Thornless Honeylocust: The City Tree

(Gleditsia triacanthos)

Thornless-Honeylocust_1-852You may recognize the resemblance the thornless honeylocust shares with its relatives the honeylocust and the waterlocust of the deep South— minus the sharp thorns that cover its branches. The thornless honeylocust is popular for its ability to grow in urban stress areas such as parking lot islands and sidewalks. In fact, it has become so overused in some cities that it has become discouraged to plant to prevent monoculture. When too many of the same species are planted it can increase the threat of pests and disease.

This popular tree has a lot of great characteristics that make it a great contender to add to your landscape if it’s not prevalent in your area. Here are a few things to note if you’re considering adding one to your yard.

 Environmental Conditions:

  • Thornless Honeylocust grow best in deep, moist, fertile soils that are either neutral, slightly alkaline or slightly acidic (hardiness zones 3-9). Avoid highly acidic soils.
  • Fast growing tree, growing more than two feet a year and reaching 30-70 feet at maturity.
  • Prefers full sun, at least six hours of direct sunlight every day.
  • Can be used on hillsides to stabilize poor soil and control erosion.

Physical Attributes:

  • Has small, greenish-yellow blossoms around spike-like stalks, not particularly showy but are notably fragrant. The flowers are a good source for bees.
  • Develops a thin, airy crown that provides dappled shade while allowing grass to grown beneath.
  • Produces brown seeds pods resembling twisted leather straps that are popular among rabbits, deer and squirrels.


Tag us in a photo of your thornless Honeylocust!

A Place To Learn, Heal And Grow

Today’s piece is a guest post from Crayton Webb, Vice President of Corporate Communications and Corporate Social Responsibility at Mary Kay, a partner of the Arbor Day Foundation.

When the Arbor Day Foundation first approached us with the idea, I was skeptical – at best.  Thanks but no thanks, I thought.  A Nature Explore Classroom!?  Mary Kay isn’t interested in building another playground.

Mary+Kay+Dedicates+20th+Nature+Explore+Classroom+(2)_mid[1]“No, no, no,” they persisted.  This isn’t a playground – it’s an outdoor learning space.  A healing garden.  There’s a curriculum and a plan.  And while several have been built around the country, they continued, there has never been one built at a domestic violence shelter.  The pitch continued – there is new and evolving science that proves kids who have been abused or subjected to abuse find healing in nature, not unlike therapy with music or in interacting with animals.

That was back in 2008.  The next year, Mary Kay decided not to build a Nature Explore Classroom at a domestic violence shelter in the United States. Instead, we built five!  There was one constructed at a shelter in each of the five cities where Mary Kay Inc. has a facility – just outside of Chicago, Atlanta, Los Angeles, in central New Jersey and, of course, Dallas.  The next year we built three more.  And three more the following year. And so on, and so on, until just recently, in time for Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October, when we dedicated Mary Kay’s 20th Nature Explore Classroom at a shelter in Tampa Bay, Florida called The Spring.


Mary Kay dedicates 20 Nature Explore Classroom.

Looking back it’s hard to believe there was ever a question in our mind about this project.  The Mary Kay Foundation℠ has a long history, going back to 2000, of providing emergency support and relief to women’s centers through its Shelter Grant Program.  But this project with the Arbor Day Foundation and another group called the Dimensions Foundation, helped Mary Kay start work on the side of prevention – healing, stopping the cycle of abuse spreading from one generation to the next.  Now, Mary Kay Inc. is committed to being the corporate leader in the effort to prevent and end domestic abuse and violence against women.  And it started with a little bit of green space.

Please watch our video to learn more and see the real impact of Mary Kay’s Nature Explore Classroom project.  Our sincere hope is that these outdoor learning gardens will provide thousands of women and their children with a fun, safe, quiet place to learn, play and most importantly, to heal.

Inside Diary of Jade Van Kley: Trek Through the Colorado Rockies

Last week a group of Arbor Day Foundation members went on an exclusive trip with Jade Van KleyDonor Relationship Coordinator and Bradley BrandtReforestation Program Manager. The trip included a guided tour of Big Thompson Canyon, outings through Rocky Mountain National Park and a visit to Pike National Forest to witness members replanting efforts firsthand.

Day 1:


The seedlings growing at the Colorado State Forest Service Nursery.

On Wednesday, October 7th, we arrived in Denver International Airport to incredible weather. It seemed the Centennial State was welcoming us with open arms. We began our trip with a tour of the Colorado State Forest Service Nursery with Nursery Manager Josh Stolz, and CSFS Forester Boyd Lebeda at the Colorado State University Foothills campus. They showed us the process for growing seedlings which are used for reforestation and tree recovery after natural disasters.

That afternoon, Boyd traveled with us to visit community activist Mary Myers, who is perhaps one of the most inspiration people I’ve ever met. Mary had gotten trapped in two great floods in her lifetime while living in Big Thompson Canyon, one in 1976 and in 2013. In 2013 Mary and her husband were trapped in their home due to the Big Thompson Flood which devastated the canyon. Their house remained undamaged, but all of the trees in their front yard, as well as the road leading to their house were completely washed away. Mary has taken it upon herself to ensure that the people in her community were able to have some hope after this disaster by advocating on their behalf to receive trees as they begin to rebuild their community. With the help of the Colorado State Forest Service Nursery and the Arbor Day Foundation’s Community Tree Recovery project, this community was provided the trees they needed to begin repairing their devastated canopy.


The Arbor Day Travel group with Big Thompson Canyon community activist, Mary Myers, and Colorado State Forest Service Forester Boyd Lebeda, who assisted with the Community Tree Recovery project.

As a former nurse, Mary is a natural care taker. “Now that I don’t have patients to look after, this canyon is my patient.” This was the second devastating flood Mary has survived, but she has not lost her sense of humor. “I knew when I saw a 500 gallon propane tank floating down the way in front of my house that I would have to be lifted out by helicopter, again. The first time we were lifted out by a Chinook. The second time, we got a Blackhawk. Now, I never thought I’d become a helicopter snob, but if you get the chance, the Blackhawk has a better view.”

Day 2:

On Thursday we spent the entire day in Rocky Mountain National Park with Public Information Officer Kyle Patterson, and Forester Brian Verhulst. Rocky Mountain National Park historian and author Mary Taylor Young also joined us and shared her deep knowledge of the park and its history.


Part of the Arbor Day Travel group with Public Information Officer, Kyle Patterson in Moraine Park.

We traveled 12,000 feet up to the Alpine Tundra. I had never been in this kind of elevation before, so this experience was both literally and figuratively breathtaking. The plants that live in this region must be hardy enough to survive extreme temperatures, and many of the plants we saw had been there for hundreds, even thousands of years. Visitors are asked to not stray from the paths so as not to disturb the flora. The views from this area were nothing short of spectacular.

In the afternoon we visited the alluvial fan in Rocky Mountain National Park, where Mary, Kyle and Brian all shared the stories of two floods – in 1982 and 2013. In 1982, due to a dam failure, the town of Estes Park was flooded by a depth of six feet. Brian and Kyle shared personal stories of the Big Thompson Flood of 2013, which was caused by torrential rainfall. Brian lost his home in the flood, but still considers himself to be fortunate. He shared that by the time he received word to evacuate, he realized that this was not just a precaution, but a necessity. So, he was able to gather all of his important belongings and leave before the flood took his home. This was an extremely eye-opening experience for those of us who have never experienced a flood event.


Rocky Mountain National Park author and historian Mary Taylor Young talks about the floods of 1982 and 2013 at the alluvial fan.

“People don’t realize the power of water. I work here, and I didn’t even realize its power until this flood,” Public Information Officer, Kyle Patterson said.

We ended the day watching the famous elk rut in the park. This was an amazing sight. I was fortunate enough to see these animals up close that morning, but many of our travelers had not yet heard the incredible bugling of the bull elk. It was a spectacular display of animal behavior.

Day 3:


Arbor Day Foundation supporters Joe Banno (left), and Dr. Beatrice Ting (right) with Arbor Day Foundation Reforestation Manager Bradley Brandt (middle), displaying their strength by “holding up” the Balanced Rock formation in the Garden of the Gods.

On Friday we traveled to Boulder to meet with Colorado State University’s Keith Wood and Boulder City Forester Kathleen Alexander. We learned about the impact of the Emerald Ash Borer, and the ways in which the city has gone about controlling this infestation. We were shown the impact of this pest on Ash trees on the University of Colorado campus. They believe that this outbreak was caused by infested firewood that was brought into the town. They are now using predatory wasps among other methods to control this infestation. Their proactivity on this matter was extremely impressive.

We then traveled to Colorado Springs to see the Garden of the Gods. I had heard of this sight many times, but honestly did not know what to expect. The rock formations in this park are truly a sight to behold. We learned about the park at the Garden of the Gods Visitor and Nature Center. I did not realize that this was not a national park, but a city park of Colorado Springs. The passion these people had for their city park was so inspiring. It is clear that it is a community effort to preserve the park’s natural beauty, and they are extremely passionate about it.

Day 4:


United States Forester Ryan Kolling talking to the Arbor Day Travel Group about the replanting efforts in Pike National Forest that are made possible in part by Arbor Day Foundation supporters.

Saturday was perhaps the most exciting day for our members, as they got to see the trees they have provided to Pike National Forest through their support of the Arbor Day Foundation. We spent the day in the forest with United States Forester Sage Finn and his crew. We traveled into the forest to see the devastation of the 2002 Hayman Fire, which burned 138,114 acres of forest and is the most devastating fire in all of Colorado’s history.

I was not prepared for the devastation that we would see. Even thirteen years later, this area still has an eerie appearance at first glance, with so many charred and dead trees still standing on the landscape. But, as we got closer, we saw hope.

Forester Finn taught us about the concept of “legacy planting.” This is where they plant a new tree next to the remains of a dead tree to increase its likelihood of survival. They plant the new trees on the northeast side of a dead tree, so that at 2pm, when the sun is the hottest and coming from the southwest, the new tree will be shaded. They said the Colorado sun is the primary cause for new trees not surviving. As we walked into the forest amongst tall, charred trees, we were able to see the impact that Arbor Day Foundation supporters are truly making. We saw small trees with pink ribbons residing next to the remains of burned trees. These trees are thriving amongst what, at first glance, appears to be a desolate landscape.


In the foreground there are new trees with pink ribbons that have been planted amongst the remains of charred trees. In the middle is a small colony of Aspens. The aspens were able to regrow themselves, as they are able to propagate through their roots rather than relying on a seed source.

Sage shared that their planting crew can plant 90 to 100 acres per day, with 170 trees per acre. It was incredibly inspiring to see the new growth and hope in this region as a result of the support of Arbor Day Foundation supporters, and the hard work of the United States Forest Service. “If we’re using Arbor Day money and government money, I’m going to make sure we’re doing it right,” Sage said, “We are so glad that you’re here, you are helping us do so much more than we could do on our own.”


As we all went our separate ways and headed for home on Sunday morning, we were all leaving with more knowledge and inspiration than ever before. I feel fortunate that I got to see Colorado for the first time with people who are so passionate about inspiring people to plant, nurture, and celebrate trees. “What made this trip so unique was all the foresters, rangers & knowledgeable locals we interacted with,” said Arbor Day Foundation Legacy Circle member, Mary Rose Fillip. “Everyone was very excited to meet us and share their expertise. This trip enlightened me. Thank you to everyone who had a hand in this experience!”

The Preservation Orchard: Arbor Day Farm’s Legacy

Heirloom Apple from Arbor Day Farm:

Heirloom Apple from Arbor Day Farm:
Claygate Pearmain

We’re all familiar with the apples readily available in the supermarket and at local orchards this time of year: red delicious, gala, granny smith, jonathans. But what about the lesser-known varieties that have—for one reason or another—fallen out of the spotlight?

The Preservation Orchard at Arbor Day Farm in Nebraska City, Nebraska, is full of these obscure apple varieties — 65 varieties, to be precise — some of them dating as far back as the 1500s. Some have interesting back stories that rival their appearance and flavor, while others just simply fell out of favor. Unlike today’s common apple varieties, which are bred for beauty and to withstand the rigors of modern food transportation and storage, these vintage apples are a sensitive, finicky lot — with delicate skins and flesh, a short window of ripeness, and the heirloom apple trees themselves often times have not survived the gradual changes in climate where they once thrived.

Heirloom Apples from Arbor Day Farm: Arkansas Black.

Heirloom Apple from Arbor Day Farm: Arkansas Black.

Not only is this very special orchard at Arbor Day Farm focused on preserving the unique apples of yesteryear, but it’s a living record of some of the finest known apples and a genetic repository that may one day help create varieties well-suited to a changing climate. The Preservation Orchard is one of just a handful of orchards in the United States where these rare heirloom apple varieties can still be found.

A visit to Arbor Day Farm this time of year — when a plethora of apple varieties are ripe and ready for picking — offers visitors the rare opportunity to taste the wonderful flavor of some of these old varieties. Heirloom apple tasting is a huge hit with visitors on fall weekends, as Nature Interpreters first show-and-tell about the Preservation Orchard itself, then slice and serve the rare fruits of its branches.

A few antique apple varieties worth noting:

  • Almata: red to the core, and not much more. This apple with reddish flesh has an interesting look but is not particularly flavorful.
  • Claygate Pearmain: common in Victorian-era gardens, this heirloom apple has a nutty aroma and a potato-like appearance.
  • Kandil Sinap: tall and cylindrical, this vintage apple originated in Turkey in the early 1800s. Crisp and juicy with a sweet and sour flavor.
  • Arkansas Black – a medium-sized apple from the 1840s. Glossy, dark red skin almost turns black when stored.

This apple season, be sure to visit Arbor Day Farm’s Preservation Orchard for a unique look at — and perhaps even a taste of — the apples of yesteryear.

Meet the Smallest Tree City USA Community

Sibley NDMore than 135 million people live in a Tree City USA community. The Tree City USA program recognizes communities for their commitment to urban forestry. The program sets up the framework for a healthy sustainable community forestry program and provides direction, assistance and national recognition for their work.

More than 3,400 communities of all sizes are part of the Tree City USA program. Our smallest Tree City USA community is Sibley, North Dakota, with a population of 28; proving firsthand that you don’t need to be a big city to care about trees. Sibley has been a designated Tree City USA for three years.

Sibley was established in 1959 by Edythe ”Toots” and Eddie Hagglund on a treeless prairie at the edge of Lake Ashtabula. What was once just an idea to build a hamburger stand along the lake grew to what would be an official township. One of the first things the couple did after they bought the prairie land was plant trees, and build a dance hall. Although the town has never surpassed 50+ residents it has grown to become a social hot spot, attracting as many as 200 people during the summer.

Sibley is an excellent example that communities of all sizes can be part of the Tree City USA program. We love all that Sibley has evolved into and applaud their commitment to a greener community.

Is your community a Tree City USA? Learn more about our standards and how it can benefit your city.

National NeighborWoods Month

neighborwoods-full-color[1]Did you know that next month marks National NeighborWoods Month? That’s right, kicking off on the first of October is an annual month-long campaign to plant and care for community trees. What makes this campaign even more exciting is the network of communities across the country that participate in the celebration.

NeighborWoods month is organized by the Arbor Day Foundation and the Alliance for Community Trees (ACTrees) network of local nonprofit organizations throughout the country. Every October tens of thousands of volunteers join together with the shared cause of planting and caring for community trees.

This year marks the 11th year of celebrating NeighborWoods month! Together, Alliance for Community Trees organizations have planted and cared for more than 15 million trees with help from more than 5 million volunteers. It’s incredible what we can accomplish when we work together toward a common goal.

Although everyday should be a celebration of green communities, committing a whole month to the cause raises the discussion and action in local communities by emphasizing that tree canopy protection is a national concern, not just local. There are numerous benefits to participating in NeighborWoods month.

It adds validity and weight to collective efforts, provides an opportunity to both use and acknowledge volunteers, inspires businesses and local government support and can enhance a community’s appearance and reputation. Not to mention the economic, environmental and health benefits communities reap when they have a healthy community forest.

Visit to learn more about local NeighborWoods events in your community.

When Science Meets Art: The Tree of 40 Fruit

Tree Grafting is an old practice of inserting a section of a stem with leaf buds into the stock of another tree. It’s a way of bringing two varieties of fruits together in a single tree. It’s also used in repairing injured trees and produces more fruits on each tree. The sight of a grafted tree is quite the marvel.

Sam Van Aken is a professor at Syracuse University and an artist who has been grafting trees for years. Among his pieces is a single tree that produces more than 40 varieties of stone fruits including peaches, plums and nectarines— thus the name The Tree of 40 Fruit. Because of the varieties of fruits brought together, when the tree blossoms it does so in different hues of pink, crimson and white.

The end result will leave you in awe.

What do you think of tree grafting?

Frances Oyung, Coordinator, Bear Creek Watershed Council

portrait-Frances-Oyung[1]Trees Save Endangered Fish

The shading affect of trees not only provides comfort for people, but also ensures the survival of cold water fish. Frances Oyung heads a collaborative effort to reduce the hot glare of summer sun on this important tributary of the Rogue River.

“Shade from trees is the primary factor in reducing the creek’s temperature and keeping salmon alive,” says Frances. Through a grant from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, Frances and her partners have planted more than 600 native trees, including cottonwoods, Oregon ash, alders and a variety of conifers.

figure1-Frances-Oyung[1]Were it not for support from state officials, Bear Creek would be overheated and fish would be unable to survive.

The overall goal is to reverse the effect of 150 years of land uses that have led to a high level of stress on coho salmon, Chinook salmon and steelhead trout.

figure2-Frances-Oyung[1]“It is a slow process and gargantuan job,” says Frances. But the cooling effect of restored trees is already making a difference.

Do you have an Arbor Day Foundation story that you’d like to share?  Please tell us all about it in the comments section below. We’d love to hear it!

Check out our other Faces of Urban Forestry.

Rain Forest Rescue in Madagascar is Saving More Than Forests, it is Saving the Lemurs

toucanTropical rain forests are home to half of the world’s plants and animals, and a source of food, medicines and other plant-based products that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. But according to the California Institute of Technology, about 2,000 trees per minute are cut down in rain forests, destroying natural habitat and displacing wildlife.

Rain forest deforestation affects us all. Approximately 25% of all medicines on the market today come from plants found only in tropical rain forests including treatments for a variety of cancers, malaria and multiple sclerosis. Additionally, deforestation leads to the growing extinction of many species, such as the adorable lemurs.

BW Lemur

Black and white ruffed lemurs provide an ecological service by aiding fruit seed germination through digestion of seed coatings.

Lemurs are small primates found exclusively in the forests of the island nation of Madagascar. As much as 80% of Madagascar’s forests have been destroyed, leading to a diminishing population of rare species. Lemurs are unique because they play a key role in the future of trees.  Ninety percent of a lemur’s diet is fruit. As a result of their diet, lemurs eat frequently and process their meals more rapidly.

What does this have to do with trees? The seeds left behind from a lemur’s meal have their coatings removed, allowing for germination in the forest. In fact, the germination rate of seeds processed by lemurs is nearly 100 percent, compared to only 5 percent of unprocessed (or coated) seeds. Lemurs not only live off of the forest, but they’re replanting it too.

lemur disperser
Lemurs are the primary seed disperser of the Madagascar’s eastern rain forest at Sangasanga Mountain.

 The Arbor Day Foundation and Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium joined forces to advance the reforestation efforts led by the Madagascar Biodiversity Partnership in Kianjavato, Madagascar by planting hundreds of thousands of trees to restore habitat. In 2009, the lemur population at Sangasanga Mountain was only eight. As of 2015 the population increased to six times what it was, with a lemur population of fifty! The impact of the reforestation effort in Madagascar has helped more than just the forest; it is helping bring back a species from the brink of extinction.

Saving an endangered animal such as the lemur comes from the help of Arbor Day Foundation members through programs such as Rain Forest Rescue. Thanks to the support of members, the Arbor Day Foundation is able to help restore the forests of Madagascar and provide habitat to save the endangered lemurs. Additionally, the reforestation effort is improving the economy and living conditions of the local people through jobs in tree nurseries and on the mountain sides planting those trees.

If we’re able to increase the lemur population by six times on one mountain top in Madagascar, imagine what we can accomplish on the rest of the island. Tropical rain forests contain more species than any other ecosystem on Earth, yet are being destroyed at an alarming rate. Check out our latest Rain Forest Rescue Report  to see the other impacts our replanting efforts leave.

One tree, two trees, my trees are small trees!

Planting in small areas can be challenging, especially if you want to add some height to your landscape. Consider adding small trees that will excite your senses!

Small trees are perfect for any landscape and add color to entry ways, curbs, and long sidewalks. These small trees are sure to standout and add charm next to your home every spring and some even all year round! Continue reading to discover which small trees have caught our interest.

Smoketree_1-920The mutli-stemmed smoketree holds true to its name- growing blooms that are wispy clumps of filaments. This easy-to-grow specimen turns a smoky pink color from June through August. Growing 10’ to 15’, it is a good choice for a shrub border or other grouping.

Ann-Magnolia_1-860The ann magnolia is a member of the “Little Girl” group of hybrid magnolias developed in the mid-50s at the U.S. National Arboretum. Its profusion of deep purple-red blossoms resemble tulips and bloom in mid-to late March.  Sometimes, the tree blooms again in the summer. At maturity, the Ann magnolia grows to a height of 8’ to 10’.

Japanese-Red-Maple_1-866After 300 years of cultivation, the Japanese red maple is still a beloved tree. It offers a warm touch of red to any yard in the spring and fall, and features a green summer leaf. Red, winged seeds attract squirrels, chipmunks, quail and songbirds. This taller landscape tree matures to about 15’ to 25’.

Purpleleaf-Sand-Cherry_1-816Purpleleaf sand cherry  tree‘s year-round beauty and smaller size makes it an excellent choice for landscaping. Its fragrant white and pink flowers blossom in spring while featuring simple leaves with an intense reddish-purple color. The small yields of plump red berries are an important food source for small birds and mammals including robins and cardinals. The Purpleleaf matures to 15’ to 25’.

Downy-Serviceberry_1-919A phenomenal large shrub that can be trained into a single trunk tree is the downy serviceberry. The combination of flowers, vibrant fall foliage and wildlife value will add lots of visual enjoyment to your yard. This wonderful little tree reaches 15′ to 25′ at maturity and produces plump red berries for pies, preserves and fresh eating.

Did your favorite small tree make the list? If not, share your favorite in the comments!

Before you start planting, get helpful tips and information on tree care, and to find out which trees grow best in each hardiness zone. You can find all of these trees and more in our Tree Nursery. Get a discount on all of your trees when you become an Arbor Day Foundation member.