Southeast Winnipeg’s tree population is set to benefit from increased funding from this year’s capital city budget.
It was recently announced that the 2014 budget earmarks $1 million for forestation, an increase of 161% from last year, to further protect the city’s urban tree canopy. Up to $500,000 will be used to remove and replace city-owned Schubert chokecherry trees affected by black knot and other environmental factors with other species.
Black knot is a fungal disease that is widespread throughout North America and attacks Schubert chokecherry trees. It causes unsightly black growths on the tree’s branches and trunk, and it can be difficult to remove the fungus from the tree to keep it disease-free.
Officials say since 2011, the severity of black knot has increased the number of dead or impacted trees afflicted by the condition, which has affected the aesthetic appeal of numerous neighbourhoods across the city which were developed in the 1980s and ’90s, where Schubert chokecherry trees were widely planted. There are around 10,000 trees on boulevards and in city parks which require removal and replacement.
Coun. Brian Mayes (St. Vital) said the city’s urban forestry employees have been selectively removing trees with advanced stages of black knot since 2007, noting Aldgate Road in River Park South has been one of the areas most affected, as well as Lanyon Drive and Hochman Avenue.
"I get many calls from residents in south St. Vital concerned about the trees on streets such as Aldgate Road, so I am delighted there is dedicated additional funding to address this road and areas throughout the neighbourhood," Mayes said.
City forester Martha Barwinsky said via email that other affected neighbourhoods in Winnipeg include Dakota Crossing, Norberry, north St. Boniface, Pulberry, Rossmere, Riverbend, Linden Woods and Richmond West.
Barwinsky said there are numerous reasons why the regularity and severity of black knot have increased in the city in recent years.
"Schubert chokecherry is a highly-susceptible species and the disease is common and prevalent throughout North America, including our native chokecherry population and private plantings," she said.
"The fungus is easily spread by wind, (and contributing factors include) an increase in disease pressure over time, various environmental and urban stresses that increase susceptibility of trees to disease and insect pests."
Noting around 600 Schubert chokecherry trees will be removed and replaced, Barwinsky said the tree was originally chosen because of its purple foliage in the summer at a time when its susceptibility to black knot was not fully understood, adding the city no longer plants the tree on boulevards or in parks.
Mayes said he has received "many complaints in the past two years regarding this issue," and is pleased to "get some action."
"Replacing these trees is important to restore a green presence in the south end of the ward. We are not dealing with all of the trees this year, but this is a significant improvement. I don’t think all of the affected trees are Schubert trees, but this is certainly the main focus."