To the untrained eye, root sprouts and tree suckers may appear to be signs of nature doing what it is designed to do, but if you ask the experts, as we did recently in a conversation with our consulting arborist Norm Helie of The Growing Tree, it depends on the tree and where it is.
Sprouts and suckers occur naturally in almost all tree species and are part of the survival mechanism to help trees dominate a given area. According to Helie, more than 60 percent of forest regeneration in New England is from root suckers. In addition, trunk sprout growth helps trees naturally recover from catastrophic snow, wind, and ice events.
In the urban environment root suckers are more prolific than in nature and can be a response to certain stresses, such as insects or disease. Hearing Helie explain his observations and treatment regimens for the sprouts and suckers on trees in the Boston Common, Public Garden, and Commonwealth Avenue Mall, it sounds similar to how a dermatologist might describe treating growths found on a human body.
Root sprout growth takes energy from the tree and diverts it from the main trunk, which can then contribute to further decline. Proper removal involves removing as much of the cells that keep the sprout growing, called the meristematic tissue, as possible. The remaining tissue needs to be cauterized in order to inhibit new sprouts. Follow-up care is certainly needed to prevent new sprout growth, along with fertilization and disease control for overall health.
The next time you see a tree that appears to be struggling in our urban greenspaces, pause and see if sprouts and suckers are part of the problem. Helie says, “these trees always look like the best thing you can do is to cut them down but, in fact, these trees need attention and can do well with the right kind of care.”
Photos: Norm Helie
Michael Fenter has been a Member of the Friends of the Public Garden since 2010. He learned about the Friends through Board member Margaret Pokorny when they were working on community projects together. The Mall is special to Michael and he considers it to be his “front yard”. He has lived in many cities and believes there is nothing quite like the parks in Boston. He enjoys seeing the seasons change in them and says, “the parks are an ever-changing living canvas of nature right in the middle of modern living.”
The parks mean so much to Michael that he has helped care for them by volunteering in a variety of ways for Mall projects, including fundraising efforts for a sponsored tree in memory of people who died from AIDS and ongoing litter and graffiti clean up. He also participates in his employers’ match program, ensuring that his contributions and volunteer hours go even further with a match from Microsoft. He explains the Friends and sometimes hands out informational materials, as he responds to people’s questions while volunteering or walking his dogs along the Mall
“One way to enhance and restore these parks is to educate the next generation of stewards,” says Michael. He started an annual “Keeping It Clean” day for his nephews’ school where the children come and clean litter on the Mall from Arlington Street to the Kenmore block. They are rewarded with pizza and bowling for their volunteer hours! He believes these parks are a legacy for past and future citizens to treasure. “The main reason to join the Friends is because it is our responsibility to preserve these living treasures for the next generation,” he added.
Taking a seat on the sidelines in the Public Garden just got better with the addition of three new benches! This installation marks the $85,000 Phase III of our Boylston Street border project. We invite you to have a seat, enjoy the view, and let us know what you think.
Thank you to our members for their support that makes this and other improvements possible.
If you are interested in sponsoring a bench, with your or a loved one’s name on a plaque near it, in America’s first public botanical garden, please contact email@example.com to ask about bench sponsorship opportunities.
Save the date for the December 3rd lecture of the Friends of Fairsted lecture series: Our National Parks and the “Fairsted School”: An Enduring Legacy. We are pleased to be a supporter of this event.
Ethan Carr, PhD, FASLA
6:00pm Reception | 7:00pm Lecture
Wheelock College, Brookline Campus
43 Hawes Street, corner of Hawes and Monmouth Streets, Brookline, MA
Seating is limited and reservations are required.
Reserve online or 617-566-1689, ext. 265
The Olmsted firm is famous for the design of hundreds of municipal parks and other landscapes. The achievements of Olmsted and his successors in scenic preservation are less well understood, but park design and scenic preservation were both aspects of the practice of landscape architecture Olmsted developed in the second half of the nineteenth century. This talk explores the role of the “Fairsted School” of landscape architecture and its influence on scenic preservation and the design of state and national park systems through the twentieth century.
Ethan Carr, PhD, FASLA, is a landscape historian and preservationist specializing in public landscapes. He has taught at the Harvard GSD, the University of Virginia, and at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he is a professor. He has written two award-winning books, Wilderness by Design (1998) and Mission 66: Modernism and the National Park Dilemma (2007), and is the volume editor of Volume 8 of the Papers of Frederick Law Olmsted, The Early Boston Years, 1882-1890 (2013).
Limited street parking is available. Public parking is not allowed in the Wheelock parking lot. Venue is easily accessible by MBTA Green Line “C” (Hawes Street) or “D” (Longwood) trains.
Thanks to the Friends Sculpture Care Program, master stone conservator Ivan Myjer was recently on Boston Common to perform general maintenance on the Shaw Memorial. Ongoing regular upkeep involved repointing of the granite walls, marble balustrade and base. Several areas that experienced a loss of stone were rebuilt and stains on the stone caused by the environment were cleaned. Myjer also applied sealant around the base of the bronze relief to protect it from moisture getting behind the bronze and causing damage. While the Friends has overseen regular maintenance on the monument, it was observed that over time, water has seeped into cracks between the stones causing displacement in several places. A comprehensive assessment was done on this treasured piece of art and recommendations were made for restoration work.
The Shaw/54th Regiment Memorial by renowned sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens is the most acclaimed piece of public sculpture in Boston, and one of the most significant pieces of sculpture in the country. Saint-Gaudens was the foremost American sculptor of his day. After accepting the Shaw Memorial commission in 1884, he took almost fourteen years to complete the job. The enormous bas-relief depicts the mounted Colonel Robert Gould Shaw leading the Massachusetts 54th Regiment, the first all-volunteer black regiment in the Union army. Colonel Shaw, together with many of his men, died at Fort Wagner, South Carolina, in July 1863. Names of all 54th Regiment soldiers are listed on the Boston Common side of the monument.