In a bid to kick off 2024 on an environmentally friendly note, Pinellas County will host a free tree giveaway. 

The tree giveaway will be held Jan. 20, 2024, at the Lealman Exchange, 5175 45th Street North, from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Pinellas County residents can receive one free tree per person or two per family. The giveaway will feature 200 diverse trees, all available on a first-come, first-served basis. Although the exact tree species are pending confirmation, organizers assure a diverse selection that may include edible fruit trees.

“Fruit trees are very expensive. Not a lot of wholesalers even sell them at a price where we can justify purchasing them for a giveaway, so we’re really limited,” said Matthew Hill, Urban Forestry Management Specialist with Pinellas County Public Works. “We normally offer black mulberries, loquats or tea fruit bearing. We’re trying to expand that, but it is difficult.”

Pinellas County’s Urban Forestry division hosts free tree giveaway events twice a year, marking National Arbor Day in April and Florida Arbor Day in January. In addition to educating the public on general gardening questions, the goal is to help maintain our existing tree canopy by providing free trees to individuals who may not be able to go purchase a tree at a local nursery at a commercial price.

“The shading in reducing urban heat island is probably the biggest benefit, and while one tree has benefits, it’s really the overlapping canopy that helps. You need clusters, an interconnected canopy,” said Hill. “The trees also intercept rainfall and reduce the amount of runoff that we get.”

Hill notes that the tree giveaway is not only an opportunity to contribute to the ecological well-being of Pinellas County, but also for residents to enhance their surroundings and the appearance of their neighborhoods.

“The biggest positive is overall general quality of life,” Hill said. “There are a lot of intangible benefits the trees give that people connect with, like a sense of place. They develop emotional connections to green spaces.”

Hill said they currently give away 200 to 250 trees on average at the annual events, but the County aims to double or triple that number in future years. He recommends residents arrive early at the event for the largest selection of available trees.

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