The trees of Melbourne will always be-leaf in you.
Getting a bit restless during lockdown? Missing the greenery of the Royal Botanic Gardens and other gardens around Melbourne? Well, if you can’t walk underneath the comforting shade of Melbourne’s trees, why don’t you reach out to one and send it at email? Melbourne has more than 70,000 trees, and each one of them has an email address. Get to the root of your feelings and express them in writing.
How is this possible?
The City of Melbourne’s Urban Forest and Ecology Team created an interactive map that allows you to find out about any tree in the council area. This map, called Urban Forest Visual, is a tool that lets you click on any tree in the Melbourne area and provides information about its genus and age. Each tree has its own ID number and email address.
The purpose of the email was for members of the public to inform the council of any trees that needed attention, such as a tree declining in health. However, since its launch in 2013, people have used the emails to send love letters and fan mail instead.
Talking To The Trees
According to the Urban Forest and Ecology team, the most popular tree is a Golden Elm on Punt Road. This tree is about 80 years old, and is listed by the National Trust of Australia as a Significant Tree at a state level. This is due to the tree’s aesthetic value, its contribution to the landscape, its presence as a landmark and as an outstanding example of its species.
As a popular tree, the public clearly agrees with the National Trust.
“Hi tree on the corner of Punt Road and Alexandra Avenue and that little street that goes up the side,” says one writer. “I’ve always wondered about you ever since my slightly strange driving instructor (who always smelled like cat food and peppermints) told me you were his favourite tree.”
“Dear Tree,” writes another, “If you are that big round beautiful low hanging tree I think you are my favourite tree. Such beauty on such an ugly road.”
It’s not just people in Melbourne writing to the trees. The trees have received emails from people all over the world.
“Dear Smooth-barked Apple Myrtle,” writes one fan, “I am your biggest admirer. I have always wanted to meet you, but tragically, I’m stuck in New York.”
“Hello, dear Tree. I read about this wonderful project and suppose to write you from another side of Earth – Russia. I hope you have a good care and don’t sick. One day we will meet, may be.”
The One Who Speaks For The Trees
As part of her job, Project Officer Giuliana Leslie responds to the tree emails. In an interview on MUMA Podcast earlier this year, she reflected on her role.
“It’s really interesting the way people use this platform to open up and share stories about themselves,” Leslie said. “I try to just sort of reflect the way [that] they’ve approached me. If they send me a joking email, cause a lot of the times we’ll get kids sending a tree joke, I’ll send a tree joke back. But if it’s more heartfelt, I do try to say something more genuine in return.”
Leslie estimates that in the seven years or so since the program has been launched, about ten thousand emails have been sent to the trees.
Urban Forest Strategy
The interactive map responsible for the email craze was created as part of Melbourne’s Urban Forest Strategy. An urban forest consists of all the trees and vegetation within a city, and a healthy urban forest plays a role in keeping the city liveable and healthy.
The Urban Forest Strategy aims to adapt the city to climate change, create healthier ecosystems, become a water-sensitive city, bring inner-city temperatures down and engage and involve the community.
They will achieve this by increasing canopy cover from 22 per cent to 40 per cent by 2040. Increasing canopy cover will mitigate the urban heat island effect, bring temperatures down in the city and adapt to climate change in a cost effective way. Melbourne is divided into ten precincts and each precinct has a ten year planting plan, which will increase canopy cover.
On top of that, the team hopes to increase forest diversity to no more than five per cent of one tree species, no more than ten per cent of one genus, and no more than 20 per cent of any one family. At the start of the project, trees in Melbourne mainly consisted of Eucalypts, Corymbia, Planes, and Elms. This lack of diversity left the urban forest vulnerable to threats such as pests, disease and stress from climate change. What’s more, as many of these trees were planted at the same time, many of them were aging and declining in health at similar times. Increasing forest diversity, in both species and age, would make the urban forest more resilient as a whole.
Other parts of the strategy include improving vegetation health, soil moisture and biodiversity.
Click here to learn more about the strategy.
So, what email will you send to the trees?