Giving A Community Trees for Wildlife

A Look Back on Florida Wildlife Federation's Tree Giveaway

In the spring of 2015, the Florida Wildlife Federation received an invitation to partner with National Wildlife Federation to give away free native tree seedlings to Florida schools and organizations interested in wildlife and environmental education.
The recipients were encouraged to plant their trees that day or within the next week. Photo from FWF

I contacted various organizations in North Florida near our office in Tallahassee, and the Iris Club of Wakulla County replied that they were eager to participate. Since 2004, the Iris Club has had an annual Arbor Day tree giveaway event in January, so this was an opportunity for the club to give away a greater number and variety of trees. I started planning the event in September with two club members, Jeannie Brodhead and Lynn Artz.

Eight hundred native tree seedlings were ordered on October 5 and Jeannie picked them up the first week of December. The seedlings were stored at a local home and two local nurseries and potting events were held in the next few weeks at the local school, the library and at both nurseries.

In all, 800 trees were planted in north Florida by school children and club-member volunteers in 1-gallon pots —one hundred each of Southern red cedar, river birch, buttonbush, bald cypress, redbud and Southern red oak. Two hundred slow-growing trees, including mockernut hickory and parsley haw were kept at the nurseries to be given away this coming January.

Children and adults enjoyed the tree giveaway event. Photo from FWF

Then on January 16, 2016, the Iris Club of Wakulla County’s 12th Annual Crawfordville Arbor Day Celebration and Tree Giveaway was held at a downtown park. It was a cloudless, sunny winter day, and we were delighted that so many children came with their parents to pick out trees.

More than 2,000 free trees were distributed to families in the county. Along with the 600 trees donated by NWF, the Iris Club gave away an additional 700 trees they had been nurturing for a year at the two local nurseries, some were several feet tall. The Florida Forest Service also gave away hundreds of longleaf pine seedlings.

Bald cypress was one of the native trees offered to attendees. Photo from FWF

Volunteers from Florida Wildlife Federation hosted an education table telling people about our organization and how to become FWF members. Lynn Artz, the give-away event coordinator, placed me at the end of the check-out line to pass out planting and tree-care instructions to recipients. By the end of the morning I had lost my voice. Many participants told me they were happy to receive new trees as they had lost many older ones in their yards to old age and recent storms.

Give Trees Now


About the Author: Claudia Farren is an Education Consultant for the Florida Wildlife Federation. She is knowledgeable on many topics, including plants, butterflies, gardening and photography. She works with NWF in support of the Certified Wildlife Habitats program in Florida.