Assessment of Six Indicators of Street Tree Establishment in Melbourne, Australia
M. Leers, G.M. Moore, and P.B. May
Abstract: A number of factors can influence successful street tree establishment, including inappropriate selection of stock, poorquality stock, poor planting technique, insufficient irrigation, poor weed control, and inadequate maintenance. Urban tree managers need reliable, accurate, and practical indicators of whether street trees have successfully established to inform decisions about removing supporting stakes or continuing irrigation regimes. The establishment of street trees planted as large format stock was investigated using a survey of 510 trees from 21 species managed by three municipalities in Greater Melbourne, Australia. A planted tree can only be considered established when the partial root system in the root ball or the confined root system in a container has developed into a spreading root system, utilizing moisture and available nutrients throughout a larger soil volume. Thus, an indicator of root expansion into soil of a greater volume is necessary, as are measures of canopy growth, such as shoot-tip growth or canopy dieback. The survey assessed six factors indicative of successful or poor establishment: whether trees had been planted too deeply, whether trees exhibited trunk movement at or below the soil surface, damage to the trunk, trunk sunscald injury, presence of epicormic shoots on the trunk, and whether there were co-dominant stems. The results demonstrated that trunk damage (8%) and codominant stems (5%) occurred at low rates in the trees, but the presence of epicormic shoots (12%) and sunscald damage (12.5%) was more common, and 12% of trees had been planted too deeply and 42% of trees were unstable. Three criteria—shoot tip extension, trunk movement in the ground, and percentage of canopy dieback—provided useful measures of whether street trees were assessed as being well- or poorly-established. This is the first study to record a high incidence of sunscald injury to urban trees in Australia.
Keywords: Australia; Melbourne; Shoot-Tip Extension; Sunscald; Tree Stability; Trunk Movement; Urban Forestry.