2016 Young Tree Care Survey Results Are In!

By Canopy Team on September 19, 2016

Intern, Michael DeBroeck, leads the 2016 Young Tree Care Survey

Every summer, Canopy welcomes a talented intern to lead our annual Young Tree Care Survey, an effort to survey hundreds of young trees planted throughout Palo Alto. This year, intern Michael DeBroeck, an Environmental Science student at the University of Santa Clara, did a stellar job preparing the tree survey mobile app, organizing volunteers, compiling results, and completing the final report.


Staff member Uriel Hernandez (center) with survey volunteers checking a soil moisture probe

Survey results: overall, trees are in good shape

In all, volunteers surveyed a total of 948 trees, more trees than in any of the last 10 years of surveys. Over 70% of the trees were found to be in good to excellent health, while 15% of trees were in fair health and 6% were in poor health.

The results of the survey (table below) were compiled and analyzed, revealing a few interesting findings:

  • “Needs Water” decreased dramatically to 29% of trees, down from 51% in 2015. This is a sign that residents understand the value of trees and the need to water them, even during dry years with mandatory cutbacks in residential water usage.
  • “Needs Mulch” decreased to 31% of trees, down from 38% in 2015. Using mulch effectively is one of the best ways to conserve water in the landscape and has many other benefits for trees.
  • “Root Flare Buried” increased to the highest ever percentage at 19%. This is a very serious problem; when trees are planted too low, their roots don’t get enough oxygen. This can “suffocate” and kill the tree.  The root flare (also called root collar) is the area at the base of a tree where the trunk widens or “flares” and becomes tree roots. It should always be at or slightly above ground level.

The health and vitality of the City of Palo Alto as a whole depends on maintaining a healthy urban forest.

Caring for urban trees during their first (most vulnerable) years ensures that young trees survive and thrive, growing into healthy mature trees that will stand tall for decades. The results of the young tree care survey will guide future tree care efforts at Canopy and the City of Palo Alto, helping grow a vibrant urban forest for future generations.

Young Tree Care Survey Results for 2015 and 2016:

  2015 2016
Tree Surveyed 712 948

Health Rating

Excellent 24% 28% (237)
Good 46% 43% (368)
Fair 16% 15% (126)
Poor 6% 6% (48)
Dead 1% 1% (7)

Notes for Homeowners

Needs Water 51% 29% (247)
Overwatered 2% 4% (36)
Needs Mulch 38% 31% (268)
Needs Weeding 25% 23% (201)

Notes for City

Needs basin re-building 21% 21% (179)
Suckers need to be pruned 10% 9% (76)
Needs to be re-staked/re-strapped 11% 7% (59)
Stakes need to be removed 11% 11% (93)
Root flare buried 16% 19% (165)


Learn more

Check out the full 2016 survey report here  or visit our Young Tree Care Survey page for past reports.

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