Oak, spruce and apple trees: what trees are planted in Moscow and why

Oak, spruce and apple trees: what trees are planted in Moscow and why
More than half of the area of “Old Moscow” is covered with greenery, and every year more oaks, linden trees, firs, lilacs, mock oranges and cotoneasters are planted. Trees are planted under the Million Trees programme in all districts, and anyone can submit an application for more trees in their neighbourhoods.

Almost four million trees and shrubs have been planted in the past six years. The largest landscape gardening programme in Moscow, A Million Trees, was launched in 2013. Since then, over 79,000 trees and 1.6 mln bushes have been planted in the city. This year alone, over 500,000 plants were planted in Moscow.

This year, almost 3,500 courtyards took part in the campaign; 13,000 courtyards, over 50 percent of the total, have been involved in it during seven seasons of planting. Most courtyards – 2,223 – were landscaped following a vote on the Active Citizen portal. Some 4,600 trees and 195,000 shrubs were planted there.

Social facilities, such as schools and outpatient clinics, receive new trees too. This year, 137 social facilities saw 850 new trees and 30,000 shrubs. Planting Holes is another programme to replace dead plants with new ones.

List of trees and shrubs planted in Moscow courtyards

Everyone can pick trees and shrubs to be planted in a courtyard from a brochure drafted by Moscow’s Department for Environmental Management and Protection. It features 64 species typical for the climate of Russia’s midland and the Moscow Region.

Plants are chosen not only by their appearance, but also taking into account their low-maintenance and ability to adapt to the city environment. For instance, silver birch, which is common in Moscow courtyards, parks and urban forests, can easily adapt to both cold and dry seasons. Its relative, the downy birch, requires less sunlight and can survive during harsh winters and flood seasons.

The list also includes several species of oak. The northern red oak is fast growing and tolerant of the city environment, is not demanding in terms of soil but requires sufficient humidity, while the pedunculate oak is not sensitive to draughts. The white willow grows well in an urban environment (with its gas and smoke) and is not demanding in terms of humidity and soil. The tatar maple, a small tree with black bark and a round canopy, is resistant to draught, does not require much sunlight and is the most winter-hardy of all maple species. Fruit trees are represented on the list by cherry and apple trees. Cherry trees grow quickly, and are resistant to cold, draught, lack of sunlight and smog. The Siberian crab apple is low-maintenance and winter-hardy; it is often planted near surface utility lines and in places where the sidewalk width does not allow for planting a bigger tree. The Niedzwetzki apple tree, with its dark green leaves and small fruit, is resistant to pests and diseases.

Among the coniferous trees on the list are spruce, pine, larch, silver fir and thuja. The Norway spruce lives 250–300 years; it is low-maintenance but sensitive to the late spring groundfrost, draught and the bogginess of the soil. It is also sensitive to smog, unlike the blue spruce, which does not suffer from spring groundfrost due to the late development of its vegetation.

As for shrubs, Active Citizen users most often picked lilac, mock-orange and cotoneaster. The shiny cotoneaster and lilac are the most resistant shrubs for cities. The common lilac is fast-growing, not sensitive to soil and is winter-hardy. The Hungarian lilac is more resistant to smog and draught. The mock-orange, with its large fragrant flowers, can endure frosts, likes sunlight but can thrive in shade as well.

Care for plants in courtyards

To toughen up large trees, experts replant them several times in tree nurseries. Trees are usually planted on streets when they are 18–35 years old. The youngest are maples and lilac, the oldest are linden trees. Experts cover tree trunks to protect them from cold and sun exposure. The upper layer of soil is covered with tree bark in the winter. It protects the soil from drying out and prevents the freezing of roots. 

The contractor is responsible for the adaptation of a tree or a shrub for one year, and the owner of the land plot cares for the tree for the next two years. If a tree dies due to the fault of the contractor, they must replant the tree at their expense. Experts clear snow, add more soil and till it, remove pest plants and cut canopies and dry branches to ward off disease and pests.

According to regulations, one hectare of residential development can accommodate no more than 100–120 trees and 400–450 shrubs.

How to make a courtyard greener

Applications for the Million Trees campaign can be submitted to the district council, emailed to the council’s website or to the department. Applications are accepted every year: in the autumn, before 10 September and in the spring, before 10 March. Each application must include only one courtyard. It is also possible to vote on the Active Citizen website. A decision is made within two weeks.


First, a diagram of the courtyard should be drawn with possible locations of trees and shrubs, as well as their number and species. The department will make a decision. If it is impossible to plant the chosen trees, the diagram will be adjusted.

After the application is approved, the department will purchase plants. Its employees will plant the trees and invite residents to take part in tree planting.

For more details on how to have trees and shrubs planted in your courtyard, go to the Advice section on mos.ru.

More trees in parks

The Million Trees programme is the largest, but not the only programme aimed at landscaping Moscow. Parks and urban forests are becoming greener as well. Thus, about 17,000 trees and 15,000 shrubs were planted in 2016 as part of measures to protect and develop specially protected areas.

Large-scale work will be done in the 850-letiya Moskvy Park: it will receive 180 more trees and over 15,000 shrubs. In the Terletskaya Dubrava recreation area, over 600 square metres of flowerbeds and 80,000 square metres of lawn will be put in place. The Mitino landscape park will see even more: 961 square metres of flowerbeds, plus over 500 trees and some 3,500 shrubs.

New trees, shrubs and flowers are planted not only in large parks, but also in small district gardens. This year saw the development of a park on Klimentovsky Pereulok, the Staropetrovsky public garden on Clara Zetkin Street, public gardens on Korovinskoye Motorway, between Bestuzhevykh and Rimskogo-Korsakova streets and on Sedova Street and Kibalchicha Street, as well as others.


Парк Кузьминки

Linden, chestnut and apple trees on My Street

Under the My Street programme, trees have been planted on 16 streets. Linden trees appeared on Tverskaya Street, while Novy Arbat Street now has, apart from linden trees, over 100 elms, Norway maples, rowans and red oaks. Maples and bird cherries were planted on Chernigovsky Pereulok, and maples, rowans, linden and apple trees were planted on Voznesensky Pereulok. Rowans and chestnut trees appeared on Taganskaya Street, Narodnaya Street and Goncharny Proyezd.

Over 1,700 trees were planted along motorways at the entrance to Moscow, with 40 more to be planted within the next two days. Works at the intersection of the Moscow Ring Road with Mozhaiskoye, Leningradskoye and Yaroslavskoye motorways and Leninsky Prospekt have been completed. Linden trees, maples and oaks were planted there.

In the near future, ten more streets in city centre will get new trees. The Garden Ring will receive 22 more trees: elms, maples, rowans and linden trees. Works will be soon finished on Malaya Dmitrovka Street, Nastasyinsky Pereulok, Taganskaya Street, Yakimansky Proyezd, Bolshaya and Malaya Yakimanka streets, Bolshaya Polyanka, Vozdvizhenka and the Boulevard Ring.

In all, over 3,000 trees will be planted under the My Street programme. Works will be completed in mid-December.

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