Shanghai Trees

By Bruce Martin

Editor’s note: Bruce is a graduate of the 2012 OSU Extension Land Steward program.  After living, studying, working in and traveling to some 80 countries, he returned to his hometown and re-engaged his OSU bachelor’s degree in Agriculture Engineering Technology as a hobby farmer on 86 acres of hillside and pasture in Hugo.   

In the Rogue Valley we love our space and pretty much take for granted that the space is mostly green! Green space is not much of a challenge when living in cities with low population density;  Grants Pass at 3,000 people/square mile and Medford at even less. The most densely populated city in the U.S. is Los Angeles at 7,545 people/square mile. It is #90 in the world. Shanghai at 16,500 people/square mile is #10 in the world. One third of those people have arrived in Shanghai in the last ten years. Shanghai is where I lived for most of my 17 years in China and where green space is a challenge.

The city government has goals of residents within the inner ring road (there are three of them) being no further than 1,500 feet from a public green space of at least 30,000 square feet and an average green space per person of 135 square feet.

The highest ground elevation in Shanghai is about 350 feet. By contrast the city has 44 buildings almost twice that high (higher than 650 feet), and most (37) of these were built since 2000. The tallest, still under construction, is 2073 feet (2nd tallest in the world).  


This growth in people, buildings and roads means lots of construction preceded by a lot of destruction and dumping of waste. There basically is no place where there was just nothing there before!

There is a practical need for new green space that won’t be trampled, looks good alongside tall buildings and practically can provide some oxygen and CO2 uptake.

China traditionally bends nature to serve people. Parks are designed, structured and carefully manicured (which thus may have a beauty of a different type) rather than natural and free form. There are no qualms about rerouting or damming rivers, building canals or reservoirs and excavating entire mountains to make bricks.

An amazing phenomenon is the transplanting of mature trees. The favorite roadside species appears to be London Plane.
 I have seen mature trees with crowns stretching from the pavement to as high as the traffic lights can be lifted moving (horizontally) through city streets at night. But generally the trees have both limbs and roots pruned to just a few feet in diameter. They are then stuck in the ground, wrapped with a rope and by the next Spring – there is a new full grown tree.




Here, we love our space and being able to look up, even from the middle of the city, to see the mountains. We love our sidewalks, medians, bicycle lanes, parking lots, little spaces between buildings which are never more than 1-3 stories high. Appreciate your space, appreciate your green. Appreciate the efforts some other places make just to get a fraction of what we have.

Consider that a couple more levels on our buildings, a few more parking garages instead of parking lots, more public transportation, etc. may be the best balance with our beloved (green) space and views; as well as a reduction in our cities’ cost of providing services.

Share this