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Caring for Boston's urban forest

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The urban forest is an important part of the City’s landscape. It’s made up of all the trees on public and private land in Boston, along with the City’s shrubs, grasses, ground cover, soil, and waterways.

Street Tree Inventory

The Urban Forestry Division is working to maintain updated information on the city’s almost 40,000 street trees. Explore the inventory to learn about trees in your neighborhood and see some of the recent work done by the division.

View the inventory

Caring for street trees

Street trees
Trees in South Boston
Public shade trees

Trees add to the well-being of our communities by:

  • moderating our local climate
  • filtering air pollutants
  • storing stormwater and reducing run-off
  • adding to the diversity of species by providing a stable habitat, and
  • connecting us to larger ecosystems.

The Parks Department handles public shade trees. We prune trees and take care of disease control, removals, and repairs. We work on trees throughout Boston’s 22 neighborhoods in the fall and spring.

We plant new trees based on resident requests. You can do your part by mulching and watering your street tree, and reporting any issues to the Park Line at 617-635-7275.

Trees in Ringer Park in Allston
Watering street trees

We welcome the help of residents and community groups to care for Boston's street trees. You should give a new street tree 20 gallons of water once a week, or run a low-pressure hose at the base of the tree for 20 minutes. A tree needs about 10 gallons of water per inch of trunk diameter. Boston's new street trees are typically two inches in thickness.

During really hot weather, a tree will need 30 gallons of water each week in two separate waterings: 15 gallons one day and 15 gallons a few days later.

Tips for pouring the water:

  • Please pour slowly at the base of the tree and in the tree pit.
  • Cultivating or digging up the top three inches of the pit can help the water get to where it needs to go.
  • A three-inch layer of mulch will help the soil stay moist and prevent weeds.
Trees in Boston
Mulching street trees

You can add a three-inch layer of loose, coarse mulch at least three inches from the tree trunk. However, mulching the wrong way can lead to several tree problems:

  • root rot (soil becomes waterlogged, leading to low levels of oxygen)
  • disease (deep, moist layers of mulch attract diseases and insects), and
  • water stress (a thick layer of mulch can stop the flow of water to the root).

Please read “Mulch Out, Not Up” for more information.

Tree care tips

WATCH OUT FOR DROUGHT STRESS

The first signs of wilting leaves appear in the afternoon, when the weather is hottest and driest, and may disappear at night. Wilting will happen to some plants with enough moisture on hot, dry days. So, wait until the morning before watering.

Leaves changing from green to red and yellow can show a lack of water.

WEEDING AND CLEANING

Weeding removes competition for nutrients and allows trees to better survive in a tough urban setting. Removing weeds also makes the tree look better and removes ground clutter. Please also remove any trash or animal waste from around trees.

ADDING MORE PLANTS

Planting small annuals, perennials, and bulbs can actually help trees, but please don’t plant any species that will grow too large. Also, never add more than two inches of soil to the pit. Adding too much soil around the tree can actually suffocate the roots.

Never plant ivy, vines, woody shrubs, or evergreens. These can interfere with the proper growth and health of street trees. If you have any questions about street trees or urban forestry issues, please feel free to contact our office at: 617-635-TREE (8733) or trees@boston.gov.

INVASIVE SPECIES

The Parks Department arborists are always on the lookout for invasive species, the most recent being the Emerald Ash Borer first spotted in Massachusetts in 2012.  For more information on this forest pest, please go to these pages hosted by the Mass. Department of Conservation and Recreation and UMass Amherst: 

Recommended public street trees

Recommended Species
SCIENTIFIC NAME COMMON NAME
Acer rubrum 'October Glory' October Glory Red Maple
Acer rubrum 'Red Sunset' Red Sunset Maple
Carpinus betulus European Hornbeam
Celtis occidentalis Hackberry
Ginkgo biloba (Male) Ginkgo
Gleditsia triacanthos inermis Thornless Honeylocust
Gymnocladus dioicus 'Espresso' Kentucky Coffeetree
Koelreuteria paniculata Golden Raintree
Liriodendron tulipfera 'Emerald City' Emerald City Tulip Tree
Liquidambar styraciflua 'Hapdell' Happidaze Sweet Gum
Nyssa sylvatica Black Tupelo
Ostrya virginiana Hophornbeam
Quercus acutissima Sawtooth Oak
Quercus alba White Oak
Quercus bicolor Swamp White Oak
Quercus coccinea Scarlet Oak
Quercus imbricaria Shingle Oak
Quercus macrocarpa Bur Oak
Quercus palustris Pin Oak
Quercus phellos Willow Oak
Quercus rubra Red Oak
Quercus velutina Black Oak
Sophora japonicum Japanese Pagoda Tree
Tilia cordata 'Green Spire' Littleleaf Linden
Tilia tomentosa 'Green Mountain' Silver Linden
Tilia tomentosa 'Sterling Silver' Silver Linden
Ulmus americana 'Valley Forge' American Elm
Ulmus 'Morton' accolade Accolade Elm
Ulmus 'Morton Stalwart' Commendation Elm
Ulmus 'Patriot' Patriot Elm
Ulmus parvifolia 'Frontier' Lacebark Elm
Zelkova serrata 'Musashino' Japanese Zelkova
Zelkova serrata 'Village Green' Japanese Zelkova
SCIENTIFIC NAME COMMON NAME
Acer campestre Hedge Maple
Acer truncatum 'Norwegian Sunset' Norwegian Sunset Maple
Amelanchier laevis 'Cumulus' Allegheny Serviceberry
Carpinus caroliniana American Hornbeam
Crataegus inermis 'Thornless Cockspur' Thornless Cockspur Hawthorn
Malus x 'Adirondack' Adirondack Crabapple
Malus x 'Purple Prince' Purple Prince Crabapple
Malus x 'Royal Raindrops' Royal Raindrops Crabapple
Malus x 'Sugar Tyme' Sugar Tyme Crabapple
Prunus subhirtella 'Autumnalis' Higan Cherry
Prunus 'First Blush' First Blush Cherry
Prunus 'Okame' Okame Cherry
Prunus sargentii Sargent Cherry
Prunus x yedoensis Yoshino Cherry
Prunus virginiana 'Canada Red' Canada Red Chokecherry
Syringa reticulata 'Ivory Silk' Japanese Tree Lilac

 

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