Admiring the Trees of Paris

As a resident of Paris, I rarely paid attention to the city’s treescapes until a few years ago, when I stumbled upon the arresting sight of a young man sprawled in the crook of a low branch. Japanese pagoda treeIts leaves are spreading over the surface of the lake at Butes-Chaumont Park in the 19th arrondissement.

From that moment on, I realized that the city’s trees—from the military rows of London’s plane trees along the Seine with dramatic weeping willows and their backs to the Champs-Élysées—play an underappreciated role in Paris’s unparalleled elegance and irresistible support. Magnificence

It was a belated epiphany, and one that’s somewhat understandable: Urban trees can be overlooked, especially in Paris, where dozens of majestic landmarks command the attention of locals and visitors alike.

But public and political awareness of city trees has recently been renewed, not only as natural, free-standing monuments of equal importance to the Louvre or the Eiffel Tower, but also as important assets in the fight against climate change. There are city lawyers, arborists and others in Paris Investing in a tree-scape By planning new urban forests, increasing the number of protected historic trees and designing walking tours — because trees can also offer a fresh, green perspective to the City of Light.

“Trees are an important part of the identity of Paris,” said Christopher Nadzowski, Deputy Mayor in charge of Green Spaces. “The alignment of trees and the boulevards of Paris have shaped the city to a large extent and this is a 150-year legacy. We are following in the footsteps of this legacy.”

As it turns out, the Japanese pagoda tree (which has since been fenced off) is one of 15 in Paris that has the official designation of “Notable Trees of France.” the trees, a volunteer organization made up of some of the country’s most distinguished scientists, botanists, gardeners, writers and horticulturists. The aim of the association is to promote and protect the most beautiful, important and rare trees in France with a formal label.

Also on the list: a 420-year-old tree that isn’t particularly remarkable, but has extraordinary cultural and biological significance.

Brought from North America and planted in 1601 in the small Square René Viviani, across the street from Notre-Dame Cathedral, the black locust or robinier fox acacia is the oldest tree in Paris. Its foliage is still green and in full bloom, but the tree is scarred by World War II bombing and shelling, and its split trunk is supported by steel beams.

“It’s the mother plant,” Beatrice Rizzo, city forest engineer, explained to me during a guided visit. “You could say that all the black locust trees in France came from this one tree.”

In addition to the list of Arbres, which can be found OnlineThe city of Paris maintains a separate, more extensive catalog of notable trees — all 176 trees are on the plot Public interactive map. Both lists share similar criteria that include age, size, flora and cultural significance.

The Black Locust at Square René Viviani has the notable title of both Paris and Arbres and is the last of the six stops. Self-guided, walking tour of the trees Created by the city.

“A tree damaged like this would never have survived in nature,” said Georges Fetterman, president of Arbres. “It is like protecting monuments. Why do we preserve old churches? Because they bear witness to the history of men.”

Other tree landmarks on the city’s walking tour include the orderly formation of linden trees bordering the Place des Vosges square and the flood-resistant poplars at the Place Louis Aragon on the Île-Saint-Louis.

Last year, Paris lawmakers approved a project that aims to Plant 170,000 new trees Create urban forests throughout the city by 2026, and in strategic areas to reduce the effects of extreme urban heat and reduce air pollution. The city also issued a 10-point “tree charter” that included a pledge to protect Paris’s exceptional specimens.

“The aim is to completely review the urban approach, protect the existing trees and plant as many as possible in six years.” Mr. Nadzowski said

The city’s contemporary tree planting scheme can be seen as a revival of a long legacy of urban planners harnessing the beautifying, cooling and calming power of trees. Some of Paris’ first tree-lined boulevards can be traced back to the 17th century, when Queen Marie de Medicis requested a walk not far from her palace. Tuileries garden Where she and her friends can wander away from the daily traffic. effected Run the queenThe four long rows of trees that today stretch from the Place de la Concorde to the Place du Canada.

Trees also played a central role in the city’s massive 19th-century reinvention, under the vision of public servant Georges Eugène Haussmann and his chief engineer, Adolf Alfand. The total number of trees in 17 years is approx Doubled from about 50,500 to 95,600. Today, the uniformity of tree-lined boulevards and leafy, shaded avenues in parks gives Paris a unique landscape.

“Tree alignments along avenues and major boulevards are mostly monospecific trees, often either London plane or horse chestnut trees, which create a repetitive landscape,” said Avila Tourney, the city’s principal urban architect. “The result is a monumental approach, a bit like Versailles. And in the heart of Paris, it creates a great landscape.”

In recent years, Ms. Rizzo, a forest engineer, says the climate emergency has made Parisians more attached to their city’s trees. While tapping the trunk with wooden mallets to hear about the illness, she would be stopped by concerned passers-by and reassured that she was only making a “medical appointment”.

“The tree, the savior of the planet and our well-being, has never been front and center in the city as it is today,” she said. “I’ve been doing this for 30 years and I’ve never talked about trees.”

Indeed, news that a 200-year-old London plane tree near the Eiffel Tower could be cut down as part of the city’s plans to renovate the site for the Olympic Games in 2024 sparked protests and weeks of online outrage this spring. Asked about the fate of the tree, Mr. Nadzowski said the city was reexamining the plans and that “zero trees” would be cut down during construction.

Mr. Fetterman said the Arbores Association receives requests every day to adorn new trees with notable labels. This designation has no legal weight and functions more as a “moral protection”, but the organization works closely with the city of Paris and has recently received public support from a federal government agency, the Ministry of Environmental Transition. Several cities, including Paris and Bordeaux, have signed the association’s “Tree Bill of Rights,” which asks signatories to protect trees as living monuments.

“We ask cities to try to do things differently and consider the tree as a living, breathing entity and all the implications that come with it,” Mr. Fetterman said.

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