“Mature and young trees as well as herbaceous shrubs and fruiting species add value and curb appeal to most properties,” declares REALTOR® Sara Greenfield. The founder of Charlottesville Fine Homes and Properties, her college degree was in Forest Management and Outdoor Education.
Greenfield explains she was very specific about leaving mature oak, maple, and elm trees on her property when she built her Albemarle County lakeside home. “Builders tend to remove all trees off the land,” she laments. “This is sad because trees provide shade and cooling in the summer as well as a place for birds to sit and sing. They also prevent erosion, absorb some noise, and are great visual buffers.”
Many homeowners in central Virginia seem to agree with Greenfield about the value of trees. In fact, Charlottesville is designated a Tree City USA. This national program provides the framework for community forestry management. The four qualifying standards include maintaining a tree board or department, having a community tree ordinance, spending at least $2 per capita on urban forestry, and celebrating Arbor Day.
Charlottesville takes an active role in preserving, expanding, and educating the community about its urban forest. The City has an appointed tree commission to advise on urban forest management efforts and policies, while the City Parks Department plants and maintains trees on public property such as parks, schools, and right-of-ways.
Local volunteers for trees
The Charlottesville Area Tree Stewards (CATS) is a group of volunteers who support rural and urban forests by increasing public awareness of the value and beauty of trees, educating residents about tree care, and partnering with local government agencies and civic groups to improve and restore the tree canopy in the area. “Ideally,” says CATS President Rosanne Simon, “we would like to have our canopy about 40 percent. That sequesters a lot of carbon.”
CATS also encourages native trees. “We strongly recommend that people plant indigenous trees because the local insects and birds depend on them,” continues Simon. “If you bring in trees from other countries, the insects don’t like them so the birds don’t like them.” As an example, she says, our native oaks can be home to more than 300 different types of insects—many beneficial—and those bugs attract and feed our birds. “Oaks are some of our stateliest trees,” she says. “Other native trees are tulip poplar, sycamore, hazelnut, maple, redbud, and dogwood.”
CATS will mount a plant sale at the Ix complex with conjunctions with Master Gardeners on March “We’ll be stressing native trees at reasonable prices,” she says. “Three-year-old trees are only $5 and five-year-old trees are $10.” Varieties will include many kinds of oaks, plus chestnut, persimmon, hickory, and a number of other trees and shrubs.
CATS also sponsors mini-workshops. “You can gather a small group of neighbors and we will come to your area,” she explains. “We’ll talk about all aspects of trees.” For more information on the tree sale and other activities, visit www.CharlottesvilleAreaTreeStewards.org
What is a tree worth?
There’s little question most homebuyers viewing similar dwellings, one with trees and the other with none, will opt for the treed property and likely will be willing to pay more for it. In fact, American Forests, the nation’s oldest nonprofit conservation organization, notes that homes with trees sell faster and are worth between 4 – 15 percent more.
Trees like those on Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall incline people to linger at shop windows and spend longer shopping. They also help purify the air and control a community’s stormwater, slowing rainfall through their leaves and filtering water through their roots to improve groundwater quality.
Trees actually have a measurable dollar value. In fact, if trees are damaged or destroyed, owners might receive compensation through insurance or a claimed loss on their income tax form. While there are some widely recognized valuations, there are several ways to establish a tree’s value. This means it is important to find an experienced appraiser—probably a Certified Arborist. While the loss of a tree due to simple old age or insect damage is seldom covered by insurance, a sudden event such as flood, lightning, vandalism, or auto accident is deemed a casualty and may be covered. It’s always wise to have an up-to-date photographic record of your property and trees.
“Healthy trees require good root systems, and new branches in order to provide the nourishment it needs to withstand drought, wind, and temperature changes,” concludes REALTOR Greenfield. “The healthier the tree, the less likely it will succumb to blight, drought, or insect infestation. Be sure to care for your trees to enjoy their beauty and contribution to your property.”
So, if you’re preparing to plant trees, get good advice on the best species for your situation. Take care of them as they grow, and enjoy the benefits and added value to your home.
By Marilyn Pribus
Marilyn Pribus and her husband live on a ridgetop in Albemarle County near Charlottesville. On two occasions, their homeowner insurance covered the removal of separate lightning-struck trees. Happily, they still have plenty of trees remaining.