Nine tree species added to master county list for landscaping purposes and for replanting in accord with county Trees Code

Three species removed because of various factors, at county staff’s request

On a unanimous vote this week, the Sarasota County Commission added nine species to its Master Tree List and eliminated three species that had been identified as invasive, “not desirable to see in the landscape or have been shown to be prone to decay,” as Rachel Herman, manager of the county’s Environmental Protection, explained.

As Herman also pointed out, the Master Tree List is the document applicants must use when they are selecting species for landscaping purposes in the unincorporated areas of the county, of if they need to replant trees in accord with the county’s Trees Code. (See the related article in this issue about Grand Trees.)

The nine new species are Florida elm, West Indian mahogany, Savannah holly, Burford holly, spiny diddlewood, Jamaican caper, Lignum Vitae,

Geiger tree, and Spanish stopper. The trees authorized for removal were laurel oak, white orchid and Chinese fan palm.

The list included with the amendment does offer notes about each allowed species. For example, in regard to the Burford holly, staff wrote, “Large shrub-small tree that does well in low-maintenance landscapes; subject to infestation of tea scale.”

An evergreen, the species grows to 10 to 15 feet in height, the chart points out.

For another example, the height of a mature Lignum Vitae, as shown on the chart, is 10 feet to 30 feet. The note accompanying that species says it is “Shade intolerant” and typically has multiple trunks. It produces a “Bluish purple flower” that is most abundant in the spring but can appear year-round.

Further, the Jan. 31 county staff memo on the agenda item noted that the amendment to the county’s Unified Development Code (UDC), which contains all of the county’s zoning and land-use regulations, “clarifies which tree species may be used to meet the criteria of the

UDC landscaping requirements and which tree species may be used to meet the Trees Code (Ch. 54, Article XVIII) planting requirements.”

The item was listed on the Jan. 31 board agenda under the heading Presentation Upon Request, which meant that no staff or applicant report would be provided unless a commissioner asked for it.

In this case, county staff proposed the amendment, so staff was considered the applicant.

No commissioner asked for a presentation.

Even if an item is listed as under Presentation Upon Request, the commissioners always provide time for public comments.

In this case, a Sarasota resident, Gina Brulato, told the board members that the materials included in the agenda packet were not clear in regard to the reasoning behind the changes in the Master Tree List.

After Chair Ron Cutsinger asked Herman to offer the explanation, Brulato then urged the commissioners not to eliminate any tree species from the list.

About 15 years ago, Brulato pointed out, invasive species were removed along Manatee Avenue, and new trees were planted. “None of those replanted trees took root,” Brulato stressed. “Zero of those trees took root. It’s really hard to … plant new trees and have them prosper” in Florida soil, she added.

Moreover, Brulato continued, “These nuisance trees have a purpose,” including providing homes for birds and filtering stormwater runoff, so fewer of the nutrients that feed red tide end up in the area’s waterways.

“I think all trees need to be protected at this point,” Brulato told the board members, especially if the trees are mature, have good root systems and have survived hurricanes.

No commissioner offered any comments after Brulato concluded her remarks.

Cutsinger closed the hearing, and Commissioner Nancy Detert made the motions to approve the changes staff had recommended for the Master Tree List.