Guerrilla Planting

I first came across the term Guerrilla planting from a fellow Arboriculturist while I was working as a Tree surgeon in London during the late 1990’s. It was a guy who was working as a Tree officer for Lambeth council, he had grown tired of officialdom and legal constraints in where he could plant Trees and how many he was allowed to plant and how many groups, departments and local people he had to canvas and the reports he needed to write up and the meetings he had to attend to convince council officials that he had covered every potential legal angle and spoken to every potential protagonist and smoothed every potential obstacle, just to plant a Tree in a grassed area, let alone on a street.

So what he was doing was growing his own Trees and then going out at night time and planting Trees in London Parks and replacing ‘official’ but dead Trees in London streets with his own 5ft grown Trees. He described it as Guerrilla planting, I told him about my campaign of planting Trees that produce fruit (fruit and nut Trees) in Forestry areas wherever I could and whenever I could and had been since the mid 1980’s, but my method was to plant Tree seeds and leave to nature to produce.

So let me describe a little about what I see as the original destruction of the British countryside for the sake of profit and how we have ended up with mono crop forests which are no longer required as the profit mongers can import wood cheaper from overseas than to harvest our own forests, without harvest the forests have become restricted minimum ecosystems with little natural support for the creation of environments for British wildlife.

So briefly, the patchwork of ancient woodland and worked woodlands by the peasant rural folk of Britain was upended when the wealthy passed the ‘enclosure laws’ which superseded any protection of common lands used for the survival of subsistence peasantry/farmers. The rich were legally allowed to fence of common land and claim it for themselves through the 16th and 17th century’s. These lands which once contained a wide diversity of producing Trees for wood as well as food in the form of fruits and nuts was then cleared by the new land owners in the pursuit of profit. Any areas that were planted with Trees, were generally planted with Oak for potential future sale to the British navy for ship building, these Trees provided a profit for a short while but then came iron ships and steamers and Oak Trees that were forest grown, (tall and straight for ship timbers) were no longer in demand and the price dropped out, but steamers needed coal and coal mines needed pit props to hold up the roofs of the mines. So the oaks were cleared and the faster growing Scot Pines were planted, again in mono crop plantations to maximise profits, again the British wildlife suffered with the loss of their mixed habitats, the forests became quieter. Later in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, (when mines started using concrete for supports) Scot pine was abandoned as the race was on to plant quicker growing spruce and larch mainly for MDF chipboard, this market again failed to materialise as is was still cheaper to import from Scandinavian country’s.

This isn’t a judgemental article that is for history and others to decide, but these are the basic facts that brought us to a shrinking wildlife and a fixed reduced bio-diversity.

Today we have various ‘action plans’ to rejuvenate the British countryside with woodlands been planted, usually with a minimum of diversity of native Trees (usually a mix of six species) which are still diversity poor and which are still at the mercy of been ravaged by disease. (see the current Ash disease and dieback) and the earlier Oak dieback of the early ‘00s’, these are caused by not planting a rich enough biodiversity of species with too many of the same species crowded together as like battery hens, and disease (which is a natural predator) gets a hold and decimate’s like a wildfire. Disease and disorders are natural predation in the world of nature and without given due consideration when creating ‘forests’ they will constantly strike, the vast majority of disease’s are species specific, the few that are not, prey on Tree’s that are in weakened states caused by environment degradation.

The answer is to understand that a ’natural wooded environment’ would contain upwards of ten or more species of Trees in any natural woodland area, each bolstering each other with nutrients, sharing their symbiotic fungi partners which extend their growing periods while providing healthy nutrients for all the species, yes there will be the odd Tree death due to been shaded out and the fungi (the lions of the forests) would bring down the weakened Tree and devour it, returning the nutrients back to the soil, while the new generation of Tree seedlings would be waiting patiently each year for a break in the forest canopy for light to reach down, so they can begin their own life cycles.

So where does Guerrilla planting come in to the equation and how can it help, the official planting schemes for recreation forestry are in the main planting a minimum range of species chosen to appease standardised ideas of what a natural woodland should consist of, perhaps three type of ‘Top canopy Trees’ Oak, Ash and Beech or Lime, with an equally small diversity of ‘under canopy Trees’.

What I am suggesting is that woodlands have always been shaped by people for a 100,000 years or more, people would encourage and plant Trees that were beneficial to themselves and in such, these Trees would provide a wider diversity of woodlands than is currently been considered.

English ‘wild’ woodlands once would consist of  glens or small clearings where sun could reach down and fruit Trees could thrive on the edges of forest Trees (created by Boar and forest Bison and kept clear by Deer and Horse grazing, or human intervention near settlements), providing a reservoir of seeds through fruit and nuts that animals would disperse through eating and excreting the seeds, be it Deer with apples and larger fruit such as wild pear or various ‘Sorbus’ species (Checkers Trees, Service Trees, Rowan) while smaller animals dispersed the smaller fruits of Elder Trees, Sorbus species, Hazel nut etc, while the canopy Trees of Oak, Beech and Ash would be interspersed with, Whych Elm, Lime, Cherry, Pine and on certain soils you would also get Holly, Hornbeam, Yew etc. with specific Trees in wet areas such as Alder, Willows, Poplars etc.

English woodlands were in the main created by people bringing Trees from the continent when the Ice melted, (not withstanding pioneer Trees that spread their seeds by the wind, like Birch, Popular and Willow) Trees that had ‘uses for food, medicinal or a particular character of the actual wood that would be required in a wood based society/economy, there are a recognised 35 species of Trees that could be called ‘Native’ to England, whilst France has over a hundred recognised native Trees.

So back to Guerrilla planting, British ancient woodlands were man made with a decent diversity of Trees which supported each other and a larger wildlife of fauna and flora, but today are rather poor in species diversity. Current ‘official’ thinking is to retain this poor bio-diversity by only planting Trees that are from the recognised 35 species of native Trees and usually in small mixed quantity’s.

What I am suggesting is that by Guerrilla planting we can extend the bio-diversity of British Trees in Forestry plantations or planted ‘recreation’ areas, I am not advocating Trees or woody shrubs that are evasive, as I am mindful of rampaging ‘foreign’ species that out compete native species, what I am advocating is that we can broaden the species found in the commercial forests and ‘recreational woodlands’ by planting ‘fruiting’ Trees and introduce some more non-English but distinctly northern hemisphere Trees and more European Trees that never made it before the English channel was created when the ice melted 12 thousand years ago, if we were still a wood based economy the people would be introducing useful Trees to the natural environment for the benefit of all, so we should rekindle this tradition. The beauty of natural diversity is that it bolsters and enhances the environment where even more ‘life’ can live, be it moths, butterfly’s, Crickets and Beatles or the birds that would feed on them. Only one proviso, that the Trees provide additional food with either fruits or nuts that are not poisonous to wildlife or to humans.

Below is an list of additional species that could be planted out into Forestry or woodland areas, some of these are specific to certain environments, many are recognised native species, I have made suggestions of what and where they could best be planted, but do not be afraid of planting any of these out.

Trees to enhance the wild environment these produce edible fruits and nuts.

  1. Crataegus monogyna – Hawthorn once used as part of a stock hedge but becoming rare as hedges ripped up, now mainly garden ornament, edible flowers, leaves and fruits.
  2. Corylus avellana – Hazelnut, various versions including cob nuts good for wild life.
  3. Sambuscus nigra – Elder, great for wild life. (good Jams and jellys)
  4. Prunus Spinosa  – Blackthorn, once used as a stock hedge but becoming rare as hedges ripped out, Sloes, good for jams and pickles and on occasion for eating raw off the Tree as sometimes they are very sweet.
  5. Prunus Cerasifera  – Cherry plum found as a street tree, sweet fruit
  6. Prunus Avium – Wild cherry (any cherry will do, including those bought and eaten from shops)
  7. Prunus Padus – Bird cherry, great for wildlife, and can be used in preserves with vitamin C and other benefits.
  8. Sorbus aria – Whitebeam (various white beams about in gardens and street trees, any will do, all produce edible berries, although a bit sharp)
  9. Sorbus torminalis – Wild service Tree (any version will do including garden cultivars)
  10. Amelanchier laevis – June berry (North American tree that actually is already in the wild in places, it is a non-invasive small bushy Tree with sweet tasting berries) usually found in gardens. Birds love the berries and will spread the seeds.
  11. Castenea sativa – Sweet chestnut (use the ones bought in shops for their bigger nuts, the wild ones were introduced by the romans and so are ‘old’ species with small nuts)
  12. Carya laciniosa – Hickory nut  various versions a new one to introduce to the UK which does grow in gardens, Pecan nuts. (North American Tree)
  13. Juglans nigra – Walnut Tree non-existent in the wild as the wood is expensive due to high quality, all cut down long ago.
  14. Pinus Pinea – Stone pine (produces edible pine nuts, same as you buy in shops) produces big pine cones and also found in ornamental gardens and Arboretums . (wild on the continent)
  15. Malus sylvestris – Crab apple (any apple trees will do, including ornamental apple trees from the garden
  16. Arbutus unedo – Strawberry Tree (an evergreen but non-invasive, grows wild in ireland and is usually a garden shrub, seeds from the Tree.
  17. Morus nigra – Black mulberry (seeds well but seedlings fragile and may be wiped out by frosts)
  18. Whych Elm – Rare in England but a native Tree, no fruit to eat but worth planting the seeds out just because it is rare and is good for bio-diversity, seeds are edible once dehulled.
  19. Field Maple – almost went extinct and is one of the species of Trees on the native list to be planted, a good Tree to have in the woodland for bio-diversity
  20. Sorbus aucuparia – Rowan or Mountain ash, Berries are astringent to the taste but can be eaten when bleated or cooked in preserves, good for bio-diversity and rare in the country side, usually found in gardens or as street Trees in modern times.
  21. Tilia – Lime – Various species, small-leaved, large-leaved, native, brilliant for wild life and bio-diversity, a favourite Tree for wild bees, (lots of nectar on the flowers) especially old ones that have ‘holes’ and cavity’s which are usually plenty in Lime Trees as they can lose branches, a great Tree for ‘survivalist’s’ to make use of, once covered most of Britain, rare in the wild, and is on the list for recreational planting for native Trees. Gather the seeds from street Trees or parks.
  22. Pyrus – Pear – There are many pear varieties you can collect and plant, the wild pear is almost extinct in the UK, if you plant pear seeds from purchased pears, they usually revert back to an earlier type of non commercial pear once planted and will add more variety to the wild woods

If planting out in Forestry land you of course should also plant any broadleaved Tree like Oak, Ash, Lime, I would leave Sycamore, Holly and Beech off the list as they are all thuggish Trees spreading quickly and shading out other species. Now one thing to understand is that planting seeds means that as they sprout in the spring hungry slugs and snails and mice will go after them, so consider where you plant and trust in quantity of seeds you plant for a few to make it into the second year.

When collecting the small berries, you can collect the seeds by macerating the flesh (gently crushing in a rolling action) dump in to a bucket of water, the flesh usually floats and the seeds sink (although it could be the other way around, seeds may float), scoop off the flesh and discard (make a pickle with it) and collect the seeds through a strainer, dry them off and plant out, best in October or November as most Tree seeds need to go through a period of winter frosts before they will germinate. Or place in the fridge for a least 3 days if you want to grow at home in containers before planting out in spring.

Planting seeds in Spring is also a workable situation, and I have often gone planting in the spring, but big seeds do best planted in the autumn, and little seeds do best planted in the spring, although it has a lot to do with the environment, if you plant in hollows then you have frost traps, if you plant on slopes you have less frost, if you plant in areas that are likely to become water logged during winter the seeds can rot, so it can be a bit of pot luck, ideally you would plant in a pot in autumn in a cold glass house and plant out at the end of march or when the ground frosts have finished.

If you use Google Earth and look at forestry areas, you can usually find the areas that have gone through a clear felling process and so has a nice big area of virgin ground for you to go out and plant your seeds. Planting near the Tree line helps to give wind and frost protection for the seedlings when they sprout in the spring, or even on top of piles of soil to bring them off the ground frosts.

Oak 3 years old
Oak planted 3 years ago (2010)
Sweet Chestnut 3 years old
Sweet Chestnut planted 3 years ago (2010)
Rowan 3 years old
Rowan planted 3 years ago (2010)
Apple Tree Guerrilla planting
Apple Tree Guerrilla planted 26 years ago ((1987)

48 thoughts on “Guerrilla Planting

  1. This is a great piece and something I’ve been thinking of doing myself. I was wondering though – I’ve not got a great memory so if I planted a few saplings. What would be the best way of marking them (on a map or some such) to ensure I can monitor their success?

    1. Hi Sophie, you could always mark the planting spot on google maps or google Earth, and if you really want to be accurate, if you have a smart phone there are a few apps you can use that will save the the GPS location for you, But if you get in to Guerilla planting, when you go back after a few years, you will know your trees 🙂

  2. LOVE IT!
    I was directed here by someone from a local community, who spotted my question about planting trees in public areas…

    At least I know I’m not alone in this world.

  3. Great article!

    I think the idea of planting hardy native trees is fine, but for the lazier of us, there are cut price apples pairs cherries and plumbs available each spring cheaper than £10 from poundstretcher, asda (who don’t mention it on their web site), sometimes lidle, aldi, and garden centre branches of bmstores. Places like Homebase have trees for a tenner. Most, I hope can go un-noticed and survive without a stake when planted on some forgotten verge or corner of a park. If any of these survive long enough to produce fruit, it will easily usable fruit. If any become healthy, it might be possible to graft more unusual fruits onto them. I just suggest this in case it appeals to someone who isn’t so keen on the list of trees in the main post.

    One thing I haven’t been able to google is where to get tiny fruit trees that nobody would notice, cheap enough to plant in larger quantities. If anybody knows the answer I hope they write something.

    1. When you gather seeds or stones to plant out, due to the variety and verstility of sexual reproduction some of those seeds/stones will be hardy and some will not be, those that survive and grow have the ‘hardy’ temperment to survive. But more importantly they will provide seeds/stones in the future through their fruit and it enourages dispersal in the natural way, birds, deer, squirrels etc

      Perhaps planting out mini grafted fruit tree’s which are likely to be bred to produce little or no seeds in the fruit may not be the best way forward if your aim to to increase diversity in the wild. But yes, plant anything that is not a pest… but make sure it is beneficial in diversity and food for the natural world.

    2. grow them! We have had great success planting the pips of apples we’ve eaten. We plan to plant a load more in toilet roll inners so that we can then plant the whole thing without disturbing the roots.

  4. Love the idea of guerrilla planting but I’ve just bought some Juglans nigra seeds and have found out they’re toxic to other plants! I’m gonna pot them for my own garden but I’m worried about planting them in the wild.

    1. Hi James
      The Juglans ‘toxicity’ is incorporated in the leaves and the shells of the ‘nut’ although Juglans Nigra ‘varieties’ normally do not produce a ‘nut’ in the UK, (try planting Juglans regia, the european walnut tree) As the Juglans nigra does not bring any benefit to the UK (no nuts) I would suggest not to plant in the wild. As for the toxic compounds in the leaves, this is just a survival tactic by the Tree to prevent plants growing too close and competing for moisture and nutrients. The toxicity is mild and only affects the ground under the tree canopy and breaks down over the following two years.

  5. Just found the site,
    my son and I have been collecting acorns and growing and then planting them out for the last 4 years . we live on the bottom edge of the Yorkshire dales where the hills and moorland behind our house is bleak and barren as it was cleared for sheep farmers many years ago, so we decided we would rather like a forest , we have planted 80 oak saplings and small 10 ash trees. the next 10 oak and 5 ash are nearly ready for planting out. I would like some tips if anyone can help on growing hazel from seed as I would like to add it to the list.
    great site thought I was the only one addicted to planting trees guerrilla style!!

    1. Hi
      Growing Hazel from nuts is as simple as growing Oaks from acorns, a loose warm soil containing moisture and leaf mold. But quite often Hazel nuts are compromised by a little beatle which bores in to the nut and destroys it viability (if you are collecting nuts of the ground from around the Hazel tree’s, look for a tiny hole in them) Hazel nuts need to go through a ‘frost’ or winter before they usually become viable to grow. You can place them in the fridge for 3-4 days which should do the trick at minus 2 degrees) or plant in a cold glass house over the winter and they should sprout in the spring.

    2. Hey John, I love that you are proactively reversing the effects of the farmers! I am also a bit of a tree-cycler, collecting a small sample of native seeds and berries and giving them a helping hand over the winter, freeing them when I think they’ve got enough strength to go it alone! I also rescue and re-plant trees and self-seeders from building sites or wasteland which is earmarked for flattening. I’ve got a few donations that I could add to your little project, win back a few more yards of farmland! I reckon I’m localish to you as well, I’m in North Leeds, would be happy to drive over a few saplings!

    3. Hi, I’ve had an oak tree self seed in my garden and need to move it. It’s 9ft tall, trunk 15cm circumference. Will it be OK to move to guerilla growing? Cheers

      1. Hi Jo,
        The answer is yes, but please wait until the end of november when the tree has lost its leaves, you will need to dig a hole appropriate for it’s root’s size, make sure the tap root does not get damaged, so be careful when teasing it out if broken off, it will not re-grow, but as long as it stays attached it will recover. Do not worry if you lose the tap root the Tree will still grow and survive well. The Tap toot is the one that anchors it down against very strong winds. Most of the Trees blown over in the hurricane of ’86 were planted trees that had no tap root which is why they went over, otherwise all forestry trees are planted with damaged or no Tap root, so don’t worry about survival.

    4. Hazel nuts grew very readily in the garden plant pots when ‘stored’ by the local squirrels. You could just pop them in the paper toilet roll centres around the rim of a large pot in the garden and see which germinate. (A gardening programme on the BBC many years ago said that new plants always make roots more quickly around the edge than in the middle).

  6. Sorry, forgot to compliment the author of the post! Great little article! Very inspiring, informative and a really worthwhile pursuit! This kind of thing is without immediate reward, which is something that we have become so accustomed to! So it really is a selfless act of trying to create a habitat for wildlife of the distant future!

  7. Good to know there are others out there wild planting and there is this forum to share ideas.
    I live on the edge of the Pennines where the moors are bare of life. For the last three years I have been planting bought bare-root and own-grown trees, this year big time – 50 willow wands and alder, all budding, scattered across the watershed and in cloughs by road edges. In the autumn I plan to plant rowan and birch to create a mix. My inspiration comes from two alders I planted 2 years ago next to a beck: they are almost 3 metres high now.
    Keep up the good work.

  8. Lovely to hear that there are other folk out there who want to ‘tree up’ the country. I have just germinated oak and horse chestnuts on my window sill over the winter (finding, interestingly, that significant proportion of the fruits do not need to be cold treated to germinate) ……..but clearly from the article I need to be looking to diversify in terms of nut and berry species.
    Finding an appropriate place to plant them is my next project!!

  9. I have about 12 conker trees growing in pots in my garden. 3years old the 3tallest are nearly a meter high. The rest are only in small pots so are not too big. I have planted 1 in a local forest and plan on planting most of the others this year in my area. Going to try apple trees next.

  10. I’ve also begun thinking this is the way forward. I’d love to plant some mulberry, chestnut etc in our nearby parks which are sterile dull expanses of grass with a few hedges at the edge. How do you manage the logistics? Like if you take tools etc. Do you ever get asked what you’re doing? What on earth do you say?

    Also is it possible to start of a tree within a hedge or would it be out competed?

    1. Hi Clare,
      Thank you for your question, first you should sensibly choose a time when a park keeper or gardener is not going to be about, so outside working hours is a good time to do it. (I have done this at night on occasion) It also depends on the size of the Tree you are planting, if you have grown it in a large pot and it is 3-5 ft tall then you will need to ‘stake’ it, also to prevent the grass from competing in the first couple of years you will need to de-turf an area about 2 x 2 ft and plant the tree properly by tying it to a stake. I have never known it to be removed afterwards, but where you place it is important, so it is better to plant your Tree in a place where it is ‘not in your face’ to irritate a gardener.

      Most gardener’s will likely think that a different department has planted it and will leave it alone, unless it is in a silly spot interfering with sporting facilities.. give some thought about where the tractor mowers or ride on mowers may go, so planting where it gives the least inconvenience is a good policy.

      Another thing to do if it is a small tree, 6 inches (10-15 cm) you can plant this in a hedge making sure that it will get some light on boths sides and not get strimmed or mowed over by a motor mower. You can also plant Tree seeds, a much easier thing to do along and in a hedge, some will die and some will grow, but if you collect 20 – 30 cherry stones and if 5-6 grow then this is a good win for you.

      Always act with confidence! look like what you are doing is right, move confidentally and quickly, if you are planting Trees where you need equipment, then work quickly and work at a time when people are not about, if this is difficult then think of a different strategy, but night planting can be fun so take a friend to bolster your confidence as this will help you to get the job done quicker. Behave like you have every right in the world, remember you are actually helping Gaia as well as improving the health of others. Growth is good!

      1. So happy to find this article, myself and a couple of friends have been planting out our home grown trees in the Southend area, great to hear of everyone else at it too ! sounds crazy, but a high-viz jacket when digging in public spots immediately seems to make people think you are official, works every time ! I am aiming for 50 trees by my 50th birthday, then maybe onwards and upwards…!

  11. I’m happy I found this as I felt like I was the only person doing anything like this.
    I was fed up seeing trees getting chopped down and not replaced on grass verges, roundabouts that are just grass and mud and empty tree pits.
    The council do nothing quickly, I even tried volunteering as a tree warden but it was a waste of time, where you can go and a sea of bureaucracy so I gave up before it started.
    I understand you have to take some things into consideration, like overhead telephone lines and I wouldn’t place a tree I’d grown there but there are lots of places suitable, dependant on species.
    I grow my own from seed, so I have Oak, Small leaf lime, Sweet chestnut, holly and Silver birch, leave them in pots until they get to a size I am happy with then look for somewhere to plant.
    I’ve left my one and only Small leaf lime too long as its currently 8ft, so I have a plan, wheel barrow, tree, spade, water and a yellow hi-vis waistcoat…… hide in plain site.
    Council grass cutters usually run the small ones over, so I only have to worry about the dreaded petrol strimmer and leaf blower teams!.
    I would have liked to find other like minded people in my area so I didn’t have to keep doing it solo, but that has been fruitless.

    The last negative I have to say is the council tree officer has told me twice about not doing it………….. I wasn’t best pleased as I think he’s in the wrong job!.

  12. I love you all for doing this you’ve really cheered me up!I was feeling so sad and angry because my neighbour cut down loads of trees in her garden this week.Plus all the ones on the way into town the local authority have removed to widen the road-then didn’t do any widening. That made me mad. I decided it was no good feeling sad and mad and I should do something about it. So I’ve applied for tree preservation orders on the 2 trees running along the side of my neighbour’s garden as I’m pretty sure she’ll go for them next! I and I plan to plant a couple too. I was inspired by all your stories and intend toget going and plant as many as I can.Thanks for what you’re all doing it’s very inspiring.

  13. I have grow on around 40 trees in pots in 2018 and looking now to find a home for them in Leicestershire.

  14. Salvation at last! I planted a conker about 10 years ago collected on a nature walk with my daughter. The tree is now about 6 feet tall in an increasingly large pot. As we are about to move house to a property with a smaller garden I have been considering where I can plant the tree so that it can thrive outside the confines of the pot. Your article has helped enormously. All I need to do now is find a suitable site!

  15. This is fantastic to read and all the comments of like minded people doing the same. I bought some giant redwood and Monterey cypress seeds as I love them, but after reading this they’re not the wisest choice for our countryside.

    So it was good to see your list of species to focus on and strategies for going about planting.

  16. Oh my god, this is amazing. I’ve been meaning to do this for over 10 years and never actually got myself organised. Perhaps naïvely, I didn’t know there there were others doing the same thing. This has given me the motivation to begin. I’m 40 this year, gonna attempt to plant 40 trees in celebration. I love the idea of watching them grow and being able to say “I planted that tree” when I’m in my 80s.

  17. I have been planting trees in Snowdonia, experimenting with ways to prevent grazers from getting at them. Birch, rowan, willow, sloe, then some beech, elm, oak, ash, holly, chestnut. These are mostly at between 200-500m altitude so they will be slow-growing but if they take, potentially in a good spot for downhill self-propogation (a focus on birch will help this, which I have read is a mycorrhizal pioneer, and is one of the fastest growing of upland trees).

    Sabre planting on a slope will only work if the tree is already 5-6ft tall (we have ponies in the Carneddau too!) I have tried this with willow poles over streams.

    Planting in gorse seems quite foolproof to keep away grazers. Gorse also fixes nitrogen into the soil. The issue is that fire is a natural part of the gorse life-cycle. Their seeds must be scorched to germinate, and can rest dormant in soil for up to 40 years. Gorse fires are common in heathy/upland regions, but how safe a single gorse spot is from fire over time is anyone’s guess – global warming would suggest they will become more of a risk. I hope the saplings I’ve planted will grow to a size that means they would survive the intense but brief heat of a gorse fire.

    It’s early days, this is my first year of planting, but it may help rebalance the uplands over time! In the mean time I’m also looking for permissions and ways to do this officially…anyone with contacts or advice, please contact me! (

    1. Matthew
      Just reading your comment on this web site. Firstly – well done for planting trees. I’m also planting in the uplands, road verges, parks etc. I suggest creating thorny scrub: focus on dog rose and hawthorn seed collection, maybe blackthorn too, . Plant the seeds out or grow at home – ( can take 2 years), or find seedlings under canopy and translocate ) As they grow, then plant oak, wild apple, birch etc into the thorny scrub. It’s the only way to protect from deer and sheep. The scrub species are also incredible for biodiversity.

      I wouldn’t plant horse chestnut as nothing feeds on it. Beech is also poor for insects and far too domineering. Most insects can only breed on native plants, due to plant defences and insect evolution. Here is a list of trees and their value at the bottom of this comment

      I often sow them in woods under leaves as they will get inoculated with fungi too. I also collect soils from the woodland the spread over my trees and seeds before planting to get the fungi on. The growth and survival rates are significantly better.
      Voles are also hellish for ring barking, so deterrent with oils, peppers etc or guards often needed.

      Tree root plates ( windblown trees) – plant the seeds or seedlings on the top and deer cant reach them. Collect old tree guards & stakes from other sites and re-use. I planted several in my local park, with canes and tree guards and nobody questioned it as everyone thought it was an “official tree planting”

      copy and paste link below =
      The Value of Different Tree Species for Invertebrates and Lichens

  18. I’m so inspired upon finding this article, I can’t tell you just how much it has lifted my mood this Sunday morning. I currently have three small willow trees that I grew from cuttings 2 years ago and they are roughly about 3 feet tall now and growing well. Today I’ll be taking them to my local recreation area and planting them near to the river. They’re a nice size so I’m hoping they should survive, will keep an eye on them over time to make sure.
    I’m going to keep doing this and try and create my own ‘forest’ over the years. I’m so happy to hear there are others who are like minded and are doing the same thing, it has finally given me the push to go out and plant mine.

  19. Hello there,

    It seems Christmas trees are not on the list ? Do you think it is worthwhile planting the trees in urban spaces after use. They will just end up in land fill otherwise?

    1. Hi,
      You are correct that ex Xmas trees are not on the list, if you read the article it explains why ‘evergreen’ and especially non-native evergreen should not be planted out in to the wild. Britain is a temperate environment, there are many opportunity’s for ground growth especially in the spring before the leaves come out on the broadleaf trees, conifers stifle sunlight to ground level to such a degree that very little plant life can develop, this would also mean the soil fauna will be poorer and very little food available for invertebrates and the wildlife that will feed on them. There are many studies showing that conifer farms and conifer forestry are very poor environments for our native wildlife to survive in. Perhaps if you are in the highlands of Scotland, this could be considered but not if you wish to bring balance and a wider natural environment for other lifeforms. But thank you for the question, yes, go and place the foreign species conifers in the landfill, they will contribute to the organic matter in those poisonous environments.

      1. top tip… buy a holly tree or a juniper tree for your christmas tree instead of a fir. They’re cute, evergreen, lovely when decorated – and you can plant them out as natives later (with a holly you can keep them in a pot for a few years to be fair).

        Junipers have recently been given the go ahead to replant again – and they’re a pioneer species (help shelter other trees whilst they grow) and one of the three native conifers in the UK.

        Also – juniper berries are lovely with venison, or make gin!

  20. Hi. Great to see all the above. I live near a large city ‘country park’ which has lots of trees but the usual story…over the years I’ve seen trees cleared, blown down, removed for ‘improvements’ (to make the woods less intimidating, for tarmaced paths and other human-centric facilities). Is there much benefit to quickly burying seeds as I find them? I walk these woods every day with my dog and presently the paths and woods are littered with seeds and nuts.

    1. Hi Eddie,
      That is a great idea and a simple task to do, using a stick or the heal of your shoe you can break the surface and roll in a Tree seed, if you can also cover the seed with some leaves, it will help shield it from the winter frosts/cold.

  21. Thank goodness to all the Sanity generators out there “normal” existence is driven by insane notions of reality that are generally destructive to all forms of life including our own!! Utterly Insane!!¿¿ But you guys are beautiful beings because you are plugged in to the true reality we are all part of the same energy that pushes the trees and everything else up from the bosom of gaia and you all know this instinctively you are unwittingly or perhaps knowingly helping her recover. I to have planted Rescued and nurtured saplings of Conker Elder ash Sycamore hazel oak whilst removing 30 foot laurels in my garden and at the edge of woods behind me to make more Indigenous trees. I like the idea of widening our Indigenous population thought. Your list will be very helpful in this pursuit I’m sure. But I am lucky enough to know of a wild walnut tree growing in a hedge on my dog walking rout to Stanton park near Swindon and was wondering how to go about growing some from the nuts that lay around on the floor? This is a fab post thank you. X

    1. Good spot Eddie, for Walnut Trees gather the freshly dropped seeds and peel off the green husk, then plant the seed about an inch below the surface of your chosen spot so that they ‘over winter’ in that position, cover the spot if you can with some leaves so that the hard winter frosts don’t harm the nut. You can also place in a pot and plant just under the surface of the soil and keep the pot away from really cold temperatures (do not water) as the cold could creep in to the soil and freeze it. Best of luck.
      Don’t plant in ‘hollows’ as the cold will flow in to dips and hollows in the ground, planting on raised mounds was a traditional way of planting Trees in olden times, as it keeps them away from ‘ground frosts’ caused by evaperation of moisture in cold dry weather.

  22. I’ve decided I wanted to try to plant 100 trees. I am planing to gift lots to friends and clients and persuade them all to fill there gardens but for the rest it looks like ill need to do a bit of gorilla planting. im ordering 105 saplings from the woodland trust they have mixed tree packs available and basically £1 each tree. apart from bulking up and adding to my local green spaces we have lots of student houses in our area all with totally barren back gardens, im wondering if may be able to pursude the students or owners to adopt some or perhaps ill do some night planting and see how they get on.

  23. Hi everyone,
    I love this idea of planting trees, its a revolution, I like to plant trees in my area, in particular near the reservoir with fruit trees I.e. damsons and gage. What do you guys think? I am planning to plant fruit trees around my town where I think it will thrive. Fruit trees galore. I’m thinking in planting plums, cherries and pear – good disease resistant ones it is super rare to find fruit trees in the wild, I hope it will inspire, it’s sad seeing barren land go to waste, I hope people see the beauty in it and not destroy the trees.

  24. Just found this page.. I’ve been doing the same thing for close on 20 years… I’m lucky enough to have a large’ish garden with plenty of mature trees.. many of them self seed. I’ve never been able to bring myself to kill the hardy little blighters that survive the lawnmower and have always dug them up and popped them in planters. Over the years I’ve become known (amongst close friends and family) as the crazy tree guy.. I usually keep them in pots for a couple of years then either give them away or plant them under cover of darkness in public (but safe) places. More lately I’ve been giving them away via facebook which always goes really well. I did consider, via my pretty successful IT company sponsoring some legitimate tree planting but seeing the shere number of charities and the apparent lack of actual evidence of much planting, I decided to continue my own lonely obsession. Lost count of the number stealth planted but is in the 100s now.

  25. I love this article! I have planted several fruit trees and two walnuts. When I was planting them, people passing by were asking who bought the trees and when I say it was me, they said it was amazing, what I am doing. I got some negative feedback on FB (as you would expect), people saying I don’t have permission and I am destroying nature… I have planted the trees along a cycle path, it’s a land of no one, there are many trees and bushes no one cares of so I hope my trees will become “invisible” and people won’t destroy them.

  26. I have just launched a new website I made on this topic (thinking it was a new idea) and bingo! Guess what someone is already doing it (for 30 years!). My primary concern is climate change, and a tree’s ability to suck up CO2. So I am encouraging people to plant hybrid willows, as they are the fastest growing variety I know of. So a question; Is this a terrible idea, and what could people plant that would be better?

    1. Hi,
      Well the world has many challenges to face, many of them caused by mankind. Pollution, carbon dioxide, destruction of natural habitat, extinction of species are just the main challenges and a growing population is going to put more pressure on the natural world to feed, clothe and provide water for them, let alone protection from disease etc.

      But trying to solve one problem by increasing pressure on the others is not an answer.

      Planting hybrid willow a fast growing but short lived species will do little to solve the issue of creating a carbon sink, here are a few issues with this idea, good intentions though you have.

      1. A hybrid species introduces an unnatural genome into the environment which ultimately will mix with the natural willow genome (willow are a notorious inter-species breeder) and being a fast grower will out compete the many willow and reduce the environment for all the species specific insects, fungi etc that depend on the diversity of willow species.
      2. A fast growing species let loose in the wild will out compete other trees, stealing the sunlight from natural seedlings and reducing the diversity of other species. (See Japanese knotweed, rhododendron etc..) which again reduces environments for insects, fungi and other animals
      3. This idea of the money men to create and grow fast growing plants to act as a carbon sink is a dead bust for two reasons, the first is that any carbon the tree absorbs from the atmosphere is released when they are burned, so no NET reduction of carbon, but even worse than that, Tree roots also gather carbon from the soil so actually in a smaller percentage the soil gives up its carbon, which is fine as long as the Tree lives for 100-200 years as it will deposit it back through its soil creation attributes (fallen leaves, twigs etc..) But fast growing species, suck up the carbon sink and when burned release more carbon than they soaked up from the atmosphere. (even though this is not your intention)

      There are other reasons to be considered but I think these three reasons demonstrate that you have to think of the bigger picture and the impact on the environment, the more species of plants, animals, insects etc.. the more carbon is taken out of the atmosphere as we are all carbon based creatures so more insects is better then less, more different plants (top forests trees, under canopy trees, shrubs and then the ground cover plants is what we need, a complete 3D of temperate forestry on all levels, I am afraid all that would be lost under the smothering un-natural hybrids that will crowd out all other species which have evolved with each other for 200 million years.

      I hope this helps you to come to a good decision and consider bio-diversity as the main goal as this will take out more carbon from the atmosphere than your fast growing short lived un-natural man-made hybrids.

      Best wishes

  27. This is brilliant! I’ve been slipping trees into the area for years but never realised how many like minded people there were out there. I’m growing oaks from acorns and red woods from cuttings and I’m continually scouting for good locations. Reading all your comments does my heart good. How great that we are all trying to love and replenish our environment rather than seeing it as a commodity to use and abuse. I live in supposedly “leafy” Warwickshire where currently betwwen the ravages of HS2, housing building, road building and what seems like a near pathological desire by councils to chop trees down, the mature tree stock is taking a hammering. On my road alone we have had to fight hard to prevent HS2 contractors taking down two ancient oak trees. If any of you guys are in North Warwickshire get in contact. Maybe we can grab a coffee and share our triumphs as well as any tips and tricks or even plan something larger than our individual efforts. Lovely to have found you. Best of luck in your guerilla endeavours!

  28. One tree not mentioned is the spindle. It has attractive berries in the autumn. I’ve been guerilla tree planting from cuttings rather than seed. I’ve found spindle, amelancher, alder, hawthorn and mulberry all relatively easy to grow from cuttings. Yew is less easy.
    I let them grow to about 8″ before planting them out and letting them fend for themselves.
    If you don’t have a species you can buy one from a nursery and then repeatedly keep taking cuttings from it – this keeps cost down.
    As mentioned above oak is easy to grow from acorns, as is horse chestnut from conkers. I have a corner of the garden where I shallowly dig them in and harvest them for replanting once they germinate and grow sufficiently.

  29. Nowadays you can use the what3words to identify locations anywhere on the planet to 1 metre square

  30. I also meant to say firstly what a brilliant article and how interesting it is that so many others are doing this too. In addition to planting I also use guerrilla forestry management to ensure greater light penetration, understory development and biodiversity. It’s pointless waiting for this to happen ‘officially’ we the people have to take back control of our environment.. now! ;+)

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