The Biscayne Times

Aug 11th
Dead Trees Are Everywhere PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jeff Shimonski, BT Contributor   
July 2019

Risk management will help the bottom line

I Pix_YourGarden_7-19write about a lot of things horticultural, and the care of trees is one of my main topics. I hope to point people in the right direction so they can provide the best care for their landscapes and trees, spend their money wisely, and not get ripped off.

Education, and especially ongoing learning, are important if one makes a living providing horticultural services. Unfortunately, continuing education and proper certifications don’t seem to be held in high esteem by many people in the industry, or those who employ them.

I suspect that the problem is not only a lack of horticultural awareness, or “tree blindness,” as some would call it, but also a general lack of environmental ethics. Certainly the industry culture seems to be that you go with the lowest bid and don’t worry about quality and details. This is evident even in very high-end projects.

Recently I was wading through downtown Miami’s traffic and ended up in front of the building seen in the photo that accompanies this article. Since I was going nowhere slowly, I had time to take this photo.

There are two people standing in the little sliver of shade provide by the black olive tree. Their shaded area was probably ten degrees cooler than the surrounding concrete. People outside naturally gravitate toward the coolest areas, and normally this will be underneath the shade of a tree. Imagine that!

Note the other tree, indicated by the arrow. It is dead. I mean real dead, and ready to fall. Don’t park your car there. At least park it with one and a half times the falling distance of the tree.

That piece of information is in the ANSI A300 Standards about tree care and included in your municipal code. I wonder how many people walk in and out of that entrance every day.

I see dead trees everywhere, along roads, sidewalks, in people’s front yards. Maybe people just don’t see dead trees until they fall on their cars or worse. Anyway, I digress. I just thought I could use this photo as a learning opportunity for some kind of educational program or lecture.

Speaking of education, when I took the photo, I didn’t notice the wording above the entrance of the building until I looked at it later: Miami-Dade County School Board Administration Building. I guess this is where Miami-Dade County administers its hallowed educational system.

Well, what can we learn here, or better yet, what can the Miami-Dade County school system learn from the entrance to its administration building?

For one, tree canopies help to mitigate the heat absorbed by all that urban concrete. People actually like to stand in the shade. They will even seek it out.

Here’s a great curriculum to teach in biology and physics classes: Teach students that black olive trees are tough and grow very well here in South Florida. They typically tolerate high winds, too, and don’t need a constant application of chemicals to grow well.

Teach about other trees as well, and how we can incorporate trees into our overwhelmingly concrete landscapes to help cool them down.

Teach students about the environmental benefits of a healthy landscape.

Everyone’s talking about and promoting sustainability programs. Yet those programs don’t seem to have tree or landscape components, except for a paragraph or two on mangroves.

What’s so sustainable about covering everything in concrete? Teachers and students should be discussing this.

How about teaching risk management? You know, if you don’t take care of stuff, don’t plan ahead, and ignore the obvious until disaster strikes, you’re harming your own bottom line. And any lawsuit that arises because of tree failure is going to ask who was responsible for managing that risk.

I know you can’t teach common sense, but you certainly can teach assessment methods and methodology. Don’t all companies and professional organizations have risk managers and risk assessment programs? These programs save companies lots of money. Students would benefit from exposure to this subject.

Come on, school administrators, you can set a better example -- but you need to remove that dead tree first. Like right away. Really, has no one noticed? How about installing two or three more healthy trees at the entrance of your building -- and installing them properly? Lower the temperature with more shade. Make your guests and employees comfortable at your front door.

Why not establish a healthy island of trees and use it as a teaching example for the students you’re charged with educating and the teachers who do the heavy lifting?

How about a little real-world sustainability and not a bunch of greenwashing?

And don’t go with the lowest bidder!


Jeff Shimonski is an ISA-certified arborist, municipal specialist, retired director of horticulture at Parrot Jungle and Jungle Island, and principal of Tropical Designs of Florida. Contact him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


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