Flossmoor loves its trees. And David Becker loves talking about them.
And a light rain the afternoon of Thursday, Oct. 19, was not enough to keep a crowd of roughly 30 people from sticking around for the full hour of Flossmoor’s first Guided Fall Tree Walk, led by Becker, the village’s forestry maintenance technician. Despite the weather, the timing was perfect for enjoying the green, yellow, orange and red mix of the season’s leaves.
An interest in trees drove Liz Tavitas, of Glenwood, to the event. Tavitas enjoyed learning about Flossmoor’s diversity of tree species and information about planting.
“I like it,” Tavitas said. “It’s interesting.”
Becker said the route of the walk was chosen specifically to highlight Flossmoor’s diversity of tree species. Participants met in the downtown traffic circle and over the course of an hour headed west down Central Drive, then north along Leavitt Avenue before circling back downtown via Park Avenue.
“Much of this area had no trees to start with, due to the emerald ash borer many years ago,” Becker explained. “We lost lots of trees along the parkways.”
That loss led to new plantings. And in reforesting the neighborhood, the village added a wide variety of species to Flossmoor’s parkways. Though maples remain the most prominent in the village-wide landscape, the region has been experiencing some maple decline — in addition to oak decline — and Becker is promoting a variety of species in new plantings.
“We do have some very nice maple trees in the village, but we do have a high number of them throughout the village,” Becker said. “We’re definitely looking to diversify.”
The route — which included bitternut hickory, sweetbay magnolia and Kentucky coffee tree, along with catalpa, various oaks and maples, sweetgum, white ash, and serviceberry — was also chosen to showcase a variety of fall colors. Some colors will not emerge until later than the tour, Becker said, but the area still had plenty of them on display.
“This Leavitt Park area is a great area to check for fall color,” Becker said.
Along the tour, Becker explained some of the village’s history of trees, took questions from participants and offered tips on identifying tree species. Norway maples, for instance, have a milky sap present when a leaf is removed. Becker said the easiest way to identify many trees is to remember one unique trait like that about them.
He even showcased a dead or dying tree along the route, explaining what likely happened that led to its demise. He also addressed the 2024 cicada emergence, when a lot of the insects are expected. Cicadas can cause damage to small stems, so Becker said the village is making plans to reduce issues. That means Flossmoor is avoiding a spring planting that would put additional stress on trees.
Becker also noted if residents have concerns about any high-value trees, there is a netting that can help protect them. But he does not think the cicada emergence will create a village-wide crisis for trees.
“This has been happening for thousands of years,” Becker said. “Trees survive. We still have trees.”
Nia Mathis, of Flossmoor, took part in the tour Oct. 19. Mathis saw the walk as an opportunity to get the children out, see a lovely community and learn more about the symbiotic relationship between people and trees.
“I love trees,” Mathis said. “I’m drawn to trees.”
Mathis and others left the walk with plenty of newfound knowledge about trees, thanks to Becker and Tristan Shaw. Shaw chairs Flossmoor’s Green Commission and also spoke for a few minutes near Leavitt Park, where the village has recently done some major planting.
Becker said the idea for the Guided Fall Tree Walk came up in discussions he had with the Green Commission. Inspired by the art tour Flossmoor does, Becker hoped such a tour could educate residents about how the village manages its trees, as well as show off some of the volunteer-supported work that has gone into planting them over the years. The village follows a pruning cycle — most of that work being performed by village staff — and utilizes a geographic information system to manage its urban forest. Residents and other volunteers also help with watering trees and checking on them occasionally for health.
“It’s great to have extra eyes on the village — people looking out for the trees,” Becker said.