Dear PoPville – Our Treebox has a Dying Tree, How Do We Replace it?


“Dear PoPville,

A recent post about cutting down trees had me wondering: our treebox has a dying tree that is marked with a big orange dot to be cut down. I was wondering what the rules are about buying and planting a tree of our choice to replace this tree? I was thinking about an evergreen magnolia or a taller green Japanese maple but I don’t know how to go about it.”

16 Comment

  • Apply for a Tree Permit

    “Any residents and contractors who wish to plant, prune, or remove a tree within the Public Right-of-Way must first obtain permission from the Department of Transportation and the Urban Forestry Administration.

    If you would like to plant, prune, or remove a tree within the Public Right-of-Way, then you will need a Public Space Tree Permit.
    If you would like to remove a tree in excess of 55” circumference on any property in the District, then you will need a Special Tree Permit.
    For guidelines and laws governing trees in the District, see our Tree Regulations.”

    • clevelanddave

      Sounds simple but…

      1) My tree was marked after June 15, so how can I apply for a permit due before June 15?
      2) Once you register on dTops to fill out a permit form, there is no form listed for regular tree planting- special tree permit form yes, but none for regular tree requests.
      3) When you register with dTops it asks for “voluntary” information about race etc, but does not let you fill out the registration form without filling out that information.


  • It’s likely that DDOT’s Urban Forestry Administration already has a replacement planned. If not, you can request that they plant one (fall is the main planting time) from their list of acceptable trees. Also, please sign up with DDOT’S Canopy Keeper program to maintain the replacement tree.

  • Unless you are an arborist I would suggest letting the DC Urban Forestry division handle species selection and planting; there are specific guidelines they use to determine what tree would thrive in any particular tree box location. If the tree is truly dead and not marked for removal for some other reason they probably already have a plan to replace it. Keep in mind that this may take a year or two, they only do plantings a couple times a year and have a backlog. I’ve always had good interactions with their staff answering questions about street trees. Give ’em a call!

  • the DC government is actually very good about dealing with this. I’d let them handle it. Also, if you don’t, they will cut down whatever you plant.

  • The City will replace the tree. Unfortunately we had a few huge old growth trees removed on our street in Park View but apparently they were rotten on the inside. They replaced all the ones they cut down. They may not do it immediately because trees are best planted at a certain time of year. I am actually really impressed with the Urban Forestry Admin in DC. They planted a bunch of different types of tress within three blocks of our house. I think this cuts down on disease killing all of them worst case scenario.

  • The tree box is city property an I would recommend requesting the city plant an appropriate tree rather than planting your own. Most trees will not do well in tree box conditions – a Japanese maple needs regular moisture and is probably not heat/drought tolerant enough for a tree box. A Southern Magnolia, if this is what you mean by an evergreen magnolia, is a massive tree with foliage down to the ground – it would have to be pruned to not block the street or sidewalk, but that would mess up its form. Typically what the city plants are select tree species that are tough as nails to survive harsh conditions and are large shade trees that don’t need much pruning or other special care – oaks, native maples, elms, London Plane trees, zelkovas, etc.

  • I had a nice old tree in one of the tree boxes in front of my house when I first moved in. Apparently it was diseased, and was cut down around 2008. A neighbor planted a small replacement tree. It’s matured quite well and blossoms beautifully each spring. My block is something of a “no-man’s land” when it comes to city services, so I’m not surprised that there’s never been any attempt to remove the new tree.

  • I was going to try planting a crape myrtle in my treebox area, but after reading this I guess I should probably go through the city. 🙁

  • As everyone says here, wait for the city or give them a call. We had a tree in front of our house die and they were pretty good about replacing it. I am sure it is already on their list.

  • Yeah, don’t plant a Japanese Maple in a tree box. They’re attractive trees, but they’re both invasive and hard to handle in a restricted space like that. Let DDOT make the pick for you. They’ve gotten pretty good at picking trees these days.

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