Our Living (Leafing) History

We’ve gotten a few questions about Seattle’s street trees on our Q&A page recently, reminding us that lots of readers might not know about the Seattle Department of Transportation’s role in caring for the city’s tree canopy. Not only does SDOT assist drivers, cyclists, freight delivery people, pedestrians and transit riders, we also manage all of Seattle’s over 130,000 street trees. Staff in SDOT’s Urban Forestry Division combine educational and regulatory efforts to ensure proper planting, pruning and removal practices for trees along Seattle streets. We even have an official City Arborist!

The plaque recognizing a 2003 Heritage Tree in Roanoke Park on Capitol Hill

The plaque recognizing a 2003 Heritage Tree in Roanoke Park on Capitol Hill

One of the programs administered by Urban Forestry is the Heritage Tree Program. The first Seattle Heritage Tree was recognized jointly by the City of Seattle and PlantAmnesty in 1996. In the 13 years since, many more Heritage Trees have been celebrated.

And the beauty itself!

And the beauty itself!

Heritage trees may be on either City or private property. Each candidate tree is assessed by a certified arborist and evaluated by a review committee. Candidate trees must meet criteria for health and fit into one of the following categories: a tree of exceptional size, form, or rarity; a tree recognized as historic; trees that are landmarks of a community; or collections of trees in a notable grove, avenue, or other planting.

Each Heritage Tree is identified by a plaque and the owners are given an owner’s tree care manual. A few owners even have chosen to place a deed restriction on their property to provide for future tree protection. You can find a full list of Seattle’s Heritage Trees and more information here. Many of the trees are truly awe-inspiring and worth seeing in person. If you find one on the list in your neighborhood it would make a worthy destination for a hike through our urban forest!