Did you know that during Hurricane Katrina, longleaf pine trees proved to be largely resistant to the force of the Category 3 storm? Unlike other pine trees, the majority of the longleaf pines sustained little or no damage, due to their deep-rooting nature, higher wood density and somewhat wider base. That was the conclusion of the United States Forest Service, which studied the 1.2 million acres of forestland damaged by the 2005 hurricane.
“It is a common misconception that all pine trees are a danger to your house,” said arborist Andrew Wagner, of Heartwood Tree Service. “Longleaf, shortleaf, and loblolly, for instance, are hard pines; white pines are soft pines.” The pine is also the official state tree.
The importance and benefits of trees will be showcased at Black Mountain’s Arbor Day celebration Saturday, Nov. 4, from 10 am to noon at Town Square. The event is sponsored by the Black Mountain Urban Forestry Commission.
“Everyone has something to learn on Arbor Day,” said Mara McLaughlin-Taylor, who heads the Urban Forestry Commission. She urges citizens to attend the event to learn about specific benefits of trees and the commission’s efforts to map local trees and to the town to qualify as a Tree City USA. A local arborist will be on hand to answer general questions about protecting and preserving trees, and there will be free refreshments on hand, for as long as they last.
At 11 am., there will be a brief public address about local urban forestry efforts. Various public officials will be on hand, and plans are in the works to plant the town’s Christmas tree that day as well.
Educators, churches, parents and individuals can take small actions on a regular basis that will have a long-lasting impact, McLaughlin-Taylor said. “Work with your neighbors to identify and protect old-growth trees in your neighborhood, learn to identify one tree you don't now recognize, and plant one or more trees - these are just a few easy ideas.”
Given the damage wrought by hurricanes in 2017, tree-planting comes to the foreground.
“Trees are the first line of defense against stormwater management and erosion,” Wagner said. “The tree canopy breaks the impact of rain on soil and slows down the velocity, which creates the perfect conditions for tree roots to absorb more rainwater and not send it downhill. If all the stormwater in Black Mountain rolled into the Swannanoa River and downstream, Asheville would be negatively impacted.”
Lawns and golf courses, Wagner pointed out, do not absorb rainwater to any extent that is useful, especially compared to the value of trees in stormwater management. Trees also provide wildlife habitat and are a renewable resource that provides paper, as well as wood for fuel and construction.
“We make an immense mistake when we think of trees as solely an aesthetic member of the community,” conservationist Richard Leakey said. “They cut pollution, cool the air, prevent erosion, muffle sound and produce oxygen. Then, after all that, they look good.”
Celebrating Arbor Day in Black Mountain is a reminder to support efforts to protect the town’s trees. National Arbor Day is the last Friday in April, but each town can pick its own date for the event. Black Mountain celebrates Arbor Day the first Saturday in November because it is the optimal time for planting, when the tree is dormant, allowing its roots to take hold during the region’s mild winter.
The Urban Forestry Commission is one of the town’s citizen advisory boards. Citizens are invited to all meetings, which are held on the first Tuesday of each month at 5:30 p.m. at Town Hall. The agenda for each upcoming meeting is also available as a public document. For more, visit townofblackmountain.org or call 828-419-9300.