Forest ReLeaf of Missouri
Over Forest ReLeaf of Missouri’s 20-year history, this small nonprofit organization has helped reforest Missouri by giving away more than 100,000 trees — free of charge. Young trees are nurtured on site and then distributed to other nonprofits, municipalities, parks, schools, churches, neighborhood associations, and youth groups with the provision that they must be planted on public or nonprofit grounds. An additional 36,000 trees have been distributed at a greatly reduced cost. In the process they have educated thousands of people on the benefits trees provide and created tree stewards statewide.
Despite flooding, drought, and economic downturns, Forest ReLeaf has continued to grow and thrive. After 20 years they still have only three full-time and one recently added part-time employee, yet they’ve expanded their operations, their outreach, and their mission. The staff is comprised of: Donna Coble, executive director; Mike Walsh, forestry programs manager; Colleen Duhart, administrative and communications coordinator; and Wendy Schlesinger, development specialist.
Forest ReLeaf was awarded the Missouri Arbor Award of Excellence in 2011. This award, cosponsored by the Department of Conservation and the Missouri Community Forestry Council, recognizes those who act as good stewards for trees in their communities.
Forest ReLeaf’s CommuniTree Gardens Nursery, located in St. Louis County in Creve Coeur Park, is home to 20,000 trees in various stages of growth. This is the region’s first and only community-assisted tree nursery. Forest ReLeaf leases the nursery property from St. Louis County Parks partly in exchange for planting trees in its parks throughout the region. Each spring, under the direction of Mike Walsh, a dedicated army of volunteers helps to put seedlings into 3-gallon containers. Most of the seedlings are donated by the Missouri Department of Conservation’s George O. White State Nursery in Licking. The past two seasons, Forest ReLeaf volunteers have potted-up more than 17,000 seedlings annually.
After potting, the trees are cared for until they reach a substantial size and can withstand potential abuse from mowers, trimmers, and trampling. Some are transplanted to 15-gallon containers for projects that warrant larger trees through their Priority ReLeaf program. This program reaches out to financially underserved neighborhoods and communities, such as Joplin, that are recovering from severe storms.
Typically, about 40 species are available — all native Missouri species — from redbud to serviceberry to bur oak. Trees are distributed each fall and spring on a first-come, first-serve basis to approved recipients. Further information can