City Forest and Trees
Baltimore City Forest Conservancy District Board
Vol. 11, No2                                                                                                                     Baltimore
Maryland                                                                                                                          Spring 2002
A Champion Tree at Cylburn
Maackia amurensis
A rare tree originally from China is an asset to Cylburn Arboretum. The Maackia amurensis planted there has been named a Champion tree, not just of Baltimore but of the state of Maryland. Maackia amurensis, or Amur Maackia, is an attractive, hardy but slow growing tree. It is related to Yellowwood (Cladrastis), a member of the pea family (Leguminosae). Native to Manchuria, it may grow, in the wild, to a height of 40 feet. The usual height is about 20 feet. Its rate of growth is irritatingly slow, about 12 feet in 20 years.

In the meantime, though, the tree may be enjoyed. Its late summer flowers, which appear even in young trees, are white with blue tinges. Dense spikes, panicled racemes, are 4 to 6 inches long.  But there is more to admire than the pea-like blossoms. The foliage is beautiful in late spring, as the young silvery, downy leaves contrast with the deep blue-green of young shoots. Alternate leaves are pinnate and up to one foot long. The leaflets, 7 to 11 of them, are pointed, oblong-ovate, and each is about 2 inches long. The fruit of Maackia amurensis is described as semi-elliptic, while the bark is dark brown and somewhat peeling. Above all, the rounded shape, many branches and somewhat shrubby habit make it stand out.

Named for the Russian naturalist Richard Maack (1825- 1886), it was introduced to the United States in 1864. Possibly, our preoccupation with the Civil War prevented the country from a full appreciation of the tree. It is still not often planted, although it is hardy, adaptable and easily grown.

Although there are 10 species of Maackia, M. amurensis the one most often planted. It is hardy from Zones 3 to 7, and has no serious diseases or insect pest. While, like most trees, it favors a warm, sunny location and fertile, well-drained soil, it can tolerate most conditions. Potentially, it is a good street tree. Maackia needs little pruning; any pruning should be done when the tree is quite young. It also transplants readily. Propagation is by root cuttings or by seed. But seeds need to be soaked first in water that is 190 degrees Fahrenheit for 24 hours.

Even if you don't plan to grow Maackia yourself, you should take a look at the Champion at Cylburn Arboretum. It is located by the driveway opposite the mansion.


At the international competition "Nations in Bloom," Baltimore was named third in its category, cities with an average daytime population of 200,000 to 1,000,000. Last December, the event was held in Shenzhen, People's Republic of China. William Stine, Chief Horticulturalist represented Baltimore.

The competition, for which the Horticultural Division entered the City of Baltimore last August, is an annual event, and was attended by representatives from 14 countries, spanning five continents. The entry submitted by Mr. Stine was a 4000 word document and 20 photographs, focusing on five major areas, including landscape enhancement, heritage management, community involvement, environmentally sensitive practices and planning for the future. In the final competition, William Stine presented a 35-minute slide show and talk. Newcastle, UK, was the first place winner in this category and Stuttgart, Germany was second.

"Nations in Bloom" was started by Alan Smith. Mr. Smith noted in his speech to the gathering of delegates that the standard and quality of all the finalists in 2001 was very high, and that the competition offers an opportunity for the delegates to exchange ideas and to help develop the world's strategy for environmental management.


The great proportion of cedars in our area are Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana) which ranges in height from 10-100 feet. Its appearance can range widely due to conditions or hybridization. It may appear shrub-like around the shorelines of the Chesapeake or grow into tall cylindrical trees inland and is often used as windbreaks along roadsides. The bark is usually reddish-brown, but grows gray with vertical pealing strips in weathered conditions. Its leaves are minutely scale-like with very small points and blue-green in color. There may be a berry-like bluish cone.

What is more rare, however, is the Northern White-cedar or American Arboruitae.Thuja occidentalis (Northern White Cedar) is a non- indigenous tree to Maryland with no stands present, although it may be used as an ornamental. It stands 20 m tall with bark of thin fibrous and fissured bark and narrow interlacing ridges of a reddish or grayish brown. It can be identified by drooping sprays of flattened twigs with brown cones and turns yellow and brownish green in winter. It is a dense, broad-pyramidal tree with short ascending branches, cones are oblong and 2 to 5 inchs long and it thrives in marshy loam.

The true Atlantic White-cedar (Chamaecyparis thyoides) has been decimated due to 300 years of boat-building. Leaves are bluish-green with white margins and the tree stands 40-50 ft. tall. Slender in youth the bark ranges from ashy gray to reddish brown and white shaggy in older trees. Cones on small branches (¼ across) are bluish-purple in color. The Atlantic White-cedar was once common in fresh water swamps and bogs.

Diagnosing Soil Problems

Soils may have a greater influence on a tree's health than any other single factor. Soil provide trees with nutrients, water, and a method of anchorage. Understanding soil characteristics will allow a homeowner to determine if poor soil conditions might be harming a tree.

An ideal soil is composed of about 45% mineral materials (sand, silt, and clay), 50% pore space, and 5% organic matter, including soil organisms. The pore space in an ideal soil should be filled by roughly equal parts of water and air.

Soils usually consist of several distinct layers which differ in color and texture. The top layer is the organic layer and consists of decaying leaves and twigs. The organic layer is usually found in forest soils, but is absent in most urban environments, or replaced by turf. The next one or two layers usually comprise the top soil. Most of a tree's roots (up to 90%) are usually found in these upper layers at depths less than 2-3 feet. Roots grow best where the soil is relatively loose and moist, meaning there is plenty of pore space filled with water and oxygen. Roots require oxygen for respiration as part of their growth process. If the pore space volume decreases, for example by compaction, less oxygen will be available for the roots, and root growth can decline to the point where the tree's growth is retarded.

Soil types vary by the relative amounts of sand, silt, and clay. Sand particles are larger and sandy soils therefore have larger pore spaces. Water moves through a sandy soil fairly quickly. Silt is made up of medium-size particles. Clay particles are small, so clay soils have small pore spaces and hold water much longer. Soils containing large amounts of clay are much more susceptible to compaction, which simply means that the pore spaces are compressed and no longer able to hold water and oxygen necessary for root growth. Also, soils which contain some clay and organic matter are better able to hold nutrients and are more fertile than sandy soils. Sand can be mixed into a soil to improve drainage.

The pH of a soil measures its acidity or alkalinity, and is measured on a scale of 0 to 14. A pH of 7 is considered neutral. A pH lower than 7 is acidic, and a pH higher than 7 is alkaline. Most trees favor a pH that is slightly acidic. If the pH is too high or too low, the tree roots may not be able to take up certain nutrients needed for growth. If a soil test shows an unfavorable pH, the soil can be modified with lime to raise the pH, or with sulfur to lower the pH.

Soil conditions can also influence water relations. Although clay soils have small pore spaces because of smaller particle sizes, their total volume of pore space is greater than that of sandy soils. Clay soils hold water more tightly and will remain saturated much longer than sandy soils. Water that is held by the soil particles, and has not drained away freely, is available for absorption by the roots. Once this held water has all been absorbed, the tree leaves may begin to wilt. The tree must be watered to restore adequate water relations. Trees that are over-watered or flooded cannot exchange oxygen around their roots because the pore spaces are completely filled with water.

Urban soils often contain various textures of soils. These layers can influence how well water drains from a hole dug for a tree. If a coarse layer (sand) is below a fine layer (clay), water will saturate the upper clay layer before it drains to the lower sandy layer. Likewise, placing gravel in the bottom of a planting hole actually impedes drainage. One of the best ways to improve poor soils is to mix in organic matter such as peat moss.

For technical assistance with tree questions, contact the Maryland Forest Service (410-665-5820), the Baltimore City Forestry Division (410-396-6108), the University of Maryland Cooperative Extension Service (1-800-342-2507), a certified arborist, or a licensed tree expert company.

Careers Workshop Scholarships

Two scholarships are available for this year's Forestry and Natural Resource Careers Week. The workshop is sponsored by the Maryland Association of Forest Conservancy District Boards and the Maryland DNR. The student's expenses will be paid by the Baltimore City Forestry Board.

The workshop, located at Camp Hickory in Garrett County, will be held the week of July 29- August 2, 2002. Two students will be selected from each county and Baltimore City to represent that area's Forest Conservancy District Board. The 48 students, working in small groups, will be led by approximately fifteen professional foresters and environmental specialists. The students will have an opportunity to handle technical equipment and participate in tree climbing, water testing, animal tracking, map and compass use and fire control. Call 410 665 5991 for more information

Pigtown Trees and Gary Letteron

In November 2001, Gary Letteron, a Baltimore City Forestry Board Associate, was awarded a community fellowship by the Open Society Institute of Baltimore. As part of the award, he received a $48,000 stipend to spruce up Pigtown with trees. Gary is known as the tree man of Southwest Baltimore. For a number of years, he has begged, borrowed and patched grants together to keep planting in the midst of urban decay. Gary plans to plant 200 new trees on the streets and in the parks of Pigtown.

The best way to describe Gary is that he is a unique artist, busy painting the city green. Marion Bedingfield, the city's tree specialist, has grown fond of Letteron's guerrilla planting tactics over the past two decades. Bedingfield estimates that Letteron on has planted 3,000 trees over the past 20 years.  Letteron uses a fun approach to his work that makes people want to help. His fans say his real value is in motivating urban dwellers to plant, water and mulch their trees which helps to deter violence, trash, and noise. As part of a city school's service learning project, he provided a jackhammer, and the students proceeded to create tree pits in asphalt lots.

The Baltimore City Forestry Board salutes and supports Gary Letteron.


What tree native to China produces an offensive odor when its leaves are crushed?
The Tree-of-Heaven is an large tree that (reportedly) has poisonous leaves and roots that produce a foul odor when crushed.

What is the difference between a softwood and a hardwood tree? Woods are classified by the lumber industry as softwood or hardwood, depending on the tree from which they come. Woods from broad-leaved trees are called hardwoods, and woods from coniferous trees are called softwoods, regardless of their actual hardness.

Trees such as maples and lindens are classified as hardwoods, even though their wood is relatively soft. A Colorado Spruce and Douglas Fir are examples of softwoods. Most lumber in the U.S. is softwood; the hardwood is generally employed for furniture and high-grade flooring.

Coming Events

Arbor Day at Cylburn Arboretum: 4915 Greenspring Avenue, Wednesday, April 10th at 10 A.M.. Tree planting and program by local school-children.
Herring Run Spring Festival: Belair Road and Shannon Drive, April 27, 8:30- 4:30.
Market Day at Cylburn: Saturday, May 11th, 8 A.M.- 2 P.M.. Sale of plants and arts and crafts related to gardening.
Flower Mart: Mt. Mount Vernon Square, Wednesday, May 15, 11 A.M. -8 P.M.. (last part of evening there will be a concert) .
Herb Festival: Leakin Park, May 25th, 10 A.M. -5 P.M. $5 admission charge.
The Baltimore City Forestry Board will take part in all these events, and have seedlings and small trees available (donations requested).

The Baltimore City Forest Conservancy District Board is an advocacy panel to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources-Forest Service.
Richard Edson, Chairman
Meredith P. Millspaugh, Vice Chairman
Tom Green, Treasurer
Russ Moss
Adelaide Rackemann
Elsa Lankford

Associate members:
Gary Letteron
Ann Lundy
Ken Williams
Robert Black
Elspeth Wheeler

Technical Advisors:
Chris Stuhlinger, Secretary
Md. DNR Forest Service
Marion Bedingfield, Forestry Division Department of Recreation and Parks
Pam Kelly, Executive Director, State Association MD DNR-Forest Service
Joe Burch, Forestry Division Department of Recreation and Parks
Amanda Cunningham, Community Forestry Parks & People Foundation
Jeffery Barrett - Baltimore City Public School Grounds
Gerard Moudry - Member Emeritus

For more board information, contact Richard Edson: phone 410 867 1171 or Chris Stuhlinger 410 665 5991