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Structure and Disease Resistance
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Redbud in Wisconsin
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Preferred Characteristics of Urban Plants

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Preferred Characteristics of Urban Plants

Featured Image: Exclamation!™ London Planetree, Platanus x acerfolia ‘Morton Circle’

Urban Approved plants should possess one or more attributes that makes them better suited to developed areas over similar species. Broadly, these can be thought of as how these plants interact with the surrounding environment in ways that are beneficial (or at least not detrimental) to human activity. The following is a list of characteristics that are ideal in urban environments.

    Reduced fruit or seed production, or complete sterility

  • This means that there’s lower mess in urban areas, or less ‘volunteer’ plants that spread from a parent plant.
  • Unique form and size for restricted spaces

  • A smaller-stature tree (less than 25 feet tall) is ideal for planting beneath utility lines.
  • For width-restricted spaces, a plant with a narrow form will prevent conflicts with right-of-ways and foot traffic.
  • Smaller leaves that are less likely to block storm drains or clog gutters

  • Honeylocust cultivars have, on average, small leaflets less than 1” long. Compared to a Norway Maple with large leaves over 5 inches across, Honeylocust will present less problems when near a storm drain or gutter.
  • Spreading roots for erosion control

  • These plants are ideal for rugged slopes where stabilization is necessary. Grasses, low shrubs, and suckering plants will help retain soil and prevent unnecessary runoff.
  • Importance to threatened native species

  • While Urban Approved plants are selected for their ruggedness and adaptability, we believe that those that provide special benefit to our native species are of special importance.
  • Special traits for special sites

  • This category is for specific advantages of trees, shrubs, and perennials that work well in specific applications.
  • For example, Kentucky Coffeetree and its cultivars are a great selection when planting near solar panels. The coarse branching structure allows plenty of light to pass through during winter when solar power needs are greatest, and the dappled shade in summer protects solar elements from excessive light during the growing season.

These additional characteristics can be found in the suggested uses section of our plant profiles.