Urban agriculture and the role of trees

For some, the idea of “urban agriculture” may be somewhat of an oxymoron, though when we understand what agriculture is – basically either cultivating land to produce crops or to raise livestock – perhaps, the term isn’t so audacious. However, for this post, I am not talking about small-scale urban agriculture, but large-scale, city-wide agriculture.

For this post, we must head off to Spain – specifically, the city of Seville. Here, some 14,000 citrus trees grace the city’s streets, and unleash a beautiful aroma during the spring blossom, and then transform the streets in summer by providing shade.

Looking down at the courtyard of a cathedral in Seville, we can see all the orange trees – every single one of these will be harvested for its fruit. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
From the ground, we can really get a sense of appreciation for the value these orange trees provide – not only amenity-wise, but economically and ecologically as well. Source: Blue Mesa.

Unlike many street trees in the UK, where plenty of fruit trees in urban areas have their crop left to rot on the ground (I’m looking at you, Prunus cerasifera – for those of you that haven’t tried its fruit, please do!), these citrus fruits are used once they ripen. In fact, they are sold! And one of the importers of this citrus fruit crop is the UK, where cooks will make Seville orange marmalade during January and February.

No, this is not a food blog. But yes, this does look like good food. And yes, I am hungry. Source: Hoopington Pallaby.

The author notes, at this point, that whilst urban agriculture is “gaining ground”, it may always be limited by legal issues associated with cultivating fruit and nut trees on city streets. For example, whilst there is a growing trend of public apple orchards in Seattle, USA, there is a street-wide ban on cherries and pears. The reason? Public safety. Cherries and pears are a threat to national security, it seems! I jest, but even the author is a little bedazzled as to why such a heavy-handed approach has been adopted.

Quite hilariously, and again in the USA (but this time in the city of San Francisco), there has been a recent rise in ‘Guerilla Grafters’. People are, in essence, going around the streets of San Francisco and grafting, onto ornamental fruit trees, fruit-bearing wood. Such is the desire for street trees to produce fruit, it appears – and that’s not a bad thing, as the benefits are many.

Source: Dover, J. (2015) Green Infrastructure – Incorporating plants and enhancing biodiversity in buildings and urban environments. UK: Earthscan.

To discuss this post, or to suggest words that rhyme with ‘orange’, then either post below or head over to Arbtalk and join the discussion there.

Urban agriculture and the role of trees

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