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Caring for Boston's urban forest

Caring for Boston's urban forest

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

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.

Find out how we take care of the City's trees, and how you can help out.

Still have questions? Contact:
Parks and Recreation
1010 Massachusetts Avenue
3rd Floor
Boston, MA 02118
United States

report an issue at a Boston park

To report an issue, call the ParkLine at 617-635-7275.

Caring for street trees

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.


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.

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


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 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.


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 what you can plant, please contact 617-635-7275.

Type of trees we allow

Types of trees
Under wire and small species



Acer campestre

Hedge Maple

Acer ginnala

Amur Maple (Single-stem)

Amelanchier x grandiflora

Shadblow Service berry (Single stem)

Koelreuteria paniculata


Malus x 'golden raindrops'

Crab Apple

Malus x 'sugartyme'

Crab Apple

Prunus x. 'autumnalis'


Prunus x. Rosacea 'okame'


Prunus x. yedoensis


Syringa reticulata

Japanese Tree Lilac

Medium to tall species



Acer rubrum

Red Maple

Acer truncatum

Norwegian Sunset Maple

Celtis occidentalis

Common Hackberry

Eucommia ulmoides

Hardy Rubber Tree

Ginkgo biloba (Male)


Gleditsia triacanthos Inermis


Gymnocladus dioicus

Kentucky Coffeetree

Liquidambar styraciflua


Ostrya virginiana

American Hophornbeam

Nyssa sylvatica

Black Tupelo

Quercus acutissima

Sawtooth Oak

Quercus bicolor

Swamp White Oak

Quercus imbricaria

Shingle Oak

Quercus rubra

Red Oak

Quercus palustris

Pin Oak

Quercus phellos

Willow Oak

Sophora japonica


Tilia cordata

Little-Leaf Linden

Tilia tomentosa

Silver linden

Ulmus americana (disease resistant)

American Elm

Ulmus carpinifolia

Smoothleaf elm

Ulmus wilsoniana

Prospector elm

Zelkova serrata