Category Archives: General

A New Tree Alliance in Boston 

There’s an old proverb that says great cities are filled with people who plant trees under whose shade they will never sit. On May 12, Mass Audubon and the City of Boston kicked off a program aimed at bringing that proverb to life. 

Mayor Wu and Mass Audubon Boston Regional Director Erin Kelly next to new microforest (Photo: City of Boston-Mayor’s Office/Isabel Leon)

Mayor Michelle Wu joined Mass Audubon President David O’Neill and other guests at our Boston Nature Center & Wildlife Sanctuary in Mattapan to help plant a new microforest. Roughly 100 onlookers were serenaded at the event by the joyous shouts and giggles of children from Boston Nature Center’s Pathways to Nature Preschool who were playing in the wildlife sanctuary’s nearby woods.

The unusually warm 84-degree-day perfectly underscored the urgent need for more trees that help people breathe better, serve as a vital connection to the outdoors, and mitigate heat islands in the face of worsening climate change. 

Forming the Alliance 

Wu also announced that she has tapped Mass Audubon to bring together a group of nonprofits to plant hundreds of trees on privately owned land in Boston neighborhoods. This new Tree Alliance will bolster the city’s tree canopy and give Boston residents more access to the physical and emotional benefits trees provide. 

The Alliance follows the recommendations of Boston’s first Urban Forest Plan (UFP), an assessment of Boston’s urban forest, with suggestions to improve the way trees are cared for and ensure the urban forest is available to the entire community.  While Mass Audubon will convene the alliance of nonprofits undertaking this task, Mass Audubon President David O’Neill stressed the on-the-ground change will come from folks in the communities who most heavily bear the brunt of a lack of trees. 

Planting the Microforest 

Mayor Wu, Erica Holm, David O'Neill and others planting a tree

After Mayor Wu read her remarks in both English and Spanish, she and some of the preschoolers got down in the soil with Mass Audubon’s Urban Ecologist Erica Holm to help plant one of the new microforest’s trees.  

With 96 trees and more than 200 shrubs and perennial plants of 33 species, the new microforest transformed an unused gravel roadway into a high-density planting inspired by the Miyawaki method. This will jump-start forest succession and re-establish a healthy pocket forest that mitigates urban heat island effects, supports biodiversity, and buffers against flooding and erosion. 

Mass Audubon also gave five trees to city residents to plant on their own land. 

Next Steps

Members of nonprofit organizations with interest in becoming a member of the Tree Alliance and private landowners in Boston who would like to inquire about potential tree plantings can email [email protected].

A kick-off meeting is anticipated for late summer/early fall. And, we are currently hiring an Alliance Coordinator, so please spread the word!  

Ditch the Lawnmower This Spring

Studies show that letting grass grow longer increases the abundance and diversity of native insects, so a change in how we approach mowing helps our native bees, butterflies, and other pollinators get a good start to the season.

Fostering early growth allows flowers to fully bloom, letting native plants like heal-all and white yarrow, and even non-natives like dandelions and common daisies become food sources for these beneficial species. An early boost helps pollinators be successful through their most active time of the year.  

high grass with small butterfly

No Mow May

The “No Mow May” movement began in the United Kingdom by Plantlife, an organization aimed at making a positive change for wildflowers, plants, and fungi. This initiative has since spread around the world, including to North America. Pollinators across the US face habitat loss, due in part to over-mowing and non-native planting. By letting native plants grow, we can play a vital role in building up the resiliency of native species.

Mowing less is a key approach for the Mass Audubon program we’re calling ’Nature by the Yard’.

For the month of May (or beyond) refrain from mowing, and let your lawn evolve into a pollinator friendly habitat. Can’t commit to the full yard? Choose a smaller section to start!

Not only does mowing less benefit our pollinators, but it also limits the use of gas-powered mowers, cuts down on the time used to maintain your lawn, and reduces water use by encouraging hardier species with deeper root systems to grow.

Other Ways to Help the Pollinators

When you give your lawn a break this spring, enjoy watching the pollinators make their way to your yard to visit the colorful blooms. You can also take action by reducing chemical use, limiting artificial lighting, reducing exotics and invasive species, leaving the leaves in the fall, and encouraging your neighbors to do the same.

Seemingly small changes add up to make a big impact. Read more about how to help our native pollinators, including a list of native and beneficial plants and pollinators you might find in your backyard.