How do I pick the right tree for the right place?


Spe­cial to the Whig

We love our trees, and for many rea­sons. Trees are a sym­bol of strength and beauty, and help con­nect us to Na­ture. Our trees, even in home­owner and ur­ban set­tings, pro­vide bed and break­fast for some other liv­ing or­gan­isms.

Trees are part of the so­lu­tion to many of our en­vi­ron­men­tal prob­lems, be­cause they se­quester car­bon and re­lease oxy­gen. One large tree can pro­vide enough oxy­gen sup­ply for four peo­ple for one day, so you can see how im­por­tant our forests are to sus­tain­able liv­ing. (An in­ter­est­ing fact: The Ama­zon rain­for­est pro­vides the Earth with 20 per­cent of its oxy­gen sup­ply.)

So you want to plant a tree? There are some things to con­sider be­fore you run out and pur­chase one. Check­list: Har­di­ness zone for your perfect pick. Types of trees: shade, ever­green, fruit, or­na­men­tals, flow­er­ing and nuts. Type of soil you have: moist, dry, rich, sandy loam or clay. Trees usu­ally grow the ma­jor­ity of their roots in the top 30 inches of soil, called the liv­ing layer, where soil nu­tri­ents, wa­ter and micro­organ­isms can be found. Sun ex­po­sure: Full sun, part sun or to­tal shade. Most im­por­tantly, avail­able space. Will the ma­ture size of your choice tree fit in the space un­der­ground. Will it fit in the space above ground, free from ob­struc­tion of build­ings and power lines? The sub­ject of space will be a fac­tor to con­sider right af­ter you choose the type of tree you de­sire. Large canopy trees are lovely and are ex­tremely im­por­tant to our ecosys­tem, but they re­quire quite a lot of space.

Mary­land’s state tree, the quer­cus alba (white oak), is on the top of the list for species sup­port, but not ev­ery home­owner lot has the space for these large beau­ties.

In ma­ture trees, the root sys­tems will ex­tend 1.5 times the height of the tree, or two to three times the width of the drip line (width of the crown). An oak tree at ma­tu­rity can reach heights of 75 to 100 feet and a canopy of equal width.

An­other very pop­u­lar species, the acer rubrum (red maple), grows to heights of 40 to 100 feet, and has a crown spread of 30 to 75 feet. These are cer­tainly not small yard trees.

There are, how­ever, more com­pact trees to con­sider. These are known as sub-story trees — those that grow un­der 25 feet in height and have a smaller spread. Among these are pop­u­lar fruit and flow­er­ing tree choices.

Plant­ing trees at your res­i­dence will add years of added per­for­mance in sev­eral ar­eas. Trees pro­vide shade, a pri­vacy screen and wind­break to help bet­ter main­tain the tem­per­a­ture of your home. Trees also work to slow and fil­ter storm wa­ter, as­sist­ing in your con­tri­bu­tion to wa­ter con­ser­va­tion and Ch­e­sa­peake Bay water­shed health. Not to men­tion that trees can add aes­thetic value to the value of your real es­tate.

And by choos­ing a na­tive, you can help sus­tain the area’s wildlife. Once es­tab­lished, these trees re­quire less care. Help­ful web­sites: ar­bor­day­foun­da­ ISA-Ar­ treeben­e­ Each week, a Ce­cil County Master Gar­dener will write in to share their gar­den­ing ex­pe­ri­ences or an­swer a gar­den­ing ques­tion. To sub­mit ques­tions to the Master Gar­dener, send them to ce­cil­mas­ter­gar­


The (white oak) is a large-canopy tree that can reach heights of 75 to 100 feet when fully ma­ture.

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