Thursday, May 27, 2021

Tree Happy 2 – Tree Cities


 New York with its magnificent Central Park designed by Frederick Olmsted and Calvert Vaux
-NYC City Hall, New York Image by iphylglad from Pixabay


How it all began

We all know that trees are the lungs of a city. They also keep their populations both happier and healthier. Recognising this the National Association of State Foresters and the USA Forest Service began the Tree Cities Program in 1976. Now operated by the Arbor Day Foundation which we spoke about previously, there are 3,400 Tree Cities in the USA. Becoming a US Tree City requires local authorities to meet four criteria:

1.       They must have a dedicated tree board or department

2.       They must have a community tree ordinance

3.       Must commit to spending at least $US 2 per person on trees 

       (The per capita amount means that small cities are not disadvantaged, and chances are that cities     already spend that much on tree management).

4.       And must celebrate Arbor Day


Why become a Tree City?

Cities benefit in a number of direct and indirect ways. They receive recognition for their work and also publicity. They can reduce energy costs and the cost of storm water management.  Mature evergreen can intercept up to 15,000 litres of rainwater per annum  and roadside trees reduce nearby air pollution by 50% or more. It also fosters community ties and civic pride and reduces crime, vandalism and graffiti. Real estate values improve and the city becomes more attractive, more liveable and more sustainable. (See the Arbor Day Foundation's pages for more) .


Tree Cities of the World

 In 2019 the Arbor Day Foundation teamed with the  UN Food and Agriculture Organisation to establish Tree Cities of the World. The latest report shows that there are now 120 recognised Tree Cities in 23 countries.  See them all here

Hyderabad which planted 24,008,742 is one of the newer ones, as is Koĉevje in Slovenia. Koĉevje only planted 45 trees but I see that it borders onto a UNESCO listed primaeval forest which is home to brown bears, so that should be a good start. I must say it has made me curious about Koĉevje, if we ever get to travel again. Other newcomers include Krasnoyarsk in Siberia and Quito in Ecuador.


This choice puzzled me as there are very few street trees or greenery within the city itself although there is a big nature park on the outskirts of the city

While these are certainly attractive cities as are others such as Queenstown in New Zealand, Portland, Oregon or Washington D.C.  I can think of hundreds of cities which have magnificent parks, accessible forests and beautiful trees and even wilderness areas, which are not yet listed.  I’m thinking of other Russian cities such as Pyatigorsk, Tomsk or Irkutsk with its thousands of  lilac trees as well as urban forests.Even St. Petersburg would probably qualify. And where are other towns such as Banff in Canada, Avignon in France, or Copenhagen or some of the charming cities in Germany such as Tübingen. The EU does have its own City of the Trees Awards but they are given for very different reasons (see below). What about China's Forest City and how is Singapore going with its 7 million trees though many are being planted to replace those being lost to development. I am fairly certain that Japan  too would have many small to medium size cities which would fit the bill, and that's just for starters.

Greenery surrounds Krasnoyarsk on the Yenisei River


When it comes to Australia, our beautifully designed national capital would certainly merit inclusion. Canberra has an abundance of trees, parks, urban forests and nearby wilderness and a strong commitment to becoming carbon neutral. It is also regarded as being Australia’s most liveable city. Even my own city would probably qualify if some would  just count all those trees. My guess is that just too few people know about these awards, can't stand the paper work or don't know how to apply. A brief outline of how it's done follows, but for the full details see their resources and checklists.


With bushland reserves all around, beautiful parks, gardens and street trees, I believe Hobart has the potential to be a Tree City of the World. It just needs a better photographer!

 How to become a Tree City of the World  

A  prospective Tree City of the World must have the following -

1.       An authority or department responsible for trees

2.       Policies, best practice guidelines and industry standards for management

3.       An inventory of all the trees in a municipality  (Is there an app for that?)

4.       A commitment to allocate resources from the annual budget

5.       Celebrate achievements, acknowledge those who do the work and raise awareness about the importance of trees.

Now let’s get those nominations going!



A city worker rushes through one of Hobart's many green spaces. I really appreciate the city fathers
and others who were foresighted enough to make it so and also those who unobtrusively maintain them.

European City of the Trees Award

Europe does have its own Cities of the Trees Award given by the European Aboricultural Council (EAC) but this has a more technical focus. As well as having the same general aims as the US Tree Cities Program it seems to have a more educative and professional development function to encourage best practices. For example, Winterthur was recognised in 2016 for overcoming a longhorn beetle infestation in its tree population. In 2018 the Dutch city of Apeldoorn won because of its innovative technique for allowing trees to grow and thrive despite being placed in inhospitable civic squares. Here too, a local carpenter made seating from old trees past their prime. Tallinn was recognised for its tree management and its policy of having to replace any tree which has been cut down. Only one city is recognised each year. The 2019 winner was Moscow for its “My Street” Planning program.The 2020 and 2021 awards have still to be decided possibly because adjudicators were unable to make site visits because of the pandemic.


Tallinn, Capital of Estonia was the 2015 winner of the European City of the Trees Award for its work in tree conservation and its policy of replacing every tree that has to be removed. One of Tallinn's trees dates from 1648

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Tree Happy –1 Tree Planting Days



With spring in full swing many countries in the northern hemisphere  have been celebrating Arbor Day or are about to. Even in southerly regions it’s still a good time to start gathering seeds and begin propagating trees for spring. It's also a time for pruning and care and maintenance of existing trees. While the Spanish village of Mondonedo is believed to have had the first Arbor Day in 1594, things really got going in 1872 when Nebraskan newspaper editor J. Sterling – Morton created a competition which gave a prize to counties which planted the most trees. Over one million trees were planted on that day in his home state alone and the idea was progressively adopted by other countries as well. Some countries celebrate whole weeks. Korea for example has “Tree Loving Week,” India has a National Festival of Tree Planting, the UK has National Tree Week from November 27 – December 5, Japan has “Greening Week” and South Africa celebrates Arbor Week from September 1 -7. This year Australia celebrates National Tree Day on the first of August and National Schools Tree Day  on Friday the 30th of July. Though mass community plantings have been limited due to COVID there are still many ways to get involved. See Planet Ark's pages for example, or those for the Arbor Day Foundation.

I have very fond memories of Arbor Day in Primary School. Not only were we outside planting trees and not doing grammar or arithmetic, but we sang songs, did drawings and wrote essays and poems. I particularly remember this one written by Joyce Kilmer in 1914. After he was killed in World War 1, the US Forest Service purchased a large tract of land in his name in 1938 to prevent it being clear -felled. The poem became very popular in the 1940-50s and was also set to music.


I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

Source: Poetry (Poetry
- Reprinted from the Poetry Foundation
Just as well we only had to learn the first couple of lines. When I look around at the well - established trees in my neighbourhood, I wonder how many of them  may have been a product of those long ago Arbor Days.
Things did go rather quiet after that, though I may have been busy with Bushcare  -removing invasive weeds and replanting native vegetation around waterways and degraded public land. We didn't hear much about urban tree planting again until 1996 when movie legend Olivia Newton - John teamed up with Planet Ark to found National Tree Day. Since then it has grown into Australia's largest tree planting community with around 300,000 volunteers. Since 1996 they have planted 26 million trees and are working hard to plant more than a million trees, shrubs and grasses each year.

Meanwhile the US Arbor Day Foundation established in 1972 hasn't been resting on its laurels. As well as planting around 20 million trees a year in American forests since 1990 and preserving around 48,000 acres of rainforest through its Rain Forest Rescue  Project it has developed a number of excellent programs over the years such as Tree Campuses  and Community Tree Recovery Programs following natural disasters.The Rain Forest Rescue program also supports a range of international projects such as sustainable coffee production in the Andes and restoring Lemur habitat in Madagascar. Companies can also apply for carbon credits. At least two more of its offspring - Tree Cities  and Team Trees (#teamtrees) have enjoyed wide international success, so we'll talk about those next.


 Happy Planting and Tree Nurturing Everyone!