By Susan Starr.
Editor’s Note: With this article, we begin an occasional series on horticultural online resources. If you know of a database, website, app or other online resource that you think other SDHS members would enjoy using, please drop us a line.
Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago. — Warren Buffet
Planting a tree is a huge investment of time, space, and patience. Most trees grow slowly. In their first few years, they need to be carefully watered, pruned, and staked. With luck, they will grow, thrive, and provide shade and/or fruit for many years. However, plant the wrong tree in the wrong place, and you may have roots in your sewer line, inconvenient debris on your patio, or quarrels with your neighbors. Therefore, it is important to choose the right tree at the outset.
Cal Poly’s new SelecTree database, maintained by the Urban Forest Ecosystems Institute, promises to help us do just that. This interactive program is designed to assist you in selecting appropriate trees by matching trees to particular sites based on compatible characteristics. The database also provides a Tree Characteristics Glossary and references.
Using this database, you can find trees by their physical characteristics, such as height, shape, and growth rate; by their leaf, flower, and fruit characteristics, such as fall foliage color and leaf type; by site conditions like salinity and exposure; and by pest conditions, health concerns and much more. Each category has a drop-down menu listing the choices available. For example, under Tree Shape, you can choose from columnar, conical, oval, rounded, umbrella, vase, and palm. After entering three or four (or more) desired tree attributes, the site will return a list of possibilities with photos and links to a wealth of detailed information on each possibility.
The site also has a Right Tree Right Place page with health and safety links (including information about utility damage, fire safety, and root damage) that complement the important considerations outlined in this issue's Trees, Please article, 'Arboreal Caveat Emptor'. You can search trees by name as well, of course. There is also information on the site about tree maintenance, invasives, etc.
Looking for a fruit tree that will grow on the coast? A shade tree that will not block your neighbor’s view? Something the deer will not eat? SelecTree is a great place to begin your search.