Tree Canopy and Stormwater Project in Charleston, SC

By Frances Waite, SCFC


Public meeting to discuss Charleston project

Rapid urbanization and climatic fluctuations have led to increased risk of flooding and degraded water quality in cities. Trees can be utilized as a key strategy for addressing this problem. Trees intercept, store and transpire stormwater and are a vital tool in abating and cleaning stormwater runoff. One urban tree can intercept thousands of gallons of water annually.  But while the benefits of trees are well known, most cities do not include trees as a component of their stormwater management strategies.

The City of Charleston is one of thirteen southern localities undertaking a project to link urban tree canopy to stormwater mitigation, specifically for cities with Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4) permits to manage stormwater.  The project is helping southern cities utilize their urban forests to better manage and reduce stormwater runoff.  Urban trees soak up tremendous volumes of stormwater.  The more treed the landscape, the less runoff and flooding may occur.  This project will assess the city’s tree canopy and determine its role for treating and absorbing stormwater.

The primary outcome is a process for integrating trees into the City’s stormwater management program. Ultimately, Charleston will have a more strategic and effective process for combating stormwater runoff.

Project partners include the City of Charleston, The South Carolina Forestry Commission and The Green Infrastructure Center (GIC).  The project is funded by the SC Forestry Commission under a grant from the USDA Forest Service and matched in-kind through participation by the City. GIC is providing the technical support and project management. More information about GIC is available at

City agencies involved on the Project’s Technical Review Committee include Information Technology and Geographic Information Services; Parks and Urban Forestry; Planning, Preservation and Sustainability; and Public Service and Stormwater Management.  Staff from these departments formed a technical review committee, advising the GIC and coordinating Charleston community events.

As part of the project, Charleston will receive:

  • Updated tree canopy and impervious land cover map used to map current canopy and analyze runoff, stormwater benefits and potential for mitigating stormwater.
  • Potential planting areas map (digital GIS) used for strategic planning to set future canopy goals.
  • Codes and Ordinance Audit for urban trees to facilitate better management and care.
  • Workshops with local committees to provide education and solicit input.
  • Model ordinance language or other program/policy documents for using trees to meet stormwater regulations.
  • Written step-by-step- strategy and methodology for linking urban forest systems to urban MS4 requirements for each of the specific partner city(s).
  • Case study of the project suitable for sharing at workshops, with elected and appointed officials and other agencies and stakeholders.

In addition to the outcomes listed above, by better evaluating and planning for its trees, Charleston will also realize other ‘ecosystem services’ of the urban forest such as cleaner water, air, aesthetic values, open space, walkable and bikable streets, safer pathways, improved climate for businesses and better real estate values.

The project began November 1, 2016 and the estimated completion is December 2017.

2016 Annual Report

2016 Annual Report

Mission Statement:  Trees SC is a non-profit organization that fosters the stewardship of our state’s urban and community forests through education, advocacy, and network.

 Executive Committee Officers:
President – Drew Smith                                  Vice President – Brad Farmer
Treasurer – Mike Russell                                Secretary – Rachel d’Entremont
Advisor – Lowe Sharpe

Board of Directors  – Clark Beavans, Danny Burbage, Whitt Cline, Matt Clinton, Lois Edwards, Amanda Flake, Tim Gillette, Danny Jones, Tom Knowles, Luther Marchant, Scott Park, Derrick Phinney, Mike Russell, Terry Smith, Carroll Williamson, Eddie Bernard (ex-officio), Donna Foster (ex-officio), Bob Polomski (ex-officio)

Executive Director– Karen Hauck

Membership – 385 members:  89 Corporate, 123 Governmental, 164 Individuals, 9 Non-Profit



  • Published and electronically distributed 4 issues of The Acorn, Volume 26 (spring, summer, fall and winter)
  • Hosted the South Carolina Arborist Workshop: Insects and Disease on March 3, 2016.  The workshop had 90 people in attendance, and was sponsored by Bartlett Tree Experts, Carolina Tree Care, CSX, Duke Energy, Lewis Tree Service, SCE&G, Schneider Tree Care, Sox & Freeman, and the S.C. Forestry Commission.
  • Hosted the South Carolina Arborist Workshop for practicing arborists. The workshop, which was held on September 15, 2016 at Harbison State Forest, had 80 people in attendance and was sponsored by Bartlett Tree Experts, Carolina Tree Care, CSX, Duke Energy, Lewis Tree Service, SCE&G, Schneider Tree Care, Sox & Freeman, and the S.C. Forestry Commission.
  • Partnered with ISA Southern Chapter to host the South Carolina Tree Climbing Academy in Irmo on May 23, 2016. Ten climbers attended the workshop, led by instructors from North American Training Solutions.
  • Hosted a Canopy Session in Hartsville, SC on May 5, 2016. The program presented information on site preparation, nursery stock, proper pruning techniques, and an overview of Tree City USA. Twenty-six people attended the program.
  • Hosted the workshop Designing Infrastructure for Urban Tree Sustainability on June 21, 2016 in Columbia. Forty-two people attended the program.
  • In partnership with TreesGreenville, launched Tree Keepers, a community-based program designed to educate community members about the value of trees and proper tree care. Eleven people participated in the 6-week course.
  • Hosted the Annual Conference at Folly Beach, SC on October 27-28, 2016.  Major conference sponsors included Bartlett Tree Experts, Carolina Tree Care, CSX, Duke Energy, Lewis Tree Service, SCE&G, Schneider Tree Care, Sox & Freeman, and the S.C. Forestry Commission.
  • Celebrated Trees SC’s 25th anniversary with special celebrations held throughout the state:  Columbia, Clemson University, Moore Farms Botanical Garden, and the Angel Oak.

Number of individuals reached through education programs: 1,553
Number of communities reached through education programs: 71
Number of South Carolina counties served:  35


  • Presented the 2016 Heritage Tree Award to the Augusta Circle Elementary American Elm (Greenville)
  • Awarded the 2016 Golden Acorn Award to Nate Dubosh (MUSC)


  • Contracted with KBH Solutions, LLC to provide executive director services
  • Developed and administered a fiscally responsible budget for the organization
  • Contracted with the accounting firm Burkett, Burkett & Burkett in Rock Hill, South Carolina to file the organization’s IRS Form 990
  • Applied for and received a 2016 grant from the S.C. Forestry Commission
  • Provided financial assistance for individuals to attend the 2016 Trees SC Annual Conference
  • 2016 Corporate Sponsors:
    SUSTAINING PARTNERS:  Bartlett Tree Experts, Carolina Tree Care, CSX, Duke Energy, and Schneider Tree Care
    PLATINUM LEVEL:  Lewis Tree Service and Sox & Freeman


Annual Members Meeting: – The last members’ meeting was held on October 27, 2016 at Folly Beach, SC.

Board of Directors Meetings:
February 4, 2016 – Wampee, S.C.
February 4-5, 2016 Annual Retreat – Wampee, S.C.
April 21, 2016 – S.C. Forestry Commission Headquarters
July 21, 2016 – S.C. Forestry Commission Headquarters
October 26, 2016- Folly Beach, SC



On the Stump: Summer 2017

By Danny Burbage




World renowned arboricultural researcher and teacher, Dr. Alex Shigo, helped many of us wrap our minds around tree physiology. Dr. Shigo insisted that we NOT assign human traits to trees. He contended that doing so blinded us to the real ways that trees work. Unlike humans, trees don’t heal wounds. They seal them off and (hopefully) hold decay at bay. Trees may absorb nutrients and convert them into energy but they do not feed, Shigo insisted. This precise terminology forces us to consider how trees really react and dissuades us from confusing tree characteristics with human ones.

Recent studies dealing with plant behavior re-challenge us to think of trees appropriately as we integrate new findings into our thinking. It becomes a little more difficult since the studies look at plant functions that, in humans, might require brain activity. French journalist Marta Zaraska wrote an article for the May edition of Discover magazine titled “Smarty Plants”.  Zaraska claims that plants learn, remember and make decisions. To prove her hypothesis, she cites scientific studies performed at several universities.

In a study investigating plant memory, Mimosa pudica, famed for its sensitivity to touch, was used. If you brush a leaf of a mimosa with your fingers, it folds almost instantly. Scientists from the University of Western Australia and the University of Firenze in Italy dropped Mimosa plants, letting them fall six inches. After the first drop, the plants folded their leaves. Same thing happened on the second and third times. But on the fourth drop, the Mimosas weren’t as eager to close. A month later, plants seemed to know that being dropped was harmless and they did not fold their leaves. However, if the scientists vigorously shook the Mimosa pots, the plants quickly folded their leaves to protect themselves showing it was not fatigue that made them indifferent to the fall, it was memory.

There were other studies of plant memory. In 2015, Canadian scientists repeatedly exposed 2-week old India colza plants to extreme heat of 107 degrees Fahrenheit. Afterward, the plants rested peacefully and reproduced in a comfortable 71.6 degrees. When the tissues of the next generation were tested, they had differentially expressed genes-clear signs of epigenetic memory-even though they themselves had never experienced a hot spell.

Marta Zaraska writes about other studies that detail how plants communicate by emitting airborne chemicals and via their mycorrhizal network, an underground system that connects roots of plants and conducts signals through interwoven bodies of fungi. “These are direct pipelines from plant to plant like a telephone wire”, says Suzanne Simard, a forest ecologist at the University of British Columbia. Simard also suggests that the next time you go into the forest, take a deep breath and sniff the air. What you smell is the language of trees. “We can tune into some of their conversations because many of the volatile compounds that plants use in communication have odors,” she says. In a classic 1983 study when leaves of some trees were damaged, their healthy neighbors emitted more phenolics and tannins, natural insect repellents, just as if they (the healthy trees) were under attack.

Some say that the Venus flytrap, a native of the Carolina wetlands, can count. When a fly lands on the outside of the flytrap, it must touch sensory hairs for the plant to confirm that something living is there and not just windblown debris. If it enters the plant, the organism must touch at least two sensors before the plant will close. Then, it must contact three, four and five of the sensors before digestive juices begin to flow.

Studies at the University of Ontario indicate that plants can recognize relatives by sampling chemical signatures coming from roots. Argentinian biologists claim plants can recognize relatives’ body shapes because of light receptors. They discern between the red, far-red and blue light visible around and reflected off the plants.

Concluding her article, Zaraska asks this question. “If plants can learn, count and recognize family, can we say they actually think? That they are intelligent? Conscious? How you answer these questions depends largely on your definition of concepts such as intelligence or cognition. Yet the way we view plants is changing”.

“A few years ago you couldn’t use the term plant behavior in accepted journals but now the concept of plant behavior is not controversial anymore”, says Frantisek Baluska, a plant cell biologist at the University of Bonn in Germany.




Passport to Trees: Honolulu

By Clark Beavans

This time we’re broadening our perspective to include an exotic tropical location NOT in South Carolina – but South Carolinians will recognize some of its challenges. 

This spring I was blessed with the opportunity to travel to Hawaii for almost two weeks.  As a tree geek in a strange and wonderful land, I explored with great geeky gusto everything arboreal, and asked many annoying questions about the local tree population. Eventually I learned to curb my enthusiasm after the first eye roll, but I also took lots of photos just in case I ended up writing an article . . . tah daaahhh!

Hawaii is an isolated, volcanic archipelago in the middle of the Pacific Ocean just south of the Tropic of Cancer, about 2,400 miles from the mainland US.  Because of its isolation, one of the intriguing aspects of Hawaii is its prodigious biodiversity, which includes a high percentage of introduced species of animals and plants – many of which are naturalized and invasive. One of the first things visitors notice are the feral chickens, literally everywhere!

I spent a week in Honolulu, on the island of Oahu.  Honolulu is the capital of Hawaii and the largest city, with a population of nearly 400,000. Waikiki Beach is part of the city of Honolulu, which has a very impressive Urban Forestry program.

In Waikiki, coconut palms are planted extensively along streets and walkways. Their sidewalks are crowded nearly 24/7, and street traffic is also heavy most of the time.  Falling coconuts represent a significant threat to both pedestrians and vehicles. Tourism (and the image of coconut palms to remind you that you are in a tropical paradise) is so important to the economy of Waikiki that, twice a year, the Division of Urban Forestry (and all the hotels and resorts) trim the immature fruit from hundreds of coconut palms!  As counterintuitive as it may seem on the surface, this is not a trivial allocation of resources.  I’m sure the market for commercial tree services is well adapted to this ritual.

Oahu enjoys a great diversity of tree species, and for tree geeks I highly recommend a visit to Foster Botanic Garden, which has been in existence for 150 years. My favorite tree in that jewel of a garden in the middle of urban Honolulu was a massive Baobab, a magical tree native to Madagascar. There also grows the largest Lagerstroemia I’ve ever encountered, L. speciosa (Queen’s crape myrtle), which I estimated at over 24 inches diameter and 70 feet tall.

streetscape with monkeypods

My other favorite of all the shade trees in Honolulu is monkeypod, which could easily have been the inspiration for our SC Arborist Workshop logo – it reminds me of a massive, graceful umbrella.  South Carolinians will immediately note the similarity of the form to Live Oak.  Monkeypod (Albizia saman – cousin of our familiar Mimosa) is originally from Central and South America, and is one of many species introduced to Hawaii in post- Polynesian times.  It has been planted extensively on public and private property, but in 2014 Honolulu City Council voted unanimously to require all future plantings on public property to be species which are native or Polynesian-introduced, so there will be no more monkeypod trees planted on public properties in the City.  A pity, in my admittedly biased opinion . . . but I understand.

When the Acorn fell from the tree…

Back in 1992, we published our first newsletter.  At the time, it didn’t have a name, but it was still full of pertinent information and a go-to for the industry.  Twenty-four years and nearly 100 issues later, the Acorn is still growing strong.  We invite you to take a look back at our first issue and reminisce along with us.

The Acorn Issue 1

2017 Corporate Sponsors

We are pleased to announce our 2017 Corporate Sponsors

Sustaining Level:

Duke Energy
Bartlett Tree Experts

Charleston Tree Experts
Schneider Tree Care

Platinum Level:

Carolina Tree Care
Lewis Tree
Sox & Freeman 

For more information on our Corporate Sponsorship Program, please contact our office at (843) 814-4620 or by e-mail at

Trees SC Specialty License Plate On Sale Now


The Trees SC specialty license plate is now on sale!   Designed by Trees SC member Chris Thompson of Nature Form in Spartanburg, this plate perfectly exemplifies the mission of Trees SC- connecting people and trees.  All proceeds from plate sales will help support urban and community forestry programs across South   Carolina.

For an additional $30 (biannually) over the base cost of a standard SC license plate, you can have a license plate which shows your appreciation for trees while at the same time, supports urban and community forestry programs across South Carolina.

You can purchase your Trees SC license plate in one of three ways:

  1. Visit your local DMV office
  2. Submit an application via mail
  3. Visit to order your plate online

Support urban and community forestry in South Carolina and order your plate today!