Sunday, July 1, 2012

It's Hot Out There - Go Pin Oak!

Much of Nebraska has baked under record-setting heat in recent days (115°F in McCook!) and we haven't even reached the hottest days of the summer. Thank goodness for the shade trees working tirelessly to help keep our communities cooler! I like to run and on a recent noon-hour jog through a neighborhood near UNL’s East Campus, I couldn’t help but notice how important the shade trees were. Indeed, my jogging route in the 90degree heat was made manageable as I was mostly able to stay in the shade of some well-placed street trees. This particular hard-working neighborhood is blessed with a variety of species planted by forward thinking people in decades past. Species represented include bur oak, red oak, swamp white oak, green ash, Honeylocust, American elm, silver maple, Norway maple, and hackberry among others.

Street trees near UNL East Campus in Lincoln - on a hot summer day.
A shady oasis on a hot summer day!
One species that especially caught my eye during my run is pin oak as there are many large specimens to be found in this neighborhood. Though we rarely recommend pin oak for planting anymore because of its tendency to be chlorotic (yellow) on high pH soils, the reality is that some of the largest and most grand trees found in Lincoln and in other southeast Nebraska communities are the pin oaks. Over the years I’ve heard many visitors to Lincoln comment about its impressive trees. It is often the pin oaks that these people are especially impressed by.

A beautiful, relatively young pin oak.

Pin oak leaves.
Perhaps it’s time once again that we give pin oak the credit it’s due. Though still not appropriate for many sites (especially on newly constructed sites where the original top soil is gone) pin oak can be a good choice where a soil test reveals a loamy soil, rich in organic content and a relatively low pH (below 7). Pin oak grows fast and tall with an upright habit when young. It tolerates both wet soils and drought when established. It has good fall color and provides habitat to a wide-variety of birds, insects and other animals. And it loves the heat and humidity of southeast Nebraska. Thank you pin oak

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