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October 25, 2022

Here's how to get a free tree for your yard so you can help improve Philly's canopy

The TreePhilly initiative is hosting pick-up and delivery events throughout the city from now until Nov. 11

Environment Trees
free tree.jpeg PhilaParkandRec; Facebook/for PhillyVoice

A volunteer helps sort saplings. TreePhilly gives away over 1,000 free trees every fall to further its goal of 30% tree canopy in every Philadelphia neighborhood. Urban tree canopy can improve air quality and stormwater management.

Philadelphia residents hoping for a bit of their own fall foliage can request a free tree through the city's TreePhilly program.

TreePhilly, an initiative from Philadelphia Parks and Recreation and the Fairmount Park Conservancy, was founded in 2011 with the goal of achieving 30% tree canopy coverage in every city neighborhood by 2025. To further its mission, TreePhilly gives away over 1,000 "yard trees" every spring and fall to residents with private property. 

The initiative's fall program is now underway, with giveaways scheduled through Nov. 11.

Urban tree canopy refers to the layer of branches, leaves and stems from trees that cover the ground when viewed from above, and it's linked to a number of environmental benefits. Researchers believe a strong tree canopy can aid stormwater management, improve air quality and reduce the urban heat island effect. Green spaces can also have a positive effect on mental health.

Tree canopy is an area where Philadelphia has struggled in recent years. A 2019 report found that the city actually lost 6% of its tree canopy between 2008 and 2018 – a loss equivalent to 1,095 acres, or over 1,000 football fields. 

The report also noted that "more tree canopy was lost on residential lands than any other type of land use," indicating individual homeowner decisions may play a large role in the health of the city's tree canopy. 

"Most of the room for planting new trees," the report continues, "is on residential land." Yard trees, then, could be a deciding factor in reversing this downward trend.

In order to get a yard tree, Philly residents must register for an upcoming pick-up event in their neighborhood. Trees are reserved according to zip codes, so it's important that registrants choose an event near their home address. Once approved, they only need to show up to the event and claim their tree. Home delivery is also offered at most events for those without cars and the elderly.

One pick-up event is currently ongoing through Oct. 30 at the Sankofa Harvest Festival at Bartram's Garden. Another is scheduled for this Saturday, Oct. 29 at Holly Street Neighbors Community Garden in West Philly. The program will also host pick-ups at Pleasant Hill Park in Northeast Philly and the Global Leadership Academy at 5200 Pine St. on Nov. 5.

Residents in the 19140, 19120, 19124 and 19134 zip codes can register by Nov. 11 for a tree delivery. 

The trees on offer in this year's fall drive include eastern red cedar, sassafras and witch hazel. Plum and elderberry trees are also available to those hoping to grow their own produce. 

All other event and registration information is available through TreePhilly's website.

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