Robert Whitman, a landscape architect at Multistudio firm in Kansas City, said neighborhoods can have the best of both worlds: tree diversity and visual consistency.
He helped the Mid-America Regional Council write model tree ordinances in 2020 that cities can use to protect the canopies that bolster their tax bases, clean their air and ease street flooding.
“Diversity is super important,” he said. “But what I will say is, if every street has a consistent mix of species going down it, it’s less unified. It looks a little bit less organized.”
Imagine instead switching species street by street. Swamp white oaks line one street, sycamores line the next, and sugar maples line a third. Some Prairie Village neighborhoods built in the 1940s took this approach.
“You still build in neighborhood diversity,” he said, “And there’s clear identity between each street.”
That approach makes some foresters nervous.
“We can plant very diverse streetscapes that are still appealing,” Bomberger said. “They just won’t be those allées of American elms that all of us have seen, that have that symmetry. Because in this day and age, why would we want to roll the dice of something coming in and being a catastrophe to that streetscape?”