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GREEN IN! On Our LIVING Green Infrastructure

The Many Colors of 'Green'

‘Green Infrastructure’ wears countless faces, and therefore calls to mind different things to people in different disciplines. In this GREEN IN Blog, the subjects most often described - trees and plants, DO, more often than not, sport the color ‘green’ when fully dressed in summer. But a lot of green infrastructure (GI) sports colors other than green, and good deal more doesn’t have any color at all, or any set one. A short list of other GI ‘colors’ is at the end here.

You’d think there would much more confusion and misunderstanding when the term is bandied about as if it all referred to the same thing. Yet there isn’t for some reason, maybe because GI is universally recognized as a great, benevolent thing, and vital these days. Since the subject is enormous and impossible for any one person to become an authority of it all, for my integrity and prospective readers, I am going to delineate/narrow the scope of this Blog to what I think about most, and consequently will be writing about.


GREEN IN delineations of ‘green’ and ‘infrastructure’:


Adjective for anything that is ‘environmentally sound or beneficial’.

This definition is easy to grasp, but immense in spectrum. According to it more things are green than not. Thus, the shorter of the terms turns out to be complicated itself.

Not complicated is predominant GREEN IN subject matter, which will be Canopy Shade Trees- LIVING Green Infrastructure, inherently beautifully and entirely in tune with the seasons. Featured also will be stout, drought-tolerant grasses and perennials, tuned in seasonally as well.


A vital or fundamental network, system, or facility that serves a city.

As in water, transportation, energy (electric, gas), communication (telephone) systems, and related facilities.

A vital or fundamental network that serves us something we can’t live, or thrive without.

‘Infra’ itself means ‘under’, or, ‘underlying’. While ‘underlying-structures’ manifest themselves in different ways as in end visual, literal examples of them are subsurface utilities, vast networks of gigantic pipes and clunky structures found underneath and along city streets, the ‘guts’, the bowels of a city, easily recognized left. Sewers are major parts of this mélange, as are storm drains, suitably known now as 'gray infrastructure', lying in stark contrast to the 'green infrastructure' above.

Extrapolated,‘infrastructure’ has come to mean any kind of ‘inside support system', and most often is ‘thoroughly integrated, or woven in,’ like the veins and arteries in our bodies are riddled throughout us to the very tips of our feet and hands to supply blood and oxygen.

City streets with their utility networks are analogous by extending access/egress, water, and power lines to all buildings and places.

We now have for city ‘infrastructure’: a thoroughly integrated, vital, fundamental network that serves us something we cannot live or thrive without.


Splicing the two delineations together, subjects will be:

Shade Trees that make up a thoroughly integrated, vital or fundamental network of trees - the tree species we and cities, cannot live, or thrive, without.

For the New York City metropolitan region and city metropolitan areas across the northern United States, there are only about 12 tolerant, staple tree species for dense city environments, easily distinguished from each other when in full leaf. These dozen tree species are also riddled along developed suburban road corridors to their furthest reaches.

They shade all parking lots that have landscaped interiors. They dominate rural Main Streets too.

GREEN IN TERRITORY Honing Further In On Subject Tree Species

Cloistered/ buffered from the city, all trees in landscape parks like NYC's Central Park are not blog focus.

Trees in City Parks Are Not the Focus

Trees in public parks are part of GI because we all know how parks serve us to a point that we can’t live without them. But parks have hard boundaries and are certainly not riddled throughout cities. Furthermore, within them as in suburban or rural yards, most any garden plant can be cultivated and grown to maturity, if suited to the given climate. GREEN IN is not concerned with the gamut of cultivated trees. Shelves are full of books on them (and they never stop coming). And although parks are part of city GI, GREEN IN will not cover all tree species found in city parks either- that’s been done again and again also. GREEN IN subject tree species, on the other hand, because of their vigor and tolerance, can be found in plentitude in city parks, and are in fact staple trees in them. In the same vein, they prevail in suburban yards, both private and commercial.

Trees On|Of City Streets, Plazas, in Parking Lots & Related Pavement

Subject shade tree species grow vigorously and manageably along street | pavement conditions – plants that become woven into the daily functions and fabric of cities. The ones that become everyday friends.

Taking It the Street

Streets, like they do for water and power, and like veins do for blood in our bodies, permit complete integration of tolerant trees into cities so that trees- the most vigorous ones- can supply significant social benefits and perform their important environmental functions. These include filtering pollutants, absorbing carbon dioxide, and reducing urban heat islands and stormwater pollution. Planted on the street, trees perform these functions right at problem sources - buildings and the street itself, and by way of such proximity alone, street tolerant shade tree species, of all plants, serve cities the most.

On Main Street

Included will be shade trees and plants that can take gentle, bucolic residential city streets (more than the 12 noted above), to those that tolerate the most frenetic street conditions known- the toughest, grittiest trees- in the U.S. Northeast about 6 species- that withstand the worst curbside grit thrown at them. Such grit is common to Manhattan commercial arterial streets and Central Business Districts of cities everywhere. Trees in these haunts can still be beautiful- a lot like the Beauty remained once married to the Beast. (Granted, left unsupported there aren’t many Beauties in the Beast.)

To Lots and Plazas

Because problems relate so much to pavements, GREEN IN will also look at the same shade trees when they grow in and around urban plazas and parking lots. Parking lots are especially troublesome for heat island effects and downright frightful in the pollution of waterways, but their transformations can be mesmerizing, and the time has come to reimagine what all of them can be with more shade trees, and additional GI measures. For more read Rethinking A Lot , and visit the Green Parking Council web site.

Getting the Streets Right, Finally

Presently, City Street Tree Lists and related discussions do not distinguish street class or urban land use intensity. But in other fields identifying degree of condition is critical and thus mandatory. For example, in medicine respiratory conditions are differentiated between a mild cough to deadly full-blown pneumonia; in meteorology, rain forecasts range from soft drizzles to full force, nightmarish Category 4 or 5 hurricanes!

Extremes in other disciplines are so severe that all are alerted to their pending hazards. But such is not the case so far in urban forestry, where all street conditions are passively lumped together as merely “urban,” and the arboriculture and planning worlds sheepishly follow. Not this observant member of them.

So, since not making distinctions among city streets for tree health and plant sustenance is outright ludicrous, and blind- evidenced right, GREEN IN will drive home street classes and land uses common to cities, and, that impact the quantity, quality, and heights of our living green infrastructure.

Patterns in NYC street tree canopies are starkly consistent. Along commercial avenues there are few trees and few species that can withstand the intense activity. Around corners, residential street canopies fluorish with greater species diversity.

Sample ‘Other’ Colors of Green Infrastructure

Light color pavements/roofs heat island measures

Permeable pavements

Biofiltration swales/basins stormwater measures

Solar panels

Wind turbines

Geothermal units renewable energy sources

Bicycles/ bike lanes carbon emissions/ footprint measures

Recycling Bins|Facilities

Etc, etc, etc.

Readers are invited to submit other examples|images to GREEN IN!

Next, back to the Islands.This is MVR signing off..

MVR Photography and Graphics

GREEN IN! City Shade Trees 101 Title/Cover Image

Towering NYC Curbside Street Tree

Drought/Street Tolerant Perennials and Grasses

Central Parks Are Not the Center of Attention

Towering NYC Honeylocust

Campus Canopy Parking Lot with Shade Trees (MVR Planting Design)

NYC Streets and Related Tree Canopies

Non-MVR Photo Sources

Porous Pavement : Flickr Center for NeighborhoodTechnology

Water Viaduct : m_water_tunnel brian wengrofsky com

Road Bridge Infrastructure :

Subsurface utulity infrastructure :

Human cardiovascular :

NYC Aerial : Google Earth

Atlanta’s Peachtree Street:

Campus Parking canopy : MVR Landscape Garden

Mediteranean Tropical Lot : Rethinking A Lot by Eran Ben Joseph

What Color is Your...: Huron River Watershed Council

10 Critical...: Integrated Partnership Regional Emergency Management Metro Vancouver

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