Growth Rings

Bicycles + Trees: a match made in Portland

Posted on October 17, 2014 at 8:30 am

By Ian Bonham

15359799967 8a2e9d8550 c Bicycles + Trees: a match made in Portland

Bike planting: it’s carbon-negative!
(photo: Greg Raisman)

We ride our bikes a lot here in Portland.

You ride your bike to work. You ride your bike to the grocery store. You ride your bike while eating a vegan donut with cereal on top. You even ride your bike in a sea of naked people.

So it only makes sense that, here in the Pacific Northwest, you also get to ride your bike while planting trees on Saturday morning (fully clothed, of course–it’s cool out there!).

Here at Friends of Trees we’re snapping our rain fenders back on, refreshing our rain gear, and pumping up the tires on our trailers in preparation for another season of planting trees–on our bicycles!

Sign up here:
Join a bike planting crew this season!

We need your help!  Let us know what role works best for you: tree planter, tool carrier, tree chauffeur, or some combination of the three. Meet your neighbors, get some exercise, and beautify Portland & Vancouver neighborhoods all at the same time. And let’s not forget the breakfast coffee and treats, as well as a potluck lunch to fuel you up!

15359021559 8eceef2778 c Bicycles + Trees: a match made in Portland 15359674587 0bedc7252e c Bicycles + Trees: a match made in Portland
Bikes, Trees, and happy planters. (photo: Greg Raisman)

Bicycling crews transport all of the trees, tools and people to various homes in the neighborhood to plant trees that will ultimately absorb CO2 and mitigate stormwater runoff—as well as a host of intangible benefits.

2014-2015 Neighborhood Bike Plantings (sign up here):

  • 11.22.14 :: Montavilla, Mt Tabor (SE Portland)
  • 12.6.14 :: Buckman, Hosford-Abernethy, Richmond (SE Portland)
  • 1.17.15 :: Creston-Kenilworth, Foster-Powell, S. Tabor, Reed (SE Portland)
  • 1.24.15 :: Laurelhurst, Kerns, Sunnyside, N. Tabor (SE Portland)
  • 1.31.15 :: Piedmont, Woodlawn (NE Portland)
  • 2.14.15 :: Boise, Eliot, Humboldt, King (NE Portland)
  • 2.21.15 :: West Vancouver Neighborhoods

If you have any questions or need more information, please contact Jenny Bedell-Stiles or Ian Bonham at or use our volunteer hotline: 503-595-0213.

—Ian is the Volunteer & Outreach Program Specialist for Friends of Trees.

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Yew: The tree that kicked cancer’s tail

Posted on October 14, 2014 at 10:40 am
Garrett family 300x225 Yew: The tree that kicked cancers tail

Garrett (second from left) and his family, heads shaven in solidarity, pose for a picture just before his mom, Lynda, began chemotherapy treatment. She’s now cancer free.
Photo courtesy Garrett Staples.

Yew illustration 150px copy Yew: The tree that kicked cancers tailThe yew tree has special meaning for Garrett Staples.

Along with early detection, the yew saved his mom Lynda’s life when she was diagnosed with breast cancer last year.

“It was such an aggressive cancer, if she had waited even a year, it would have been terminal.”

Yew trees are the source of one of the most potent breast cancer treatment drugs, paclitaxel, commonly known as Taxol.

Though most Taxol today is manufactured synthetically, it all goes back to a botanist pulling bark off of a yew in the Pacific Northwest woods in 1962 and taking it back to the lab.

Saturday about 20 yew trees will go in the ground at Murrayhill Park in Beaverton as we partner with Garrett’s company, PRiNK Technologies, to commemorate Breast Cancer Awareness Month. All together Friends of Trees will plant about 300 yew trees this season, including around 90 this month in Beaverton and Forest Park. (View event calendar for more info and to come volunteer!)

Phone case2 Yew: The tree that kicked cancers tail

Since 2012 we’ve worked with Garrett to plant a tree for every smart phone case PRiNK Technologies sells. Here’s more information about becoming a Planting Partner with Friends of Trees.

PRiNK makes custom wood and bamboo smart phone cases locally in Portland (instead of in China). Since 2012, PRiNK has planted a tree with Friends of Trees for each case they sell. Yew trees are a natural choice for October.

“This was my mom’s idea,” Garrett says of planting yews. The slow-growing conifers are native to our own backyard forests and serve as a powerful symbol of breast cancer awareness.

After a rough couple of years, Garrett and his family are feeling thankful. Just days after his mom’s health was cleared, his father was diagnosed with aggressive prostate cancer. After surgery two weeks ago, Garrett’s dad is now cancer-free as well.

This month we join Garrett in saluting the yew tree and all of the survivors who have braved its potent effects in their fight.

Nearly a quarter million women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year. For more information about self-screening and early breast cancer detection, you can visit the National Breast Cancer Foundation.



Delicious or Deadly? A Tale of Two Chestnuts

Posted on October 14, 2014 at 9:56 am

edible Delicious or Deadly? A Tale of Two Chestnuts

By Jesse Batty

As you’ve been walking through your neighborhood this fall, you may have noticed chestnuts on the sidewalk and thought “Boy, those sure would taste good. Maybe roasted on an open fire?”

Horsechestnut Delicious or Deadly? A Tale of Two Chestnuts

Palmate leaf and spiky husk? Don’t eat it!

Be careful! What you think are chestnuts are most likely Horse-chestnuts (Aesculus hippocastanum). Despite having beautiful spring flowers, these trees have horrible tasting nuts, toxic to humans due to a toxin called aesculin. This toxin is found in the leaves, flowers and twigs of the Horse-Chestnut. While a full-grown adult wouldn’t die unless a LOT of nuts were consumed, children can become much sicker at much lower doses.

Chestnut Delicious or Deadly? A Tale of Two Chestnuts

Single leaf and sea-urchin like spines on the husk? Enjoy, with our compliments.

That said, even amongst all the Horse-chestnuts in our city streets, you can still find a few European, Japanese, & Chinese Chestnuts (Castanea sativa, C. crenata, C. mollissima) which are indeed edible. The main difference is that the Horse-chestnut has a palmately compound leaf and a spiky armor like husk around the nut, whereas the Chestnut has a simple serrated leaf with a spiky sea urchin like husk around the nut.

Unfortunately, the most delicious chestnut of all, the American Chestnuts (Castanea dentata), were largely wiped out by a fungal blight, although two prominent American chestnuts remain along Leif Erickson Trail in Portland and in Fort Vancouver in Vancouver. So don’t eat those Horse-chestnuts! Keep your eyes peeled for the true chestnuts and consider yourself lucky if you get to eat an American chestnut.


–Jesse is an ISA certified arborist and a Senior Neighborhood Trees Specialist with Friends of Trees.

Friends of Trees Pale Ale now in stores!

Posted on October 13, 2014 at 1:35 pm

22 Bottle Friends of Trees Ale 77x300 Friends of Trees Pale Ale now in stores!The Ninkasi Friends of Trees Pale Ale is available in stores for a limited time right now!

You can get 22-ounce bottles at Portland-area New Seasons Markets, Whole Foods MarketsZupan’s Markets, Food Front and Belmont Station.

A hoppy but drinkable Northwest beer, the ale is brewed to commemorate Friends of Trees’ 25th anniversary. Ninkasi is donating profits from the beer to support Friends of Trees and its mission to bring people together to plant trees and improve the natural world around us.

“We can’t think of a better way to celebrate 25 years of people coming together to plant trees,” said Scott Fogarty, Executive Director for Friends of Trees. “This beer is delicious and every sip gives back to our communities, thanks to Ninkasi.”

The latest addition to Ninkasi’s Rare and Delicious Series, the Friends of Trees Pale Ale has an original gravity of 1055, IBU (International Bitterness Units) of 60 and ABV (alcohol by volume) of 5.5 percent.

Drink up, and enjoy! And thanks for your support.

22oz Label Friends of Trees Ale 600x493 Friends of Trees Pale Ale now in stores!