The town is home to about 25 Pennsylvania “champions,” a designation that means the tree is the largest in the state of its species. That’s calculated by measuring its circumference at breast height (“CBH,” or 4.5 feet from the ground), the spread of its canopy on an XY axis, and its overall height. Among them: a champion scarlet oak that graces the grounds at borough hall; on West Chester University’s academic quad, students relax in Adirondack chairs under the shade of a champion oak; and that towering blue ash in Marshall Square Park carries the title, too. West Chester appears often in Jill Jonnes’ 2017 book Urban Forests: A Natural History of Trees and People in the American Cityscape, including a story about how WC’s own Hoopes Brothers and Thomas Nursery was instrumental in constructing the cherry blossom landscape in Washington, D.C. (We profiled the Hoopes Brothers and Thomas Nursery, one of the town’s original three industries, in our “Made in West Chester” issue last month.) In 1912, Japan gifted a large number of cherry trees to the United States as a symbol of friendship, but when they arrived, they were covered in scale insects and needed to be quarantined. Fortunately, the Hoopes Nursery, known for being on the cutting edge of horticulture, had already been importing them for years and thus was able to provide replacements from their extensive stock collection. In fact, Joshua Hoopes designed the plans for Marshall Square Park, which was named for botanist Humphry Marshall. According to the Friends of Marshall Square Park website, “Marshall was born in 1722 and never went to school after the age of twelve; yet (appropriately for a cousin of William Bartram, America’s most celebrated explorer/botanist) he published in 1785 Arbustum Americanum, the American Grove, the first botanical essay in the Western hemisphere,” states the website’s “About the Park” page.
Trees aren’t just aesthetically pleasing. “Trees are a shared resource, even when they are on your property — to the citizens, to the homeowners, and to the town itself,” Dunn asserts.
starting with the economic benefits. “If a street in the market district is shady and lined with trees, people linger longer and buy more,” he says. “Property values are greater in areas of towns and cities with trees. In New York City, for example, the value of a home on a tree-lined street is 40% more than a comparable home on a street with no trees.” On top of the real estate and retail value, there is also the reduction in heating and cooling costs for homeowners whose dwellings are flanked by trees.
It is a bold claim, one that he backs up with sweeping supporting evidence,
But let’s set aside the economic benefits of our leafy companions for a moment.
THE SECRET LIVES OF TREES
A weeping beech shades the pavilion at Marshall Square Park “Then there is also the psychological impact,” says Dunn. “Trees reduce stress. Hospitals that incorporate trees into their landscape have lower levels of stress.” He isn’t making this stuff up. In a March 1, 2012 article in Scientific American, writer Deborah Franklin describes the results of a pivotal study published in 1984 in the journal Science. “Environmental psychologist Roger Ulrich, now at Texas A&M University, was the first to use the standards of modern medical research — strict exper-
OCTOBER 2019 THEWCPRESS.COM
Voice of the Borough