In Celebration of Civic Fruit: The Boston Tree Party Inauguration

by Mayling Chung

At the Boston Tree Party’s inauguration this past Sunday, somebody from the crowd shouted, “Live tree or die!” and many people replied with laughter. The person’s play on words and its reception really fit what we were gathered there for: the ceremonial kick-off of the Boston Tree Party, a project that creatively uses language and metaphor around apple trees to promote positive changes in social health. Their goal is to have self-elected delegations plant 100 pairs of heirloom apple trees across greater Boston in the next couple of months. The Boston Tree Party will then place all the trees on a map and collectively create a decentralized urban orchard, in the hopes that the people involved will come together, across boundaries, as parts of a whole.

Through a combination of urban agriculture and conceptual art, this multilayered campaign engages people in activities centered on the heirloom apple trees. The Inauguration was such an event, in which the first pair of whips, or 1-year old single stem trees, was planted at the Rose Kennedy Greenway in downtown Boston. First, the youngest children were asked to help break ground as a symbol of the long-term investments being made. As the tree’s roots were placed into the ground, we learned about apple trees, apple tree planting, and the significance of apple trees in Boston history at a site just off the Boston Harbor, near where the Boston Tea Party took place hundreds of years ago. There were 80 to 100 people in attendance, many of whom plan to plant and care for a pair of apple trees, so the physical planting served as a demonstration of what’s to come. Volunteers from the crowd participated in a playful toast, which involved putting a piece of toast on the tree, pouring sparkling cider on the ground and in cups, and wassail, which involved a sequential cheer and banging pots and pans while moving around in a circle.  Note: For those of you wondering what wassail is outside of this context, it typically takes place in the winter, involves lively and noisy festivities, and drinking a lot of alcohol!

Both Inauguration trees, a Grimes Golden and a Golden Russet, are American Heritage varieties, and were planted as a pair because apple trees must cross-pollinate in order to produce fruit. Cross-pollination is one of the ecological principles that the Boston Tree Party uses in reference to the partnerships they hope to foster. On that note, stayed tuned for the details of a BU planting party next month, as the Center for Energy and Environmental Studies has generously welcomed us to be involved with their pair of apple trees. Additionally, there is still a bit of time before the sign-up deadline of April 15, if you or anyone you know wants to join the party! For more information and to see what fruit this project has to bear, visit the Boston Tree Party’s website.

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