answer them!



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