Crabapples: Beautiful but High Maintenance

Crabapple trees along the Ohlone Greenway were lovely every spring, but disease and pests made them costly to the city. Click the "Keep me posted" button below for an update when we publish future stories on the BART project.

After an Albany Patch reader, Linda Wulf, wrote in March,  along the , we got in touch with Albany’s urban forester Tony Wolcott on the matter.

But first, a little background: Why are the crabapples and other trees on the greenway ? The landscaping changes were planned to make room for BART to strengthen both the bases and the caps on the columns toprevent collapse in a large quake. Read more about this work here.

Dozens of trees (not just crabapples) along the greenway throughout Albany have been or will be removed. See .

However, only trees that are directly in the way of either work on the columns, or of the new, wider multi-use path (requested by Albany) are or were to be removed. As Wolcott pointed out last October, “We're not losing any really big trees.”

Several years ago, BART and the city negotiated a detailed agreement about the number and types of trees that would be  by BART.

However, our Jan. 30 story did not address why the crabapples under the tracks weren't being replaced. So we recently asked Wolcott for more details.

He agreed that the trees have a lot of appeal. “Crabapples have been a main attraction for a long time on the greenway. This time of year they are in their full glory and they really are spectacular,” he wrote to us.

And, he pointed out, some of those trees remain: a few under the tracks that weren’t in the way of the work, as well as some closer to Masonic Avenue. Along Masonic, “we are replacing dead crabapples where they occur,” Wolcott said.

But not under the BART tracks.

“We (the Albany Tree Task Force) spent over three years discussing what works best in the landscape, and crabapples were not the answer,” Wolcott said.

“Many of our crabapples had heart rot decay—a form of brown rot that eats away the interior wood but does not affect the sap wood, cambium and outside appearance of the tree,” Wolcott explained. “Once a gentleman was talking to me about the trees and he casually leaned against one crabapple and both tree and person fell to the ground.”

“The crabapples are short-lived in our micro-climate. They are highly susceptible to root pathogens…. They are also prone to many leaf diseases and insect attacks—scale and aphids.”  Because of that, after the beautiful bloom, Wolcott said, many of the trees "look terrible."

All that means these trees cost more money than most to keep, Wolcott said.

“Crabapples are one of the highest maintenance trees that we have. Their growth is rampant and wild, making for crossing branches galore and generally bad structure. We do not have enough funds and staff to care for all our trees, hence we like areas that are not so high maintenance—this is why we want to reduce the lawn area we have.”

Many new trees will be planted on the greenway as soon as BART retrofitting ends, including some fruit trees. 

Click the "Keep me posted" button below for an update when we publish future stories on the BART project. Read more here

If there's something in this article you think , or if something else is amiss, call editor Emilie Raguso at 510-459-8325 or email her at albany@patch.com.

Craig Westbrooke May 07, 2012 at 06:59 PM
sounds great that new trees will be planted, but will they be specimen trees or more of the very small saplings that the city plants on the drivestrips? Hoping we don't have to wait 20 or so years before we get full size trees back.
Mary Flaherty May 09, 2012 at 07:13 PM
This from Tony Wolcott: The tree replacement will be a combination of 24" box - larger than what we normally plant on the streets and 15-gallon trees - the same size as we plant. The choice of trees is more important as we have larger maturing trees in areas with large soil capacity. Growth will be faster than on the street so waiting time for significant tree size will be cut in half. All trees are beautiful small and large.


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