Why hug a tree when you can send it an email?

A new interactive map of Melbourne's trees allows users to e-mail a tree. Council staff return the emails.

MELBOURNE, Australia — Melbourne isn’t just planting thousands of trees to combat the effects of climate change, as Citiscope reported this week. The city is also enabling citizens to send an email to every one of its 70,000 trees.

Yes, people are talking to the plant life online.

It’s part of an impressive effort to map all of Melbourne’s trees — and to engage the public on the importance of trees. An online database includes details of each tree’s species, life expectancy and an identity code, along with the option to “email this tree.” Staff of the Melbourne City Council are tasked with replying to the notes.

The response has been both heartwarming and tongue-in-cheek.

The Guardian reports that real tree-huggers have been sending their favorite eucalypts and golden elms love notes. One such email noted how some workers had watered a tree outside the State Library during a terrible drought Melbourne suffered in the early 2000s.

The Telegraph quotes other correspondence with a Chinese elm: “Can I call you Dale? I am stuck inside and am so jealous of you soaking up the sun. You seem to be having a ball out there.” The tree replied: “Dale … I like it. Sorry that you are stuck inside. I am really enjoying stretching my stomata and giving my chloroplasts a good workout. I spent the weekend well hydrated and preparing for the summer ahead. You?”

The tree-emailing scheme is of a piece with traditions in Melbourne, the capital of the state of Victoria. Known for its grand gardens and parks in the English tradition, the automobile number plates in Victoria used to be labelled “The Garden State.” That stature has been battered by drought that has killed many trees but initiatives such as this hope to revive it.

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Neil McMahon is a freelance journalist based in Melbourne.   Full bio

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