Extension Service: Searching for replacement trees? Check your landscaping regulations first

I don't know about you, but Hurricane Wilma has given me an opportunity to do some unplanned landscape retooling. This is not something I wanted to do, but like a move to a new home, it forces one to tidy up and get rid of some shrubs or plants that have become too fat and sprawling.

I have had calls from homeowner associations concerned about maintaining either their community architectural review board tree requirements and/or the Collier County-required native tree canopy species quota. The native shade tree species are needed in the landscape to obtain a CO, certificate of occupancy, which allows one to move into a new home.

One of the common landscape mainstays were the mahoganies, Swietenia mahagoni. These trees took an exceptional beating, primarily due to their poor growth habit which, unless properly thinned, favors branches that sprout too close together and form weak crotch angles that will split apart with high wind loads.

Mahoganies could be replaced with the same species and if pruned properly, breakage could be minimized. However, I would get any remaining mahoganies that aren't a hazard tree into the pruning budget as soon as possible.

There are more than just live oaks or mahoganies on the approved native tree species list, see this site: colliergov.net/planning/landscape%20web/nativeplantlist.htm

Plants that count as native large trees include: fiddlewood, seagrape, wild tamarind, and royal palm. Medium to small county-approved native species include Dahoon and East Palatka hollies, pigeon plum, Simpson stopper and cabbage palm.

To determine if you have the required quota of trees for single family lots, see www.colliergov.net/zoning/ and go to Land Development Code (LDC) on-line @ municode and visit Section 4.06.05. Code now requires a minimum of one canopy tree starting at 5,999 square feet or less of pervious lot area and one tree for each additional 3,000 square feet of pervious lot area more than 6,000 square feet. To figure your "pervious," or landscapable, area, you subtract the area that your home, driveway and pool area take up.

Don't forget that palms can be counted as a portion of the required canopy tree selection if you have 9,000 square feet or more of pervious area. To quote the code, "A grouping of three palm trees will be the equivalent of one canopy tree. Exceptions will be made for Roystonea spp. and Phoenix spp. (not including roebelenii) which shall count one palm for one canopy tree. Palms may be substituted for up to 30 percent of required canopy trees with the following exceptions." Most of us know Roystonea by its common name, Royal Palm, and Phoenix are date palms.

As far as the other tree species that could be included once you have your required tree species, try to find some neat small to medium species. There are so many that could be used, and finding them is part of the excitement that becomes a quest for a plant person. Have you seen a Bauhinia grandidieri, a Dwarf Orchid Tree; a nag champa or Ironwood (Mesua ferrea); or a grumichama (Eugenia brasiliensis)? Try this Web site for pictures and information:

bio.fiu.edu/trees/scientificname.html

People often ask: Why recommend trees that aren't readily available? But if we keep asking, the nurserymen will provide them; it just may take a few years, and that is part of the quest. Shortages of even the commonly used plant species could become a reality because our south Florida nursery production fields have suffered two years in a row from hurricane devastation.

So why not look for something different, anyway? Our South Florida landscapes can be much more diverse and interesting if we pursue the quests!

Doug Caldwell works for the Collier County University of Florida Cooperative Extension Service. E-mail dlcaldwell@ifas.ufl.edu Call 353-4244 x203. For updates on the Southwest Florida Horticulture Learning Center and more landscape pest management details, visitcollier.ifas.ufl.edu.

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