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Trees or polluted urban areas?

There are several attempts worldwide aiming at make cities greener settling urban areas with trees, these initiatives remind us glorious times for the urban greenery as has been among European capitals or the American park-movement during the huge urban transformation in the past century. The last and most notorious project is still in USA, New York, it’s called “One Million Trees” (due to the large amount of trees planted).

Italy is playing his part, challenging itself, participating in this wonderful tendency, 7.000 trees planted in the city of Milan and 3.000 trees in Bologna under the project called GAIA. What’s the real meaning for a tree in an urban area today? We are all in front of a philosophical issue that settle against nature and culture, earth and cement, indeed forests and urban areas. They are characterized by a tough relationship that face themselves, they have completely different requirements for living, sometimes they are so far from each other to look opposite.

Most of our historic cities, often medieval cities, were born without a single tree, fully ignoring any green areas. Some sporadic exceptions were kept in private premises for vegetable gardens. Along with this post-modern point of view, we are keen on make cities greener for the public interest of all of us. Step by step, plants and trees are replenishing avenues, main roads, public gardens, boundary city walls in order to build up a more sustainable and livable environment for the next generations and for our planet.

Avenues. Outdoor trees and plants for urban landscapes such as avenues are already widely used in our society. These urban landscapes perfectly combine the nature component and the anthropogenic component. An example of this wonderful mix can be seen in the city of Pistoia where everyone can admire the magnificence of Arcadia, an avenue born in the late ‘500. Since then it represented a paragon for the urban green harmony.

Arcadia represent a wide and uneven green board, a kilometer long avenue, located inside the Florentine boundary walls. It was originally used as rest area for horse livestock owned by the Medici and Lorena (a political dynasty and banking family) during the long transfer from Florence urban area to the pastures on the hills of Teso forest. Afterwards it represented a pathways for people and carriages.

At that time (mid ‘700), the ruling tree species were the elm, maybe the widest one and after that oak and plane tree. Today we can still admire some amazing specimens of Sycamore near Fortezza Medicea di Santa Barbara.

Meanwhile, between the end of ‘800 and the beginning of the ‘900 some elm have been replaced with some locust-tree. This last tree at the time highly valued for his great landscaping aspects lost his charm with the coming years, ending to be refused due to his

Aggressiveness in our chestnut wood. After the second world war the locust-tree has been replaced as well with a new specie called Holm. We then changed the surrounding landscape from bright and light branches typical of locust-tree to an evergreen with dark colors specie as the Holm, (ARCADIA). Today these trees are 60-70 years old, unfortunately injured by several

Phytosanitary problems as damages of the root system due to low temperatures in winter 1985 and above all rotten roots due to wicked cuts and underground waterlogging.

Today, most of these amazing green areas are wrongly used for cars rather than people, making the environment hard to be enjoyed by pedestrians. As obviously comprehensible from this short hystoric abstract, the “ARCADIA landscape” changed his shape more than ten times among these years (a man from Pistoia born in the beginning of ‘900 have seen two or three different changes) and it won’t last much longer as it appear today, due to his weak health conditions of Holms and of the soil that lodge them.

Future. Arcadia represent a wide and uneven green board, a kilometer long avenue, located inside the Florentine boundary walls.

- Using new varieties partially resistant to the grafiosi (fungal elm disease- Ophiostoma ulmi) in order to resettle this trees in our landscapes being massively killed in the ‘900.

Today the Elm can grow well for few years before being stricken by this fierce disease, condemning it to an “eternal adolescence”, because it can only live well at his young age.

-Using the concept of plant community, that create non-uniform and balanced landscapes using different varieties of plants and trees suitable to live together, as Helm, Oak, sycamore, limes coming along with few holms in good conditions to create a sort of forest into the city.

- Restyling avenues and messy green areas departing from a base concept of green in urban areas. Totally replacing grey smoggy cities with new projects where green perfectly fit with our life, using green not to fill up empty spaces around buildings and roads but making new urban greenways that are definitely not enough in our cities like Pistoia today.

 

 

Arcadia represent a wide and uneven green board, a kilometer long avenue, located inside the Florentine boundary walls.

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