The Department of Environmental Management will be giving away 1,000 trees this fall to Rhode Islanders through the Energy-Saving Trees Program. The program offers five species from which to choose: trident maple, river birch, willow oak, dawn redwood, and (seen here) sweetgum, Liquidambar styraciflua.
Sweetgum typically grows to 60-80’ (less frequently to 120’) tall with a straight trunk. Habit is pyramidal in youth, but it gradually develops an oval-rounded crown as it matures. The handsome five-pointed leaves provide vivid autumn colors of red, orange, and purple. Spiky seed pods, similar to London plane trees, can be messy. Branches have distinctive barky flanges.
Below is the trident maple, Acer buergerianum. Grows 20-30′ tall. Easily grown in average, medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Best in full sun. Tolerates some drought. Lovely tree.
(Sweetgum, trident maple, and oaks dominate the Brown University sports quad on Hope Street at Cushing. Check out the groundcovers and shade plants underneath the trees.)
Now in its seventh year, this popular semiannual program helps Rhode Islanders save energy and lower their utility bills by strategically planting trees on their property.
Reserve your tree and select your pick-up location from the list of locations. In town, that will be at the Dexter Training Grounds on Saturday, September 16.
Now, about the dawn redwood, Metasequoia glyptostroboides (below). These trees need lots of room to spread properly and look right. From the Arbor Day Foundation, one of the partners in this free-tree effort, “Grows to 70’–100′, with a 25′ spread.” Someone has planted one along Brook Street next to a sidewalk!
Below are two specimens planted next a building on the Pembroke Campus. They tower 20′ above the four-story building — but not in the nice branching canopy way of big oaks — and all the branches on the building side had to be pruned off, which is neither culturally nor aesthetically desirable. And I can’t imagine that they provide much cooling shade in the summer compared to the larger-leaved deciduous trees.
I love dawn redwoods; the bark is gorgeous, and the foliage is a light feathery green, but they need room. I’ve seen a few planted on the Blackstone Boulevard walking path where they can spread out and their open habit will blend in. They grow about 2′ a year (!) so just make sure you have the right place for them.