Celebrating Native Plants

Guest Contribution by Megan Dwyer of  The Plant Gallery

Native plants are plants that have existed for many years and that occur naturally in our local landscape. They can be trees, flowers, grasses, shrubs, and small bedding plants. Due to the many positive advantages of native plants, SOUL only utilizes native trees as part of their reforestation programming.

The advantages of planting natives are that they are already acclimated to our climate, require minimal maintenance, and usually don’t require fertilizer and pesticides. Additionally, they provide food and nectar for the local wildlife. New Orleans’ climate is subtropical and we receive at least sixty days of rain per year. Luckily, native plants are both water efficient, drought tolerant and forgiving of our heavy rains. 

Here are some of my favorite native plants:


  • Baldcypress – Taxodium distichum
  • Blue Beech, Ironwood – Carpinus caroliniana
  • East Palatka Holly – Ilex x attenuate “East Palatka”
  • Savannah Holly – Ilex x attenuate “Savannah”
  • Dahoon Holly – Ilex cassine
  • Live Oak – Quercus virginiana
  • Red Buckeye – Aesculus pavia
  • Red Maple – Acer rubrum
  • Nuttall Oak – Quercus nuttallii
  • Shining Sumac – Rhus copallina
  • Sweet Bay Magnolia – Magnolia virginiana
  • Little Gem Magnolia – Magnolia grandiflora
  • Sweetbay Magnolia – Magnolia virginiana
  • Sycamore – Plantanus occidentalis
  • Winged Elm –  Ulmus alata


  • Black-Eyed Susan
  • Bridalwreath Spirea
  • Passion Flower Vine
  • Plumbago
  • Rose of Sharon
  • Oakleaf hydrangea 
  • Crinum lily
  • Coneflower
  • Canna lily
  • Rosemallow hibiscus
  • Fatsia
  • Banana shrub

Hopefully you are inspired to explore planting with natives. Not only will you love the of maintaining these plants, but you will be helping to invest and create a long-lasting natural environment that supports the ecology of our area. 

Stories from the SOUL: Climana Neighborhood Association

Last week, we told you why you and the hundreds of other volunteers and residents that have given their time and energy matter so much to us. Today, we’re showcasing the amazing folks in the Climana community to highlight what’s possible when a community comes together.

You may not have heard of the Climana neighborhood before. It’s a small but proud neighborhood bordered by Freret, Claiborne, Louisiana and Napoleon. Near the end of our last planting season, Climana Neighborhood Association reached out to SOUL eager to plant trees in their neighborhood. They quickly rallied neighbors to sign permits and local businesses to donate to the cause. Together we planted 38 trees on 21 properties in Climana with the help of residents and volunteers. Check out the video below to learn more about this exciting grassroots effort:


Like you, Climana wants to see trees on their streets and all of the benefits that come with a healthy tree canopy.  With a sincere motivation, critical mass of active residents, and an ample amount of planning and elbow grease, Climana turned their dream into a reality.

Now, as we enter our third year, we have a favor to ask: will you donate today so we can scale up to empower even more communities? Our tiny two-person staff is doing a whole lot with very little. We keep our overhead low and our impact high. No gift is too big or small, so please give today to the best of your ability so that we can continue this important work. Thank you for your consideration.

Warm regards,


P.S. We are in week 2 of our month-long TreeCentennial fundraiser and have raised $2,777 of our $15,000 goal. Check out the other stories and support community-driven reforestation today.


The Importance of Community

Can we celebrate a ‘win’ with you?

We just participated in our first GiveNOLA Day, and the results were astounding: 68 unique donors – 30 of which were new to SOUL – helped surpass our goal and raise more than $2,700 to support the reforestation of our beloved city.

Words cannot truly express how grateful and honored both Susannah and I feel for people like you who have helped to build such a strong grassroots presence in just two years.

Together, we have seen many fundraising and tree-planting efforts clearly display the power, momentum, and community a reforestation movement needs and brings.


Many of you, alongside hundreds of volunteers, canvass neighborhoods, consult with homeowners, collect the necessary permits, plant the trees, water and mulch them, and so much more. You give thousands of hours of strength, wisdom, and care. That’s community, and is one of the necessary components we need to restore New Orleans’ canopy.

For SOUL, our tree plantings and other programs create a sense of community, as dozens of people come together for a few hours to instill meaningful impact and investment in their neighborhood and city. If you’ve been to a tree planting of ours, you know the camaraderie that develops when you plant a tree together. For the rest of a tree’s life, a few people can proudly proclaim, “I helped plant that!”

When you invest in trees for your community, you’re a creating and building a lasting change to every neighborhood in New Orleans. SOUL is grateful, and so is the entire New Orleans community.

Will you be a part of our community and donate to SOUL today?

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With gratitude,

Scott Mayer
Development Director
Sustaining Our Urban Landscape (SOUL)

P.S. GiveNOLA Day was just the beginning to our kickoff to our TreeCentennial celebration, which helps us with our community-building reforestation. Ready to join us? Donate today.

Stories from the SOUL: Karen Terranova

Mrs. Karen Terranova was born in New Orleans in 1958 and is third generation to operate Terranova’s Supermarket on Esplanade. Terranova’s was the first store to reopen after Katrina, serving its neighborhood groceries that were so desperately needed in the wake of the storm. She has seen the slow and steady – and then dramatic – deforestation of New Orleans throughout the decades, and wanted to do her part in reversing that trend. She signed up for  three of SOUL’s Little Gem Magnolias to be planted outside her grocery store, and has already enjoyed some of the fruits of her actions. See her story by clicking the video clip below:

Give Today. (2)

Today is GiveNOLA Day, a day where thousands of people across the city give to their favorite local causes and organizations, bolstering New Orleans’ thriving non-profit sector. This year, SOUL enters its third year of reforesting New Orleans, block by block.

With your help, we can plant the next generation of trees, trees that keep the communities of New Orleans healthy, happy and safe. When you support SOUL, whether through volunteerism or monetary donations, you’re not just planting trees. You’re helping to strategically reforest the city so that all residents of New Orleans will have a thriving tree canopy that makes our city and its people more resilient toward storms and man-made climate change.

Join us – and Mrs. Karen – in celebrating our “TreeCentennial.” Your gift will help plant trees, advocate for tree-friendly measures, support free educational workshops, and offer continued care for our urban forest for generations to come.

Thank you for your support.

With gratitude,

Susannah + Scott

P.S. Karen is just one of hundreds of people helping to reforest New Orleans.  You, too, can make a difference today. Go to www.givenola.org/soulnola and give today.

Celebrating the TreeCentennial

It’s that wonderful time of the year when the sweet notes of Magnolias blend with jazz from the festivals, reminding us of how special our city really is. As you meander through the communities around the Fair Grounds this weekend, don’t forget to delight in the foliage of all the new trees that SOUL has planted: Savannah Hollies greet you outside the shops on Ponce de Leon, Sweet Bay Magnolias line Grande Route St. John, and a Drummond Red Maple glistens on Maurepas.

These trees, and the hundreds of others you helped plant throughout the city over the last two years, are really making an impact. Just ask Robert Mildenberger of Algiers Point:

“As I drive down what was a barren street and see newly planted trees, my spirit is uplifted. Keep it up.”

We hope you, too, experience a similar feeling of joy when you see the newest members of our city’s urban forest.


In honor of New Orleans’ tricentennial, we are launching our own TreeCentennial: a month-long series of inspirational and educational offerings to raise critical funding for our third year of reforesting New Orleans. We’ll feature stories from your neighbors like Robert, and explore how trees offer lasting benefits to our city.

“A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.” – Ancient Greek Proverb

Stay tuned as we kick off the campaign next Tuesday on GiveNOLA Day with a story about long-time resident and Terranova Supermarket owner Karen Terranova.

In the meantime, enjoy the first weekend of Jazz Fest, and all the trees leading up to it!

With gratitude,

Susannah & Scott


Our last tree of the season!


We are thrilled to announce that we reached our goal of planting 600 large native trees this season! Between November 2017 and March 2018, over 527 local volunteers rallied to plant in the Mid-City, Algiers, Broadmoor, Freret and Climana communities! Since our June 2016 launch we have planted 790 large native trees.

Our small staff of just two people is humbled and inspired by the commitment of all of you who showed up time and again to tirelessly plant trees because you believe that our city deserves a thriving urban forest. Planting trees is hard physical work, but by coming together as a critical mass we are making a real and tangible impact on our urban canopy, and consequently on stormwater runoff, subsidence, air, water and soil pollution, air temperatures and energy bills, and of course beauty. (Check out our updated map of all of our trees!)
Achieving this goal would not have been possible without the ongoing support and advice from our friends at The New Orleans Department of Parks and Parkways, our sponsors, and our volunteers! Last but certainly not least, thanks to Arborist Tim Benton and Benton Tree Services for providing an unending supply of mulch, expertise, trailers, and Tree Tips by Tim.

Trees of the Greenway Walking Tour
Did you know that the Lafitte Greenway is home to 500 new trees? Join our Executive Director, Susannah Burley, for a tour of the trees along the Lafitte Greenway. You’ll learn about the different species, proper maintenance techniques, and how the park’s green infrastructure impacts stormwater runoff in the area. THIS Saturday, March 24, 2-3:30pm. Meet at 628 N Claiborne Ave at Lemann Playground. RSVP online.


Earth Day Mulch Fest
This Earth Day we’ll be maintaining the urban forest. We will be giving away mulch to SOUL’s friends, courtesy of Benton Tree Services and mulching some of our trees in Mid-CIty. Second Line Brewing beer served afterwards to all volunteers.

Where? Benton Tree Services’ Yard, 2156 Agriculture St, NOLA 70122
When? Saturday, April 21, 10am-12pm
*Bring your pick up trucks and containers. Tim Benton will be on site to load pick ups with his front end loader.

Sign up online to volunteer. You will receive location information via email.

What’s Next?
Just because planting season is over doesn’t mean our work is done. In fact, we are beginning our preparation for next planting season.

This spring and summer we will be working on policies that establish criteria for heritage trees, and policies that protect valuable trees on private property.

This is also the time when we perform the majority of our community outreach and engagement, while also fundraising for planting trees, including our annual fundraising party!

We will also be updating our tree palette for the next season, putting trees on reserve, and hosting our community education series (stay tuned). And don’t forget: it’s never too early to send in your permits for trees next year! (You can download a permit here.) Send them to outreach@soulnola.org once signed by the homeowner.

Keep track of our exciting upcoming events by visiting our events page.

Thanks to the University of Georgia for planting our 600th tree of this season in the Freret community! (That’s it in the photo!)

Thank you to Susquehanna University volunteers for helping us unstake last year’s Algiers trees, stake new ones, and mulch them all!

See full newsletter here.


Community Tree Planting presented by Whole Foods Market

planting event cover photo

SOUL’s largest tree planting takes place in Mid-City, Treme with the help of Whole Foods Market and the Rotary Club

Efforts beautify, provide cooling and reduce flooding in neighborhoods

NEW ORLEANS, LA., Jan. 23, 2018 — Whole Foods Market, in partnership with local reforestation organization Sustaining Our Urban Landscape (SOUL) and the Rotary Club of Mid-City, are planting 150 trees in the Mid-City, Treme, and Lafitte neighborhoods in SOUL’s largest tree planting to-date.

Approximately 70 households in these neighborhoods will have trees planted on their property by more than 150 community volunteers on Saturday, February 24.

“Planting trees is a tangible and affordable way to protect ourselves against the many forces that we are facing here, from flooding to the obesity epidemic,” says Susannah Burley, SOUL’s Founder and Executive Director. “We’re excited to be partnering with Whole Foods Market and local Rotarians, who both want to advance change on a community level.”

“As a company, we deeply value giving back to those who have helped us succeed.  Whole Foods Market is incredibly grateful to be a part of this wonderful community and we are excited to be working closely with SOUL to plant trees in the Mid-City, Treme, and Lafitte neighborhoods,” explains Laura Zappi, SW Executive Marketing Coordinator for Whole Foods Market.

SOUL typically plants native Live Oak or Bald Cypress trees, which can absorb up to 880 gallons of water a day per tree. “In addition to preventing flooding, healthy, mature trees can increase property values by up to 20 percent and reduce household energy usage by 35 percent,” Susannah adds. To receive a tree on your property, or to volunteer, please visit www.soulnola.org or call 504-616-6888.

About SOUL (www.soulnola.org)
SOUL is driving a resilient and environmentally equitable New Orleans through reforesting our urban landscape. By March 2018, SOUL will have planted 790 large, native trees in Mid-City, Broadmoor, and Algiers since its inception in June 2016. SOUL also maps and tracks every tree they plant to ensure their survival and measure their impact over the years. They also provide educational workshops and advocate for tree-friendly policies.  SOUL operates as a program of the Trust for Conservation Innovation, a 5012(c)3 tax-exempt nonprofit organization which accelerates impact for initiatives focused on protecting and fostering a healthy, sustainable, resilient and equitable world

About Whole Foods Market
For 39 years, Whole Foods Market has been the world’s leading natural and organic foods retailer. As the first national certified organic grocer, Whole Foods Market has over 470 stores in the United States, Canada and United Kingdom. Whole Foods Market has been ranked one of the “100 Best Companies to Work For” in America by FORTUNE magazine for 20 consecutive years. To learn more about Whole Foods Market, please visit media.wfm.com.


Susannah Burley, Founder & Director
504 616 6888

Download the full press release here.


Southern China’s Pearl River Delta used to be lined by coastal mangrove forests that slowed down storm winds, filtered the water, absorbed carbon and lowered ambient temperatures. Today about 70% of the mangrove swamps have been infilled and paved over. In their place, glistening skyscrapers and cement now carpet the region, embodying a Western aesthetic of prosperity.

Such fast-paced growth, “2,100 acres paved over between 1979 and 1985; 6,700 more acres during the next decade; thousands and thousands more since”, puts the region’s future in peril. Cities are literally sinking from the weight of development, storm winds are more powerful, and flooding is more frequent and intense, temperatures are on the rise, and sewage systems are overtaxed.

This excellent New York Times article by Michael Kimmelman questions whether growth and the environment have to be opposing forces in the developing world. As a New Orleanian I cannot help but see the obvious parallels between the Pearl River Delta and Louisiana’s Gulf Coast. Both have destroyed their coastal tree buffers and now suffer the consequences of stronger storm winds and waves, higher temperatures and subsidence. And both continue to build without foresight of the implications of their development.

The question now is, are we going to take the long view and move forward strategically, building with resilience in mind? Or are we going to stick with the status quo, ignoring how our decisions today will impact the generations of tomorrow?

What do you think? Leave a comment here or on social media, or email us. We’d love to hear from you!

Equity and Water in Mexico City


SOUL’s response to the NYTimes’ article, Mexico City, Parched and Sinking, Faces a Water Crisis.

Mexico City is at a breaking point. With a population of 21 million people, the metropolis is subsiding up to 9 inches annually during its worst years. Like New Orleans, it drained its wetlands long ago. This, along with a host of other geologic and climate change factors, has caused its water table to shrink, bringing its topography with it. Sound familiar?

Mexico City’s dire water shortage means an inequitable access to potable water, with the poor paying more for their water, and reliant on limited and inconsistent supplies. New Orleans is no stranger to environmental inequity. The Lower 9th Ward, for example, still lacks consistent access to fresh healthy food. Trees are an obvious barometer of wealth and health, with poorer areas suffering the health consequences of higher temperatures, along with steeper utility bills and crime.

What is SOUL doing about these problems? Since our launch in June, we have planted 161 large, native trees. Once mature, these trees will help replenish our water table, absorb approximately 80,500 gallons of stormwater per day, mitigate air, water and soil pollution, and lower air temperatures. We are strategically reforesting our city, one neighborhood at a time, and creating a system of trees at an impactful scale.

This is a must-read for New Orleanians, and should serve as a warning for what the future could hold for us. Read the article and let us know what you think!

Living in Louisiana

“Times are not good here. The city is crumbling into ashes. It has been buried under taxes and frauds and maladministrations so that it has become a study for archaeologists… but it is better to live here in sackcloth and ashes than to own the whole state of Ohio.”                         Lafcadio Hearn, letter to a friend, 1879


Photo courtesy of Jeffrey Thomas

Yesterday I served food to a woman who hadn’t eaten in nine days, and to another woman shaking from hypoglycemia. I was volunteering in Walker, Louisiana at a church, a temporary site where people can sign up for DSNAP benefits. These people are the working poor and most have lost their homes and jobs to the unprecedented flooding of Louisiana over the last two weeks. Seeing these people in person rather than on the news was a powerful experience, and it reminded me of why I’m doing this, why I’ve gone out on a limb, with a husband, a 3-year-old, and a house note, to start Sustaining Our Urban Landscape, SOUL, yet another NGO in New Orleans.

We have been hit hard for the second time in 12 years. And we’ll get hit again, likely soon. Hurricane Katrina was a 100-year-storm. The nameless floods that we are presently recovering from are 1,000-year-floods. The next one just may be a 2,000-year-event, and we must be prepared.

Our bodies and souls and bank accounts can’t keep doing this. We can’t continue losing our homes, and businesses and shirts, just to build it all back…. the same way.

We  must take a step back, zoom out and strategically rebuild as a system. Then we can safely  live through the floods and hurricanes that are a part of life here in Louisiana. Sure, we’ll have to take a week off and dust ourselves off. But if we rebuild so that we can live harmoniously with the forces of nature, and the manmade repercussions of climate change, then our future recoveries will be a lot swifter and easier on us.

We need a massive reforestation of Louisiana. Mature, native, water-loving trees like Live Oaks and Bald Cypress drink up to 1,000 gallons of water per day and should be as common and beloved a site in our urban and rural landscapes as Saints bumper stickers. One huge impetus behind founding SOUL is the very large goal of replanting New Orleans, the most deforested city in the U.S.! But rural Louisiana suffers from deforestation as well, largely due to short-sighted development of subdivisions and commercial areas that raze the forest and level the land before construction. Trees are essential to our resilience as they absorb stormwater into their root systems and transpire it back into the air. A mature tree produces enough oxygen for ten people, and can lower our air temperatures by up to two degrees. The benefits of trees are endless, and our futures rely on them.

It’s time to respect the gravity of gravity. It there’s one thing we can always count on, it’s that water will always travel downhill. Thus, it is vital that water has an unobstructed path to its nearest floodplain or basin. Rural Louisiana has many flood plains and small water bodies like creeks that are bisected by roads. During heavy rains these spots turn into dams and cause massive flooding as water seeks a lower point of gravity.

New construction should be raised to a level accommodating a 2,000-year storm. Considering how quickly our disasters are growing in intensity and frequency, it only makes sense that we should build new homes and businesses according to future storm levels. We’re recovering from a 1,000-year flood, so let’s rebuild to a 2,000-year disaster this time. Many of the structures that were damaged were built at grade on slab. Cities must stop allowing development that ignores our hydrology and natural history, for the sake of developers maximizing their profits.

We need to integrate “green infrastructure” into every aspect of our lives. If you’re not already familiar with this term, it refers to infrastructure that mimics natural systems and harnesses stormwater at its source. Essentially its goal is to get water back into the ground and into the water table.

Like grey infrastructure, such as canals and roads, green infrastructure must be built at a meaningful scale and properly integrated into the systems we call cities and parishes. This could mean a city repaving its streets with permeable asphalt, or grading streets so their water drains into a detention area, NOT toward homes and businesses. When we cover the earth with impermeable surfaces like concrete and rooftops, water can’t get back into the ground to the water table; eventually the water table shrinks and subsides, taking our topography down with it. If the water can’t permeate the ground, then it floods during large rain events.

Every new street, parking lot or sidewalk should be constructed of materials that water can penetrate. Every road should be part of a larger comprehensive drainage plan, eventually sending water back into the water table.

All of the above concepts are pretty simple. But they involve changing our consciousness around resilience from the citizen level to the Governor’s mansion; and they require the decision makers at the city, state and even regional levels sitting down to the same table to address our road, hydrology, and forestry systems as interconnected and reliant on one another.

One thing is for sure, we citizens of Louisiana want to stay in this strange, beautiful gumbo of a place we choose to call home. But we can’t keep crossing our fingers that we won’t have to shoulder another disaster that didn’t have to happen.

What is SOUL going to do? SOUL believes that a healthy and substantial urban forest is critical to New Orleans’ ability to live harmoniously with stormwater, perhaps our most central challenge. But like grey infrastructure, such as canals and roads, the urban forest and other forms of green infrastructure must be built at a meaningful scale, and properly integrated into the system we call a city. This is not happening in New Orleans. SOUL intends to change this, and is dedicated to strategically reforesting New Orleans, one neighborhood at a time.

Click here to learn more about our reforestation program. If you are interested in sponsoring a tree planting event or supporting the organization, please contact Susannah Burley.