The city of Newport, Rhode Island is a living museum of American history, and our botanical heritage is no small part of our story. During the Gilded Age, collectors, scientists and amateur horticulturists planted our city with an incredible array of specimen trees, many of which were gathered by tree hunters from across the globe.
The Newport Tree Society
The Newport Tree Society was founded in 1987 when concerned citizens recognized the fact that our once-legendary urban forest was clearly aging and ailing.
For the first time since the end of the Gilded Age, Newport’s public trees began to benefit from formal planning and active regeneration efforts via a comprehensive tree protection and management plan. The majority of the city’s finest specimen trees, however, are found on private landscapes. In response to the challenge of restoring a forest under the direct care of thousands of private citizens, the Newport Tree Society outlined a new citizen-centered model for citywide reforestation centered around The Newport Arboretum, New England’s first citywide arboretum, established in 2011.
The Newport Arboretum is the popular face of the Newport Tree Society, inviting every Newporter to better understand and care for the Living Collections in their own backyards.
The heart of this reforestation plan lies in heritage horticulture, the celebration of our city’s long history of exploratory arboriculture and its remaining core of historic designed landscapes and plant collections. From handwritten records of expansive colonial-era hothouses that held specimens from all over the globe, to the scores of Gilded Age landscapes still in cultivation on our island today, Newport is a truly a jewel of American horticulture and landscape architecture. Our goal is to remember and reignite our once burning passion for sylviculture by reforesting all four corners of our city with truly special specimen trees planted by private citizens on both public and private property.
Ultimately, we seek to create a citywide arboretum with collections unparalleled in scope and depth — and to do so by designing and implementing sustainable processes that may one day be modeled by communities across the globe.
Cities across the globe are responding aggressively to severe tree canopy losses suffered over the last century, and many are asking citizens to become directly involved in extensive replanting efforts.
The Newport Arboretum initiative takes this important idea of citizen-centered urban forest renewal and raises it to the next level. In Newport, citywide replanting will happen on both public and private land, and it will be guided by ambitious strategic objectives that go well beyond the typical goal of canopy expansion or ‘X number of trees planted.’ We’re asking citizen foresters to not only replant an ailing urban forest — but to help us create a citywide arboretum of awesome scope and diversity.
During the Gilded Age, our predecessors planted for the thrill of experiencing for the first time the full range of flora the natural world had to offer. Today, our goal is to bring to life Newport’s singular history as a center for exploratory horticulture and landscape architecture through successful partnerships with the institutions and private property owners who hold Newport’s horticultural legacy in their hands.
Together we will celebrate Newport’s heritage by planting rare and exotic trees and restoring historic landscapes and plantings. Volunteers will also contribute to the global effort to increase the genetic stock of endangered species, and we will work together to restore remaining areas of natural forest that have the potential to be rich ecosystems and self-sustaining reservoirs of life. Finally, we are working to increase our forest’s overall health and resiliency in the face of impending climate change and invasive pests that have decimated American forests over the past decade.
The Newport Arboretum: A Four-Part Program
1Each 1-mile tree walk highlights some of Newport’s finest specimen trees. 11×17 folded pocket maps available for sale. Maps can also be printed online for free.
Tree Identification Tags
2Trees across the city are being tagged with identifying information (including common and latin names, height and spread, and native region). Order a tree tag for your own tree!
3We’re cultivating the next generation of citizen foresters! Sign up for our upcoming Specimen Tree Restoration Planting Program.