Red maple, basswood, witch hazel are on the list for Leon County's Adopt-a-Tree program

·4 min read
Some deep red maple tree leaves on Oct. 29, 2021.
Some deep red maple tree leaves on Oct. 29, 2021.

For over 30 years, Leon County Government has been proud to support our native ecosystem through the Adopt-a-Tree Program, which provides County residents the opportunity to have a tree planted on their property for free.

This year, residents who participate in the program can choose between American linden (or basswood), red maple, and witch hazel. All three are native species that put on quite a show during certain seasons. Applications are available now at LeonCountyFL.gov/AdoptATree.

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Around June, American linden produces extremely fragrant cream-colored blooms that attract pollinators.
Around June, American linden produces extremely fragrant cream-colored blooms that attract pollinators.

American linden

American linden, Tilia americana, or basswood as it is sometimes called,is a large sized shade tree that typically grows 40 to 50 feet in height but can get much taller. If the lower branches are allowed, they will gently drape toward the ground before sweeping up in a gentle curve.

It is more shade tolerant than many other large trees and does well in full sun or partial shade. It is often found growing along moist stream banks but can tolerate some drought.

Basswood flowers around June and has extremely fragrant cream-colored blooms that are very attractive to pollinators. A delicious honey can be made from the nectar of the flowers. A small, dry fruit is produced that goes mostly unnoticed and is not messy.

Red maple (Acer rubrum) trees are native to our area and turn vibrantly red to deep scarlet in the fall.
Red maple (Acer rubrum) trees are native to our area and turn vibrantly red to deep scarlet in the fall.

Red maple

Red maple, Acer rubrum, is a medium to large sized tree that typically grows to 40 to 50 feet in height but can get as tall as 75 feet in wetter conditions. Red maple is a fast-growing tree that produces the well-known “helicopter” type seed that is attractive to small mammals and birds.

This tree likes moist soils and is a great addition to a landscape that has a low area where grass may be difficult to grow. This tree is known for its outstanding bright to deep red fall color that can also shade to oranges and yellows.

Leon County is offering witch hazel trees, shown here in  flower
Leon County is offering witch hazel trees, shown here in flower

Witch hazel

Witch hazel, Hamamelis virginiana, is a large shrub that grows best in light sun or partial shade. It is a slow growing plant that gets 20 to 30 feet tall and develops interesting form as it ages.

Witch hazel is unique in that is it a fall/winter flowering plant, and produces a fascinating, spindly yellow flower. This plant is a beautiful addition to a landscape that adds interest at a time of year when most plants are near dormant.

Tree recipients must agree to water trees three times a week for the first year. Suggested watering includes letting a hose thoroughly wet the root ball of the tree, unless in the case of frequent substantial rain.

Mulch should be maintained around the base of the tree at a depth of two to four inches, extending out to the tips of the branches. However, take caution against piling mulch up against the trunk of your tree, which may leave the tree devoid of oxygen and susceptible to harmful insects and root rot.

More detailed tree care instructions will be left for you at your home at the time of planting.

If you would like to have a free tree planted at your home, there are a couple of additional requirements. Residents may choose to have their tree dropped off or have Leon County staff plant the tree anywhere between your house and any publicly maintained road or any privately maintained road with public access.

For more information on Leon County’s Adopt-A-Tree program, visit LeonCountyFL.gov/AdoptATree.

If you live within Tallahassee City Limits, please take advantage of the City’s Adopt A Tree Program. Information can be found at Talgov.com/AdoptATree.

The application for the Adopt-A-Tree program is available at Leon County’s website. Trees will be planted between February and March 2022. If you would like staff to plant your tree, please place a wooden stake at the desired location.

Matching the right tree to the right place is the best way to ensure the health and longevity of our trees. Take note of site factors such as sun/shade, soil type, and drainage, and find a tree species that fits those characteristics.

Equally important is considering the mature size of the tree compared to the space constraints of the location, including overhead utility wires, nearby structures and hardscapes, and other plants.

Mindy Mohrman is the Urban Forester for the Tallahassee-Leon County Planning Department and a volunteer writer for UF/IFAS Extension Leon County, an Equal Opportunity Institution. For gardening questions, email the extension office at AskAMasterGardener@ifas.ufl.edu.

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This article originally appeared on Tallahassee Democrat: Add to urban forest with Leon County's Adopt-a-Tree program

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