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Choosing the Right Trees for Urban Settings


Friday, April, 2016, by Pat Kelly

Arlington, Texas is rebuilding its downtown.  There are many other real estate projects in Arlington under construction, including commercial buildings, master planned residential and apartments, new school buildings, and the like.

The landscaping in these new urban developments can be better in every way than the current trends in urban landscape design simply by utilizing the most prevalent tree nature provided in the Southern Cross Timbers Region – The Post Oak Tree.

Here are some aesthetic and economic reasons for placing post oak trees in urban settings:

Post oak trees are now transplantable from Rootmaker Pots.

There are municipalities that are planting post oaks in pots below grade in urban sidewalks, and then later moving the trees if they choose to other locations.

Post oak trees have a diffuse canopy. Pruning is rarely required and strong winds blow easily through the limbs and leaves, reducing the chance of limb breakage or the whole tree blowing over during wind storms.  Ice and snow likewise tend to fall through the limbs and leaves before the weight of the frozen water causes limb breakage.

Because post oak tree roots are small in diameter from close to the tree trunk and all through its root system the post oak is thus more suited for areas close to sidewalks and foundations.

Post oak trees are the best choice for turf grass areas because they are the only tree in the repertory that do not have high surface root density characteristics.  This means post oak trees will not raise the grade of the soils adjacent to the tree trunk even as the tree grows large after many years.  This also means that the turf grass will grow full, thick and healthy all the way up to the tree trunk.  A good example of this arrangement is in front of Arlington Memorial Hospital on Randol Mill Rd.  The large mature trees on the lawn are all post oak trees and the St. Augustine lawn turf is always full and healthy without an inordinate amount of care.

Post oak trees take in water and nutrients slowly from a diffuse root pattern.  This benefits the soils and turf grass, an important benefit given the hot, dry weather of North Texas.  By contrast, trees with high surface root density cause early depletion of nutrients in the local soils, leading to a need for frequent fertilizing of the surrounding turf grass, and a comparatively faster reduction in organic material and chronically dry soil. Dry soil, in turn, increases water runoff during irrigation or rain. These actions leave the surrounding lawn turf vulnerable to fungus and other diseases.

In caring for the native post oak tree, there are two things to remember – automobiles should not drive within the root zone of the tree and trees of other species and shrubs with aggressive root systems should not be planted within the root zone potential of the post oak.

Local citizens and visitors to our city will note that post oak trees do not cause the allergy problems that other seed forming street trees do that are drawn from the current city plant list.

For the Southern Cross Timbers Region, the post oak tree and its roots make a significant contribution to our ecosystem by being the only tree species that literally aerates the soil and changes the soils for the better.

The City of Arlington, Texas should be growing post oak trees in local orchards, planting these trees in urban areas, and encouraging citizens and homeowners to utilize the post oak for their home.


Patrick Kelly is an Arlington native and a fourth generation Texan of the Dallas Fort Worth Metroplex.

Mr. Kelly has experience in land and property management from the rational and empirical approach.

These successful efforts include – Land Development, homebuilding, mortgage lending, managing trees and soils of his family’s local farm/ranch, managing family owned lease property, studying

the effects of various tree species and their allelopathic effects on the native post oak tree and soils. Other efforts include the successful transplantation of post oak trees from RootMaker

and Rapid Mast propagation pots. Mr. Kelly has consulted with/for university professors of horticulture in the states of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Georgia and beyond.

One Response to Choosing the Right Trees for Urban Settings

  1. Patrick Kelly

    April 22, 2016 at 10:03 pm

    CORRECTION – THE SENTENCE IS SUPPOSED TO READ – Because post oak tree roots are small in diameter from close to the tree trunk and all through its root system the post oak is thus more suited for areas close to sidewalks and foundations.

    I hope everyone enjoys the column and finds it worthwhile!

    Have a great weekend!


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