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By Becki deNeui-Lynch, Master Gardener

Estimates of tree/shrub damage in Linn County are almost 100 percent — it’s difficult to find ANY foundation plants that don’t have some damage.

I don’t now live in Iowa, but as a Linn County Master Gardener I soon heard from friends and family about questions regarding trees — pruning, trimming and removing.

What are reasonable estimates? And what are the best trees to replace and why?

Your choices for the replacements have an immense effect on the health and diversity of the Cedar Rapids/Linn County environment. Why do your decisions matter?

Here are a few reasons from Douglas W. Tallamy, author of “Nature’s Best Hope” and professor of entomology at the University of Delaware:

  • Plant decisions matter because plant species differ a great deal in their ability to feed the birds, bees and butterflies — the wildlife that runs the ecosystems that support us.
  • Non-native ornamental plants can’t support insects. Most birds rear their young on insects, so a yard without insects is a yard without breeding birds. And a yard without native plants is a yard without insects.
  • Many native bees can rear their young only on the pollen of particular native plants. For example, in Iowa at least 13 species of native bees can only reproduce on sunflower pollen.
  • Our yards should strive to support a diverse community of native pollinators and extend sound ecological practices. This can’t be done with sprawling green lawns and sparse plantings of Asian plants.

Here are some things to consider as you contemplate your landscape.

  • Trees. If 50 percent or more of the canopy is damaged, it’s best to remove the entire tree because it won’t have the nutrients needed to sustain it. In general, wounds greater than 4 inches on limbs that are 12 inches in diameter won’t heal and should be removed.
  • Oaks. Oak wilt is a fungus that can immediately enter a wound in an oak. Usually, an oak should not be trimmed from early April through a hard freeze. However, the derecho already has wounded countless oaks and so removing damaged or dead limbs will do no more harm this year. White and bur oaks are less susceptible to the disease.


When finding a tree company, try to get references and always get a written estimate of service. See www.medcoiowa. org/forms/disasterrecovery for a list of local tree removal companies.

When considering what to replace or cleanup, consider designing from a pollinator perspective.

Leave some cutup trees and debris for burrowing and nesting bees and other pollinators. It’s important to provide ground protection for treedwelling pollinators who have lost their tree homes.

If you want to replace your trees — RELAX. There’s plenty of time to investigate what you’ll plant. The best time to plant is in September or October, or in mid-March through mid-April. It might be better to wait until spring because the ground has taken a beating in the storm and during cleanup.

Master Gardeners will have more articles soon about suggestions for replacements.

Call the Master Gardeners with your questions at (319) 447-0647 or send your questions and photos to linncountymastergardener@gmail.com. For general questions about trees, you also can call Trees Forever at (319) 373-0650.

A city of Cedar Rapids front loader clears a path from downed trees Aug. 10 on Chandler Street SW in Cedar Rapids after a derecho hit the area. Estimates suggest the city lost half of its tree canopy in the storm. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)

Article originally published in the Green Gazette.