Multistudio’s Robert Whitman Featured on Kansas Public Radio

Excerpts from two articles by Celia Llopis‑Jepsen at Kansas Public Radio and thumbnail image by Carlos Moreno of KCUR 89.3 May 12, 2023

Robert Whitman is a landscape architect, certified planner, and a leader in Multistudio’s City Design team. Robert has collaborated on the Nelson Atkins Museum, Pembroke Hill School, the National WWI Museum and Memorial, and a myriad of regionally and nationally recognized assignments. Robert graduated from Kansas State University’s Department of Landscape Architecture and Regional & Community Planning.

An expert on native plant materials, Robert is an essential resource for each project that our team approaches. Robert often shares his design and horticultural expertise as a speaker or panel member at events nationwide. In addition, he frequently consults with communities in the Kansas City area on their street tree programs and similar horticultural endeavors.

Robert was recently featured on Kansas Public Radio for his expertise in diversifying tree species so that invasive pests don’t decimate tree canopies. Read on to learn about the financial impact, ongoing design discussions, and the three types of diversity to consider when approaching a community’s tree plantings.

About one‑third of Overland Park's street trees are maples. Experts say cities must diversify their canopies, or pests will keep devastating them.

OVERLAND PARK, Kansas — Each fall, as temperatures drop, people in this suburb can count on head-turning displays of richly hued maple leaves.

But maples make up about one-third of the city’s street trees, and Overland Park has learned the hard way that too much of a good thing can mean fragility.

So last year, the city put the kibosh on planting more maples.

The emerald ash borer — a tiny, shiny green hitchhiker from Asia with a voracious appetite for a different beloved street tree — taught this city and others across Kansas and Missouri a painful lesson.

Now some communities are hedging their arboreal bets and protecting local home values and tax bases by embracing variety.

The Tree List analyzes 300 trees in the Kansas City region and is intended to provide a native selection of deciduous trees. A native approach to regional landscape design instills a sense of place while generating an environment where native species quietly work in an interconnected way to support the health of our neighborhoods.

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?”


Celia Llopis-Jensen wrote two articles referencing Whitman and his work with the Tree List, the first, Best trees to plant if you live in Kansas and Missouri (, and Why Missouri and Kansas cities want to plant more varieties of trees ( To read the full articles and learn more about our tree list, follow the links below.

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