Starting out in Urban Forestry, my favorite tree was the Zelkova. Tall, majestic and vase-shaped, the Zelkova is not native to the US, but was used as an alternative for the Elm when Dutch Elm Disease almost wiped them out completely. In my hometown, our main thoroughfare was lined with beautiful Elms, creating a shaded canopy along the sidewalks where I rode my bike. Then, Dutch Elm Disease came calling, and our streets and sidewalks were bare.
Today, my favorite tree is the Willow oak. It happened about 11 years ago when work brought me to Washington DC and I saw the most magnificent trees – Willow oaks. Huge trees lining the roads and sidewalks, and shading DC parks. I fell in love.
Seven years ago, the NJ Tree Foundation planted a 10-acre Living Memorial in tribute to the NJ victims of 9/11/2001. It is called the Grove of Remembrance. In this memorial there are over 40 different tree species including Zelkovas and Willow oaks. Both hardy trees, the Willow oaks are thriving! This Living Memorial is located in Liberty State Park, Jersey City, NJ on a former brownfield. There is no “soil” to speak of, just fill. And environmental conditions there are quite harsh. It is my personal barometer for hardiness in trees and shrubs. If a plant can survive in the Grove of Remembrance, it can survive anywhere.
And so, my newest favorite tree, the Willow oak, has not let me down. It is a happy camper in the Grove, and doing me proud.