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Introduction to site analysis

trees along streetSelecting the right tree for the right place can save time, money, and later disappointments. As with any major investment, it is crucial to take the time to investigate and invest wisely. Choosing a tree for a particular site is no exception.

One method of choosing a tree is to drive around town to find out which species grow well in landscapes with similar site attributes. The problem with this approach is that most people do not do it, and when they do, it can create urban landscapes with little species diversity. The other problem with this approach is the soil conditions at your planting site may be different from similar sites around town.

Some professionals who specify trees for urban and suburban landscapes visit arboreta and botanic gardens. This is good because it potentially brings new plants to our urban landscapes. Others rely on books and computer software to choose trees. This is the method that this web site services, and the following links take you step-by-step through the evaluation of the specific planting site, and determining the cultural and physical attributes required of trees at the site.

Trees grow when selected according to plant requirements and site conditions. In order to maintain the desired habit or form to fulfill a design function, cultural requirements must be met. For instance, a site with poor drainage should be planted with trees tolerant of wet soil. Inclusion of ornamental attributes like shape, color, texture, etc. can then narrow the list to a reasonable number of trees to select for planting. Easy! Right? Well, let's see.

The site has to first be evaluated to understand the cultural requirements. To accomplish a complete site evaluation one must visit the site and get dirty. There is no substitute. Once the attributes of the site are understood, they can then be entered into the tree selection program of this web site, which will pull up a list of trees suitable to those conditions (See: details of tree selection program).

There are five components to choosing trees for a planting site. Begin by evaluating site attributes, potential site modifications, and tree maintenance (management) capabilities. Then choose desirable tree attributes (i.e. attractive bark), and select appropriate trees for the site. It is a process that many people do not undertake. At the very minimum always evaluate the above ground and below ground attributes discussed in this web site.

Printable site evaluation form to guide you through the evaluation process while you are out in the field.