trees unloaded at the MRS

30,000 Trees!

1024 768 Monarch Research Project

The Monarch Research Project is providing trees to EVERY school employee across Linn and Benton counties!  Nearly 8,000 native Iowa trees will be planted this October. All trees are free of charge and will be delivered to school sites in mid-October.

Employees at 15 school districts and the Grant Wood AEA selected trees from 25 tree varieties, two for their home and one to share. At least one tree given to each employee is an oak. 

Orders for four species quickly reached capacity — eastern redbud, northern red oak, white oak and sugar maple. 

Trees for Teachers

“Teachers went above and beyond during the pandemic, learning new online systems on the spot and working extra hard to help all students in their classroom,” says Clark McLeod, MRP president and a former Cedar Rapids teacher. “Then the derecho hit and they tackled another obstacle, often prioritizing their students above the devastation at their own homes. We are glad to provide these trees to help them recover valued shade or a backyard oasis.”

MRP contacted all school organizations in Linn and Benton counties this spring, inviting them to participate in this tree giveaway.

In August, school employees received an email that listed the trees available and invited them to place their order online. Each received an acknowledgement email to bring to the tree distribution events, which will be held at various locations between October 5 and 15. The Cedar Rapids Community School District assisted MRP in the creation of the communication pieces.

“The Cedar Rapids Community School District employees are grateful to the Monarch Research Project for their generous tree donations,” said CRCSD Superintendent Noreen Bush. “Our participation in the Planting Forward 2021 initiative is a beautiful, productive way to support our community’s derecho recovery.” 

Cedar Rapids school employees had the most tree orders of any district. More than 900 CRCSD and Grant Wood AEA employees ordered a total of 2,618 trees.

A Pilot Program for Students

Monarch Research also is partnering with Cedar River Academy at Taylor Elementary, which focuses on sustainability and is the first certified outdoor elementary classroom in Iowa, on a tree program for students.

Taylor students are helping plant trees on the school grounds. All students also will be offered an oak tree to plant at their home or a friend or family member’s home, subject to parent approval. 

Having the experience of planting a native tree will help teachers connect students to life science curricula.

If the program goes well, it could be expanded next year to other area schools.

Planting Forward

With this school district project, Monarch Research continues its efforts to return native habitat to Linn County through the “Planting Forward” program. After the 2020’s devastating derecho, it sought employer partners that are able to distribute trees efficiently and educate employees on the importance of native trees and how to care for them.

In fall 2020, six companies ordered more than 1,000 trees for employees through the program; in spring 2021, 38 organizations distributed 15,000 trees. 

trees unloaded at the MRS

The first semi-load of trees unloaded at the MRS.

In addition to the 8,000 trees for schools this fall, 6,300 trees will be distributed to employees at 17 area businesses and organizations. A total of 4,500 employees requested trees through Planting Forward for planting this fall.

In the 14 months since the August 2020 derecho, 30,300 trees will have been distributed to eastern Iowans through Planting Forward.

Monarch Research invites companies to participate in Planting Forward next spring; samples of all materials needed to implement the program are provided. Companies can structure the tree giveaway to fit their own culture, budget and employee needs.

Trees Native to Iowa

All the trees offered through this program are native to Iowa. That’s important because native trees provide essential energy for our ecosystem.

“Oaks support more forms of life and more fascinating interactions than any other tree genus in North America,” writes Dr. Douglas Tallamy, New York Times bestselling author and professor at the University of Delaware, in his new book on oaks. 

“Oaks sustain a crucial and complex web of wildlife above ground, but are just as impressive underground, producing enormous root systems that make them champions of carbon sequestration, soil stabilization and watershed management,” he continues.

Tallamy helped identify the most ecologically impactful trees to offer in the Planting Forward program.

These trees were grown from seed in a process called RPM that ”air-prunes” the roots, which prevents the root circling seen in container-grown plants. This process allows the tree to adapt better to its new home and often surpass the growth of larger, more expensive transplants in five to 10 years.

Tallamy Video for Eastern Iowans

This fall Dr. Tallamy, a popular speaker across the U.S., recorded a special video for Eastern Iowans. 

In it, he explains the specialized relationships that insects have with native plants and why this is so important for derecho recovery efforts.

Tallamy provides an overview of the ecosystem that supports all life. Then he explains the grave importance of individual action in addressing environmental challenges. As serious as that may sound, Tallamy’s presentation style is anything but dry and academic.

His presentation instructs viewers to plant the species essential to the life around us, an essential message as Iowans replant the landscape and restore vital ecosystems after derecho destruction.

Residents are invited to view the video lecture, which is available in complete and abridged versions, by visiting

Participating School Organizations (trees donated by MRP):

  1. Alburnett
  2. Belle-Plaine
  3. Benton Community
  4. Cedar Rapids
  5. Cedar Valley Christian
  6. Center Point-Urbana
  7. Central City
  8. College Community
  9. Grant Wood AEA
  10. Linn-Mar
  11. Marion Independent
  12. Mount Vernon
  13. North Linn
  14. Summit 
  15. Vinton-Shellsburg
  16. Xavier Catholic 

Other Organizations (trees donated by MRP):

  1. Brucemore
  2. City of Marion
  3. City of Cedar Rapids
  4. Mercy Medical Center
  5. UnityPoint-St. Luke’s Hospital
  6. Wellington Heights Neighborhood Association

Participating Companies (trees purchased by company):

  1. Benchmark
  2. Frontier Coop
  3. Limolink
  4. OPN
  5. Raining Rose
  6. Ready Wireless
  7. Revive Family Chiropractic
  8. SPMB
  9. Skywalk Group
  10. Strategic Financial Solutions
  11. US Bank

Native tree species offered through Planting Forward program:

  1. White oak
  2. Swamp white oak
  3. Bur oak
  4. Chinkapin oak
  5. Pin oak
  6. Northern red oak
  7. Black oak
  8. Sugar maple
  9. Ohio buckeye
  10. Paw paw
  11. River birch
  12. Shellbark hickory
  13. Shagbark hickory
  14. Hackberry
  15. Eastern redbud
  16. American filbert
  17. Black walnut
  18. Eastern white pine
  19. Eastern red cedar
  20. American plum
  21. Black cherry
  22. Common chokeberry
  23. Hoptree
  24. American linden
  25. Princeton elm