Environmental Protection

Forestry’s seedling program aims to make Kentucky more green with free trees

By Carrie Searcy

Office of Communications

Over a couple thousand of our seedlings were planted and given away at the Northern Kentucky Urban & Community Forestry Council's Reforest Northern Kentucky at Big Bone Lick State Park.

Over a couple thousand of our seedlings were planted and given away at the Northern Kentucky Urban & Community Forestry Council’s Reforest Northern Kentucky at Big Bone Lick State Park.


One of the most popular programs of the Kentucky Division of Forestry (KDF), is the state nurseries and tree seedlings program. With a target of growing 1.5 to 2 million seedlings each year, the division is doing its part to help reforest the Commonwealth.

“We gave away around 50,000 seedlings this season alone,” said Eric Gracey the forestry program manager with the KDF. “They are a great icebreaker to get to talk to people about planting trees and even some of the other great programs we offer.  Everyone loves a free tree.”

With two seedling nurseries in Morgan and Marshall counties, the KDF is able to offer over 50 species of trees native to Kentucky, with the exception of the blight resistant Chinese chestnut.  Some of their most popular varieties of trees are the dogwood, redbud and the sugar maple.

“We have actually seen a shift in demand for bee-friendly trees too,” said Gracey.  “Trees likes like black locusts, yellow popular, dogwoods or any flowering tree are the first to go.”

The nurseries also have seen bottomland hardwoods go up in demand. Swamp white oak, pin oak, bur oak and over cup oak have become remarkably popular according to Gracey.  Currently, feedback from the community has foresters exploring requests for basswood.  Seed availability also strongly dictates what trees will be grown and offered to the public.

“We have five regional offices.  When our foresters get out and give free trees in the communities, it’s usually for educational purposes. It also starts to build relationships with people in the community,” said Gracey.  “It makes our folks that familiar face, and that’s a good thing.  We want our people to be approachable and known.  We want the word out on our programs and we want more trees in the ground.”

Central Region Chief Forester Robert Bean at a tree giveaway in Hart County.
Central Region Chief Forester Robert Bean at a tree giveaway in Hart County.


More trees in the ground is not only good for the Energy and Environment Cabinet, but it also has countless environmental returns such as enhancing wildlife habitat, improving urban areas and reclaimed surface mining sites.  Not to mention the economic benefits of cleaner air, water and lower utility bills for the citizens of the Commonwealth.

According to Gracey most of KDF’s free trees are given away around Earth Day and Arbor Day to raise awareness of the earth and how important each and every tree planted is.

The trees, which range from a year old to two years old, grow faster than you think, but are species dependent, according to Gracey. A recipient may want to discuss a specific variety with a regional Forester at the time of purchase, but Gracey said there is a motto that the KDF does go by.

“I know it sounds corny and all but, we say, the first year it sleeps, the second year it creeps and the third year it leaps,” said Gracey.  “This just means the first year the tree is pretty dormant because it is establishing itself and the second year it is slow to grow and by the third year it takes right off.”

Seedlings are also available for purchase in the KDF nurseries until the end of April for packages of 10 seedlings for $35, 50 seedlings for $55 and 100 seedlings for $70.

“We still have over 250,000 seedlings in stock and still a good variety of species, but we stop selling April 30 this year,” said Gracey.  “So, if someone wants to purchase trees, they’d better hurry.”

Nursery seedlings are priced quite reasonably, due to the fact the KDF nurseries are the only ‘bareroot’ nurseries in the state.  This means that no dirt is attached to the roots of the seedlings.  This allows them to be easily planted with a mechanical tree setter, or planting bar to get many of them in the ground quickly and efficiently and also allows the seedlings to be shipped.

Seedlings may be purchased by contacting your local Regional Office.  More pricing and information may be found at http://forestry.ky.gov/statenurseriesandtreeseedlings/Pages/default.aspx or on the nursery order form itself at http://forestry.ky.gov/statenurseriesandtreeseedlings/Documents/Seedling%20Order%20Form.pdf.

Regional Office Map
KDF Regional Offices points of contact.  Please do not contact the nurseries. 


Photos courtesy of KDF.

4 replies »

  1. I am still looking for a way to re Tree my back 4 acre with native trees in the LaRue county area.

    I have four acre of pasture that I would like to see more natural wildlife and birds on.

    We have very little treed area around and we love the natural look of trees and nature.

    We cannot afford to pay for that many trees and spend quite a bit on wild flowers


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