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Shade Tree Useful Information/FAQ’s

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Benefits of Trees

Among the direct economic benefits of trees are lowered energy costs to homeowners--lower air conditioning costs and lower heating costs when trees are planted as windbreaks--and value added from landscaped vs. non-landscaped homes (from 5-20% value difference). The net cooling effect of a young, healthy tree is equivalent to 10 room-size air conditioners operating 20 hours a day, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

     According to Pepper deTuro, certified NJ arborist:

  • One mature tree provides enough oxygen for four people.
  • A single maple tree with a diameter of 30 cm can extract between 5 and 10 grams of heavy metals from the soil each year, which helps decontaminate urban lands.
  • A healthy mature tree can absorb between 2.5 and 5.0 kg of carbon each year, which slows down climate change, and about 7,000 fine particulates in each liter of air, which decreases the incidence of respiratory diseases.
  • Trees protect us against the heat island effect by creating shade and pulling water out of the soil and into the atmosphere; a large oak tree can transpire more than 400 liters of water a day.

     Trees serve as noise barriers. Birds are attracted to the area. Leaves filter the air we breathe by removing dust and other particulates. Rain then washes pollutants to the ground. Leaves absorb carbon dioxide from the air, as well as other pollutants, ozone, carbon monoxide, and sulphur dioxide. They give off oxygen.  Temperature near trees is cooler than it is away from them. Trees moderate the heat effects of pavement/concrete in urban settings.   Wind speed and direction can be affected by trees. Trees reduce stormwater runoff and the possibility of flooding.

     Trees improve air quality, moderate the climate, conserve water, and harbor wildlife.

     Click here for a Tree Benefits Calculator.

Invasive Species List

Click here for an invasive species list

Click here for the Resolution 16-364 Recommending Invasive Species Do not plant list.

Caring for Trees

The Community Forestry Program of the NJ State Dept. of Environmental Protection has advice on caring for trees and other topics.

Click here for a brochure on tree decay.(pdf)

Native Shade Trees - NJ

Question:  I want to plant a tree in my Princeton yard. I hear native (not imported) trees perform the best. What are the names of some native trees that grow well in our New Jersey climate?

Answer: Take this list of recommended native trees with you to the tree nursery.

Selected List of Children's Books about Trees

All twelve books on this list are available in the Princeton Public Library. They were chosen for read-aloud interest, tree-awareness values, discussion starters, science facts, poetry, and marvels that go beyond the usual "Aren't trees pretty? They make shade; they change colors; and birds can build nests in them."  

  • ARBOR DAY SQUARE, by Kathryn O. Galbraith, illustrated by Cyd Moore, Peachtree Publishers, 2010
  • CELEBRITREES, HISTORIC AND FAMOUS TREES OF THE WORLD, by Margi Preus, illustrated by Rebecca Gibbon, Henry Holt, 2011
  • CRINKLEROOT'S GUIDE TO KNOWING THE TREES, by Jim Arnosky, Bradbury Press, 1992
  • A GRAND OLD TREE, by Mary Newell DePalma, Scholastic Press, 2005
  • HAVE YOU SEEN TREES? by JoAnne Oppenheim, illustrated by Jean and Mou-Sien Tseng, Scholastic, 1995
  • I WONDER WHY PINE TREES HAVE NEEDLES AND OTHER QUESTIONS ABOUT FORESTS, by Jackie Gaff, Kingfisher Publications, 2005
  • I WONDER WHY TREES HAVE LEAVES, by Andrew Charman, Kingfisher Publications, 2003
  • MY MOTHER TALKS TO TREES, by Doris Gove, illustrated by Marilynn H. Mallory, Peachtree Publishers, 2005
  • POETREES, by Douglas Florian, Beach Lane Books, 2003
  • RED LEAF, YELLOW LEAF, by Lois Ehlert, Harcourt Inc., 1991
  • SOMEDAY A TREE, by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Ronald Himler, Clarion Books, 1993
  • TELL ME, TREE: ALL ABOUT TREES FOR KIDS, by Gail Gibbons, Little, Brown & Co., 2002

Tree-Related Links

How old is that tree? You don't need to cut down a tree and count its rings to figure its age. Check out this formula and table published by the International Society of Arboriculture.

Urban-tolerant trees. This link to the New Jersey Tree Foundation website includes related articles.

Landscape plants rated by deer resistance. A comprehensive list, including trees, can be found on this Rutgers University fact sheet. See also the same information on this website, in the "Useful Info" drop-down menu, under the heading "Deer Resistant Plants."

What are the best trees to plant under utility wires? The PSE&G website, under the heading "Right Tree, Right Place," presents a list of trees compatible with overhead distribution facilities.

Tree owner information. This link to the International Society of Arboriculture website presents many tree care topics and directs you to related brochures.

More Information

Bacterial Leaf Scorch in Oaks

Deer Resistant Plants

Mulching Your Trees

Spring is a great time to mulch your trees, but not if you are using mulch "volcanoes." The practice of creating mulch volcanoes, while a popular landscaping practice, actually is most harmful to trees. Piling mulch at the base of a tree traps moisture around the trunk and root flare, leading to decay and often structural damage. Excessive and improper use of mulch can also rot bark surfaces and prevent deep supporting root development. Further, excessive mulch placed around the bark of trees prevents moisture from penetrating the roots. The best shape is a donut that keeps mulch several inches away from the base of the tree to avoid rot and diseases but encourages moisture to enter the root system.

Trees with mulched root zones are usually larger and more vigorous, develop faster, and have higher rates of survival than plants surrounded by turf grass or bare dirt. Mulches retain soil moisture, reduce erosion, and prevent soil compaction. Mulching under trees but away from the tree trunk results in fewer weeds to compete with tree roots for water. Soil under mulch is likely to stay warmer in winter and warms faster in spring, helping extend the growing season for roots.

Organic mulches are a favorite among professionals, who view wood chips as an effective, attractive mulch for trees. Avoid fine mulch, which can become matted and prevent penetration of water and air. A good mulch bed should extend out at least three feet from a tree's trunk in all directions, though extending to the drip line is preferred. The drip line is defined as the area where the tree branches end. The mulch depth should be 2-3 inches.

Don't keep adding new mulch on top of what is already under the tree. Mulch does decompose, but you don't want to accumulate excessive mulch year after year by adding fresh mulch every spring. If you want the look of fresh mulch, and there is a depth of mulch fewer than three inches under the tree, break up the old with a rake and add only a thin layer of new on top.

--Condensed and edited summary of a 2011 Town Topics article written by Pepper deTuro, certified NJ arborist.

Urban Tree Resources

THE ROAD TO A THOUGHTFUL STREET TREE MASTER PLANA practical guide to systematic planning and designKen Simons and Gary R. Johnson

Click here for the Simons and Johnson PDF

URBAN TREES AND SHRUBSProduced by the Chicago Botanic GardenSlide assistance provided by the School of Forest Resources, Pennsylvania State UniversityFunding provided in part by the USDA Forest Service, Northeastern Area; State and Private Forestry; Midwest Center for Urban and Community Forestry

Click here for the Urban Trees and Shrubs PDF

RECOMMENDED URBAN TREES: Site Assessment and Tree Selection for Stress ToleranceUrban Horticulture Institute, Department of Horticulture, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York

Click here for the Recommended Urban Trees PDF

Frequently Asked Questions

Princeton Shade TreesFrequently Asked Questions(updated 12/13/16)

Q:  What does the Shade Tree Commission do? A:  The Princeton STC works with residents and employees of the municipality to watch over the health and diversity of our forest and street trees; to inventory, maintain, and grow the community green scene; to survey and monitor the streets to reduce risk from hazardous or ailing trees; and to promote public awareness of proper tree care.Q:  How do I report a tree problem, like a large fallen branch or tree?  A:  If you are having a tree emergency--i.e., a tree has fallen--there may be power lines involved.  Do not go near it.  Call the police at 911.Q:  What if tree roots are pushing up the sidewalk at my address?  Who is responsible for trees that are blocking street lights, traffic, and parking signs?A:  For non-emergencies, call the Municipal Arborist (609-497-7639) or email the arborist through the “contact” link on this site.  Please describe the problem, and provide your address, cross street, and telephone number or email.Q:  Which trees are the responsibility of the municipality, and which are mine?  Do I need a permit to plant, prune, or cut down trees on my property?A:  Those trees growing in the public right-of-way are protected and maintained by the municipality.  All other trees are the responsibility of the property owner.  No permit is needed for planting or pruning, as long as the pruning does not irreparably damage the tree.  A permit is needed to remove any tree with a diameter at breast height (DBH) of 8 inches or greater or an ornamental or evergreen tree with a height of 10 feet or more. Residents should contact the municipality by calling 609-497-7639.  An enforcement officer will respond within 20 days to grant or deny the application. Exceptions to the permit process include dead trees that are standing and ash trees, due to the infestation of the Emerald Ash Borer. However, written permission should be granted by the enforcement officer.    

Q:  How do I report the address of a “public tree” or find it on the shade tree database?A:  A public tree is identified first by the STREET NAME it grows on, then the HOUSE NUMBER of the property, followed by a suffix LETTER and then a suffix NUMBER  if more than one tree grows at that address.  (Example:  “Witherspoon Street 184 S2”)

     Trees growing in Front of a property are assigned the letter “F” after the street and house number; trees on the Side of a corner property are indicated by “S.” Trees at the Rear of a property where the back directly borders on another street are indicated by “R.”

     Keep in mind that, for example, if 148 Witherspoon Street is on a corner, and there are two public trees in front and two around the corner on a different street, then both of the front trees would be listed as “Witherspoon 148 F,” and the two around the corner (ignoring the side street name) would be listed as “Witherspoon 148 S.”

     Finally comes the suffix NUMBER at the end of each tree address.

     Tree numbering increases in the same direction that adjacent street traffic moves.  In other words, the key to bear in mind is that Americans drive on the right side of roads. If you were driving past your own house with the front curb on your right, which tree would you pass first? That tree would be #1.

     It follows in our Witherspoon example that the second tree from the corner in front of the Witherspoon corner property would be labeled Witherspoon 184 F1, and the tree closest to the corner would be F2. Move around the corner, and the first tree you pass would be Witherspoon 184 S1; the second tree would be Witherspoon 184 S2, with suffix numbers increasing as traffic flows along the right side of the street and away from the corner you last turned.

Q:  What are  the penalties for cutting down a tree without a permit?A:  Each tree removed is considered a separate violation. Please consult Sec. 22-16 of the Princeton Trees and Shrubs Ordinance adopted by Princeton Council in 2016.

Q:  May I prune a neighbor’s yard trees where they overhang my property? A:  In many localities, it is common practice for a resident to prune a neighboring tree overhanging their property, only up to the property line, so long as the tree itself is not damaged. Trimming a tree improperly can cause damage to the tree.  You should consult with your neighbor before taking any action. If you are unable to work with your neighbor for a resolution, and the tree poses a danger to your property, you should consult with the Engineering Department.  If damage has already occurred to your property or to the neighbor’s tree, a consultation with your insurance company or an attorney may be required.  The Shade Tree Commission does not have jurisdiction over disputes relating to trees found on private property.

Q:  Can I request a tree be planted curbside? How does the municipality decide on the type of tree to plant? A:  If you have recently lost a street tree, or simply lack a street tree, the front of your property may be an ideal place for a young shade tree.  Please contact the STC.       Considerations the arborist takes into account when selecting a species of street tree for each location:

How tall or wide will it be when fully grown?How fast does the tree grow?Is the form appropriate to the spot?Will the tree have correct sun and moisture conditions?Is the tree flowering and does it produce fruit?

Q:  How can I donate a tree to the municipality? May a memorial or honorary tree be planted in the town, and what is the procedure? A:  Please contact the STC with your name and information regarding the person to be honored. Princeton residents may also apply to adopt a tree or nominate a historic tree. Contact the STC for details.Q:  How deep should the mulch be around my trees, and what kind is best?A:  Mulch around a tree should be spread like a donut, not a volcano. Never allow mulch to touch the tree’s bark, and never pile it higher than 3-4 inches. Mulch too deep decreases the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide, which can lead to fungal and bacterial diseases. It is best to mulch with wood chips or other coarse organic material.Q:  What do I do with dead branches in my yard? A:  Cut them into smaller pieces no more than 3 1/2 feet long, tie for collection, and place bundles curbside in accordance with your regular brush pickup schedule.

Q:  Can I request that the Municipal Arborist visit my property to assess the condition of a particular tree or trees or otherwise advise me on questions related to my private trees?A:  No. The arborist is responsible only for the planting, care, and control of trees and shrubs upon and in the streets, highways, public places, public right-of-ways, and parks of the municipality. On the home page of this website, you can find a link to a list of arboricultural companies (tree services) that are registered to work in Princeton.

Q:  How should I select a tree specialist?A:  STC cannot recommend one tree service company over another, but it does recommend that you solicit more than one estimate prior to hiring a company. You should ask any certified arborist for the following information:

Proof of I.S.A.(International Society of Arboriculture) certification and licensing by the Contractors State License Board.Assurance that the arborist will be using ANSI A300 Pruning Standards and ANSI Z133 Safety Requirements.Assurance that the arborist will NOT use climbing spurs (hooks and gaffs).A certificate of insurance that includes liability coverage for property damage as well as workers compensation insurance for all employees.A detailed written estimate.

Q:  Is there a rule forbidding nails/staples for posters on tree trunks?A:  Yes.  It is unlawful to attach anything to a street tree.  See Sec. 22-6 of the Princeton Trees and Shrubs ordinanceQ:  What if I don’t want a tree planted at my curbside?A:  A notice is sent to residents weeks before any curbside plantings. Residents have time to respond to the Engineering Department.Q:  What is a tree worth, anyway?A:  Among the direct economic benefits of trees are lowered energy costs to homeowners, lower air conditioning costs, lower heating costs when trees are planted as windbreaks, and value added from landscaped vs. non-landscaped homes (from 5-20% value difference). The net cooling effect of a young, healthy tree is equivalent to 10 room-size air conditioners operating 20 hours a day, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.     Trees serve as noise barriers. Birds are attracted to the area. Leaves filter the air we breathe by removing dust and other particulates. Rain then washes pollutants to the ground. Leaves absorb carbon dioxide from the air, as well as other pollutants, ozone, carbon monoxide, and sulphur dioxide. They give off oxygen. Temperature near trees is cooler than it is away from them. Trees moderate the heat effects of pavement/concrete in urban settings. Wind speed and direction can be affected by trees. Trees reduce stormwater runoff and the possibility of flooding. 

     Trees improve air quality, moderate the climate, conserve water, and harbor wildli

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