The following piece was written and submitted by James Briand of Trees for Watertown Watertown:
Tree Warden Gregory Mosman celebrated Arbor Day last week with the planting of a magnificent Dawn Redwood at the Lowell School, assisted by Steven Kendall representative of tree service provider Hartney Greymont and former Deputy Tree Warden for the City of Boston. Joining Mosman and Kendall were volunteers Marbin Sanchez and Jon Quinn, and David Andrad of the Watertown Department of Public Works.
The tree planting was recorded by Trees for Watertown board member Jessica Grimsby, who is preparing a short how-to video to encourage residents to plant trees on their own property.
Next year Arbor Day will turn 150 years old. What began as an effort to bring beauty and cooling green canopy to treeless prairies and crowded industrial cities has a new task — to help trees perform their role as one of the single most powerful tools against global warming.
Watertown’s 2021 Arbor Day planting marked the beginning of an extensive public shade tree planting effort throughout our city. The program is designed to be broad-based, targeting every Watertown neighborhood, and thoughtful, providing trees that are most likely to succeed in the specific environment in which they are planted.
Over a hundred new street trees are planned for 2021, including a number of different species. Species diversity protects neighborhoods from devastating tree loss due to tree-specific pests and diseases, like the disease that wiped out the millions of American Elms that once graced city streets across the nation, and the insect pest now doing the same nationally to our Ash trees.
Observes Mosman, “Today we are over-dependent for shade trees on one species, the Norway Maple, but if we are smart about what we plant and how we plant, Watertown can have a strong, resilient tree canopy for years to come.”
The celebration of Arbor Day in Massachusetts began almost 150 years ago. The commemoration met with a bit of controversy in the spring of 1927 when Governor Alvan T. Fuller honored the late Charles Sprague Sargent, founder of the Arnold Arboretum, by planting a White Spruce near Boston Common. Sargent’s long-time associate, Keeper of the Arboretum Ernest Wilson, denounced the event, writing “This tree is a lover of pure air and cool forest soils.” Such a tree, Wilson declared, is “doomed to die a lingering death by suffocation and slow poison” in the polluted air and dry, compacted soil of [1920’s] Boston. To Wilson, planting the wrong tree in the wrong place was simply an empty gesture.
Fortunately, tree specialists and municipal officials have learned a great deal in the ninety-plus years since Fuller planted his tree. The tree chosen for Watertown’s 2021 Arbor Day planting is a Dawn Redwood, a beautiful conifer that is tolerant of a wide range of conditions.
The Dawn Redwood is unusual among conifers in that it’s deciduous: each Fall it changes color from green to gold and drops its needles, then turns fresh green again in the Spring. Watertown’s Arbor Day 2021 tree should grow to a magnificent 118 feet, making it a landmark in Watertown for years to come.