Following the removal of the Norway maples on Oak Bay Avenue, I was deeply disheartened to see parks manager Chris Hyde-Lay quoted saying “The replacement trees will likely be ginkgo biloba.” Every gingko planted is a loss to our urban ecosystem, and for the town to be modeling this choice, in a location seen by so many people, is very troubling.
The plants we choose for our urban landscapes are critical: they can support the ecosystem around us, increasing biodiversity by supporting insects and birds, or they can create ecological deserts by failing to support insect and bird populations.
The choice of tree is particularly important because trees, being large, have huge potential benefits, and because being long-lived, mistakes are hard to fix. Gingko trees, despite their appealing qualities, are a bad choice because they support very few insects.
If we want functioning ecosystems around us, that support insects and the birds that eat them, we must choose trees with care. A birch tree I’ve walked under lately is always alive with birds, including migrating warblers. Other trees are similar. Not gingkos though.
Gingkos, and the ubiquitous zelkova, which supports even less life, should be struck from every planting scheme. Municipal plantings in particular should model better choices.