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Photo: A view of the Asian Valley, one of many beautiful gardens at the U.S. National Arboretum. Link to photo information
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Tallying the Trees in the Nation's Capital

By Alfredo Flores
September 11, 2002

The U.S. National Arboretum has done more than its fair share, over the years, to help beautify Washington, D.C. But this past summer, the arboretum took an unusual step to ensure that the nation's capital remains beautiful. Arboretum staff sponsored the Garden Club of America's Casey Trees Endowment Fund in a grassroots effort to inventory the city's trees.

The arboretum is administered by the Agricultural Research Service, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's primary scientific research agency.

Using a team of 500 people, Casey Trees completed its goal of counting all of the trees in Washington by Aug. 15. The team comprised 35 college interns from all over the country, with major areas of study ranging from landscape architecture to urban forestry; 22 D.C. high school students; 338 citizen volunteers; 90 people from area businesses and 15 Casey Trees staff members. Workers measured each tree's height and diameter, assessed its health, determined its species and identified spots where trees are missing and where new ones could be planted.

The arboretum played a special role in inventorying Ward 5, the section of the city that the arboretum calls home. Jim Adams, curator of the National Herb Garden, led what he dubbed "Team Arboretum," a group of arboretum staff, volunteers, Ward 5 citizens and neighborhood high school students. The training taught the 55-member team the logistics of a proper inventory, as well as identification of trees, insects and diseases.

In addition to Adams, the arboretum's Scott Aker, integrated pest management (IPM) coordinator and acting leader of the arboretum's Gardens Unit, and arboretum botanist Kevin Tunison served on the Casey Trees advisory board and provided training and technical support for the project. Now that the inventory is complete, data entered on a status map show which trees need to be pruned or removed, which have Dutch elm disease or are otherwise damaged or hazardous, and where empty tree boxes are located.

Casey Trees is sharing the completed tree census with the District of Columbia's department of urban forestry. Adams, a Washington resident, hopes that his work with Casey Trees will help his town one day return to being a "City of Trees."

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