One of the most popular programs of the Kentucky Division of Forestry (KDF), is the state nurseries and tree seedlings program. With a target of growing 1.5 to 2 million seedlings each year, the division is doing its part to help reforest the Commonwealth.
“We gave away around 50,000 seedlings this season alone,” said Eric Gracey the forestry program manager with the KDF. “They are a great icebreaker to get to talk to people about planting trees and even some of the other great programs we offer. Everyone loves a free tree.”
With two seedling nurseries in Morgan and Marshall counties, the KDF is able to offer over 50 species of trees native to Kentucky, with the exception of the blight resistant Chinese chestnut. Some of their most popular varieties of trees are the dogwood, redbud and the sugar maple.
“We have actually seen a shift in demand for bee-friendly trees too,” said Gracey. “Trees likes like black locusts, yellow popular, dogwoods or any flowering tree are the first to go.”
The nurseries also have seen bottomland hardwoods go up in demand. Swamp white oak, pin oak, bur oak and over cup oak have become remarkably popular according to Gracey. Currently, feedback from the community has foresters exploring requests for basswood. Seed availability also strongly dictates what trees will be grown and offered to the public.
“We have five regional offices. When our foresters get out and give free trees in the communities, it’s usually for educational purposes.It also starts to build relationships with people in the community,” said Gracey. “It makes our folks that familiar face, and that’s a good thing. We want our people to be approachable and known. We want the word out on our programs and we want more trees in the ground.”
More trees in the ground is not only good for the Energy and Environment Cabinet, but it also has countless environmental returns such as enhancing wildlife habitat, improving urban areas and reclaimed surface mining sites. Not to mention the economic benefits of cleaner air, water and lower utility bills for the citizens of the Commonwealth.
According to Gracey most of KDF’s free trees are given away around Earth Day and Arbor Day to raise awareness of the earth and how important each and every tree planted is.
Seedlings are available for purchase in the KDF nurseries until the end of April for packages of 10 seedlings for $35, 50 seedlings for $55 and 100 seedlings for $70.