If you’ve driven through the Lexington Parkway/Como Avenue intersection on the eastern edge of Como Regional Park lately, you may have noticed what appear to be clusters of white stakes near the Como Pool.
These are actually “grow tubes” protecting and nurturing native white and bur oak seedlings that one day, it is hoped, will become part of the park’s tree canopy.
“Our primary goal is to use this method in urban forest regeneration and to provide research and outreach that give communities additional options for replanting in parks, boulevards and other public areas,” said Chad Giblin, research fellow, Department of Forest Resources, University of Minnesota.
The project is a joint partnership between the university and City of St. Paul and comes at a time of particular stress for the urban forest in general, given factors such as aging oak populations and the anticipated devastation of the emerald ash borer, as well as storm damage and the effects of intensive human use in the park.
Giblin said the grow tube technology has been in use for a long time but has been improved significantly in recent years and, in the case of oaks in particular, may be a more successful approach to establishing trees than the traditional balled and burlapped or containerized nursery stock.
The color of the tube enhances the light wavelength transmitted for optimum plant growth, said Giblin, and the tube also stimulates stem development by allowing multi-directional movement.
The seedlings are planted in clusters to help reduce soil compaction around them, increase water retention and provide additional physical protection. A few years from now, a decision will be made about which of them will be transplanted to other locations.
In addition to Como Park, there are related oak-regeneration projects at the Trout Brook Nature Sanctuary in St. Paul, at Lake Nokomis in Minneapolis and Lions Park in Shakopee.
Roger Bergerson writes about history and community news regularly in the Park Bugle.