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Community Trees Program

The Morton Arboretum’s Community Trees Program helps communities, public and private landowners, land managers, tree professionals, and groups interested in trees to effectively manage and care for our urban and community forest. Our urban and community forest is not just the trees found in our nature preserves and parks, but also the trees along streets, outside office buildings, within homeowners associations, and even in private yards.

This urban forestry outreach program offers a wide range of information and assistance:

Community Trees Events Calendar


Guidance for tree planting

The Morton Arboretum has distilled its research-based expertise into practical tools to guide tree choice and planting.
The Northern Illinois Tree Species List is designed to help you match your site conditions to the tree species that are most likely to thrive. 
The Northern Illinois Tree Selector is an online tool based on the list. LEARN MORE

Selecting and Planting Trees is a handbook of step-by-step, nuts-and-bolts instructions and advice. 

PDF iconSelecting and Planting Trees (PDF)

PDF iconTree Planting and Mulching.pdf


Volunteer as a Community Tree Champion

Help trees where you live. Everyone can be a Community Tree Champion! LEARN MORE

Celebrating trees

Trees need understanding and support from people to live long, productive lives. Community and school activities can build that support. Organize school and community Arbor Day celebrations and find STEM resources for teachers. LEARN MORE

PDF iconValue of a Tree_brochure.pdf

Community tree resources

The Community Trees Program can help municipalities, other public agencies, community groups and homeowners manage and care for their parts of the urban and community forest. Find help on developing tree inventory, management, and planting programs; selecting trees for a diverse, resilient urban forest; seeking funding; the Tree City USA program; and training opportunities. LEARN MORE


Tree Tools: urban forestry guides

This toolkit of resource guides called Tree Tools offers concrete, practical information, advice, and guidance for communities to use in improving their urban forestry programs. Tree Tools provide background information, examples, suggestions for implementation, and ways to get more help or deepen your knowledge. LEARN MORE

Pests and other problems

Insect pests and diseases are among the greatest challenges to maintaining a thriving urban and community forest. The Community Trees Program offers help to homeowners, professionals and public officials. LEARN MORE

Protecting trees

In urban areas, trees need people to value, preserve, and care for them. The Community Trees Program can help communities develop a base of public support through such means as tree boards and commissions, tree ordinances and volunteer stewardship programs. LEARN MORE

Regional trees news

If you are a tree professional, municipal official, or lover of community trees, the Community Tree Program is your source for news and events of interest. LEARN MORE

Community Trees Monthly e-newsletter

Each month we highlight educational opportunities, funding opportunites, and important urban forestry news. SUBSCRIBE.



Community Trees Program Manager and Director of Chicago Region Trees Initiative: Lydia Scott

Forest Pest Outreach Specialist: Tricia Bethke

Community Trees Program Coordinator: Emily Okallau

Chicago Region Trees Initiative Coordinator: Melissa Custic


To reach the Community Trees Program, e-mail communitytrees@mortonarb.org.

Purpose and history

The philosophy of the program is that all trees, on both public and private land, together form an urban and community forest that is as important a part of a community’s infrastructure as its streets and water mains.

Collectively, the green infrastructure of trees and their ecosystems provide important services and benefits: Their beauty and shade make neighborhoods more livable and improve property values. Their roots hold topsoil. Their shade saves energy in homes and buildings. Their leafy canopies and spreading roots absorb rainwater, which help to reduce flooding and replenish groundwater. They shelter wildlife, including birds that control insect populations. Their foliage absorbs air pollution. They store carbon and release oxygen. They help form the character of a community and inform seasonal changes.

But trees in urban areas need people to protect and maintain them. The goal of the Community Trees Program is to provide people with the knowledge and tools to help trees live long, productive lives. 

The Community Trees Program was established in 2002 with support from the Grace Bersted Foundation.  It is an integral part of the Chicago Region Trees Initiative and builds on findings of the Regional Tree Census that was produced in cooperation with the US Forest Service.