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News | Jan. 5, 2022

Tree beautification program’s roots run deep

By Natalie Skelton, DLA Aviation Public Affairs

Few beautification projects have longer lasting benefits than tree planting, and the 50 trees planted this fall on Defense Supply Center Richmond, Virginia, will provide shade, shelter and improved air quality for years to come.

Jimmy Parrish, the chief of the Environmental Management Division with Defense Logistics Agency Installation Management Richmond, said the trees planted are all species native to Virginia and were selected for their specific attributes.

“We do not want to introduce any non-native species that might become invasive and overrun a particular area,” Parrish said. The 50 trees planted are a mix of white, Pin, Columnar and red oaks,  red maple, Locust and white fir.

Most of the trees were planted along G Road; in parking lots adjacent to Building 46; and along the Southern Perimeter Road on the southernmost part of the installation.

Parrish said the trees along G Road and near Building 46 were planted to replace trees that had died, while the Southern perimeter road location was chosen to fill out existing woodlands.

“All the Columnar oak trees were planted along G Road; these are very hardy trees that can stand the openness,” he said. “This [type of] tree also grows up rather than out, so the need for future pruning is minimal.”

The Columnar oak holds special significance for the commonwealth; it was first brought to Virginia by English settlers.

The oak trees planted near the building are noted for their slow growth and resistance to drought and pollution, tolerance to a wide range of soils and for their color.

Parrish said the trees planted in the Southern portion of the installation will help provide additional shelter and food for wildlife and enhance the existing tree line.

The lone white fir? “I really liked its appearance,” Parrish said.

The beautification factor is far outweighed by the environmental benefits of the tree planting, Parrish said.

“Trees soak up carbon dioxide, making the air cleaner and healthier for us. We have studies that show our installation’s tree population is estimated to store 2,246 tons of carbon. Our white oaks store the most of all species. The studies also estimate that these trees remove 1,763 pounds of air pollution—including ozone, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter less than 2.5 microns in size,” he said.

Trees also enrich the soil and serve as a form of soil stabilization during rainy periods. They intercept precipitation, while their root systems promote infiltration and storage in the soil.

This attribute was especially important when planting trees in the Southern portion of the installation, which is susceptible to flooding, he said.

Parrish is familiar enough with the 1,300-plus trees on the installation that he knows the white oak population is the most numerous of the 48 species, making up 44% of the total trees. He estimates that the installation’s oldest tree is likely a maple, since this species can live up to 300 years, and if so, the tree may reside in the elk pastures or near the former Officers’ Quarters (now the East Gate area).

“Our least prevalent tree is the Black Walnut. This tree is beautiful but because its seed is large, it causes problems for our lawnmowers—and for anyone who might be downwind from a mower when it hits one of these seeds and projects it outward,” he said.

Near Building 201 grows one tree that is something of a miracle—or a survivor, depending on one’s view. This is the installation’s lone Elm tree, the last one standing after a bout of Dutch elm disease decimated the Elm tree population.

Parrish said his team is attuned to the health and wellbeing of the tree population. “We have contracts in place for the pruning of our existing trees, which helps maintain their health and encourages new growth,” he said. “We also have a contract to fell any dead trees. This frees up space and encourages the growth of standing trees.”