McMansions take L.A.’s green, New Jersey mandates natives, Organic Land Care Manual

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Monday, May 15, 2017

Debbie Hamrick Subscribe
New Terrain

McMansions Take L.A.’s Green
New Jersey Mandates Natives
Rutgers Organic Land Manual
Harvesting the Value of Water
Big Apple Resilience
GrowIt! Teams with NWF
Magnolia asheii Pollination
Reader Comments
Worth Reading 

McMansions Take L.A.’s Green Cover

Tree cover, represented in green, has decreased since the year 2000. (Illustration/Courtesy of Travis Longcore).

Los Angeles communities have lost as much as 50% of their green cover in just a decade as home sizes increase from the 1950s standard of about 950 sq. ft. to an average of 2,350 sq. ft. in 2004 and a large percentage are more than 3,000 sq. ft.

University of Southern California Dornsife researchers say mass-produced dwellings and home expansion have reduced residential green cover as much as 55%.

Planting trees is very important. More important is preventing the chopping down of trees for single-family home add-ons or the paving of shrubbery for driveways and other “hardscaped” property features. These measures would go a lot further, say researchers with the USC’s Spatial Sciences Institute.

In the Los Angeles area, green cover for single-family home lots declined anywhere from 14% to 55%, with almost no single area spared, according to a study published online in Urban Forestry & Urban Greening by a team of USC researchers led by Su Jin Lee and Travis Longcore. 

Much of this “de-greening” took place as the city of Los Angeles kicked off its “Million Trees” tree-planting campaign in 2007.

For its study, the Spatial Sciences Institute researchers looked at tree, building and other land cover for the 20 largest cities in the Los Angeles Basin for the period of 2000 to 2009.

The researchers did this by first noting all of the single-family parcels in these cities where additional square footage from 2000-09 was recorded.

Then they digitized high-resolution aerial imagery of these parcels provided by the Los Angeles Region-Imagery Acquisition Consortium (LAR-IAC), identifying six different types of land cover—buildings, hardscape, swimming pools, shade, grass and trees/shrubs. Finally, the researchers compared the change in imagery over these six types of cover from the two points in time—2000 and 2009.

The entire area examined by the researchers saw a 1.2% annual decrease in tree and shrub cover year-to-year.

According to the National Association of Homebuilders, the average size of American single-family homes has steadily increased from 983 sq. ft. in 1950 to 2,349 sq. ft. in 2004. Almost ironically, simultaneously, the size of the average number of people living per household shrank from 3.37 persons/HH in 1950 to 2.57 persons/HH in 2003, according to U.S. Census Data released in 2004.

Plant a tree, save the world? Yes, that’s part of the solution, but as Southern California and many other fast-growing regions are discovering, keeping the vegetation you’ve got should take priority.

Baldwin Park from 70% green to 31% in just nine years

Baldwin Park as seen from Google Earth.

Baldwin Park is the community leading the 20 largest cities in the Los Angeles basin in loss of vegetation, with 55% less green cover on single-family residential lots in just nine years.

Other big losers included Pomona, Downey, Sylmar, Compton and San Pedro/Port of Los Angeles, each of which lost 20% of their green cover. Pasadena was an exception. In South Pasadena, ordinances protect trees. There, the city’s Municipal Code further regulates removing trees of 12 in. in diameter or larger on any property within the city. Regulations have also been added to protect mature heritage, native species and oak trees (4 in. in diameter or larger) on any property within the city. 

Travis Longcore points out that sacrificing trees for redevelopment cuts across all Southern California neighborhoods in an article in Business Insider.

In the same article, Travis said market demand for larger and larger homes is ”the largest driver of tree cover loss, along with the increase in paved surfaces like walkways, driveways and swimming pools that come with home expansion.”

The article also added that municipalities encourage redevelopment as a way to increase tax revenues.


Where have the trees gone? L.A. area's green cover down dramatically in just 10 years By Ian Chaffe USC News.

Increased home size and hardscape decreases urban forest cover in Los Angeles County’s single-family residential neighborhood by Su Jin Lee, Travis Longcore, Catherine Rich, and John P. Wilson in Urban Forestry & Urban Greening

McMansions are killing the Los Angeles urban forest by Leanna Garfield on Business Insider.

New Jersey Mandates Natives

Cephalanthus occidentalis (Photo: Jersey Friendly Yards)

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie recently signed S 227 into law, which requires the New Jersey Department of Transportation, the New Jersey Turnpike Authority and the South Jersey Turnpike Authority to use only native vegetation for landscaping, land management, reforestation or habitat restoration.

Only vegetation native to New Jersey and that will thrive in the area are allowed to be planted. Sponsors of the legislation promote that native plants generally grow well and require little care, resulting in the use of fewer pesticides, which pollute surrounding waterways.

“Native plants that are adapted to local conditions are more likely to survive, preventing the need for replanting and saving taxpayers from an unnecessary expense,” said Assemblyman David Wolfe (R-10th District), one of the bill’s sponsors. “Choosing plants that are indigenous to the area also provides vital habitats for birds and other wildlife, while limiting the growth of potentially invasive species."

“Using native vegetation is a better choice for the environment and for taxpayers. Native plants allow developed landscapes to coexist with nature, rather than compete with it,” added Assemblyman Gregory McGuckin (R-10th District).
Press release by Kate Cocozza for New Jersey's 10th Legislative District, Holzapfel, Wolfe & McGuckin.

Some of the press: New law requires native plants along N.J. highways by Justin Auciello on NewsWorks and Op-Ed: State Legislation Would Preserve Nature on NJ’s Highways by Kelly Mooij on NJ Spotlight.

Rutgers Organic Land Care Best Management Practices Manual

Rutgers University has released the Organic Land Care Best Management Practices Manual. The document provides “recommendations to land managers and landscape contractors on best management practices for effectively conducting organic land care.” Practices that are encouraged are included in tables by topic. Also included are practices that aren't recommended. The manual is meant to help land managers and practioners determine how to best “incorporate organic land care into their businesses.”

Core tenets on organic land care include cultural, biological and mechanical practices. Practioners are encouraged to cycle resources, promote ecological balance and conserve biodiversity. Authors are clear that it’s much more than migrating away from synthetic land care materials to Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) organic-approved products. Instead, it’s a mindset, “a series of practices that together create a holistic approach to land management where the soil, plants and animals within the system are interdependent and should sustain each other.” 

ULI Report: Harvesting the Value of Water

New Urban Land Institute report, "Harvesting the Value of Water," explores the creative use of green infrastructure in real estate developments to manage stormwater and enhance property values.  

According to the Urban Land Institute, the real estate industry is key to promoting use of green stormwater infrastructure.

The growing involvement of the real estate industry in helping municipalities manage stormwater runoff with systems using natural resources is explored in a new Urban Land Institute (ULI) publication, "Harvesting the Value of Water: Stormwater, Green Infrastructure, and Real Estate."

The report was released at ULI's Spring Meeting in Seattle and looks at how water management mechanisms using green infrastructure can create value for real estate projects by improving operational efficiency, as well as serving as an attractive amenity. Green infrastructure includes rain gardens, bioswales and green roofs, which are often accompanied by water storage and recycling tools such as cisterns. These types of sustainable stormwater management practices can provide health benefits for building users, as well as benefits for the environment in general. 

"The development community is addressing the challenge of stormwater management with creative solutions that are not only conserving water, but also adding value and appeal to real estate projects across the nation," said ULI's Urban Resilience Program Director Katharine Burgess.

"Harvesting the Value of Water" points out that while using green infrastructure to capture stormwater is not new -- what is new is that a rising number of local governments are creating coordinated citywide green infrastructure networks, including both public and private properties. Many real estate developers are responding to new regulations by incorporating the requirements into their business models.

"Whether by increasing potential development yield, introducing tangible amenities for residents, reducing operating costs or building on a broader placemaking strategy, innovative stormwater management strategies can create value and contribute to the quality of life and resilience in cities," the report says. 

While the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency oversees federal standards for water quality and management, local approaches to stormwater management vary widely due to different market conditions, annual rainfalls and climate challenges. Despite the differences in how stormwater is managed, common themes are emerging from green infrastructure approaches that involve the real estate community. These include:

  • Green infrastructure offers cities opportunities to enhance environmental performance and save money, compared to costly gray infrastructure projects that do not offer other community benefits.
  • Green infrastructure can offer real estate developers opportunities for cost savings by freeing up more developable land than traditional water management solutions.
  • Green infrastructure can enhance the attractiveness and value of a property and reduce operating costs.
  • The emerging range of green infrastructure policies and strategies works in different markets and contexts.
  • Green infrastructure may require an initial learning curve, but the payoff can be worth the effort, in terms of improved amenities, aesthetics and marketing appeal.
  • Real estate owners and operators value green infrastructure's performance during peak weather events and the added security it brings to their investments.
  • Harvesting the Value of Water includes case studies of several U.S. real estate projects in which the use of green infrastructure is generating added value: Atlantic Wharf, Boston; Burbank Water and Power EcoCampus, Burbank;Canal Park, Washington, D.C.; Encore!, Tampa; High Point, Seattle; Market at Colonnade, Raleigh; Meier & Frank Delivery Depot, Portland, Oregon; Penn Park, Philadelphia; Stonebrook Estates, Harris County, Texas; The Avenue, Washington, D.C.; and The Rose, Minneapolis.

"Harvesting the Value of Water" was published with a grant from the Kresge Foundation.
ULI press release

NYC Mayor: Adding More Vegetated Systems Help Make The Big Apple Resilient

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has released Preliminary Climate Resiliency Design Guidelines from the NYC Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency.

The recommendations establish how the City can increase resilience through design. Green infrastructure elements like green roofs and landscape features are included. The city already encourages the use of green roofs on buildings to reduce the Urban Heat Island effect and provide stormwater management. The recommendations acknowledge that green roofs and vegetation also provide shade and keep the air cool through evapotranspiration by releasing moisture into the atmosphere.

Design Guidelines state that projects should integrate cooling strategies, including those below:

  • Green roofs on a broader range of facilities (including industrial buildings, storage, garages, administration buildings, etc.)
  • Green walls/structures (to reduce heat loading on vertical surfaces)
  • Shade trees, planters and vegetated structures
  • Bioswales, rain gardens and bioretention cells
  • Permeable surfaces (used for stormwater management, these retain moisture that evaporates as surface temperatures rise)
  • Open-grid pavement system (at least 50% unbound)

Tucson GSI Maintenance Video

Check out the City of Tucson’s video on maintaining green stormwater infrastructure on the city’s streets. It’s geared to volunteers and city maintenance staff.

GrowIt! Teams Up with the National Wildlife Federation

Ball Publishing’s Chris Beytes shares that GrowIt! is partnering with the National Wildlife Federation in his e-newsletter Acres Online.

GrowIt!, that app that folks can use to “garden socially,” as they put it, has teamed up with the National Wildlife Federation to help promote the Garden for Wildlife initiative. The idea is to help show the GrowIt! community and all of North America how they can have a beautiful garden, while promoting a healthy ecosystem. Gardeners can create a full habitat in their garden by providing food, water, shelter and a place for wildlife to raise young.

“Our goal is to inspire more people to think about wildlife when they are out in the garden. We’re asking people to capture pictures of critters in their yard and post them to GrowIt! with the hashtag #Garden4Wildlife to show others how they can also work to be better stewards of the environment,” says the GrowIt! press release.

To learn more about the Garden for Wildlife initiative, follow this link:

By the way, the GrowIt! folks brag that they’ve passed the 350,000 user mark and have cracked the top 500 apps overall on the Google Play store—pretty good for gardening! 

UF/IFAS Researchers Work to Solve Mystery of Magnolia asheii

Magnolia asheii blossom. The tree’s large flowers and leaves make it attractive to gardeners and landscapers. (Photo: UF/IFAS photo by Gary Knox.) 

(In total transparency, this piece is about my favorite tree: Magnolia asheii, which makes a striking native plant landscape addition for the East Coast in sites where it’s suitable).

As reported earlier in NewTerrain, Magnolia asheii, known only to occur in the wild in the Florida Panhandle, has been named the 2017 Plant of the Year by the Garden Club of America.

The timing couldn’t be better, says Gary Knox, professor of environmental horticulture with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

For the last three years, Gary and a team of researchers at the UF/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center in Quincy have been studying Ashe magnolia to figure out why it’s so rare and how it may be conserved.

The white and purple blossoms are the size of dinner plates, and the leaves grow up to 2-ft. long. “This is what we call a ‘charismatic’ plant,” Gary said.

He hopes the Garden Club of America’s declaration will help spread awareness about the plight of Ashe magnolias in the wild. According to the Garden Club of America’s web site, “The award is given to an outstanding native plant, which is underutilized, but possesses superior ornamental and ecological attributes. The goal is to encourage the propagation and planting of these plants in our gardens and the landscape.”

The UF/IFAS research team is in its third year of collecting data on Ashe magnolias growing in the Torreya State Park and on land managed by The Nature Conservancy in Liberty County, Florida. Researchers, students and volunteers record each tree’s location and characteristics, such as the number of flowers it has.

While the team discovered more adult trees than expected, they found fewer seedlings than hoped. This is a sign that something is interrupting the trees’ ability to reproduce," said UF/IFAS biologist Barron Riddle, who leads the project’s field research. 

“Without pollination, you can’t have viable seeds,” Barron said. “This study really emerged as a pollinator study because we first wanted to know which insects were pollinating Ashe magnolias.”

According to the scientific literature, beetles are the primary pollinators of magnolias. However, the UF/IFAS team has found both beetles and bees in pollinator traps created for the study. The contents of each trap provides clues about which pollinators affect reproduction.

“So far, we are only seeing seedlings develop under trees where we have captured bees, indicating that bees may play a role in reproduction,” Barron said.

However, pollinators are just one piece of a larger puzzle. The UF/IFAS research team is also investigating how factors such as pests, disease and wildlife behavior impact M. asheii survival.

The Quincy facility is also home to a magnolia garden that's part of the National Collection of Magnolia and boasts more than 200 magnolia trees representing dozens of varieties and species, including M. asheii, which flowers in April.
--University of Florida

Reader Comments

“I think that Dr. Chalker-Scott's effort is right on the money.

“I have been an orchid grower for 45 years, and in the retail business for half that, and being an engineer and scientist, I have long fought to put solid science behind cultural practices, eliminating, or at least explaining, some of the lore that has existed for years.

“Not only has that effort benefited my own capabilities, but by sharing such information and logic, I have gained a huge customer base of folks that had previously struggled.”
--Ray Barkalow on"Science Battles Misinformation About Gardening" 

“Almost makes me question my removal of my invasive Ailanthus altissima and our ‘management’ in general of landscapes. We act as if nature doesn't have a master plan or that we understand the ways nature heals the planet.”
--Gardenmaker Pdx on "Plants That Can Take Air Pollution"


May 24: Small-Scale, Low-Cost GSI for Parks and Public Lands

Small-Scale, Low-Cost Green Stormwater Management Projects for Parks and Public Lands, a free webinar, will focus on planning, designing and funding small-scale green infrastructure projects in parks and other public spaces. A panel of national experts with experience and knowledge of smaller-scale GI projects will discuss how they design, install and maintain green stormwater management installations in parks and public spaces. Even if funding is limited, this webinar will provide ideas on innovative funding and give public lands managers, water utility staff and park administrators the confidence and knowledge to tackle a variety of smaller-scale green infrastructure projects in a variety of settings.

May 31: Native Plants Conference Stillwater

Oklahoma Native Plants Conference will be held at the Wes Watkins Center in Stillwater and is presented by the Oklahoma State University Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture. The conference is designed for anyone interested in native plants, especially professionals in growing, maintaining and designing with plants. Speakers include OSU and industry professionals, and cover a wide variety of topics, including conifers, nativars for the landscape, gardening with natives, landscape design challenges using native plants and sowing seed. For more information, contact Stephanie Larimer at (405) 744-5404 or email



June 7-10: 2017 Millersville Native Plants Conference

If you’re a Mid-Atlantic native plant dweeb, and you’ve never been, take the time to hit the Millersville Native Plants Conference. This year’s theme is "Building Communities One Plant at a Time." The conference supports developing a network of native plants experts. Organizers have stated objectives including: increase the knowledge, propagation, cultivation and use of native plants in the Mid-Atlantic and New England regions; promote methods of land management and design that respect “sense of place” by preserving and restoring native species and natural processes; and engender an appreciation of regionally appropriate landscapes that are harmonious for people and nature. 

June 22: Water in the Performance Landscape, Raleigh

Join the North Carolina Green Industry Council at the McKimmon Center in Raleigh for the 7th Annual Water Symposium. Topics and speakers include the following: 

  • "Getting Water Right," Warren Gorowitz, Ewing Irrigation and the Irrigation Association The City as Ecology, Kevin Nunnery, Biohabitats
  • "The Performance Landscape," Barbara Deutsch, Landscape Architecture Foundation
  • "Blades of Green/Shades of Ecology," Dr. Grady Miller, NC State University
  • "Green Infrastructure on the Ground: Curating the Functional Landscape," Dan Gottlieb and Rachel Woods, NC Museum of Art; Montgomery County’s RainScapes Program through an Industry Lens, Ann English, Montgomery County Dept. of Environmental Protection
  • "Making the Case for Landscape Water Use," Zach Johnson, Colorado State University

July 21: Woody Plant Conference, Swarthmore

The 20th Annual Woody Plant Conference at Swarthmore College focuses on great woody plants for the Mid-Atlantic and how to use them in the landscape. Featured speakers include: Nathan Erwin, Director of the Insect Zoo at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, will speak about plant pollination and some unlikely pollinators; Tim Boland, Executive Director at Polly Hill Arboretum, will discuss his experiences and goals for collecting woody plants in the U.S.; and Peter Del Tredici, Senior Research Scientist Emeritus at Arnold Arboretum, who will focus on understanding the impacts of urbanization on plants in both native and designed landscapes.

August 7-10: NOFA Organic Land Care accreditation

The NOFA Organic Land Care Program accreditation course will be taught in Haverford Township, Pennsylvania. The four-day training is taught by experts in the organic industry. Topics covered include soil biology, compost and compost tea, green storm water infrastructure, pest management, site design and analysis and more. Seats are limited. Contact Jeremy Pelletier at jeremy@ctnofa.orgor call (203) 308-2584 for details.

September 20-21: Green Surge, Malmö

Urban Green Infrastructure--Connecting People and Nature for Sustainable Cities will be held in Malmö, Sweden. Green Surge invites all interested to the project’s final conference, generously hosted by the City of Malmö. The conference themes are related to emerging issues and future challenges of nature-based solutions and sustainable urban development. The target audience includes researchers, decision-makers, planners and practitioners.

October 9-11: Pollinator Conservation, Traverse City

The second national conference related to pollinator conservation in ornamental plant production and urban landscapes, organized by Michigan State University and North Carolina State University, will be held at Park City Hotel in Traverse City, Michigan. The conference -- geared to research, extension, industry, government and NGOs --fosters discussion about issues such as insecticide safety and habitat conservation.

November 8-9: The Conservation Conference, Baltimore

The Conservation Conference by the Wildlife Habitat Council will be held at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront. Join the conversation on the challenges and opportunities facing corporate conservation, and the emerging trends and best practices that will define its future. The meeting facilitates discussions important for corporate conservation, employee engagement and community relations. Gain valuable information and strategies to face the issues and challenges of corporate biodiversity programs, and learn techniques and best practices for successful wildlife and habitat management.

Worth reading

All the trees will die, and then so will you by Adam Rogers in Wired.

How One Neighborhood Saved Millions of Gallons of Water with Native Plants--By installing water-saving appliances and less-thirsty native plants, this Colorado community saved 15 million gallons of water in just one year, by Liz Bergstrom for Audubon.

Our Gardens as Ecosystems with Diane Greenberg: Part II by Michelle Sutton on Chronogram.

Making your native plant choices for Michigan inland lake shorelines by Beth Clawson for Michigan State University Extension.

Using Role Play Games to Solve Environmental Problems by Haniya Rae on and A Hands-On Approach to Environmental Decisions by D'Lyn Ford for NC State News.

Announcing the 2017 Bird-Friendly Native Plants of the Year by North Carolina Audubon Society.

Great Cities Work with Nature by James A. Moore for Water Online.

Re-Wilding: Cities by Nature by Kevin Sloan on The Nature of Cities.

To ease Mexico City's water woes, look up, study suggests by Kristen French on

Understanding What Makes Plants Happy by Margaret Roach in the New York Times.

When a Red State Mayor Goes Green by Meredith Rutland Bauer on CityLab.

London's Garden Bridge Finally Meets Its End by Feargus O'Sullivan on CityLab.

Lakes worldwide feel the heat from climate change--Warming waters are disrupting freshwater fishing and recreation by Alexandra Witze in ScienceNews.

We need to stress tree preservation over replanting by Tom Reilly in the The Brookhaven Post.

ArcelorMittal restoring habitat at R&D in East Chicago by Joseph S. Pete for and ArcelorMittal plants native trees, shrubs at R&D campus by Karen Caffarini on the Chicago Tribune.

MMSD to award $1.5 million in grants for green infrastructure by Don Behn in the Milwaukee Journal.

Five big ideas to better integrate nature into cities by Gregory Scruggs on Citiscope.

These Cities Are Replacing the Worst Kind of Infrastructure With The Best by Adele Peters on FastCoDesign.

UDOT plans $5 million overpass for wildlife at Parleys Summit by Luke Ramseth in the Salt Lake City Tribune.

Population boom creates environmental consequences in Florida lagoon by Jason Dearen and Mike Schneider, Associated Press, on

Into the urban jungle by Georgia McCafferty on

Stunning Map Shows Changes in Light at Night around the World by NASA

Wide-ranging recommendations for mitigating the grave effects of climate change on human health by Jennie Dusheck on

Going Native--National Wildlife Federation by Barry Yeoman for National Wildlife magazine.

Wild Weather and Climate Change: Scientists Are Unraveling the Links by Nicola Jones on Yale 360.

New Zealand's ambitious plan to save birds: Kill every rat by Nick Perry on

Study: Chicago’s Forests Threatened by Climate Change by Alex Ruppenthal for WTTW. 

Biodiversity index aims to ‘protect LA’s unique environment’ by Ken Stone on MyNews

Protecting native vegetation in urban areas and environmental zones by Alice Burnet for the Bellingin Shire Courier-Sun NSW.

Vigor’s 60-acre shipyard and University of Portland hope to woo monarch butterflies by Andrew Theen on OregonLive.

We need trees in our cities more than ever by Shabbir Ahmad on The Voice of Journalists.

State senator tackles plant pathogens by Katy St. Clair, Vallejo Times-Herald for the Daily Democrat News.

Yay, the drought is over. Now let’s save our dying urban trees by Patt Morrison for the L.A. Times.

Redesigning urban gardens to deliver maximum benefit from The University of South Australia on

Broader Role for Botanical Gardens by Doreen Cubie for the National Wildlife Foundation.

The Story of Sprawl, a 160-minute video course on Planetzien.

Can roadside habitat lead monarchs on a route to recovery? by Candy Sarikonda in WildOnes Journal.


Debbie Hamrick


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