Bristol Tree Forum tree give away 2022/23 – free saplings for planting

Last year we were able to provide – free of charge – 6,000 tree saplings for tree lovers to plant around Bristol…. and beyond! This year we plan to give away silver birch, downy birch, oak and alder.

Stop Press- 24 Jan 2023 – We are delighted to report that all the trees we offered have now been claimed.


Few of us will forget the summer heat wave of 2022. It far exceeded previous temperature records, both locally and nationally. On the hottest day of the heat wave, as the thermometer edged towards 40C, it genuinely felt dangerous as I headed out to the streets with my trusty thermal camera to see how trees affect the temperature of our streets and pavements.

We all know the value of trees in sequestering carbon, and they still represent the most effective and widespread means of removing CO2 from the atmosphere. For instance, a single mature oak tree is the equivalent of 18 tonnes of CO2 or 16 passenger return transatlantic flights. However, it is in our cities that trees provide the greatest benefits; cleaning our air, reducing flooding, improving our physical and mental health, and, crucially, reducing temperatures during heat waves.

Our cities suffer additional problems during heat waves, with all of the concrete and tarmac absorbing a lot of energy from the sun and releasing it as heat. This “heat island” effect can raise temperatures by as much as an additional 12C. Trees can reduce, or even eliminate, this effect, partly through shade but also actively cooling the air by drawing up water from deep underground, which evaporates from the leaves… a process called evapotranspiration. According to the US Department of Agriculture, this cooling effect is the equivalent to 10 room sized air con units. This cooling greatly enhances our resilience to the dangerous heat waves that are predicted to increase in severity and frequency.

Also, Trees improve air quality by absorbing both gaseous (e.g., NO2) and particulate pollution. They reduce traffic noise and flooding and improve physical and mental wellbeing.

Thus, trees are a crucial, but often ignored, element in increasing our resilience to climate change. It is therefore disappointing that neither the council’s Climate Emergency Action Plan or the ‘Adaptation to a changing climate’ section of the recent draft Bristol Local Plan review make any mention of trees.

We are one of the most biodiversity depleted countries in the world, and have lost nearly 70% of our biodiversity since the industrial revolution. Trees are vital in supporting biodiversity, with oak trees capable of supporting over 2,300 different species, including birds, mammals, invertebrates, mosses, lichen and fungi.

As it turns out, the surface temperatures in open sunshine was found to be as high as 60C or 140F! Beneath trees, on the other hand, was a “mere” 25C to 35C, averaging 20C cooler than in open sun. This reminds us of the value of trees in our cities, and of course the importance of planting trees wherever we can.

What are the Bristol Tree Forum doing to help?

It is said that the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago, and the second best time is now.

As well as advocating the retention of life-saving trees in our city, Bristol Tree Forum have been encouraging tree planting by holding an annual tree giveaway since 2020. In that year we purchased 1600 oak saplings from Maelor Forest Nurseries which we distributed free of charge. In 2021/2022 we initially gave away 600 white birch and 400 alder, as well as 900 oak saplings, the latter thank to a partnership with the Arkbound Oakupy project. We were then contacted by the Forest of Avon Trust who had a surplus of 4,500 tree saplings, over 4,000 of which we distributed through our network of tree planters. Overall, that year we gave away around 6,000 trees including 1,600 oak, 740 silver birch, 860 white birch, 55 grey birch, 600 alder, 100 alder buckthorn, 950 rowan, 45 Scots pine, 60 sweet chestnut, 300 sycamore, 50 spindle and 630 wild cherry.

Trees planted in Bristol. Trees were also planted as far afield as North Wales, South Devon and Buckinghamshire, and large tree planting projects in Compton Martin, Cheddar and West Wales.
Just some of the trees given away in 2021/22

Flushed with the success of last year’s project, the Bristol Tree Forum have ordered another thousand saplings – silver birch, white (or downy) birch  and, again, thanks to Maelor Forest Nurseries. As well as our own purchase, we are distributing oak saplings on behalf of the Oakupy project. All are native trees of great benefit to wildlife, and are tolerant of urban and rural conditions.

Trees can be ordered using the form below.

We will get delivery in late January, when the trees can be collected from a site in Redland, Bristol.

The saplings come bare-rooted (i.e. out of the soil) and need to be planted as soon as possible after collection, although the viability of the trees over winter can be extended by storing the trees with the roots covered in damp soil. The form below is to find out who would like to have saplings for planting and how many, and for you to provide basic contact details (email and/or phone number) for us to organise collection of the trees. Contact details will not be used for any other purpose.

Author: BristolTreeForum

We are a group of volunteers dedicated to increasing the tree canopy cover of Bristol.

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