Paris : An elegantly beautiful city defined by trees. Commitment to greenery adds to the French capital's atmosphere of serenity.

As a Paris resident, I scarcely paid attention to the city's treescapes until a few years ago, when I stumbled upon an arresting scene of a young man stretched out in the elbow of a low-lying branch of a Japanese pagoda tree, its leaves skimming the pond of at Buttes-Chaumont park in the 19th Arrondissement.

From that moment, I came to understand that the city's trees - from the dramatic weeping willows and their trailing friends along the Seine to the military rows of London plane trees that line the Champs -Elysees. - play an underappreciated supporting role in Paris inimitable elegance and grandeur.

It was a belated epiphany, and one that is somewhat understandable : Urban trees can be overlooked, particularly in Paris, where dozens of stately landmarks command the attention of locals and visitors alike.

But public and political awareness of the city's trees has been renewed recently, not only as natural, free-standing monuments equal in importance to the Louvre or the Eiffel Tower, but also as vital assets to fight climate change.

City lawmakers, arborists and others in Paris are investing in the treescape by planning new urban forests, increasing the number of protected historical trees and designing walking tours - because trees can provide a fresh, green-minded perspective on the City of Light.

''Trees are important part of Paris's identity,'' said Christophe Najdovski, the deputy mayor in charge of green spaces. ''The alignment of trees and Parisian promenades structure the city enormously and is a 15--year-old heritage. We're following in the footsteps of this heritage.

Remarkable Trees : As it turns out, the Japanese pagoda tree [which has been since fenced off] is one of 15 in Paris that carries the official designation, Remarkable Tree of France,'' from Arbres, a volunteer association made up of some of the country's most eminent scientists, botanists, gardeners, writers and horticulturists.

The association uses the formal label to promote and protect the most beautiful, important and rare trees in France.

Also on the list : a 420-year-old tree that is not particularly striking, but has extraordinary cultural and biological significance.

Brought from North America and planted in 1601 in the small square Rene Viviani, across the street from the Cathedral of Notre Dame, the black locus, or Robinier Faux acacia, is the oldest tree in Paris.

Its foliage still blooms green and full, but the tree bears scars from bombing and shelling during World War II, and its splintering trunk is supported by steel beams.

''She is the mother plant,'' Beatrice Rizzo, a city forest engineer, explained during a guided visit. ''You could say that all the black locust trees in France came from this one tree.''

In addition to the Arbres list, the city of Paris keeps a separate, more expansive catalog of remarkable trees - all 176 trees are plotted on an interactive map online. Both lists have similar criteria including age, size and botanical and  cultural importance.

The black locust at Square Rene Viviani bears the Remarkable designation from both the city of Paris and Arbres, and is the last of six stops on a self-guided, walking tour created by the city.

''A damaged tree like this would never have survived in nature,'' said Georges Feterman, the Arbres president. ''It's Like protecting monuments. Why do we preserve old churches? Because they testify to the history of men.''

Other two landmarks of the city's walking tour include the orderly formation of linden trees that border the Place des Vosges square and flood-resistant poplars at Place Louis Aragon on Ile-Saint-Louis.

An Urban Planning Vision : Last year, Paris lawmakers approved a project to plant 170,000 new trees through out the city by 2026 and create pockets of urban forests in strategic areas to mitigate the effects of extreme urban heat and soak up air pollution.

The Publishing continues. The World Students Society thanks author Vivian Song.


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