Free trees for Union County residents

The flowering dogwood, a familiar sign of spring throughout Union County. Photo taken by Ettore Balocchi.
The flowering dogwood, a familiar sign of spring throughout Union County. Photo taken by Ettore Balocchi.

UNION COUNTY – The Union County Board of Chose Freeholders has announced that 200 ready-to-plant flowering dogwood and willow oak trees are available free to Union County residents, under a partnership with the New Jersey Tree Foundation, the New York/New Jersey Super Bowl XLVIII Host Committee, and the US Forest Service. The tree giveaway is part of the Host Committee Environmental Program.

Flowering dogwood is a medium sized, widespread tree with cream-colored flowers. It grows up to 30 feet high. Willow oak is a large shade tree with pretty willow-like leaves that can reach heights of up to 80 feet.

Both trees were selected especially for Union County because they are hardy native species that contribute to the local habitat for birds and other wildlife. They thrive without pesticides or herbicides.

The young trees are only about 2 to 3 feet tall and they will be distributed in 3-gallon containers, so they can easily fit in a car.

The free trees are available on a first come, first served basis only to Union County residents who reserve online, by visiting the Tree Foundation at and filling out their contact information. Residents can also pick their first and second choice of tree — one tree per household.

The Tree Foundation will send a confirming email to the first 200 Union County residents who complete the form, along with instructions for picking up their trees. The reservation deadline is Oct. 10 or until all of the trees are reserved.

The trees will be distributed by County personnel at Rahway River Park on Saturday, Oct. 12. Only residents who have reserved a tree online will receive one; walk-ins cannot be accommodated.

In densely developed areas like Union County, trees have long been valued for their use in trapping dust and other airborne pollutants, and in helping to cool off summertime “heat islands.”

More recently, a growing body of evidence has linked urban trees to improved public safety and economic activity along with other quality of life enhancements.

In addition to regularly planting and replacing trees in County parks and along County roads, the Union County Freeholder Board supports local urban forestry initiatives through Greening Union County matching grants, Arbor Day activities, and the Master Tree Stewards, a program of the Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Union County.