Author: Richard Edwards, Tree and Woodland Officer, LB Croydon

After contacting the London Tree Officers Association (LTOA) David Lefcourt, City Arborist/Tree Warden for Cambridge Massachusetts (home of Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology) paid a visit to the London Borough of Croydon. He was here to talk trees and have a tour of Croydon with Richard Edwards and Simon Levy, two of Croydon’s Tree and Woodlands Officers, along with John Parker, Chair of the LTOA.

It was David’s first time in Europe and he was in the London to follow his passion for Football, he had seen three games in the week he was here and commented that he had only seen the sun for about 12 minutes in that time but took time out from his holiday to catch up with fellow tree officers.     

It was interesting to learn the title ‘tree warden’ is used very differently in Massachusetts than it is here. Since 1899, Massachusetts General Law has mandated that all cities and towns in the Commonwealth have a tree warden who is responsible for trees on public property. The tree warden mandate is still in effect today under Massachusetts General Laws; more information can be found at http://masstreewardens.org/what-is-a-tree-warden/ but in effect they are a tree officer.

The day started visiting Elgin Road to view newly-constructed tree pits which have recently been planted with field maple, commonly known as hedge maple in America. It was interesting to learn that in Cambridge the tree pits would be twice as the size of the tree pits that are constructed in Croydon and that their services are located under the road rather than the pavement so they don’t have the same issues that we have in finding locations in the pavement. Also before putting in new pits they will also use stickers on the pavement saying “this is a great place for a tree” so people can show support for the planting.

Due to the winter snow they have a spring and autumn planting season planting roughly 150-300 trees each season.

In Cambridge they spend $1000 USD on planting and maintaining the newly planted tree for the first two years of planting. David will often fly over to nurseries to inspect planting stock, all of which are grown in the US. Watering is a big thing with the use of gator watering bags; contractors will visit once a week and they also use a second team in a truck do top-up watering and a third team on a bike with a hose that the plug into the fire hydrants to do extra watering.

Moving on to look at our street tree pruning program it was interesting to hear that in the US most people want trees to offer shade rather than in the UK the complaint that the trees are blocking sun light, also tree-related subsidence is not a concept in Cambridge. So David was surprised to see how severe some of our pruning and pollarding is on the highway.

We then took a visit to a couple of woodlands something that David does have in Cambridge, he did not realise the damage that grey squirrels cause in the UK as they don’t bark strip in the US. He was interested to see some 300 year old veteran pollarded oak pasture at Addington Hills that we had recently removed holly from. Due to exploitation of the woodland lands in Cambridge by the “British” they don’t have many trees older than about 150 years old.

Our Final visit was to Wettern Tree garden to show him the collection of trees.

It was a really enjoyable day swapping ideas although I’m a little bit jealous that David has one of the best funded Urban Forestry projects in the state with a budget just over $2 million USD per year to manage 19000 trees.

The visit was a great success and another example of how the LTOA is continually developing international relationships and sharing ideas and experiences with colleagues from other countries.

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