Philadelphia has a very cool urban forest program that lets residents request a free native tree: ‘Super impressive Philly’
Take a walk down most city streets in Philadelphia, and you’ll likely see nothing but concrete sidewalks and brick buildings. However, Philly TikToker Andrew Conboy (@andrew_the_arborist) is spotlighting a new program launched by the Philadelphia Horticulture Society (PHS), which is looking to change that ASAP.
A new initiative known as the PHS Tree Tenders program is encouraging residents to plant more trees around the city in an effort to “enhance the health and well-being of neighborhoods.” But to make it easy for people to get involved, the program is providing the trees at no cost at all and sending in experts to help assist in the planting.
According to Phila.gov, this is the city’s first-ever strategic urban forest plan, which is aimed at enhancing citywide equity and sustainability. Over the next 10 years, the goal is to “grow, protect and care for Philadelphia’s tree canopy” while also finding new ways to work with the public on combatting climate change, the city website states.
It’s certainly needed, considering how low the tree canopy is in the City of Brotherly Love. Recent studies show that only 20% of Philadelphia is covered by trees, which is less than any other major Northeastern city.
Luckily, quite a few residents seem to be getting on board so far — including Andrew.
The Philly resident shared his experience with the tree program on TikTok, where he detailed what the process was like and offered some friendly advice to others who might be interested, too.
According to Andrew, he and his girlfriend recently requested a free native tree through the Tree Tenders program, which they asked to have planted on their block.
First, a city arborist came out to ensure that there would be enough space for the tree and that the roots wouldn’t interfere with any underground utilities.
Once that was cleared, contractors came by to remove a patch of sidewalk where the tree bed would be and replace the low-grade soil with high-quality topsoil.
Just a couple of weeks later, the tree arrived.
“It’s an Allegheny serviceberry, a small native flowering tree with yummy, edible berries,” Andrew explains in the clip.
Soon, volunteers with the Tree Tenders program showed up and started planting — and now, Andrew and his girlfriend have a beautiful tree to admire every time they look out their window or walk down the street.
That said, the benefit of planting more trees in residential neighborhoods isn’t all about aesthetics.
According to PHSonline.org, “Trees are a necessity, providing habitat for local wildlife, reducing stormwater runoff, and helping cool down temperatures during warmer summer months. They’ve also been proven to improve mental health and reduce crime.”
With some Philadelphia streets only getting 2.5% tree canopy coverage — and most of these being lower-income areas — it’s easy to see why locals want to boost these numbers.
The plan states that any Philly property owner can apply through PHS for up to three street trees twice a year (in other words, six total annually). Residents are encouraged to review the Philadelphia Tree Planting Policies & Priorities first before reaching out to their local PHS Tree Tenders group for guidance. However, if their neighborhood doesn’t happen to have a Tree Tenders group already, they might have to start one themselves by taking the PHS Tree Tender course.
Next up is the actual application process, which includes questions about the location of the tree, the number you’ll be requesting, any pavement removal needs and other details.
There is some specific timing to be aware of: Trees approved by early May are expected to be planted in November, and those accepted by November are planted in April of the following year.
But if you can’t seem to get a tree during the bi-annual application window, you’re in luck: The Philadelphia Parks and Recreation Department accepts applications on a rolling basis — all you have to do is visit TreePhilly.org or call 215-685-4363. (If interested, you can learn more about the program right here.)
Since sharing the TikTok, Andrew’s post has racked up quite a ton of views. It’s also gotten a round of applause from countless social media users.
“THIS IS SO COOL MORE CITIES SHOULD DO THIS,” one person wrote.
“This is so progressive and community building and amazing,” said another. “Super impressive Philly!”
“Amazing!” added a third person. “Line the whole sidewalk!”
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