Prior to the founding of the City of Savannah, the forests along the Georgia coast were predominantly composed of longleaf (Pinus palustris) and slash (Pinus elliottii) pines. The longleaf forests of the southeast once stretched from Virginia south to Florida and west to Texas, and supported an incredible diversity of plants, birds, mammals, and reptiles. These same longleaf pines were harvested in 1733 to construct many of the original buildings of downtown Savannah.
In 1804, a hurricane decimated much of the city’s forest. The species that were replanted after this storm primarily consisted of sugarberry (Celtis laevigata), chinaberry (Melia azedarach), and American sycamore (Platanus occidentalis). This generation of forest is what led to Savannah becoming known as the Forest City.
In 1893, another hurricane destroyed most of Savannah’s trees, taking out thousands of trees. In 1895, the Park and Tree Commission was formed to lead the reforestation effort across the City through the late 1890’s and early 1900’s. Many of the larger trees you see today in downtown Savannah, particularly the live oaks (Quercus virginiana), are a result of that effort.