The Stack Archive

Would it be barking mad to email a tree?

Fri 30 Jan 2015

The City of Melbourne has made a bigger-than-average bid for the attention of tree huggers everywhere, by giving them the chance to email any tree in the city – and have a tolerable chance of an intelligent response.

But this is not the beginning of the Internet of Trees (IoTr?) – even though it is known that trees do talk to each other, they’re not that into cross-kingdom communication, outside of Middle Earth.

Instead Melbourne’s Urban Forest Visual map project is using the fact that each of the city’s 60,000 trees has been given an ID number to also provide each with an email address. Visitors can explore the city’s tree population, click on any individual tree and send an email to it. As one might expect, the respondent, if any, will be a city council worker, in or out of literary disguise.

In a display of apparently baffling logic, appropriately-named Melbourne city councillor Arron Wood told Broadsheet that since each tree has an ID number it was ‘only logical’ that each be assigned an email address. In fact the intention of the system was to enable local arborophiles to report damaged branches or incidents of vandalism which has plagued the city’s trees in recent years.

But more abstract communications have been forthcoming. Wood said: “An unintended but positive consequence was that instead of reporting problems with trees, people began writing letters about how much they love individual trees in the city. The email interactions reveal the love Melburnians have for our trees. For example, one email came from workers who watered a tree outside the State Library so that the tree survived the drought.”

The Urban Forest project, set up in 2007, seeks to address both the consequences of a devastating 10-year drought, and to institute replacements for four out of ten trees which will die of old age by 2035.

Most of Melbourne’s trees are Eucalypts, with ficus, acacia, ulmus and plantanus also represented. The city is facing the task of planting 3000 to maintain canopy cover by 2040. The cost of the replacement program is set to be in the region of 1bn AUD (approximately £513mn).

We can confirm that trees will write back. Enquiring whether one of the most outlying trees in the district didn’t feel a little lonely occasionally, we eventually received this response:

I’m hanging out in a wonderful urban forest with 77,000 other trees. I’m not lonely, but I’m partial to an occasional email.
Have a great day!
Stone Pine


green news strange
Send us a correction about this article Send us a news tip