When it comes to planting trees, ‘diversity is your friend’

•Tree survey in Elk River reveals a few surprises – click here.

by Joni Astrup

Associate Editor

“Diversity is your friend in your yard because disease and insects spread from tree to tree to tree.”

That’s advice from Gina Hugo, resource conservationist with the Sherburne Soil and Water Conservation District.

An apple tree in Elk River.
An apple tree in Elk River.

The top five most common trees in Elk River are spruce, maple, apple, ash and white oak.

But Hugo said there are many other types of trees that can add diversity and fun to a yard. They include catalpa, honey locust, Dutch-Elm-Disease-resistant elms, ginkgo and Kentucky coffee tree.

With a wider range of tree species planted in the city, “in theory, if something devastating moves through like Dutch Elm Disease, you don’t lose such a huge portion of your canopy,” she said.

Hugo said a rule of thumb is:

•no more than 10 percent of one species

•no more than 15 percent of one genus

•no more than 20 percent of one family

Elk River recently completed a tree survey. Hugo said that can help determine the right trees to plant and which ones to avoid.

Rodney Schreifels, Elk River’s park maintenance supervisor, said he has wanted a survey of trees in Elk River and was glad when Hugo spearheaded one this summer.

Planting a diversity of tree species wasn’t always a common practice in the past. Orono Park, for instance, has a large number of mature maple and ash trees, Schreifels said.

For property owners looking for more information about what trees to plant, Hugo recommends the following resources developed by the University of Minnesota Urban Forestry Department:

www.extension.umn.edu/distribution/naturalresources/DD6574.html: This link provides guidance on tree species selection for urban areas in this region of the state. It considers the typical hardships urban environments place on trees and recommends those that are most tolerant and hardy and therefore likely to survive and thrive.

www.extension.umn.edu/distribution/naturalresources/DD7502.html:  This list is for exceptionally difficult spots in urban areas.