January 16: Florida Arbor Day tree giveaway at Martin County Fairgrounds

One of this year’s featured plants will be the native bald cypress tree (Taxodium distichum var. distichum). Though commonly seen in forested wetland habitats, UF researchers note that the trees will also grow remarkably well on almost any soil, including heavy, compacted soils, so long as the soil pH is below 7.5.

If you’d like to help expand our tree canopy here in Martin County, you’re invited to attend this year’s annual Tree Give-away, hosted by the University of Florida Institute of Food & Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) Extension Martin County Florida Yards & Neighborhoods and Master Gardener Programs, on Saturday, January 16. The event will be held from 9 a.m. until noon at the UF/IFAS Extension Martin County office, which is located at the north end of the Martin County Fairgrounds (2614 SE Dixie Highway, Stuart). The trees being offered were purchased by Val Martin of Florida Classics Library and Fred Burkey, UF/IFAS Extension Florida Yards & Neighborhoods Multi-county Agent. A variety of one-gallon native trees will be available for attendees to choose from.

One of this year’s featured plants will be the native bald cypress tree (Taxodium distichum var. distichum). Though commonly seen in forested wetland habitats, UF researchers note that the trees will also grow remarkably well on almost any soil, including heavy, compacted soils, so long as the soil pH is below 7.5. Cypress are relatively maintenance-free and drought-tolerant, though will need additional water during establishment and times of severe drought. Bald cypress trees can live for hundreds of years, growing to about 150 feet tall and six feet in diameter. Geologists believe that cypress have been growing in Florida for about 6,500 years. Though logging has since removed most of the oldest cypress here, some of the remaining old-growth cypress trees in Florida are over 500 years old.

Currently, cypress trees are harvested from our state’s wetlands mainly for saw timber and landscape mulch. While mulch is often made from waste wood generated in the manufacture of other wood products, increased demand for cypress mulch has led to an increase in harvesting of whole trees cut from wetlands specifically for mulch. These younger trees do not have the natural pest resistance of old-growth wood. UF/IFAS Extension does not recommend purchasing cypress mulch for your landscape, as its origins may be difficult to determine. Cypress trees are needed in our swamps, where they serve important ecological functions, including providing wildlife habitat, removing excess nutrients from water, and absorbing stormwater runoff. In our urban landscapes, cypress and other trees can offer similar benefits for wildlife and water quality, so come to the tree giveaway and bring home a cypress to plant in your yard, lakeshore, or rain garden.

Other native trees being offered will include fiddlewood (Citharexylum fruticosum), spicewood (Calyptranthes pallens), and Simpson’s stopper (Myrcianthes fragrans), all of which have fragrant blooms and berries attractive to birds. Another featured native tree, pitch-apple (Clusia rosea), is also known as the “signature tree”, because words and figures can be etched into the leaves. Pitch-apple has fruits which are attractive to birds and can create dense shade to cool the home or patio. Lastly, cocoplum (Chrysobalanus icaco), is a native salt-tolerant tree or shrub which is able to grow well on a wide range of soils and needs little irrigation once established.

Extension Agents, Fred Burkey and Yvette Goodiel, and Master Gardener volunteers will provide educational information on best management practices for successfully establishing your trees. Presentations will cover when and where to plant your new trees, how to plant and mulch young trees, and how to care for trees during their establishment period. Fact sheets will be provided, discussing the unique features of each of the trees offered and their cultivation. The UF/IFAS Extension Martin County Master Gardener Help Desk volunteers will also be available to answer your landscape and garden questions.

For more information, call (772) 288-5654 or visit http://martin.ifas.ufl.edu/. The event is free and open to the public; advance registration is not required nor accepted. Trees will be offered on a first come, first served basis.

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