Recently an article and subsequent letter to the editor raised the issue of the selection of the Everclear Elm, a non-native species, for the newly planted median that is part of the Septima Clark Drainage Improvement Project.
The plan we have incorporates many native species. However, the improvements to the parkway are challenging for some native plants due to the limited space and the harsh conditions that exist in the middle of the six-lane highway.
The trees in the center median are essentially planted in a concrete trough. Drainage lines beneath the median limit the area available for root-growth. The space available for planting in the median is not reflective of natural conditions in our area and many native species of trees just will not survive these extreme conditions.
The Everclear Elms planted in the median have been bred to be heat and drought tolerant and to thrive in conditions that include heavy atmospheric pollutants and poor soils. Their compact crown meet the S.C. Department of Transportation’s requirements for vertical and horizontal clearance while providing a continuous canopy experience. They will do well in the very confined space available for growth.
The planter has a three-foot wide planting area and is seven feet from curb face to curb face. Crape myrtles, a naturalized tree, would not fit with the width of the planter as they would extend out into the lanes of traffic, being clipped and damaged by passing vehicles, which would inhibit their growth and development.
Moreover, the Everclear Elms make up less than a third of the trees planted as part of this drainage improvement project.
Travelers and residents can look forward to watching the further transformation of this roadway that will include the planting of 187 new Sabal palmettos, 15 new live oaks, fringe trees, Vitex and Eastern red buds, to mention a few of the proposed native species.
Flowering plants such as daylillies and Stokes asters are being in planted in the median and along the sides of the road to add color to the parkway. Only 20 percent of plants will be non-native at completion.
Additionally, there are a number of existing live oaks that have been protected in pocket parks along the shoulders of the road and these areas will also receive substantial additional plantings.
These trees and other plantings and improvements will transform the Septima Clark Parkway into a pleasant gateway to this most beautiful city.
Steve Dudash Design Works George Street