There are many environmental and direct and indirect social benefits of urban trees, including cooler temperatures, cleaner air and water, reduced energy consumption, carbon sequestration, higher property values, increased business revenue, safer streets, heightened academic performance, and healthier and happier people.

Recognizing the benefits of our urban forest, Chapter 37 of the Davis Municipal Code protects and regulates four types of trees in Davis:

  • Landmark trees
  • Trees of significance
  • Street trees
  • City trees

A landmark tree is a tree that has been determined by resolution of the City Council to be of high importance because of its species, size, age, form, historical significance, or some other criterion.

A tree of significance is any tree, including those on private property, which measures 5 inches or more in diameter at breast height (4.5 feet above ground height). Trees on single-family properties are exempt from the tree of significance designation unless the designation of the tree is included as part of a development agreement, conditions of approval, etc.

A street tree is any tree that is planted or maintained by the city that is adjacent to a street or within a city easement or right-of-way on private property.

A city tree is any tree, other than a street tree, planted or maintained by the city within a city easement, park, greenbelt, public place or property owned or leased by the city.

A private tree is any tree privately owned and growing on private property, which may include landmark trees or trees of significance.

The city of Davis has specific regulations in place to protect landmark trees, trees of significance, street trees and city trees. The planting, pruning, or removal of any of these four protected tree types, or any modification of the surrounding areas around these trees, may require a permit or city review, depending on the nature of the proposed work. It is the responsibility of property owners to be aware of tree-related regulations before engaging in any activity that may impact existing trees.

The roots and canopies of trees do not mirror each other, in fact, tree roots can extend 2-3 times farther than the canopy above ground. This needs to be considered when looking to make changes to landscapes around city trees. Property owners are welcome to landscape over the root zone of their city tree, as long as the vegetation and materials used do not harm the tree.

While the use of natural mulch, such as wood chips, around trees is encouraged to promote tree health, weed cloth and rock ground covers are discouraged around trees. Rocks and weed cloth impede air and water flow to tree roots and cause the soil to heat up — killing microorganisms in the soil and harming the tree. Tree roots over 2 inches in diameter may not be pruned without an inspection from a city arborist to ensure that pruning the root will not cause harm to the tree. Altering the grading of the landscaping in such a way that would damage the tree is also prohibited.

To find out whether a particular tree is one of these four protected tree types, or for any other tree-related questions, contact the Urban Forestry Division at 530-757-5633 or Our City Arborists are happy to meet you on site to discuss any landscaping around city trees and to ensure the trees are not threatened.

Summer tree care

With warmer weather finally here, the city of Davis needs your help to maintain a healthy urban forest! Despite our wonderfully wet winter, both public and private trees will need supplemental water this summer. Young trees (those with a stake attached) will need approximately 10 gallons of water once a week. Mature trees (those without stakes) will need a good soak throughout their root zone once per prolonged heat wave (or about once per month).  You can also help by adding a 6-inch layer of mulch over the roots and clearing away rocks and weed cloth.

Thank you for helping us preserve and protect our urban forest! For more information on the City’s Urban Forestry program, please visit

— Julia Jones is a city of Davis urban forest supervisor; this column is published monthly. Reach her at

Crossposted from the Davis Enterprise

Printed in the April 12, 2019 edition on page A3 | Published online on April 8, 2019

Editor’s Note: This post is an amalgam of two articles previously published in the Davis Enterprise, however the link provided is for the majority of the content.