Cedar Rapids lost more of its tree canopy in derecho than initially estimated

Losses expected for several years because of storm damage, pests and drought

A shagbark hickory is among the large trees that fell during the Aug. 10 derecho. Photographed Aug. 18 at Oak Hill Cemet
A shagbark hickory is among the large trees that fell during the Aug. 10 derecho. Photographed Aug. 18 at Oak Hill Cemetery in Cedar Rapids. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — The city estimates 23,000 publicly-owned trees are lost or damaged to the point they must be removed following the Aug. 10 derecho.

The storm that brought over 100-mph straight-line winds destroyed 65 percent of the city’s tree canopy — a larger share than was estimated immediately after the storm.

“We anticipate effects for several years with trees dying due to injury and secondary pests, as well as losses for trees that had their canopies stripped of leaves for the last half of the growing season,” said City Arborist Todd Fagan.

Along with the storm, there also is drought, Fagan said. Eastern Iowa is experiencing abnormally dry or moderate drought conditions, according to the University of Nebraska Drought Monitor.

“We estimate we could lose another few thousand trees over the next five years that do not rebound from the storm. When you add in remaining ash trees that will need to be removed due to emerald ash borer disease, we estimate an overall loss of 65 percent of the tree canopy.”

Fagan said the city’s municipal tree population has a structural value of $112 million, which means replacing it over time will cost tens of millions of dollars. TaxAct, a Cedar Rapids-based tax software company, has pledged $100,000 toward tree replanting.

Marion reports loss or damage of about 35 percent of city-owned trees after an initial assessment.

Among the thousands of Linn County trees lost to the storm is a state champion ponderosa pine on the east side of Ellis Park in Cedar Rapids. When last measured, the pine was nearly 90 feet tall with an average crown spread of 37 feet and a trunk circumference of 7.4 feet at chest height. It was one of 18 state champion big trees in Linn County, according to a database maintained by Mark Rouw of Des Moines.


Iowa’s next largest ponderosa pine, in Cass County, was only 60.6 feet tall when last measured, but has a wider trunk than the Linn County tree.

The state champion ginkgo, an 170-year-old beauty on the Cornell College campus in Mount Vernon, was badly damaged in the derecho. Since many other big trees are off the beaten path, big tree hunters like Rouw may not know about the losses for weeks or months.

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