Caring for our trees

Arlington's Urban Forestry helps maintain a healthy tree canopy in Rosslyn

Whether we're planting flowers or adding modern new street furnishings to our sidewalks, the Rosslyn BID is committed to ensuring that our neighborhood is a welcoming, attractive place. In particular, we value our green space. So, when our Ambassador team and property managers noticed that some Rosslyn trees were looking unhealthy, we reached out to Arlington County's Department of Parks and Recreation’s Urban Forestry section for help. Among many functions, the Urban Forestry section can assess trees on County land and intervene when they are in need of care.

County staff examined the trees and found they were dead or dying and that they posed a potential safety risk. For this reason, on November 13 eight trees throughout the neighborhood will be removed.

"Once a tree starts showing major dieback in the branches, it's often too late to do treatment," Vincent Verweij, the County's Acting Urban Forest Manager, says.

The good news, though, is that these trees will be replaced in the spring with new ones that have a better chance of survival.

Arlington has 19,000 trees, and while the County is committed to maintaining a lush tree canopy throughout, Verweij says it can be hard for any species—even a native one—to survive in an urban environment.

"Some of the trees we're taking out in Rosslyn were planted with too little soil space," he says. "For a canopy tree to reach its full potential, it needs to have 1,500 cubic feet to grow. So, to start with, these trees weren't planted in an ideal way. Then, they have to deal with dogs, people planting things in the tree pits, road salts in the winter, pollution. It's a lot."

The Urban Forestry team hasn't yet decided what they'll plant in the spring. Native Virginia trees thrive in our climate, and some non-native, non-invasive trees may do well here, too. Urban Forestry will be looking to plant trees that will provide at least a 10-20 year benefit, and will prioritize native trees.

Verweij says Arlington County currently maintains a tree canopy of 40 percent. Within our neighborhood, the North Rosslyn Civic Association area has a canopy of 18 percent. Radnor/Ft. Myer Heights has 18 percent, Colonial Village has 39 percent and North Highlands has 41 percent. Generally, Verweij says the County tries to maintain at least a canopy of 15 percent in urban areas like Rosslyn and Crystal City.

So, how can businesses and residents help maintain a healthy tree canopy in Rosslyn?

Verweij says the business community can support sustainable tree maintenance by planting fewer annuals in tree pits to reduce the impact to roots, and by helping to water trees that are being established. Also, dog owners can avoid having their dogs use tree pits on their daily walk. Verweij says this can be very damaging to the soil over time and harmful to trees.

The County has a couple of programs that support our trees. The Tree Canopy Fund provides grants to plant trees on private property or to maintain trees. Property owners can also get smaller trees through the annual Tree Distribution program.  Just recently more than 500 trees were distributed to property owners.

Those interested in learning more about and caring for Arlington County's trees may want to become tree stewards. Verweij says Tree Stewards is a great organization that partners often with Urban Forestry on volunteer activities. Tree stewards learn about tree physiology and biology, identification, and planting and maintenance techniques.

Between now and November 15, residents can also nominate their favorite tree to be designated an Arlington County Notable Tree. Since 1987, Arlington has identified and registered its most notable trees, as well as the residents who care for them. Nominate a tree you think is notable due to its size, age, history, uniqueness or neighborhood significance. Learn how to nominate a favorite tree here.

Arlington County's Urban Forestry section is also always open to comments and questions from the public, Verweij says. Simply email to be put in touch with a member of their team.  

Rosslyn maintains a tree canopy of more than 15 percent.
 Featured Rosslyn Events

Girl Scout Cookie Booth
Thursday, February 27 - Friday, March 6
at Central Place Plaza

Leadership Unscripted: A Conversation With Melissa Thomas-Hunt and Erika James
Monday, March 2
at University of Virginia Darden School of Business DC Metro