Most of us involved in tree plantings are ‘get out there and get it done’ sort of folks. We would rather get our hands dirty planting trees than keep records.

However like any good business or long-range project, reliable accurate data is essential to good planning and stewardship of resources.

A tree inventory is a basic but essential tool for gathering and analyzing that data. Let’s look at the ways a tree inventory can help and the sort of information we want to keep.

[This post is 2nd in a series on the topic of creating and maintaining a tree inventory.  Click here to read the first post: Why Should I Make A Tree Inventory.] 

A good inventory helps us to think about diversity and distribution.

We will be able to see if we are growing too many of one species or not enough of another.   We will be able to see that each neighborhood has a variety of species and not have all their trees wiped out by a disease that hits one species.  We will be able to provide trees that offer a range of colors and sizes. We will be able to track that we have deciduous trees where we want warming in the winter and shade in the summer.

A good tree inventory gives us data to support requests for grants and funding from local and state governments.  When we can track and show progress made from year to year, we are more likely to get ongoing support.  Being able to show that 5 years ago we had 1,500 street trees and today we have 5,000 is powerful marketing to the community from whom we solicit support.

A good tree inventory allows us to evaluate success or failures in various locations and conditions.  A good inventory will track growth rates and tree health. If we recorded where we purchased them and tracked whether they thrived or died we can track our most reliable suppliers.   We will know who to buy from and who to drop?

A good tree inventory provides information we need for ongoing maintenance.  For example, we planted 500 trees in sidewalk utility strips that need to be pruned next year. Our inventory will show us where they are, who is scheduled to do the work and record when the work is complete. We can track our contractors and our volunteers and the work they have done.

Here is a quick checklist of the basic information you might want to keep.

  • Unique Tree ID #
  • Date Planted
  • Purchased From
  • Root Ball Type
  • Management Zone/Collection
  • Tree Location: Street Address, GIS Coordinates
  • Location Type: Yard, Median, Utility Strip, Park
  • Common Name
  • Botanical Name
  • Tasks: Plant, Water, Mulch Prune etc.
  • Measurements: DBH, Crown Height, Crown Width
  • Photos of location, ground to crown, root flare
  • Condition: Healthy, poor, decline, structural damage, deadwood, crossing branches, overhead wire hazard etc.
  • Maintenance Required: Crown clearing, pest treatment, root flare covered, etc.

We just can’t keep this stuff in our heads.

And even if we could, the trees will outlive most of us. We need to pass on records to the next generation of stewards and we need to share this information with the community.

  • Armed with an inventory and ongoing records of every tree you (a future generations) will know what you planted, when and where; what was successful and what was not.
  • You will be able to provide detailed information to community members, local governments, contractors and funding sources.
  • You will be able to plan what and where to plant next and you will be able to coordinate and record on-going maintenance tasks.

When looking for a tree inventory system, consider how accessible you want the information and in what format.

We believe it is important to share your tree inventory with others as both an educational and marketing tool.

Information that is mobile and online offers the greatest community outreach opportunity.

An inventory should include photos, location information, and a plant story that can be relatable to the general public.

The key to increasing the environmental impact of our urban forest is to continually increase the number and variety of trees; to plant them where they will function best to slow down wind and rain, to shelter our buildings, to clean our air and to provide homes and food for the greatest number of bird, animal and insect species.

You will achieve the greatest environmental impact if you get more of the right trees in the right places and can manage their planting and maintenance in a cost efficient manner.  You will get the greatest community support if people can see and quantify what you are doing.  A good inventory will help us achieve that more.

Plants Map is developing a custom Tree Tab and is seeking interested indivduals to trial and test to give us feedback on further development. If you are interested please Contact Us and we will be happy to demo the Tree Tab and turn on this tool for your profile.

This post is 2nd in a series on the topic of creating and maintaining a tree inventory.  Click here to read the first post: Why Should I Make A Tree Inventory