The city's Forestry Division begins its annual tree plantings around the time of the first frost in early November, completing work citywide by the first week of spring. Crews are looking ahead to a busy. season this year as they add to an inventory of about 80,000 city trees along St. Louis streets.
They run the "tree-membrance" program in city parks, in which, for a donation, a person may dedicate a shade, flowering, or evergreen tree to a park-of-choice and designate the gift on a tree tag as having been made in honor or in memory of another.
But the availability of suitable places for new tree plantings in city parks is limited. By design, large areas of our parks are given over to and maintained as open space for active recreation. Thus city "tree lawns" -- the narrow green space situated between sidewalks and streets -- is where the action is when it comes to increasing tree density in St. Louis public places.
Mayor Francis Slay's Sustainability Action Agenda calls for the planting of 16,000 new trees over five years. That's an increase of 15 percent over the city's regular tree planting program.
The tempo of plantings, this year and next, is intended to quicken the Forestry Division's advance toward the five-year goal. Every new tree makes a little difference. Over time, they make a big difference, as the canopy over city homes, sidewalks, and streets become more tree-dense.
Indeed, trees yield the most compelling illustrations of how even a modest investment in urban natural resources advance social, environmental and economic interests -- the "triple bottom line" of the sustainability movement.
The first waves of steamy summer weather and thunderstorms offer some clues.
Neighborhoods with well-shaded streets can be as much as 10 degrees cooler than those without tree streets. Shade trees on the east and west sides of a home can reduce air conditioning costs by as much as 30 percent.
One hundred mature trees will intercept 100,000 gallons of rainfall - which leads to less runoff into the sewer system and cleaner drinking water.
So, when you see tree planting crews out this fall and through the winter, or the fruits of their labor from last season on the tree lawn near your house, think of your good fortune and all that tree will do for you and our city.
No need to hug the sapling out of gratitude. The best way to show your appreciation is to roll out the watering hose. A good soaking will help make sure it gets situated and thrives over its first St. Louis summer.
(Photo: The nation's largest White Basswood (Tiia heterophylla)spreads its 81 foot canopy over the Missouri Botanical Garden's Museum Building. According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, it is one of five "National Championship" trees in Missouri.)