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Potluck: Branch Out


Compiled by Carol Bodensteiner
and Mary Gottschalk

Before Europeans settled Iowa, trees shaded nearly 20 percent of the landscape. Today trees grace only about 6 percent of our state.

As Arbor Day approaches, remember the significant benefits that accrue to those who invest in trees — from improved air quality and energy savings to storm water retention and increased property values. According to a study conducted by Trees Forever and the city of Cedar Rapids, for every dollar spent on trees, taxpayers received four dollars back in benefits.

But be mindful what you plant. Dutch elm disease destroyed millions of trees, leaving tree-lined streets bare. Now roughly 25 percent of Iowa’s street tree population is ash. And the Emerald ash borer is headed our way. As cities and homeowners think about planting trees, Trees Forever urges diversity — no more than 10 percent of any one species. — C.B.


Iowa and the rest of the country celebrate Arbor Day this year on April 27. Learn more about tree selection, planting, care, benefits, and threats online at

Trees Forever President and CEO Shannon Ramsey (top, in sunglasses) and volunteers. Courtesy Trees Forever

Red, White & Oak

Twelve different native species of oak are included in Iowa’s state tree designation, first made nonspecifically in 1961. In 2004 the U.S. Congress — responding to a nationwide vote hosted by the National Arbor Day Foundation — passed legislation tapping the mighty oak as America’s National Tree.

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