Making a (tree)covery

Amy Kent/Clinton HeraldRecent storm recovery and tree infestation highlight the Gateway area community’s need to plant more trees during Earth Day and Arbor Day, a local horticulturalist says. This photo from Tuesday highlights damage to a home by a tree on 15th Avenue South and Iowa Avenue in Clinton. 

CLINTON — Today is Earth Day. Friday is Arbor Day. But for Margo Hansen, manager of the Bickelhaupt Arboretum in Clinton, there’s no bad day to think about the objectives both holidays strive for.

“We’ve taken so much we need to give back,” Hansen said. “We should do it every day. It shouldn’t just be one day a year. And we need to all step up to the plate and do more.”

For Gateway area communities in particular, this year’s Earth Day should have special meaning.

On April 9, two tornadoes touched down in Clinton County, shuffling debris and unearthing trees. Just weeks prior, the city of Clinton was informed by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources that the emerald ash borer pest was confirmed in the region.

Downed trunks are making people think about replacements, and looming ash tree devastation has them thinking of diversification. But even without recent events, Hansen cited another reason why citizens should pay mind to their trees:

It’s the perfect time of year to think about it.

“We’re always losing trees and we need to replace those trees at the same rate or even more so,” Hansen said. “This is perfect weather. It’s cool, we have moisture, it gives the tree a chance to get the roots out before we get into the heat of the summer. So this is the perfect time to get trees in.”

The first national Earth Day was held in 1970, the same year the Bickelhaupt Arboretum opened. It was established to remind the public to be kind to the planet. Plant growth and recycling are both components of the holiday.

Arbor Day, which will be celebrated on April 24 (the last Friday of each April), is quite a bit older. Founded in Nebraska in 1872, it’s goal is more direct, encouraging people to plant more trees.

Hansen has a list of the numerous benefits planting can provide. One fully grown tree produces enough oxygen for a family of four; tree roots prevent water runoff and erosion, common reasons for sediment pollution in the Mississippi River. There’s even an economic benefit — tree shade can reduce air conditioning bills by 25 percent.

It also happens that today’s Earth Day coincides with a global event for the world to plant 1 billion trees.

Highlighting needs to address the EAB infestation, Hansen said most communities could do a better job with tree diversification. The state of Iowa has a ban on planting new ash trees, which is leading planters to seek other options.

The danger of over populating the city is what will bring down most ash trees in the Clinton community. Citizens should avoid planting maples and oaks for the same reason.

But in general, so long as residents plan to plant different trees than what already exists in their yards, Hansen said the Gateway should recover well from storm wreckage and infestation.

“We can always improve a community,” she said. “I think every community needs to acknowledge the fact that trees have value. It’s worth it in the end, especially now with the emerald ash borer. The key is diversification.”

Assistant Editor Brenden West can be contacted at


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