TAMPA — Like a lot of residents, Tampa's most prevalent tree is not a native to the city.
It's the Brazilian pepper, an invader from South America, followed by the cabbage palm and laurel oak. In all, Tampa has more than 7.8 million trees covering about 29 percent of the city.
Still, Brazilian peppers?
"Great," City Council member Lisa Montelione said sarcastically during a workshop Thursday on the city's proposed urban forest management plan.
Remember, said University of Florida forester Rob Northrop, that Brazilian peppers tend to grow in great clumps. "It's not that there are more big Brazilian peppers than live oaks," he said. "It's just that there is a tremendous number of smaller Brazilian peppers."
The plan sets out a vision, goals and performance measures to help foster a healthier and productive urban forest. But it goes beyond planting the right tree in the right place. For example, based on tree canopy studies done every five years, it can be revisited. For example, the plan could be adjusted if climate change made trees now growing to the south a better match for the city.
Another area of study: to keep trees with limbs that break off easily in storms away from emergency corridors. "You don't want those trees blowing over right where everybody's going to try to evacuate or where we're trying to take people to hospitals," Northrop said.