Francisco Drive trees replaced
The recent removal of 40 sickly sycamores and pines along north Francisco Drive evokes an old arboreal adage: “Losing a tree is like losing a friend.”
That boulevard has a lot of friends. It anchors the Lakehills, Marina, Marina Woods, Rolling Hills, Green Valley Hills, Waterford, Winterhaven and Summit neighborhoods.
Francisco Drive also has a lot of trees. Its entire 1.8 mile length is landscaped, with the Lake Forest Owners Association dedicated to its maintenance. Waterford resident Ray Myers is board president and spokesman.
He explained that 40 trees were removed, and will be replaced with 57 better suited to life on a boulevard. The list includes chestnut, flowering plum, Crepe Myrtle and others, many of which provide excellent fall color.
Most of the replacements are between the curb and sidewalk on the east side of the street at Francisco Drive’s south end.
Ron Allison is the corridor’s current landscape architect. On the association website, lakeforestemaster.org, he explains that the original plans called for extensive use of native plant species, some of which are poor choices when sidewalks and roads are in close proximity.
Allison outlined the problem with the native London Plane Sycamore. “While picturesque in its native habitat, gnarled and twisted from decades drought and disease,” it suffers periodic leaf drop, misshapen branches and gnarly growth, “all fine traits in an individual lawn specimen, but in the broad avenue setting, detract from the stately effect generally desired.”
Disease resistant varieties of both sycamore and pine have been developed and are much less expensive to maintain. The Blood Good Sycamores that remain standing on the west side of the boulevard are one example. They look similar to their native cousins, but are disease resistant and provide a more balanced, uniform canopy.
The most notable and expensive diseases that afflict the London Plane Sycamore are Anthracnose and Powdery Mildew, according to Arborist Greg Rogers, of Arborwell in Rancho Cordova.
Capital Landscape’s Paul Miller explained that Powdery Mildew results in periodic leaf drop, which is messy, unattractive, and deprives walkers and joggers of shade.
Estimates for treating the diseases came in at $12,000 to $13,000 per year, assuming no unexpected rain occurred after a fungicide spraying, which can drift onto pedestrians and adjacent properties, and was another factor in the decision to remove the trees, said Myers.
Sycamore roots tend to spread out on the surface, and shouldn’t have been planted adjacent to curbs or sidewalks without a root barrier to contain horizontal root growth he added, explaining that damage to corridor sidewalks, curbs and irrigation system has cost $4,000 so far this year. The costs would increase annually had the trees remained, Myers said.
Several Black Pines had Pine Beetle and Pitch Moth infestations, and were also removed. Annual treatment cost was about $100 per tree.
The replacements will be 15 gallon trees, which outperform the other alternative, 24-inch boxes, over time, and are far less expensive, said Myers. Root barriers will be installed in soil areas less than 8 feet wide.
Myers concluded, “The removal was a difficult decision but is best for the corridor over time.”