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Added Mar 14 2018

Here are two maps I have generated from satellite and city data showing the extent and location of the tree canopy in Logan Square as well as the approximate locations and density of treated ash trees. The ashes are not likely to be around too much longer, I know many were recently removed from Palmer Square. The canopy map is based on data from 2011 so some things have changed already but I hope this helps someone with planning. We are planting a few more trees on our property this year after seeing this. You can also request a tree for your parkway or nearby if you don't have one here:

Higher resolution canopy

Higher resolution ash tree map

    311 - City of Chicago - Service Request Search
    Please enter the location information and continue, or Start Over.
  • Thanks Mike! More proof that diversity of species is key to maintaining the "urban canopy". The Morton Arboretum can suggest some alternatives. Plant an oak tree if you have a sunny spot.

  • Nice! Openlands also has a program where you can organize your neighbors into planting a number of trees. I believe it needs to be within a certain block radius. I participated in one a little west of Palmer Square last year and it was great. Would love to do one near my block.

  • Thanks for doing/sharing that! You should put that up at my favorite nerdy subreddit Data Is Beautiful.

  • JJ resident of The Villa

    This is awesome Mike, any chance you could post one for The Villa? Also, any advice for how to get the city to actually act on planting requests? I submitted a couple requests to that site you posted a few years back ...crickets!

  • @JJ I don't have a shapefile for the villa alone but here is Irving Park which includes the villa. I know there are a lot of huge old ash trees on the parkways in the villa. Beautiful neighborhood. Seems like a lot of historic districts also have a lot of ash trees unfortunately.

  • Carter O'Brien Diversey to Belmont lifer

    You guys may like this interactive tree map designed by staff at Field Museum and Morton arboretum:

  • I do like that. Here is another one from DNAInfo

    And another report from the Chicago Region Trees Initiative

    Residential areas have the largest areas that could potentially be planted. I'm hoping that with these more detailed neighborhood level maps, people will see opportunities on the properties they have control of. Think about the next 20-30 years you're going to want some shade. It's going to be much hotter!

    Here is the Morton Arboretum Tree Selector:

  • As a Chicago tree historian, and citizen Dendrologist who determined final ages of over 15,000 urban trees, and diagnosing primary reasons why they required removal. I have been utilizing our counties past aerial photos, for several decades now. With earliest aerial photo collection produced in 1938 during FDR era. That's how I discovered most green portion of our city and closest bordering suburbs, has traditionally been Chicago's West side.

    Where Jens Jensens iconic Midwestern Prairie School ecology movement was introduced to the world. Just check out aerial photo background when TV Weather person showing overlay of temperatures in our region. Or when TV news shows traffic report graphic, check out just north of eisenhower expressway traveling westward out of city. Through Oak Park and River Forest.

    Now if you were not yet aware, our region just tragically lost 75% of its maturing heritage class tree collection within a quick five years to EAB event. Worse still, several species of ash combined to produce most amount of green cover seen of cook county from space. Until recent loss of 13 million ash trees. Compared to Dutch Elm disease event over last 45 years that only killed off 600,000 trees.

    To learn more interesting things about chicago's urban forest, and how our ancient ecosystem just lost one of its most influential keystone species...Check out my historical blog at

  • Excellent info @Scott. Trees provide natural air conditioning and insulation from city noise. Unfortunately they take many seasons of growth to become useful and too many people are home flippers who don't care about long term. Instead of buying a cheap easy to plant sapling from Aldis or Home Depot they'll call 311 and wait 3 or 4 years before the city gets around to planting one. IMHO, that's why the city is losing trees.

  • Keep an eye on Palmer Square Park between Kedzie and Sacramento. The Park District removed about 50 dead and dying ash trees and plans to replace them with a diverse collection of 50 new trees this season.

  • Achilles Flaneur ear witness

    Were any chestnut trees planted? Do they exist in America anymore?

  • Achilles, thankfully Chicago was well West of the American Chestnut trees native range. So our region had none to lose to tree blight during early 1900's. Presently old growth Chestnuts still exist in the wild, but as stump shoots regrown from original root system. Which continue to die back from disease before producing chestnuts. As soil borne pathogens naturally produced around basil crown of stump kill off the blight. On an historical note, new American Chestnuts have been bred for resistance. And may be available to public now. I had wished someday to plant a few in our cities most prominent locations. Chestnuts produced by Horse Chestnut and Ohio Buckeye are not very edible.

  • BrandonBear, you are correct. People remember what trees contribute, only after losing one. Personally think that every public Ash lost to EAB should have been replaced for free. Instead of waiting for property owners to request new one. In fact, city requests to remove perfectly healthy trees are at an all time high presently! Home flipping is also probably at its most highest rate ever!

    Flippers and Developers could care less if parkway tree and surrounding landscape is permanently ruined by third party contractors. Assuming all the compact soil damage and rock aggregate left behind, can be swept under the rug persay. Once fresh sod is laid. So I share with owners of recently redeveloped properties, whose plantings continually die off. Several proven methods to mitigate soil compaction. Such as deep aeration with compressed air wand. Otherwise it can take 20 or more years until soil naturally recovers from compaction event. Yes ground freezing and thawing helps, but wagon trail ruts our pioneers gouged out are still around over 150 years later.

    Regarding no patience waiting for trees to mature...Many new plants and trees people plant from garden centers, end up next to trash can within few years. So an organization I volunteer for. Called CRTI, or Chicago Region Trees Initiative. Has already begun working with big box stores to include an informative planting instruction tag, which stresses need to prune off all pot bound roots and carefully excavate root flare. Which is commonly buried during Nursery growing process. My idea, similar to paint mixer machines in stores. Is to have garden centers equipped with machines that can mechanically prune wayward roots off for folks.

    Our modern era's poor cultural landscape practices, has allowed me to come up with a new term. "Perpetually juvenile landscapes", containing poorly manufactured Plants & Trees that inevitably die off long before maturity.

  • robin in WRP I support a 28th Amendment 4Free & Fair Elections!

    I'm old enough to remember what Dutch Elm disease (and the Daley the First's inaction) did to the magnificent Elm Trees. On the far north side, they were (mostly) replace with maples, that have been dying and cut down.

  • Achilles Flaneur ear witness

    It wasn't just Chicago, Dutch Elm disease took out all the elm trees in Ohio.

  • Achilles Flaneur ear witness

    Thank you for these wonderful maps people. I'm saving them to review in detail for a rainy day.

  • Good point about packed soil in parkways. For a 1 gallon potted sapling, which you can get for as little as $15, I dig a 2'X2'X2' = * cu.ft hole, sometimes bigger. Not hard with a spade shovel. Backfill with potting mix. I use pine bark fines and compost. The fines provide aeration for the roots. When the tree needs to break out of its "container" it will be large enough to send roots into the packed soil, or whatever it is. .

  • Achilles Flaneur ear witness

    The catalpa trees on Logan and Humboldt blvds. are looking pretty scraggly these days with more and more dead branches. Catalpas make up a significant proportion of mature trees on these gateway roads in the community. What planning should/could be done to maintain them as long as possible and what should replace them when their lifespan is done?

  • We have a mature catalpa tree in our parkway. I'd love to hear sine tips on what we can do to improve its health. It always gets some kind of mildew or something on the leaves late in the season. We mulched around the tree and I bought some tree fertilizer stakes that I thought I might put down around the drip line.

  • In another couple of weeks most of those Catalpas will Spring back to life. They are slow to bloom. Get ready for the shower of flowers! They are super messy trees but they give great shade!

  • Interesting article. The article mentioned about 1/3 city trees are maples. The Asian Longhorn Beetle which devastated tree canopies in neighborhoods like Revenswood attacked Maple trees. Somehow they were able to mitigate that without chopping down all the Maples just because they could.

    A young sapling can take a decade or more to get big. Easy to plant saplings should be planted next to trees not long for this world. The park district should plant tree thickets so if one tree dies we don't have to wait another decade for another. Young saplings are cheap and easy to plant. When they do Earth Day in the Spring the BCO should be allowed to plant trees instead of merely mulch and pick up litter. That might violate contracts with outfits like Christie Webber however.

  • I don't think you need to put fertilizer stakes on mature catalpas, as humboldtwriter says they are just late bloomers along with the kentucky coffee trees. The main thing to do is to trim off any dead and storm damaged wood. They are old trees though and sometimes old trees die. If you tell me which ones you're talking about I can go look at them. There are totally dead trees all over the place around here, I would think that would be a hazard...I called 311 about a huge branch hanging above the sidewalk on kedzie a few months ago, but it's still there. Keep an eye up when you're walking around when it's windy, that's all I have to say on that...

    And for BrandonBear, almost every tree in Ravenswood was removed during the longhorn beetle epidemic. And I don't personally care about potentially violating some clouted up contract.

  • Some well-meaning but incorrect ideas here. Brandon, it is not a good idea to plant a new tree in the root zone of a mature tree. The older tree may die sooner as the two trees root systems compete for space, water and nutrients.

    The "cheap and easy to plant" saplings may not be the best tree for the parkway. If you want to plant trees in your neighborhood, check out the Tree Planting grants with

  • Thanks, Mike. We're not concerned about the late blooming; we're accustomed to that. Late in the season the leaves get sticky and sooty-looking. Somebody explained the likely issue to me once. If I remember correctly, there's some kind of pest that produces waste that then becomes moldy or mildewy and creates the sooty effect. I was hoping tree fertilizer would give the tree an extra boost to help it cope.

  • @Betsy You are certainly entitled to your opinions but that does not make them "correct." Forests survive pretty well having trees planted in their so called "root zone." The current method of lining up trees like soldiers spread far apart, like they did at Holstein Park, is unnatural and looks tacky and suburban. If you need a backhoe to plant a tree you're doing it wrong. I counted three dead trees at Holstein already which will need replanting. Kaching for whoever landed that city contract.

    You can obviously pick and choose what kind of sapling to plant so not sure what point you're trying to make with that comment.

  • Achilles Flaneur ear witness

    Why doesn't the city plant willow trees on city streets?

  • Brandon, I am a Certified Arborist ( IL-9079A if you want to look it up) so my opinion is an educated one. Most saplings do not do well in the shade of a mature tree.

    Trees in parks are handled differently than trees on the parkways. Case in point, the Park District is not trying to treat the ash trees.

  • @Betsy Then you understand that the scientific process requires evidence for your assertion that "most saplings do not do well in the shade of a mature tree." First you must define what you mean by the term "well." If well means a tree must grow straight and perfect fit for a British Queen's garden then I would agree. Saplings in the shade must juke and jive to find their place in a canopy. Well by my defiinition is to provide a canopy that shades the street so it doesn't become a radiating heat sink on hot summer days. Your planting method will never provide that kind of canopy and it lacks redundancy.

    The vast majority of saplings will survive in the shade of an older tree. The ones that don't are weak and die. So what. Plant another. Nature is survival of the fittest. Imperfections are what makes nature beautiful, not pretty stained mulch surrounding tree trunks and other plants.

    The original article in this thread was about the declining tree canopy. The rigid inside the box thinking by yourself and other "experts" is why the canopy will continue to decline. That the park district chopped down all the Ash trees at Holstein Park reminds me when we used to laugh at the lazy IT guy whose solution to every PC problem was to reinstall the OS. That is a solution to every PC problem but may not be the most effective.

  • While understory trees might add much to the canopy overall, they can soften and beautify the understory and add curb appeal. Redbud and Dogwood planted as understory, sheltered from all but a few hours of sun by older, taller trees helps create "layers" of green, and Spring blossom interest.

    The Chicago Urban Tree Planting List is an easy guide for what species is allowed (by Chicago) to go where:

    I find the list a handy reference. We like "Swamp White Oak"; a City Parkway preferred native species (whereas "White Oak" is NOT).

  • Oops. s.h.b "... might NOT add much to the canopy overall, they can ..."

  • Thank you to everyone who shared these insights. I love (most of) this thread!

  • City of Chicago has just made Arboricultural history TWICE within decade and a half. First after successfully eradicating ALB, Asian Longhorn Beetle on cities North side. Along with remote location within heart of upper Des Plaines river valley forest preserves, after city discovered a private contractor had relocated quarantined wood back to businesses location on west Higgins ave..

    Now Chicago has virtually wiped out Emerald Ash Borer "Infestation populations", which had been primary cause of continued decline and inevitable death of all "Unprotected" Ash trees since 2006. By discovering god sent cure back in 2008, which after proper trunk injection costing average of $30 per tree. Transformed every treated public tree into "Living EAB bug zappers". Thus substantially lowering local borer populations within neighborhood treatment zones, where unprotected trees discovered surviving some three or more years longer.

    Suddenly in 2017 many unprotected trees that had survived worst of event, were observed recovering on their own. Exciting evidence that Chicago had indeed succeeded in controlling another introduced invasive. As of Spring 2018 recovery of these once severely damaged trees no longer facing borer infestation populations continues. While lesser urban species such as Linden & Maple continue to suffer permanent effects caused by regions recent three year extended drought event.

    Unfortunately Park district whose hired consultants had recklessly supplied woefully outdated info about EAB management options back in 2009. Is presently convincing city forestry to donate 100% healthy EAB protected trees bordering parks on public parkways and along historic boulevard system. To ongoing art program which has been utilizing dead standing trees for last decade. By removing limbs back to main trunk, which remains standing for artists to carve into. As art program could not utilize already dead park district ash trees which can become hazards to public.

  • @achilles, the city doesn't plant willows on parkways because they are water seeking, in other words the roots will get into and destroy any nearby water or sewer infrastructure. I'd suggest listening to arborists first, most of our parks could not be considered forests. Anyway our forests are in some trouble too from invasive woody plants in addition to the ash borer.

  • All the trees together can definitely be considered an 'urban forest' but it's very different from a woodland area. For one thing the trees are growing in likely very compacted soil, not in 1000 years of leaf mulch. So they do need to be mulched and trimmed. Preferably not mulched with the nasty dyed stuff...

  • We water the parkway out front as well as the yard, assuming available moisture in soil will deter roots from seeking moisture in nearby sewer pipes. Not certain our assumption about the root infiltration is valid, but birds love sprinklers & act a fool in the puddles -- 'cheep' entertainment.

  • Achilles Flaneur ear witness

    my family farm in Ohio had some low swampy areas planted with willows. I was told that the land frequently became swampy until those trees were planted. They were serene and beautiful, one of the few aspect of Ohio that I miss.

    There's a willow in Humboldt park just west of the formal garden. Looking at it from the Leif Erikson statue looks like a view of Giverney that Monet might have painted.

  • Achilles Flaneur ear witness

    Watching squirrels playing in the branches of our catalpa LEAVES me in stitches!

  • If you like willows, check out Douglas Park. There is a whole stand of giants just south of Ogden. Absolutely stunning.

  • Catawba is the "Totem Pole tree" named by first nation indians living within species native range. And original name mistranslated by early arriving europeans. My six year old Catalpas donated to Elmwood Park after celebrating Villages Centennial, were germinated from 125 old historic specimen standing in Mills and Sons Circle park. And have produced flowers for first time in 2018. Over past few years I have had experience managing against aphid populations which after excreting sticky sap, causing sooty mold problem on leaves. I had success using a foliar applied Miticide control product, after IPM management introduction of Lady bugs failed to keep overwhelming aphid populations in check. One main cause of aphid problems on more mature trees regardless of species, is needless applications of nitrogen rich fertilizers which actually attract browsers. Fertilizers should never be applied to healthy trees, or especially trees already in decline, unless suffering from lack of soil minerals or mineral uptake issues. Which forces unhealthy tree to use up much of its precious built up resources. Trees going into dormancy earlier than true fall do so, to make sure enough stored resources remaining to wake up next spring.

    It is yet unknown what possible lifespan of a Chicago region planted catalpa is, since oldest examples continue to live on presently past age 155. After 1910's, Catalpa was no longer a popular selection to plant. So most we see today are from age 110-145. And commonly 6-14 years older than house standing next to, if original owners purchased from Nursery back then. I theorize that as a "Heritage class" tree species, representing future generations precious living connections back to early residents and neighborhood founders who planted them.

  • Catalpa is in same lifespan group as Red Oak, Honey Locust, Hackberry, and Cottonwood which have proven to live 185 years at best. Compared to Heritage class Green Ash & American Elm that reach maturity from 180-220, having 300 year lifespan. And human planted White Ash, White, Burr & English Oak maturing from 350-450, having 600 year lifespans. Even after a catalpas inner core of no longer functional sapwood and heartwood begins rotting out, species can continue to safely stand by regrowing new tubes of buttress root tissue from base of tree to keep upper crown alive.

    Humboltwriter was correct with technical info he supplied regarding several Catalpa topics. Such as late leaf production and early June flowering catalpa. I found that slow release fertilizer stakes are not a worthy product, and tree care industry is moving away from regular fertilization of specimen trees. And Catalpa is such a superior harsh urban environment survivor, it would be difficult to improve living conditions. Except for preventing unnecessary construction damage, grade change etc.

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