Free tree seedlings offered in Pittsburgh on Arbor Day |

Free tree seedlings offered in Pittsburgh on Arbor Day

Jamie Martines
Visitors to the Tree Pittsburgh seedling giveaway with their new seedlings on Arbor Day in 2018.

Allegheny County’s trees are in trouble. This Arbor Day, there’s something you can do about it.

“It literally means ‘tree day,’ so one of the requirements on Arbor Day is that you plant a tree,” said Joe Stavish, community education coordinator with Tree Pittsburgh.

This year, Arbor Day falls on April 26.

In its honor, Tree Pittsburgh, in partnership with the Pittsburgh Shade Tree Commission and the City of Pittsburgh, will be giving away 500 free tree seedlings starting at 11 a.m. in Market Square. Several types of trees will be available, including the eastern red cedar, paw paw and two flowering trees, the black gum and black birch.

Allegheny County lost about 11,000 acres of trees from 2010 to 2015, in part due to development, pests and diseases, according to data kept by Tree Pittsburgh. Most of that loss happened in Pittsburgh.

Though volunteers across the county have been making progress with regaining some of that loss, Stavish said that there’s still a way to go.

“People don’t often understand the benefits that trees provide,” he said, adding that trees do more than provide shade or help cool down a neighborhood. They also pull pollution out of the air and water, and help to reduce flooding by acting as big sponges that hold water.

Trees are also homes for birds, insects and other wildlife, he said.

“We’re trying to get people to maybe consider trees as infrastructure,” Stavish said.

Arbor Day is celebrated on a different day in every state. In Pennsylvania, it falls on the last Friday in April — the best time to be planting trees in the region, Stavish said.

But if you’re not ready to put your tree in the ground Friday, Stavish said it can survive in a pot for about a year.

Before planting, he suggested doing some research to make sure it’s the right tree for the location. Though the seedlings will be small when they’re handed out Friday, some of them grow into large trees with deep roots. They’ll also need to be protected from wildlife like deer and rabbits.

“It’s just like getting a pet,” Stavish said. He suggests checking out the Arbor Day Foundation’s online Tree Wizard tool to help find the best tree for you.

Jamie Martines is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jamie at 724-850-2867, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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