White Oak on Central Hill

The Friends of the Wild Flower Garden


Mapping Trees of the Wildflower Garden

The Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary


by Susan Wilkins

What would the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary be without the hundreds of grand and glorious trees found growing within the wild Garden’s gates?.

It is difficult to imagine the Wildflower Garden without the woodlands’ majestic canopy of oaks, maples, and poplars or the grove of hemlocks near the back gate. What about the tamaracks glowing in their own golden light right now in the wetland or the oaks of the upland garden with their open arms stretching every day a little closer toward the sunlit sky. Gracing every corner of our 15-acre Garden, the myriad species and specimens of trees quietly soaking in the rays and nourishment of the summer sun and willfully watching the winter hours pass make the Garden what it is. The importance of the wildflower Garden’s tees cannot be over stated - they are the heart and soul of our 100-year old Garden. Ensuring the continuation of their health and well-being is a task that ranks second to none in the management of this rich and wonderful wildflower Garden.

Below: The lone oak at top of hill is still alive. Majestically perched in the upland garden, a lone white oak stands tall despite the loss of its companion, a nearby red oak, in 2004. Although generally the roots of red and white oaks don’t graft together, the fungus that causes oak wild disease spreads through grafted roots. This white oak was injected with a fungicide as a preventative measure to protect if from possible infection. Leaves on many of the oaks in the Garden did not look healthy this season, but this was due to a non-fatal fungal infection called anthracnose. Photo G D Bebeau.

White Oak on Central Hill

To take care effectively of the hundreds of mature trees found in the Garden, a system for recording and keeping current information regarding the location, size, species, health, implemented management practices and disease concerns for each and every one of the Garden’s mature trees became necessary.

Kunde Employees using GPS
Joe Walton and Mary Johnson, employees of Kunde Associates, carried out the first-ever tree inventory of Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden.

To this end an inventory of all of the trees greater than approximately 8 inches in diameter at breast height (dbh) was completed in May 2004. The inventory information was recorded in a database using Inven-Tree software created by Kunde Company. It can be updated as often as is desired to account for growth, death, health-status change and such things as selective pruning, disease or pest control In addition, new trees can be added to the database.

Once recorded, the information then can be used to analyze just abut anything relevant to both individual trees and populations of trees categorized by species, size, health, and distribution. This information will allow us to understand the dynamics of species distribution in the Garden and general health of individual species. Then we can begin to assess the ecological health of our Garden’s ecosystems from the top down.

Kunde Employees with GPS
Global positioning System (GPS) is used. This project was assigned to Joe and Mary by the Forestry Dept. of the Park Board. Because of the GPS System used in the inventory, this portion of the work was done in early spring before the leaves had come out fully. During the inventory Joe and Mary identified every tree over 8 inches in diameter within the Garden. (Note Joe’s GPS antennas.)

Understanding the big picture will allow us to care for the Garden’s many ecosystems in a meaningful way. We can make informed decisions regarding new plant selection and planting locations. We can better speculate how a species-specific disease or pest may spread. Having this information recorded and in an easy-to-use database with analysis tools is really the first step in caring for the Garden at the caliber it deserves.

Kunde Employees measuring trees
Kunde employees measure trees in excess of eight inches diameter.

Because this is a mapping-based system, it is possible to generate maps from the information based on specific categories such as species, diameter breast height (DBH), and health. That means that if I would like to look at all of the red oaks in the Garden with a dbg of 12 inches or greater that are in good health, I could! This is a wonderful tool for taking a closer look at the many layers of data now recorded!

Information is one thing; action is another. With this information we can then, in turn, make sound management decisions to protect our existing trees and to preserve the legacy of the Wildflower Garden by enhancing the health of our diverse ecosystems. Doing our utmost to protect the existing trees from avoidable ill-health caused by exotic diseases and pests is fundamental to the management of this resource.

Planting the critical “next-generation” of saplings to supplement regeneration of native tree species in their appropriate habitats is one way in which we can preserve the ecosystems that we have now. Selecting the appropriate species is key to ensuring that we will have healthy, diverse, and ecologically suitable habitats into the future.

Kunde Employees with GPS
The large red maple in the photo at left is located just off the patio area in front of the Martha Crone Visitor Shelter.

Finally, we also can locate and map specimens an populations of invasive species that we need to control. Thus, we can monitor our eradication efforts and over time we can analyze the results. Not only will this information be useful to Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board natural resource managers, but it also will have the potential to be interpreted and applied to a variety of situations through our region.

The opportunities that we will be afforded with this new way of recording and analyzing data regarding the trees in the Wildflower Garden are many. The proactive and positive actions that we can take based on this information to protect, preserve, and enhance the Wildflower Garden will ensure that the Garden, adorned with her glorious trees, will continue to be the place that we know and care so deeply about.

President Steve Pundt wrote in The Fringed Gentian™, Fall 2004, Vol. 52 #4 about keeping track of the trees. He compared which trees were most abundant in Eloise Butler’s time with those most abundant today. Eloise published a list in 1926. Susan Wilkins made a list in 2004. Only five on Susan’s list were also on Eloise Butler’s List, but five from 1926 have decreased in number such that they do not make today’s top ten list.

Eloise Butler
White birch
Northern pin oak
White oak
Red oak
White ash
Red maple
Large-toothed aspen
Susan Wilkins
White Oak
Red Oak
Red maple
Green ash
Box elder
Black walnut
Ohio buckeye