These Explorers Are Mapping All The Trees In London

TreeTalk is a smartphone app to introduce people to the rare, strange and wonderful trees inside the world’s biggest urban forest.

12.05.2020 | by Christy Romer
Trees in London. Photo on Smiles and Cheers blog
Trees in London. Photo on Smiles and Cheers blog

Did you know that there almost as many trees in London as there are people?

Or that the extensive tree cover in the UK capital not only means that the city is technically a forest—it’s also the “biggest urban forest in the world?”

TreeTalk, a new smartphone app and mapping project, certainly does. And the explorers that set it up are on a mission to teach people in London about the leafy wonderland just outside their houses.




The project has to date identified 700,000 of London’s trees, offering users the chance to zoom in and identify an arboreal giant that they may regularly pass on their daily walk or jog.

The trees—found on streets, parks and private gardens—are coded by rarity. Get lucky and you may stumble across a bronze tree, of which there are only 200 in the city; a silver (75); or a gold (10 or fewer).

Users have the chance to design their own walking route to see these trees or let the app design a walk for them. Trees are numbered along a route, and information is available when users approach the tree in question.

There’s still a lot more to map—there are more than 8 million trees in London—but TreeTalk is reliant on data about trees in public areas, provided by local authorities. Not all of the London boroughs have yet published their tree information.



In an article about TreeTalk, the Big Think described a pleasant route created by the app around Cavendish Square, near Oxford Circus. This “leads past common trees like the ash, the chanticleer pear, and the fastigiate Norwegian maple, but also along such rarities as the monkey puzzle tree, the hackberry and the variegated wedding cake tree.”

It turns out that there are only 17 of those wedding cakers in London.

“We set up TreeTalk because we wanted to engage communities with local street trees and also to encourage local walking activity in the community,” Rob Tustain, one of the app’s creators, explains in a video overview.

“It’s a win for you, your community, the environment, and most importantly, your health.”

The app was also created in collaboration with Steve Pocock, a self-described “urban nature lover” and Community Campaign Coordinator for London National Park City, which connects people with London’s great outdoors; and Paul Wood, the author of two London-focused environmental books: London is a Forest and London’s Street Trees: A Field Guide To The Urban Forest.

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