The Eugene Branch Walks the Talk in their own Backyard

A year ago, if you were to look out the back window of the Friends of Trees office in Eugene, you might look past the small backyard and see nearly a block of impermeable surfaces, power lines, parking lots and buildings. But our staff saw an opportunity, and went about converting their backyard into an oasis of nature.

“We had left our mark at our last office,” says Eugene Director Erik Burke. There, they partnered with City of Eugene on a Trees for Concrete project, removing concrete and planting eight trees along the busy street outside the old office—two Oregon white oaks, two California black oaks (see this month’s Leaflet for why Oaks are such an awesome choice), three Persian ironwoods, and a Chinese pistache, as well as valley pine and bigleaf maples on the east side of the building.

After moving one block south to a new office, they were compelled to do something similar. “It’s the only unpaved patch in a sea of concrete,” says Erik. “We wanted to make the most of it.”

“We try to walk the talk,” says Volunteer & Program Specialist Taylor Glass. So they pulled away all the grass and weeds, put down cardboard and mulch, and put in a variety of native, drought tolerant, and pollinator friendly plants: 2 Oregon white oaks, red flowering currant, Douglas’ aster, camas, showy milkweed, manzanita, and nootka rose (and some volunteer California poppies have made the backyard their home too!).

“Douglas aster is one of the best plants for pollinators due to its really long bloom time,” Taylor says. “Last year the asters in our backyard continued blooming into October!”

“We wanted all the plants to be climate resilient and drought tolerant,” Erik Says. “After a few years of getting the plants established, we hope to never have to water, no matter what climate change throws at us.”

It’s all about making an impact and leaving a legacy in their community. They are benefiting from that legacy already. In front of the office are bigleaf maples that were planted 14 years ago as part of another Trees For Concrete program, back when FOT Eugene was still the Eugene Tree Foundation. “We planted them many years ago, not knowing that we would end up getting to enjoy them outside our office,” Erik says.

Now the office’s backyard has grown into a beautiful native plant garden, attracting hummingbirds, butterflies and bees, and giving our staff a daily dose of inspiration.


MLK Day Planting Events Bring Communities Together

Volunteers gather at Andrea Ortiz Park in Eugene.

On February 17, Friends of Trees honored the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with six different planting events. Understanding how issues of environmentalism and equity intersect in today’s world is crucial to our work. Making sure that everyone has access to the benefits of trees is why we plant, and MLK Day events are always inspiring.

On Saturday, we had events in Vancouver, Beaverton, Bethany and Salem, and volunteers came out with eagerness and generosity. “Without all of you, we’re just a pile of trees in a parking lot,” Ian Bonham, Senior Neighborhood Trees Specialist, told volunteers in Vancouver.

On MLK Day itself, our Eugene Branch facilitated two particularly special events. In the morning, the City of Eugene dedicated a park in the Bethel-Danebo neighborhood as Andrea Ortiz Park, in honor of the two-term councilor and first Latina on the Eugene City Council. Councilor Ortiz passed away in 2017, and is remembered for her passionate investment in her community.

Volunteers, city staff, and community members gathered in the park as Ortiz’s family planted a magnolia tree dedicated to her. In honor of both Ortiz and King, volunteers planted 60 more trees where the park is expanding and 11 trees in the surrounding neighborhood. “What better way to honor that legacy than to do a memorial planting for our own beloved community member, Andrea Ortiz, for all of the work she did,” said Mayor Lucy Vinis.

Speakers at the dedication of the Andrea Ortiz Park

In the afternoon, Friends of Trees partnered with the NAACP Eugene-Springfield and Willamalane Parks and Recreation to plant trees in five different parks in Springfield. The NAACP organized the event as part of their tree equity project. After opening remarks from Springfield City Councilor Steve Moe, volunteers planted 18 trees and participated in other park beautification projects like weeding, mulching, and tree care work at a past project location.

“It was a beautiful day to plant trees as a community,” says Eugene Director Erik Burke. “We are so grateful to the volunteers in the west Eugene and Springfield neighborhoods for bringing such spirit to the day. We’ve been doing these MLK Day collaborations for years, and we always look forward to it.”

Trees with summer color, summer interest, and more!

The Eugene Branch

Trees with summer color, summer interest, and more!

When we think about trees + color most of us typically think of spring flowers or fall color. And while there is an incredible variety of trees with beautiful flowers and stunning fall foliage, here in the Eugene area we’ve been planting some great trees that deliver on summer color, summer interest, and more!

All of trees here, except for the Gambel oak, are drought tolerant species that do well in poorly drained or compacted soil. Added bonus: All of the trees in this list (again, except for that Gambel oak, good thing it has so many other wonderful qualities 🙂 ) are insect pollinated, making them especially beneficial to our threatened native pollinators!

Here are a few of our favorites:

Chitalpa tashkentensis ‘Pink Dawn | ‘Pink Dawn’ chitalpa

This drought tolerant tree is a hybrid of southern catalpa and desert willow. It blooms for several months during the summer showcasing trumpet shaped white and pink flowers. Also a pollinator favorite!

Golden rain tree

Koelreuteria paniculata | Goldenrain Tree

Native to Asia, this clay tolerant species is easy to recognize in summer when it shows off its lantern shaped seed pods.

Crape myrtle

Lagerstroemia indica | Crape myrtle

This hardy species is currently in full bloom and hosts a large number of pollinators on their large clusters of bright colored flowers. Once they’ve finished blooming, clusters of brown seed pods will form and release winged seeds.

Amur maackia

Maackia amurensis | Amur maackia

Amur maackia clusters of greenish-yellow flowers are a favorite for pollinators and have just finished their bloom. Their seed pods are beginning to turn brown before falling off of the tree.

Pagoda tree

Styphnolobium japonicum | Pagoda tree

Once established, these trees can fare well in heat and drought. During the late summer months, white blooms in large clusters are a haven for bees with their sweet smelling flowers.

Gambel oak

Quercus gambellii | Gambel oak

From the southwestern US, these oaks provide a lot of shade for a small sized tree. In the late summer you will find their bright green, egg-shaped acorns forming.

Aster subspicatus | Douglas aster

For fun, a flower! A favorite native in our greenspace program, Douglas aster is in full, striking purple bloom! Growing in a variety of habitats, this native perennial is a great addition to any yard, garden, or planting pod.

 photo at top: Oregon myrtle

Friends of Tree Eugene honors MLK Jr with day of service

Mattie Reynolds Park was the perfect site for our MLK Day of Service.

Along with 17 new trees, a new park in the City of Eugene has great historical significance. Mattie Reynolds Park, the site of our January 18th Martin Luther King Jr Day of Service, honors one of Eugene’s founding Black families, Sam and Mattie Reynolds. The Reynolds’ fight for civil rights was one of their many important contributions to Eugene and the surrounding area, and adding trees to the park that bears their name seems a fitting MLK Day event.

Friends of Trees Eugene, and the City of Eugene, with sponsorship support from Mountain Rose Herbs, hosted the community tree planting event that added the new trees to Mattie Reynolds Park, along with planting 31 trees in surrounding neighborhoods.

The day’s featured speaker was Pastor Deleesa Meashintubby from St. Mark CME Church, the oldest African American church in Eugene. Also in attendance, along with many community volunteers, were Sam and Mattie Reynolds’ daughter and granddaughter. We’re honored to have played even a small role in helping establish this important tribute to the Reynolds family.

Look for Eugene volunteer opportunities here, and donate to Friends of Trees Eugene here – all donations from addresses in Lane County support FOTE. Thank you!

Photo: Community volunteers plant trees at Mattie Reynolds Park. Photo courtesy of Dean Walton.