Let’s Talk TREES!!! with John Palmer ISA Board Certified Master Arborist & Consultant

by | Mar 22, 2024

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Episode 022: “People think about a tree person or an arborist they think, ‘Well, yeah, he’s a tree hugger.’ Yeah, okay, fine. I am. But it’s just because they make me feel good. The benefits of trees have actually been qualified and quantified.” John Palmer is an ISA Board Certified Master Arborist. In this episode, John and host, Ty Garmon, discuss how trees impact stormwater in urban environments and how to keep those trees healthy.

“When it comes to the practical, and when you’re talking stormwater, trees, remove pollutants from water. They actually increase infiltration into soils… Trees can pull an amazing amount of water out of saturated soils. There are some estimates that a large tree can pull 100, maybe more, gallons of water a day out of saturated soils. So trees are actually a stormwater control measure. They are a stormwater utility,” John explains. There are different aspects of what the trees do in our stormwater environment that also include erosion control and streambank stabilization. “Tree roots grow differently than the way most people think. Mature trees do not have deep roots, and most tree roots are in the top 18 inches of soil. Just imagine a wine glass on a dinner plate. You have canopy, trunk, and roots. Roots do not just stop at the edge of the drip line or the canopy, they can actually extend two to three times the diameter, and they don’t grow deep,” John explains. This is how trees help with erosion control. A single tree has a large root structure that helps hold soils in place.

As we continue to build, it is important to educate both designers and constructors how to properly protect existing trees and how to choose the correct new trees to be planted, and how to plant them correctly. There are 10 volumes of ANSI standards on how to do this. “It’s more important to save a large tree than it is to plant new trees…because you’re already getting large benefits. You plant a small tree, you get small benefits. When you plant a new tree, it’s not a tree, in my mind, it’s a shrub on a stick. And that’s the benefits that we’re getting from it,” John explains. Putting a root protection zone 20 feet from the trunk of a tree with an 80 foot canopy doesn’t work because the roots extend out 2 to 3 times the diameter of the canopy. Driving construction equipment over the roots compacts the soil around them, damaging the roots and the tree.


  • “I call it the pinball effect. When a raindrop hits the top of the tree, it bounces, it splits, it runs off, and it’s like a pinball, the old pinball games” (15:48 | John)
  • “ It’s more important to save a large tree than it is to plant new trees.” (24:50 | John)
  • “I think that tree protection zone with the orange snow fence, that’s a that’s a false sense of security that allows somebody to check a box, but it’s not really protecting the tree at all..” (24:50 | John)
  • “The more we understand the less damage that we can do.” (34:21 | John)

The views expressed are that of the individual and do not represent the opinions of any companies past, present or future.

Links John mentioned during the Pod:

ANSI A300 Standards for tree care: https://tcimag.tcia.org/tree-care/standards-regulations/introducing-the-newly-designed-ansi-a300-tree-care-standards/

ISA: http://www.treesargood.org/

Morton Arboretum: https://mortonarb.org/plant-and-protect/benefits-of-trees/#overview

Connect with John Palmer:

Email: treephd@protonmail.com




Connect with Ty Garmon, LEED AP:

Connect with Ty on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/tygarmon/

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