Let’s celebrate nature!

The Importance of Trees

Trees have been a part of our society since our civilization began. Over time they provided us shade on hot days, wood to make buildings and keep us warm, paper to write on, and many more uses. Not only are they useful to us, they provide very important benefits to our ecosystem that are the reason we have clean air, clean water, and nutrient rich soil.

Trees are especially important in urban areas, where much of the ground is covered by concrete or asphalt, disrupting the ecosystems that the earth has developed over millions of years! Whether it’s a road, a parking lot, or a building, it creates a surface that water and wildlife cannot penetrate, an impervious surface. This presents a problem during heavy rainfall, where a forest would naturally absorb 95% the water, now the impervious surfaces only absorb 25% leading rain collects on our city streets and sidewalks. This water becomes filled with surface oils, heavy metals, salts, pesticides, animal waste and other pollutants from the streets goes into the drains and sewers, called stormwater runoff. The high volume of rain can overwhelm our sewer systems and lead to combined sewer overflow, where untreated raw waste is re-released into our nearby rivers, lakes, and beaches!

The increase of trees in an urban area, in addition to helping manage stormwater runoff, would also help with energy conservation, reduce the heat island effect, increase air quality, sequester carbon, reduce stress on ecosystems, increase biodiversity, and decrease health risks of residents! Increasing the urban tree cover can aid in a more sustainable urban environment by copying the natural environment’s systems to help lessen the effects of humans in measurable ways. To learn more about green infrastructure and stormwater runoff, visit our Retain the Rain page. 

How Hartford’s Trees Serve Us

In 2014, the American Forests and Davey Resource Group created the Urban Tree Canopy Assessment & Planting Plan for the City of Hartford and KNOX. The assessment found some amazing ways that our trees help our community.

  • Citywide, our trees provides approximately $5,487,213 each year in ecosystem benefits. This includes:
    • Stormwater Capture
      • Hartford’s trees capture 591,022,346 gallons of stormwater annually. That’s enough water to fill 895 Olympic-size swimming pools! ($4,728,178 in infrastructure value)
    • Air Quality Improvements
      • Hartford’s trees remove 147,780 lbs. of pollutants such as carbon monoxide, ozone, and particulate matter (a major asthma trigger) from the air. ($256,090 in value)
    • Energy Savings
      • Each year, Hartford’s trees save 3,843,654 kWhs in energy use. This savings translates to $277,665 in value each year.
  • Hartford’s urban forest is also currently valued at $18,665,630 in contributions to property values and stored carbon.

Source: the Urban Tree Canopy Assessment and Planting Plan

What Can You Do To Help?

“He who plants a tree plants a hope.” – Lucy Larcom

Hartford’s tree canopy covers 25% of the City while paved or other impervious surfaces cover over 40%. If all suitable and realistic plantable locations were covered in tree canopy, we could reach over 50% in coverage across the city.

How can we make this happen?

  1. Let’s keep our existing trees healthy.
    • Our oldest and largest trees provide us with the most health, environmental, and financial benefits. Let’s take care of our trees so that we can preserve their history and maintain the services that they provide.
  2. Plant more trees.
    • You can help our urban forest by planting more trees on your property. But before you plant anything, make sure to Call Before You Dig, which is required by law. You can call 811 or go online to ensure safety while digging.

Learn what you can do for your trees to keep them healthy! You can create your own assessment of how much the trees in your yard are saving you using the itree design tool, and the tree benefits calculator. Take a deeper look at the findings of the UTC assessment, or for even more information, check out the City of Hartford’s Forestry Division’s web page, where you can also learn about the City’s Tree Advisory Commission. Another great resource is the Connecticut Tree Wardens Association, so be sure to visit their website as well!

Take a Tree Walk

Did you know that Hartford has 44 state Champion Trees? These trees are the largest of their species within the state. Take your own tree walk around the city with the map below, which shows the public state champion trees around Hartford.

Note: Locations may not exact. Pictures can be found on the CT Notable Trees website.
Source: http://oak.conncoll.edu:8080/notabletrees/Process_SelectTown.jsp

If you happen to be in Downtown Hartford, check out the city’s very own tree haven, Bushnell Park. It is a veritable arboretum of over 450 magnificent trees and 76 different tree species. The park is also home to the Scion of the Charter Oak, the state tree of Connecticut. The Scion is a first-generation descendant of the famous Charter Oak, which is known for being the former hiding place of the state charter. Its role helped Connecticut earn its nickname as the Constitution State. Visit the park to see these incredible trees in person, and take Bushnell Park Foundation’s self-guided tour to see the park’s State Champions or any of its wonderful trees.

Fun Facts About Trees

The Arbor Day Foundation has some great statistics on trees. Check out the full list.

The net cooling effect of a young, healthy tree is equivalent to ten room-size air conditioners operating 20 hours a day.” -U.S. Department of Agriculture

Landscaping, especially with trees, can increase property values as much as 20 percent.-Management Information Services/ICMA

One acre of forest absorbs six tons of carbon dioxide and puts out four tons of oxygen. This is enough to meet the annual needs of 18 people. -U.S. Department of Agriculture

Trees can be a stimulus to economic development, attracting new business and tourism. Commercial retail areas are more attractive to shoppers, apartments rent more quickly, tenants stay longer, and space in a wooded setting is more valuable to sell or rent. -Arbor Day Foundation

In laboratory research, visual exposure to settings with trees has produced significant recovery from stress within five minutes, as indicated by changes in blood pressure and muscle tension. –Dr. Roger S. Ulrich, Texas A&M University


The Retain the Rain program is supported by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. The Hartford Mayor’s Office of Sustainability is funded in part by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Long Island Sound Futures Fund. The views contained in this document are those of the authors and should not be interpreted as representing the opinions or policies of the U.S. Government or the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and its funding sources. Mention of trade names or commercial products does not constitute their endorsement by the U.S. Government, or the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation or its funding sources.