White Salmon’s July Tree of the Month: Oregon White Oak

The Oregon White Oak can be found in neighborhoods and different landscapes around the city of White Salmon.

White Salmon’s designation as a Tree City USA this past Arbor Day made us one of only four cities in Washington to be inducted in 2017. Thousands of cities across the U.S. have been recognized by the USFS/Arbor Day Foundation’s Tree City USA program since its inception over 40 years ago.

The newly formed White Salmon Tree Board would like to recognize the previous City Council’s efforts (especially those of Kimberly Hoppus) in pushing this project forward and is enthusiastic about embracing the importance of trees in our community. Which is why we will be highlighting a Tree of the Month to raise awareness of the many types of species present and also the value that they add to our city.

Trees improve the livability of communities for a variety of reasons, including increased visual appeal and their cooling effects from the shade. Especially as we enter into another hot summer, the cooling effect helps energy bills as well – one mature tree can produce the same cooling effect as 10 room-sized air conditioners! Trees are also tirelessly working to improve the environment in other ways:

oAir Quality – Planting trees is one of the most cost-effective ways of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. An acre of trees in Gaddis Park absorbs enough CO2 over one year to equal the amount produced by driving a car 26,000 miles.

Health & Well Being – Trees are constantly working to remove a variety of pollutants from the air.

Stormwater – Trees help to prevent stormwater runoff from reaching waterways with harmful chemicals collected from roads and sidewalks.

Habitat for Wildlife – Sycamore and Oak are among many urban species that provide excellent urban homes for birds, bees, and squirrels.

This last point leads to our first tree of the month. The Oregon White Oak, one of only four deciduous oaks native to the west coast and Washington’s only native oak, is a familiar sight around town.

Historically, Oregon White Oaks have suffered from removal for increased urban environments and to suppress naturally occurring fires. Though slow growing, the hardy tree provides favorable habitat for many important wildlife, including western gray squirrel, goldfinches, wild turkeys, and woodpeckers. Their acorns also used to provide food to native populations, who would use them to make acorn meal.

Observant residents might have noticed some seedlings around town this past fall when White Oaks were planted by the Underwood Conservation District. While non-native plants like blackberries typically reduce the growth rate of seedlings, human intervention is one impediment we hope not to see on city property. In fact, part of becoming a Tree City included the adoption of a tree ordinance, which includes a fine of up to $250 for anyone found to be in violation. So, grab your favorite book, or a copy of the City Ordinances, and find a mature Oregon White Oak to sit under during one of these upcoming 100+ degree days, enjoying the shade and perhaps the company of one of the tree’s resident squirrels or birds.

The Tree Board meets on the second Tuesday of each month at 5 p.m. at City Hall. Nominations for future Tree of the Month designations are welcomed and encouraged!

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