We need to do something bigger than ourselves.

“We need to do something bigger than ourselves.”

– Mohamed, Friends of Trees volunteer since 2014

Mohamed and his wife Farah, and their children and friends, have planted hundreds of trees with us in memory of their daughter, Ayan. Farah very candidly shares why, “Every tree that we plant I feel like it’s for her. And I think about all of the benefits that all these trees will produce … it keeps on giving. It’s a way of sharing her with the world.”

This beautiful video shares the story about why Mohamed, Farah, and their family plant trees together in honor of Ayan:

“When you are outdoors and in nature you tend to forget whatever problems you may have. When you go into nature with others and look at the beauty, how big things are … it has that healing process.” -Mohamed

The more than 50,000 trees and shrubs we plant every year with so many community volunteers transform neighborhoods and natural areas. Trees clean our air and water, cool the planet, provide habitat—and can help us feel better. There are many examples of how trees improve our health; just the act of planting a tree can be personally transformative; digging in the dirt with the hope and intent of something taking root just feels good.

It’s about trees and it’s about community. When we come together to plant trees we are doing something good, we’re making a difference and we’re making our world a better, more welcoming place.

There is so much we can do that is bigger than ourselves. Donating to Friends of Trees’ programs that plant trees and grow community will help our planet and its inhabitants for generations to come. As Mohamed also shared, “Planting trees really will outlive us. The effort that you put is so small, the benefit is just gigantic.”

Thank you for the gigantic act of supporting trees + community. We look forward to planting trees with you!

Give the gift that fights climate change

Surprise your friend or loved one this holiday season with a gift that will grow over time, improve local natural areas, and clean our air & water!

Gift Trees are a lasting legacy that honor or remember loved ones while improving our environment. All Gift Trees are planted through our Green Space Program, which restores sensitive natural areas in our region. And with Friends of Trees, Gift Tree purchasers and recipients have the option to plant their Gift Tree. However, if you cannot attend a Gift Trees planting event we will make sure your Gift Tree gets planted.

For each Gift Tree (or grove of 6 trees), you will be able to choose a certificate you can customize with your recipient’s name and print at home.

You and your gift recipient can join Friends of Trees to plant the tree, if you wish, during one of our Gift Tree planting events during the coming year—or we can plant it for you.  Gift Tree FAQs

Please note: The deadline has passed if you’d like to have a paper certificate mailed to you in time for Christmas giving; however, if you’re in a crunch, please email Kathy directly and we’ll try to make it happen. Remember, you can order a Gift Tree and print your own certificate at any time. Donate to order your Gift Tree here.

All Gift Trees support natural area restoration through Friends of Trees’ Green Space Program. Thank you for greening our world through your holiday giving!

Trees & Health Symposium in Gresham on Nov 13

Volunteers at a Friends of Trees planting in Gresham's Nadaka Park
Volunteers at a Friends of Trees planting in Gresham’s Nadaka Park

We all know that trees provide benefits to people and the communities they live in.

But do you know how to care for trees to help them thrive, and how you can add to Gresham’s tree canopy at home or in your neighborhood?

The Gresham Trees and Health Symposium will feature a mix of speakers, film, discussion, tree care booths, light refreshments, and a summary of the City’s Green Gresham, Healthy Gresham tree project in Rockwood.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019
6:00 – 8:00 PM, Rockwood Boys & Girls Club

More information and registration information is here, thank you to our co-hosts Multnomah County and City of Gresham!

A word from our volunteers

Volunteers talk, we listen.

As we prepare for our 31st season of planting trees + growing community we’re taking time to reflect on the feedback of the folks who make this all possible: our incredible and unparalleled volunteers.

We know there’s a lot to love about volunteering with Friends of Trees, and we also know we’re not perfect. To find out what works and what doesn’t, last season we surveyed more than 500 volunteers after events; here’s a sampling of what we learned and how we’re incorporating the feedback to make our programs stronger.

Would you recommend volunteering with Friends of Trees? Yes, absolutely!

96% of survey respondents would recommend volunteering with Friends of Trees.

“It was nice to do something for the community with good people.”

We also learned that the majority of volunteers came out because they wanted to do something good.

More good news:

The average “grade” for the Friends of Trees volunteer experience was a B+ (89); more volunteers than not felt more connected to their community after volunteering; and the vast majority learned something new about trees or the environment and felt prepared for their volunteer experience.

“Really nice people. I have volunteered 7 or 8 times and loved every time.”

“Those running the program were great, the people I met were great. This was a good feeling, getting out and helping like-minded individuals accomplish something for the greater good. Thanks for that!”

“Planting a tree in my yard with my neighbors was a great experience and memory that I will cherish.”

“It is wonderful to see so much community spirit. I loved seeing the bicycle delivery team!”

Folks had questions or need more information about:

What to expect at a Friends of Trees volunteer event.

“Even a rainy day failed to dampen my enthusiasm.”

We get it, not everyone loves to be outside early on a Saturday morning in the cold rain planting trees in the mud. Of course, it’s not always like that, but tree planting season is October – April because cool, wet conditions are best for the trees, giving the young trees we’re planting the absolute best chance of survival.

We plant trees. Lots of trees. Thousands of trees. And we do this in all weather – warm and sunny, cold and rainy. It gets muddy. It’s physical. This is how we make a difference – and, together, we make a big one: 50,000+ trees and native shrubs planted every a year, with more than 800,000 trees and shrubs planted since 1989.

Cold rain not for you? No problem, there are other ways you can help make a difference, through helping secure food for events, making phone calls, driving a truck … learn more about other volunteer roles here.

We learned that not everyone loves a bucket brigade. We do our best to let folks know what they’re in for, be it a tree planting event or a tree care event, and we’ll do more to let folks know the difference between volunteering for a tree planting event and a tree care event—because, yes, we want the trees we plant to survive and thrive so we do tree care, too!

The use of pronouns during introductions.

Friends of Trees will always strive to be a welcoming and safe place for everyone, regardless of age, ability, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, political views,  economic status or anything else that makes you special. Without our volunteers, we are nothing. But together we do amazing things.

There were quite a few comments about our use of pronouns during introductions (for example, “My name is Jenny, I use she/her pronouns.” Or, he/him, they/them, etc.). Most were very positive but some people didn’t understand why we do this.

We understand that getting used to anything new can cause some people to feel a little uncomfortable or can simply just generate questions; we believe it’s well worth it so that others feel seen and welcome.

This response sums it up perfectly:

“As a trans person I really appreciated the affirmation of gender pronouns! It was much nicer that everyone shared at the start than having to correct people later :)”

As a community driven organization Friends of Trees fosters an atmosphere of inclusion and support. We continually work to improve and enhance these efforts and we are so grateful that our community of volunteers supports this:

“I will cherish the fact that in a group of volunteers ranging in age from 10- 65, people were using their pronouns as they introduce themselves. I think it was a learning experience for everyone.”

“I appreciate that you’re trying to reach out for a more diverse population of volunteers.”

“Everyone was so welcoming and kind.”

“There didn’t seem to be enough trees for our group.” “There were so many trees to plant!”

At most of our 100+ events we get the ratio of volunteers:trees planted right.  We also acknowledge there is a fine line between too many volunteers and not enough volunteers, and walking this line is both an art and a science.

We assess the planting location, the number of trees to be planted, types and sizes of trees and shrubs, the size of the planting site, how many volunteers attended last year … all of this factors into how many volunteers are ideal for each location and we create a goal for each event. Sometimes more folks show up than registered; other times, people don’t show up. We’re humans, this happens. We do our best to account for this and create the best volunteer experience possible.

We sincerely value the time and effort of our volunteers and regularly work on how best to ensure each event has the ideal number of volunteers to trees. Last season we began asking all volunteers, not just groups, to pre-register for events and that’s made a big difference. And guess what? Registration for the 2019-2020 Friends of Trees season is now open! Check out our event calendar and registration information and join us for another season of planting trees + growing community.

We’ll leave you with one final quote:

“These times in our world are troubled and the news is often grim; each time I volunteer for a Friends of Trees planting I receive a huge dose of hopefulness. The sheer numbers of volunteers with all their varying stories coming together to volunteer when it is cold, wet, muddy is a great dose of joy. Plus, I have been to places previously unknown to me. Abundant riches are added to my life each time.”

Tree care – we do that too!

Congratulations, you helped plant 50,000 trees and native shrubs last season! Now what? Good thing Friends of Trees isn’t just a tree planting organization–tree care is also on the list because we want the trees we plant to survive and grow and thrive.

It works.The survival rate for urban trees planted the Friends of Trees way, together, with guided post-planting care from our Tree Team, is 97% (based on Portland street trees planted last season). For the subset of trees we’ve been monitoring for nine years since planting it’s an 88% survival rate.

Our trees planted in natural areas also have strong survival rates, especially given some very challenging conditions; for example, some planting sites are not accessible for watering; some plants get eaten by wildlife; humans sometimes trample or vandalize; etc. Some studies indicate that an acceptable minimum survival rate for riparian area restoration plantings is 50%, so our survival rates of 81% in year one and 70% after three years are particularly impressive.

How do we help trees thrive?

We water. We prune. We mulch. We visit and assess. We do this for the street and yard trees planted through our Neighborhood Trees program as well as for the native trees and shrubs planted in our Green Space program.

As part of our Neighborhood Trees post-planting care, we:

  • continually share information with tree-recipients about how much water, mulch and pruning trees need;
  • deliver and apply free mulch soon after trees are planted;
  • offer a summer watering service for a reasonable fee;
  • have a Summer Inspector program where trained volunteers visit all newly planted trees twice in the first summer after planting to inspect for tree health, leaving tree care info for the tree recipient.
  • have a longer term monitoring program where we visit subsets of trees planted anywhere from two to 10 years ago, to track health and growth;
  • prune trees throughout the year (except for a few weeks in the spring and fall  when trees are budding or dropping leaves). We rotate neighborhoods each year and focus most of our work on low income, low canopy and/or historically under-served communities.

Did we mention we prune? Last season we pruned more than 1,600 street trees, which is vital toward proper growth and really helps them survive wind, snow, and ice storms.

Our Green Space program also cares for the new trees and shrubs planted in natural areas, and we do this for up to 10 years after planting. The team is often joined by employee volunteer groups who help with summer maintenance tasks such as watering, mulching, and weeding (also called “day-lighting” since we’re clearing space around new plantings to provide for more light and air, and to reduce competition with weeds). We also assess for survival and replant when necessary.

Volunteers help with this! We train volunteers to inspect and prune trees, and volunteers are crucial to effectively mulching thousands of new trees at tree care events.

All told, we care for and monitor more than 54,000 trees a year!

We’re spreading the good word about trees.

We spend much of the summer spreading the word. Our Volunteer & Outreach Team, aided by dedicated Tree Team Ambassadors, attend events, festivals and fairs; plus, we have a crew of Canvassers who go door to door in priority neighborhoods. We strive to reach historically under-served, low-canopy neighborhoods with information about how to volunteer with us and how to get a tree from us. Interested in being a part of this? We’d love for you to join us.