Laura Moss and Richard Baker with free trees Audubon Society is distributing

City Councilmember Laura Moss and Dr. Richard Baker with some of the free trees PIAS is distributing.

VERO BEACH - In April, Pelican Island Audubon Society and the Environmental Learning Center launched an ambitious effort to plant 100,000 new trees in Indian River County over the next 15 years. The planting has begun, and residents can participate by planting free oak or bald cypress trees, with all training and instruction provided.

To participate, county residents need to take a 20 minute free course about how to plant and care for the trees. On Nov. 16, PIAS will offer the course at 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m., and 2 p.m.

To receive the free tree, you also must sign a pledge to care for it for one year.

According to Dr. Richard Baker, president of PIAS, the benefits of having more trees include health, economic, and environmental factors.

“Our Trees for Life project will restore native tree coverage to reforest and re-green our neighborhoods, reinvigorate street trees and parks, and transform landscapes from predominantly grass and lawns to native vegetation,” Dr. Baker told Hometown News.

The Trees for Life project is co-sponsored by PIAS, the ELC, Indian River Land Trust, Indian River County Health Department, the University of Florida/Indian River County Extension Service, with 20 other partners.

“It will make a big difference for the lagoon,” Dr. Baker said. “We’ll be saving water, and water bills will go down. We’ll use less fertilizer and herbicide, and we’ll spend less money in lawn maintenance. The shade will also result in less electricity being needed for air conditioning. The trees will help cool the county.”

“Climate change could be a world disaster, so we’re trying to do our little bit. One way to counteract climate change is to plant trees. If everyone planted one tree, we could make a tremendous positive step in reducing climate change.”

Pelican Island Audubon has 1,600 oak trees in one-gallon pots, ready to be planted. Most were grown from acorns.

Cherry Lake Farms donated an additional 700 six to seven foot high bald cypress trees in one-gallon pots. Although the bald cypress, the state tree of Louisiana, is native to wetlands along running streams, growth is often faster on moist, well-drained soil, and they can be grown in dry locations as a lawn, street, or shade tree.

According to the University of Florida, the bald cypress can grow to 50 feet tall in 15-25 years, and can eventually reach 150 feet in height. UF says the trees can be clipped into a hedge, and the roots appear to cause no damage lifting sidewalks and curbs, as other trees planted near hard surfaces can do.

Pelican Island Audubon Society is located at 195 9th St. SE (Oslo Road), Vero Beach. For more information, call (772) 567-3520, email, or visit

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