LEARN
OUR URBAN FOREST
Chatham County’s urban forest is one of its most famous natural resources. Contrary to popular belief, our forest has not always consisted of noble live oaks and towering magnolias. Our urban forest is ever-adapting to outside forces and continues to do so today.
PAST  •  PRESENT  •  FUTURE
PAST

The Three forests of Savannah

The history of Savannah’s trees can be divided into three distinct urban forests, shaped by man-made and natural forces. We are currently enjoying our third forest, and the trees we plant today will form the foundation for our fourth.

Learn_Past_LongleafPine_2009222

SAVANNAH’S FIRST FOREST CONSISTED OF LONGLEAF PINE

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.

SAVANNAH’S SECOND FOREST, PLANTED IN THE EARLY 1800S, WAS PROLIFIC AND LED TO THE NICKNAME “FOREST CITY.”

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.

Learn_Past_Sugarberry_2009221
oak_live150

SAVANNAH’S Third, and current, forest consists largely of live oaks, which shade our streets today

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.

FUTURE

Chatham County faces several challenges to its urban forest in the coming years.


Watch our 2020 State of the Trees to learn more about how our urban forest has been and will continue to be affected by man-made and natural forces, including continued regional growth and industrial expansion, aging tree canopy, especially in downtown Savannah, increased occurrences of pests and disease, and climate change negatively impacting our trees, especially with heat and coastal flooding.