June 19, 2019


Our region is green. We have extensive greenbelts of interconnected, preserved forested lands, distinguished with a variety of native trees. Our towns, communities and neighborhoods are populated with countless planted trees. In many instances, the built environment blends and meshes with the natural one to create a complete “green scene”.


According to the USDA’s official Plant Hardiness Zone, we are in Zone 8B – which is a thin string stretching from Savannah, down the Georgia Coast, thru Jacksonville, then due west along the Florida Panhandle, into southern Louisiana and deep south Texas. The northern portion of the next southern zone, Zone 9, lies just southeast, brushing the greater Jacksonville metro area and reaching into St. Johns County, near the ocean. Zone 8B is a temperamental zone. Appalachian-friendly plant species don’t like the heat and humidity of the Zone. Sub-tropical and tropical beauties, from points south, don’t fare well in our seasonally-cold events. These factors limit the number and variety of native plants in our region.


The silver-lining is that the variety we do have, flourishes. Rapid and lush tree growth is evident in both our forests and in our planted yards and commons. Many tree types readily respond to our soil and climatic conditions. When all related factors are in synch, our forests sustainably mature and our planted trees grow healthy and strong.


One of the very best native trees for our area is the Southern Live Oak, Quercus virginiana. The Live Oak is one of the strongest-wooded trees in America. It can endure for centuries. It will grow fast in its early years, not slowing down until it reaches around 100. The Live Oak typically (if left to its own devices) will mature with a beautiful, gracefully-spreading, shady canopy, sometimes spilling to the ground. When planted in areas where clearance is necessary, a Live Oak will readily adapt to having a “lifted” canopy. Live Oaks are elegant as individuals and are majestic in clusters, masses and groves. When planted at a modest size, they can create almost instant scale in the landscape. The tree is pest and disease resistant, a favorite haunt of birds and small mammals, produces a wildlife food crop and offers the very best kind of natural shade.


I have always been perplexed by folks that fall in love with our region, only to worry about the trees. Too often, trees (and regrettably, Live Oaks) are assumed to be at fault. Limbs and branches will fall, hurricane-spawned or otherwise. The pesky little leaves never will stop dropping and staining everything they touch. Roots will run rampant, night and day, wreaking imaginary havoc like a scene from Little Shop of Horrors. In the middle of the night, sounds of breaking driveways and collapsing foundations will drown out the chorus of frogs and bugs. Before long, “Root Fear” seeps in and the knee-jerk recourse is to fire up the chain saws.


A trip to Savannah, or one closer-by to Riverside and Avondale, will reveal sterling examples of trees, roots, streets, curbs, sidewalks, porches and foundations all co-existing and getting along together. Sure, sidewalks and curbs may have to be repaired now and then – but these communities share a collective appreciation and understanding of the true value of mature trees. Pavements can be repaired, shaved and/or replaced, major tree root/s can be cut-back or severed in extreme cases, root barriers can be installed, overhanging and/or weakened branches and limbs can be manicured and cable-stayed to increase structural integrity, older trees can be removed and replaced with like kind in a close-by alternate location, and experienced arbor-care specialists can be consulted for practical and effective tree-saving options.


If you settle in a neighborhood graced with trees, count yourself among the most fortunate. Those trees were either preserved or planted at great cost. Collectively, the composition of natural greenbelts coupled with planted commons and streets, represents a long-lasting neighborhood amenity – one that will buoy and increase your home’s value. When streets and paths enable you to traverse in the shade, whether by car, foot, bike or cart, your health and disposition will be rewarded.


Root Fear be damned. Tree hug – don’t mug. Share the benefits of our Tree Treasures, appreciate them, exercise care and plant more.

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Davidson Realty