Urbana's Trees

Tour curated by: City of Urbana

Urbana was the first Illinois community to receive the “Tree City USA” designation in 1976, the program's inaugural year. With more than 12,000 street trees, 6,000 park trees, and 100,000 privately owned trees, the city takes great pride in maintaining these valuable community assets. Not only are trees environmental and aesthetic treasures, they are also a part of the rich history of Urbana.

"Tree City USA" was created in 1976 as a joint bicentennial project of the National Arbor Day Foundation, the US Department of Agriculture Forest Service, and the National Association of State Foresters in response to the need for better local tree care. The Tree City USA program provides the national framework for community forestry management. Communities must meet four core standards of urban forestry management to achieve Tree City USA status: maintaining a tree board or department, having a community tree ordinance, spending at least $2 per capita on urban forestry and celebrating Arbor Day.

Illinois is among the foremost states in the nation for community involvement in the Tree City USA program, and among those communities Urbana sets an unparalleled standard. Since becoming a Tree City, Urbana has received numerous Growth Awards, recognizing higher level of tree care beyond the four standards required for Tree City USA designation. In 2014 the City of Urbana established the Legacy Tree Program to celebrate notable community trees. Residents can nominate a tree for Legacy Tree status, which is based on characteristics such as size, rarity, history, age, location, aesthetics, and special ecological value. Urbana also created Illinois' first landscaped median interstate exchange at I-74 Lincoln Avenue.

Bruno Schielzeth, Urbana's first City Arborist, paved the way for the city's urban forestry program. In 1975, the street tree population was comprised of thirty percent Silver Maple trees and fifty percent undesirable, weak-wooded trees such as Siberian Elms. Urbana's early mission was to remove and replace these trees, establishing a 50/50 cost-share tree planting program between homeowners and the city. In addition, a tree care ordinance was created, and a community tree inventory and annual maintenance program were born.

In the 1990s, an ice storm and a severe drought created an opportunity for Urbana to establish a scheduled pruning cycle, increasing the number of trees pruned from 500 to 2,000 per year with no increase in tax dollars. As a result, the city spends much less in reactionary maintenance after natural disasters.

Urbana's street tree population now includes more than 150 carefully selected species, with no one species representing more than ten percent of the population. In addition to adding beautiful color and welcome shade to neighborhoods, trees also reduce urban noise, remove pollutants from the air, and absorb excess rainwater.

This tour includes over twenty different specimens, which are part of the outstanding collection of trees in Urbana's Historic District. When on the trail, please do not collect specimens, including bark, leaves, flowers, and fruit from the tree or ground surrounding it. Numerous collectors could easily damage trees beyond recovery.

Content from this tour was adapted from the City of Urbana's State Street Tree Trail. For more information about Urbana's trees, contact City Arborist Mike Brunk.

Sources:

Hildebrandt, R. (2007). Tree City USA Celebrates 30 Years of Program Excellence. Ourdoorillinois, 6-7. Retrieved from http://www.dnr.illinois.gov/OI/Documents/March07TreeCity.pdf

National Arbor Foundation. (2015). Tree City USA - The Arbor Day Foundation. Retrieved 24 April 2015, from https://www.arborday.org/programs/treecityusa/index.cfm

State Street Tree Trail (1st ed.). Urbana, Il. Retrieved from http://urbanaillinois.us/sites/default/files/attachments/tree-walk.pdf

Locations for Tour

Native to China and Japan, the Amur Corktree gets its name from its bark, which has a ridged and furrowed cork-like pattern. The unique and attractive bark does not appear until old age. Its pinnately compound leaves are lustrous green in summer…

This versatile tree is native to North America. Early pioneers collected its seeds and roasted them as a substitute for coffee, hence the name. Recently, a fruitless variety named 'Espresso’ has been introduced. Native Americans also used the…

This attractive tree is excellent in all seasons. In mid-April, 2- to 4-inch long, white fragrant flowers appear. The small fruit, which ripens in June changing from green to red and finally to purple, attracts many area birds. In the fall, the…

This tree and the next two on the trail, were planted by Michael Dirr, a renowned horticulturist who lived in Urbana in the 1970s. The White Pine is one of the fastest-growing ornamental pines, able to reach 75 feet in just 30 to 40 years. Although…

Even though this tree is native to the western and southwestern United States, it is one of the best firs for this area. The Concolor Fir is able to withstand heat, drought and cold equally well. It also has a pleasant appearance with soft,…

Native to Japan, this particular species is a cultivar of the Japanese Red Pine. This handsome, two-needled pine has an orangish-red, flaky bark. The Dragon Eye Pine’s uniqueness comes from its needles, which are marked with two yellow lines and…

Although its origins lie in Asia, the Horse Chestnut was introduced to America from Europe in the 18th century. Today, it is widely used as a shade tree both here and abroad. Perfect for open areas, the Horse Chestnut has found homes in such famous…

This tree and the next two on the trail are located in Carle Park, the second oldest park in Urbana, which features a two-story stone pavillion. This elm, which is characterized by the white stippling in its leaves, may be a variety of the European…

The Sawtooth is one of the fastest-growing oaks and has a relatively dense habit. The leaves open as brilliant yellow-green in spring, changing to a lustrous green foliage in summer and then a pale brown in fall. These leaves hold on during the…

Known for its flowers, fruit and large, heart-shaped leaves, the Northern Catalpa is native along rivers in the south-central United States. The 2-inch-long flower blooms in early June and is followed shortly thereafter with the long, slender,…

The Japanese Pagoda has foliage similar to a Honeylocust. Yellowish-green flowers in 12- to 14- inch clusters appear in late summer lasting about a month, and its small branches remain green throughout the winter. The leaves are pinnately compound,…

The leaves of the Ohio Buckeye go through many color changes. They begin as bright green turning dark green in summer and then yellow and at times orange-red in the fall. Perfectly shaped greenish-yellow flowers bloom around mid-May. This Buckeye’s…

The European Hornbeam has many admirable qualities. The dense foliage is very clean, Showing no evidence of insect or disease damage. The bark on older specimens is a handsome gray and beautifully fluted. Although it can reach a height of 100 feet,…

Relatively slow-growing, the Swamp White Oak performs well as a street or shade tree. The technical name “bicolor” refers to the two contrasting colors in the leaf—dark green above the pale and silvery white below. Its somewhat large acorns…

The Zelkova has been planted in many areas as a replacement for the American Elm because it has a similar vase shape and is resistant to many diseases and pests, most notably Dutch Elm disease. This native of Japan makes a beautiful landscape tree…

This native of the southern states is unusual for the Illinois climate, normally preferring warmer temperatures. Although it can grow to 60 feet in the South, it does not grow taller than 10 to 20 feet in this area. Also called Swamp Magnolia, it…

The name of this unusual species is derived from the long, loose clusters of yellow flowers that appear in early summer. These flowers are then followed by papery fruit capsules, which resemble Japanese lanterns. It is at its most beautiful in early…

This deciduous conifer has a slender pyramidal form with horizontal branching. Its feathery needle-like foliage appears soft green in the summer changing to a rusty orange in fall. The fruit consists of a round cone approximately 1 inch across.…

This magnificent tree has smooth, light gray bark and dense, glossy foliage. There are so many beautiful cultivars (this is the purple-leaved variety) that it is easy to find at least one to blend into any Urbana landscape. Due to the deep shade it…
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