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Somerville Community Plants First Miyawaki Forest

As communities nationwide look for innovative ways to address climate change, the City of Somerville recently took an outside-the-box approach by planting the community’s first Miyawaki forest. On Sunday, October 22, over 75 community members gathered behind Somerville High School to plant 410 native shrubs and trees. The generosity of the volunteers made it possible to transform 1,500 square feet of weedy, unused land into Somerville’s first Miyawaki forest – a method of planting that encourages quick growth by densely planting more than 30 species in a small area.

“It was so gratifying to join the community to plant Somerville’s first Miyawaki forest. This new urban forest represents a significant step toward a more eco-friendly, resilient, and beautiful community,” said Mayor Katjana Ballantyne. “I want to thank everyone who supported this project for dedicating their time to an effort aimed at creating cleaner air, increasing biodiversity, and providing a serene and beautiful resource for our community.” 

Everyone from kids to advanced gardeners took part in the process including City Councilor Jake Wilson and Mayor Ballantyne, who kicked off the planting work by thanking volunteers for their commitment. You can now spot this new, young forest from the north side of Somerville High School along Medford Street. 

“Cities are at the forefront of piloting new interventions to build resiliency and to restore ecosystems,” said Luisa Oliveira, the City’s Director of Public Space and Urban Forestry. “This fast-growing forest, made up of diverse native species planted very closely together is a pilot project with great promise.” 

This project emerged from the dedicated advocacy of our community, Mayor Ballantyne, City staff, and the gracious support of the education and advocacy group Biodiversity for a Livable Climate and their partner SUGi. Somerville’s Public Space and Urban Forestry team worked closely with Biodiversity for a Livable Climate’s Maya Dutta to organize the planting. But the project could not have been completed without the generosity of the volunteers, the hard work of the Department of Public Works Grounds Division, and support from Somerville High School staff and students. 

Photos from the planting can be found here.

About the Miyawaki Method 
Inspired by similar forest projects all over the world and locally in Cambridge, a “Miyawaki forest” refers to a method of planting developed by a Japanese botanist, Akira Miyawaki. This arrangement is inspired by natural forest behavior where species grow taller and more robust through competition for sun, water, and nutrients. 

The result of this high-density, native planting is a mature forest suited for the local region in as few as 20-30 years. These forests add substantial biodiversity, increase resilience to extreme heat, reduce air pollution, capture carbon dioxide, and provide a home for birds and pollinators.  

To learn more, please contact Alison Maurer, Planner of Ecological Restoration, by emailing or calling (617) 625-6600 x2517. Project updates can also be found at

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