By Scott Prater
The 50th Civil Engineer Squadron environmental flight is about to begin a project that will enhance the landscape on base for decades to come.
Doug Chase, Schriever’s resident tree expert and 50 CES environmental engineer, has developed a plan to add as many as 20 of the best growing, drought resistant and ecologically sustainable trees available anywhere to areas around buildings and roadways on base.
“We’re not simply going to visit the local nursery and bring back some 10 footers,” Chase said. “We’re growing seedlings from acorns I’ve collected and then grafting portions of either state or national-champion trees onto them.”
The resulting trees will carry the superior genetics of the champion trees and as a result will grow faster, and live healthier than any tree the base could purchase, according to Chase.
State and national champion trees have been certified by tree experts as the best of their species in a given area.
To start, Chase dug holes for four swamp white oak trees near Building 500. He’ll plant the root stock for the four trees this week and graft branches from the champion trees during the next two years.
On tap for the next few years, he’ll plant as many as 20 at different locations on base. As part of the project, the 50 CES environmental flight plans to develop seedlings from the grafted trees and give those away to people on base for planting elsewhere.
“There has been a positive response to Doug’s offer of seedlings and seed stock, and people from all over base have contacted him about it,” said Andy Jensen, 50 CES Environmental Flight chief.
So, why not just visit a local nursery and buy some more established trees to plant?
“Planting this way produces superior trees,” Chase said. “They grow faster and bigger, plus, they’re more tolerant to drought and resistant to pests. With proper care, such as keeping grass away from the roots, they should be top performers. I planted a pin oak at my last residence and it grew 58 feet in 14 years.”
During that project, Chase and environmental flight staff members at Forbes Field in Topeka, Kansas, planted 40 hybrid oaks and grafted more than 80 pecan trees.
For the project here, Chase said planting deciduous trees as opposed to evergreens is also a good idea, since Colorado’s evergreens could be hit hard by pine wilt during the next 10 to 15 years.
“Pine wilt is caused by a nematode larvae that clogs a tree’s water ducts and over time will kill a pine tree,” he said. “Pine beetles spread the larvae from tree to tree and we already have pines on base that are showing signs of infestation. Depending on the stress level of the tree, it can take anywhere from two months to two years for it to kill the infected tree.”
The 50 CES environmental flight will be hosting a tree-planting ceremony in celebration of Arbor/Earth Day on June 19. Though superior grafted trees won’t be ready for planting in time for the ceremony, the environmental flight staff will help children plant a white flowering crabapple at the Child Development Center. Everyone on base is encouraged to attend the ceremony, which is slated for 9:30 a.m.
For more information about the project or for future availability of seedlings, contact the 50 CES Environmental Flight at 567-4242.