Caring for Boston's urban forest
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.
Urban Forest Plan
This plan is a manual for how the Boston community can work together to prioritize, preserve, and grow our tree canopy.
Emerald Ash Borer
Emerald Ash Borer is a beetle that kills ash trees when its larvae burrow under the bark and feed on the nutrients that circulate inside the tree.
Parks and Recreation Department
The Forestry Division is part of the Boston Parks and Recreation Department, within the Energy, Environment, and Open Space Cabinet.
Caring for street treesStreet trees
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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:
Programs and initiatives
Planning for future open space
The Parcel Priority Plan is a long-term visioning plan. We prioritize parcels of land to acquire and protect for public use.
Updating the seven-year open space plan
The City of Boston Open Space and Recreation Plan (OSRP) 2022-2028 will present the process, analysis, plan goals, and objectives for improving and protecting open space in Boston.
Franklin Park Action Plan
The Action Plan for Boston's largest greenspace—Franklin Park—is here!
Preparing for climate change
Use plants, soil and other natural materials to remove pollutants and allow stormwater to absorb back into the ground, helping to prevent flooding among other benefits.
Healthy Places: Planning for heat, trees, and open space
What we are doing to increase open space, cool our neighborhoods, and protect Bostonians from the impacts of climate change.
Heat resiliency study
The study will identify strategies to address future impacts of extreme heat and increase citywide resilience.