Richard-Wagner-Platz, Charlottenburg, Berlin, April 2021


article: trees in Berlin

Trees die slowly

Trees are most valued as suppliers of oxygen (O2) and as recyclers of carbon dioxide (CO2), which in an overdose is toxic for us humans.
But that’s only part of the story.

 Why are the trees painted white?


C. Okonek
March 21 2021
reading time
3 min

Our Project in March 2021: Trees were painted with calk.

Painting trunks of a tree white is a very old tradition, seldom used these days

We used this tradition to achieve two goals: protecting the trees and changing the appearance of the streets to attract attention. Three trees have already been felled at this location.

The white lime color reflects the sun’s rays and helps the tree adapt to fast temperature changes during autumn and spring.

Richard-Wagner-Place, Charlottenburg, Berlin, April, 2021

The lime is very alkaline, which makes it difficult for pests to penetrate the bark. If the lime rains out with time, it can be regarded as a fertilizer (when the mixture was applied in its pure form). In autumn and spring, the temperature can vary greatly in a single day. This was the case in Berlin between March 31 and April 4, 2021. During this period, there was a temperature jump of 25 degrees. From -2 degrees at night, the temperature rose to 23 degrees the next day.

TREES DIE SLOWLY    read more →

More city trees had to be felled because of long, dry periods in summer and winter. To make matters worse, the compaction of the soil reduces the water supply. Additional pollution, car exhaust fumes, and walking on the tree´s surrounding space (Baumscheiben) also reduce the metabolism in trees, which “starve” and as a consequence they get weak and sick. A harmful cycle has already begun.

The damage to the trees often shows up only after several years have passed.

More than 51 empty former tree places can be found between Krumme Straße and Schloßstraße. In this small area of Charlottenburg, around 14 trees have been felled since 2017, and several more will face the same fate.

New planting or maintenance of existing trees or planting new trees?

The city is trying to replant. However, it takes decades before a newly planted tree can help the urban climate —if it survives in the first place. Therefore, we must do everything we can to preserve existing trees.

Tree Nr. 62, Otto-Suhr-Allee, Charlottenburg

Silberlinde, 65 Jahre, 1953-2018, felled 2018

The roots of trees have a very difficult time in the city. The soil is mostly sealed. There is only a small opening, called the “tree disc”, through which the water can penetrate the soil. Most of the rainwater drains into the sewer system.

Vibrations and parked bicycles compact the soil on the tree disc, while sweepers whisk away the loose soil, which normally holds nutrients and soil organisms. (They have understood and lately try to change their working routines) Also, humans and animals pollute the soil.

These roots have been whitewashed for protection, to draw attention and make them more visible for sleepy dog owners at night.

Groundwater is pumped away through blue pipes. (Potsdamer Platz, 2017)

The groundwater is partially lowered. The underground system and other supply structures of the city take their place in the underground space, roots, sewage and water systems, lines for electricity, gas, and telephones are in stiff competition.

How can I help?


Everyone can help preserve trees with small changes in their behavior. It helps to water a tree more often with several buckets of water. The ideal would be 60-100 l once a week, which is about 10 cans or 8 minutes with a water hose. In addition, open soil needs protection from compaction and the entry of toxins (urine, winter litter). Throw your refuse in trash cans and avoid stepping on the soil around the tree.

If everyone contributes a little part, no matter how small it is, the consequences will be far-reaching. Here, too, the result increases exponentially because more than 3.7 million people live in Berlin.

Many thanks!

Press release from October 20, 2020. District Office Charlottenburg.
The city tree campaign of the Senate Department for the Environment, Transport and Climate Protection will continue in spring 2021 in the Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf district (…) up to 219 new trees can be planted (…) Furthermore, the district office is planting more trees on its own and is aiming for one balanced road tree balance because, unfortunately, 278 road trees must be removed by the end of February 2021 to ensure traffic safety and due to the implementation of various construction projects. Many of them are already dead or affected by rot and fungal attack. In 10% of the cases, a building project is the felling ground.


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