Several generations ago, nearly 90% of the trees on public land in Minneapolis were American elms. When Dutch elm disease hit, ash were a favored replacement and now make up 19% of the city's boulevard trees. Enter emerald ash borer in St. Paul. What to do? The August 19 tornado is giving the city a head start on planting the urban forest that will shade generations to come, without the pest susceptability.
Minneapolis' urban forest already has a lot of maple, linden, Autumn Blaze maple, and some disease resistant elm. The new trees might not sound so familiar: Kentucky coffee, buckeye, river birch, pear, alder, hop hornbeam, even one called Espresso! There will also be a tree that has been specifically "developed" in Minnesota:
The Autumn Splendor buckeye actually originated nearly 40 years ago at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, apparently the result of an accidental genetic mix in a collection of painted buckeye at the Morton Arboretum outside of Chicago, from which the Minnesota arboretum bought seedlings. Unlike most buckeyes, which go drab and drop their leaves at the end of summer, the Autumn Splendor variety turns red and holds its leaves into the fall.
These new types of trees are not going to be as tall as the grand elm trees of the past, but they will be large enough to provide shade for homes and cars. And becuse a greater variety of trees will be planted, a scourge like Dutch elm disease or emerald ash borer won't be able to take down large swaths of our trees again. Generations of Minneapolis residents will be able to enjoy the new and improved urban forest for many, many years!