Trees provide food and shelter for wildlife.
Dry Weather & Tree Pit Fires
The 2012 growing season got off to an early start, with very high temperatures in April that gave trees a jump on the growing season. Cold snaps caused some damage to trees, but for the most part trees grew quickly and flowered early with the abundant rain and warm temperatures. Trees that usually bloom in June bloomed in May and now in June we are experiencing July or even August-type weather.
This June is on track to be the 2nd driest June in the last 20 years. To date, we have had 1.13” of rain in June, which is well below the average of 4.12” of rain. What effect does this have on our trees? Right now, leaf drop, wilted growth, early fall coloration and death of trees is happening throughout the City. With the early flush of growth and ideal growing conditions in May, many trees started to put out a second flush of growth in late May and early June. That extra growth spurt may be wasted energy however, as the trees now have a lack of water to support all that new growth.
Another issue we have seen in the last week are tree pits catching on fire. The virtues of mulching trees are extensive, however with the extreme heat and dry conditions, mulch has become tinder, just waiting for a flame, and many people ignorantly provide the spark through their discarded cigarette butts. Cigarette butts are the most ubiquitous litter: Sometimes Tree Tenders may pick several hundred from a tree pit adjacent to a red light or bus stop. In the past, the often still-smoldering butts never really harmed our trees. Now in just the past week alone, four tree pits caught fire and one tree died from the tree pit fire. One fire even required a Tree Pittsburgh employee to call 9-1-1 to have it put out! We are carefully monitoring the other trees to see if they survive.
In the end spring put us two steps ahead and now only in the first week of summer, we are two steps back. Please help by watering your tree, your neighbors trees and remind people that throwing the cigarette butts in tree pits is littering and dangerous!