Each tree species possesses a unique set of woody superpowers that, when used correctly, can grow better cities.
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Here Are 11 Woody Superpowers That Can Grow Better Cities
1 – The Food Grower
These trees and shrubs produce low-maintenance edible fruits, berries, nuts, or leaves and contribute to community food security year after year. Examples: Plums, Walnuts, and Saskatoons
Where to Plant: Plant Food Growers in parks, community gardens, and school grounds to provide access to food and local community building. Use park and food desert maps to target communities with less green space, community gardens, or access to grocery stores.
2 – The Shade Caster
Shade trees combat the urban heat island effect reducing the temperature beneath them by up to 10 degrees celsius. These plants save energy by reducing the need to run expensive air conditioning units and block the wind. Examples: Walnuts, Honeylocust, Oak
Where to Plant: Target communities that are missing boulevard trees or that have less forest canopy. Plant shade casting trees south of buildings and paves surfaces to lower the ambient temperature. Use urban heat island data to target communities most impacted during heatwaves.
3 – The Carbon Eater
All plants remove carbon from the atmosphere to make sugars and build their bodies, but carbon busters are especially large or fast-growing. Their long lives lock carbon within their bodies for decades or centuries. Examples: Willow, Oak, Aspen
Where to Plant: Carbon Eaters tend to be large or fast-growing—plant carbon eaters in parks or as part of naturalization projects.
4 – The Air Cleaner
Air Cleaners are exceptionally tolerant of urban pollution and good at removing particulates from the landscape – letting us all breathe a little easier. Examples: Silver Maple, Honeylocust, Pine, Yew
Where to Plant: Use Air Cleaners as buffers between streets and commercial and residential properties.
5 – The Time Traveller
Often slow-growing, these trees can live for many hundreds or even thousands of years. If you want to plant a tree for the year 3021, then these trees are for you. Examples: Bristlecone Pine, Black Walnuts, Oak, Ginkgo
Where to Plant: Contemplate the future of your city by planting a Time Traveller where it will have time to grow and be appreciated. Potential locations include parks and boulevards. Privately planted Time Travellers are more prone to development but could be used as a Slow Landscaping Tool.
6 – The Storyteller
Plants propagated from seeds or cuttings from existing heritage trees. Seed propagated plants are the parent’s offspring, while cuttings are exact genetic copies (clones). Local Examples: Holowash Horse-Chestnut, Stark Oak
How to Plant: Storytellers only retain their powers if we continue sharing their stories and making new ones.
7 – The Native Guardian
Well adapted to our historical climate, native trees and shrubs have been here for thousands of years. These plants often have symbiotic relationships with native birds, animals, and pollinators, making them essential food and habitat. Examples: Black Poplar, Tamarack
Where to Plant: Throughout the city or as part of naturalization projects.
8 – The Biodiversity Builder
These trees and shrubs increase our urban forest’s biodiversity and resilience by decreasing the urban ecosystem’s susceptibility to pests, diseases, and climate change. Examples: Walnuts, Honeylocust, Oak, Catalpa
Where to Plant: Use to replace ageing, damages, diseases, or missing boulevard trees to increase diversity and protect existing trees from the spread of diseases.
9 – The Zone Pusher
Zone Pushers come from places with slightly warmer climates and have struggled growing here in the past. However, planted in the right location amidst a changing environment, these plants have the potential to grow and diversify our urban forest. Growing zone pushers is always a gamble but one with a high potential to pay off. Examples: American Beach, Sycamore, Pawpaw, Persimmon, Chestnut
Where to Plant: In private yards and adventurous community gardens. Plant in protected locations where trees can get established.
10 – The Assisted Migrant
Climate Refugees are plants struggling to survive in their native ranges due to climate change, pests, or diseases. By moving them further North or beyond the reach of their host pests and diseases, these plants often find sanctuary and thrive. Establishing refugia for these plants creates a genetic bank from which seeds can be gathered and repopulate their native ranges. Examples: White Walnut, Bristlecone Pine, American Chestnut
Where to Plant: Schools, community leagues, parks, public gardens and arboretums.
11 – The Beautifier
Sometimes, you want to feel pretty! Beautifiers are trees and shrubs species and varieties selected for their colour, flowers, or pleasing growth habit. Often flowering, these plants have been shown to have a positive effect on mental wellbeing. These plants often provide forage for pollinators. Examples: Flowering Quince, Catalpa, Locust
Support More Woody Superpowers Across Edmonton
In July of 2021, I launched Shrubscriber!
Shrubscriber is an online community that’s advocating for nature-based solutions to problems impacting Edmonton. We bring together climate-conscious citizens, nature lovers and gardeners to fund trees for community projects. Become a shrubscriber today and help build a biodiverse, food secure and climate-resilient city.
Shrubscribers receive community perks while finding trees for school and community projects.