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Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago

We’re giving away free native tree saplings

The MWRD provides free native tree saplings through our “Restore the Canopy, Plant a Tree” program. Native trees can help reduce flooding by soaking up rainwater. Trees also produce oxygen, keep neighborhoods cooler, provide habitat for wildlife, lower energy bills and store carbon dioxide to help address climate change. Since our tree program began in 2016, we have distributed more than 100,000 free native trees!

Note: With the large cicada population expected this year, the Chicago Region Trees Initiative (CRTI) warns that young trees, like the MWRD’s oak saplings, can be damaged.
Learn how to protect your sapling(s). 

Oak tree leaves with sunlight shining through the branches


Where to get trees

Free trees are available for pick up every Wednesday from April through October from 9 a.m. to noon at MWRD water reclamation plants. 

Calumet Water Reclamation Plant
400 E. 130th St., Chicago

Egan Water Reclamation Plant
550 S. Meacham Road, Schaumburg

Hanover Park Water Reclamation Plant
1220 Sycamore Ave., Hanover Park

Kirie Water Reclamation Plant
701 West Oakton St., Des Plaines

O’Brien Water Reclamation Plant
3500 Howard St., Skokie

Stickney Water Reclamation Plant
6001 W. Pershing Road, Cicero


For orders of 50 or more saplings, please complete this form. Deliveries available only within Cook County. Not available to individual homes. 

We also distribute free trees at community outreach events throughout Cook County. Follow us on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook to see when we are in your area.

To learn more about how your school, organization, neighborhood or municipality can participate in this program, please contact the MWRD Office of Public Affairs at or by calling 312-751-6633.

A sign saying Free Trees Today on the ground next to a group of potted oak tree saplings


What kinds of trees?

The MWRD’s 2024 saplings include native red, pin, swamp white, bur, and black oak.

How to care for your tree

  • Keep your tree in a cool place and wait to take it out of its container until you can plant it. If you received a sapling not in a container, plant it within two days. 
  • Plant your tree where it will receive full to partial sunlight. 
  • Full-grown oak trees range from 50 to 80 feet tall, so ensure it has enough space to grow. 
  • Do not plant your tree under a power line or too close to any structures. 
  • Dig a hole wide enough to let the roots spread out and deep enough to cover them completely. The topmost roots should be at ground level. 
  • Fill the hole with soil. Then, water the tree until the ground stops absorbing the water. 
  • If you use mulch, keep it away from the tree trunk. 
  • It is essential to keep your tree consistently watered during the first year. Make sure that the soil is moist but not soggy. In dry weather, you should water every seven to ten days. Once the ground freezes, you can stop watering your tree.

Additional resources

For more information, check out our Restore the Canopy Free Sapling Program Brochure,
Illinois Trees and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

Visit the Restore the Canopy website for helpful resources like planting tips, care instructions and a map showing where the MWRD has distributed saplings.