The founder of Rotary, later President of Rotary International*, Paul P. Harris, planted the first tree of friendship on his tour of European Rotary clubs in the autumn of 1932.
“Wednesday forenoon I planted my first tree of friendship in European soil. It seemed to me especially appropriate that it took place in Germany—in its metropolis—Berlin. The planting occurred in a sports platz formerly devoted to war purposes, and a large number including Rotarians, city officials, and others were in attendance.”
The nature-loving President Emeritus set an example to inspire others. Today, Rotarians across the globe plant trees to symbolize Rotary’s serving as well as lasting ties of friendship. Equally, the presidents following Paul Harris have understood the importance of planting trees. The Australian Ian S. Riseley was concerned over the state of the environment and during his presidency (2017-2018) he urged Rotarians to start tree-planting projects.
The tree which Paul Harris planted in Kaivopuisto in Helsinki no longer exists. But RIPE William B. Boyd (2006-2007), who visited Finland during the Rotary centenary, planted a new tree on that same beach.
During his European tour, Paul P. Harris also visited Estonia. A tree of friendship in Tallinn serves as a reminder of that visit.
*National Association of Rotary Clubs, later Rotary International
The tree of friendship, a birch tree, which Paul Harris planted in Kaivopuisto on 22nd Aug.1932.
Mrs. Käthy Klärich, Rotary Foundation Chair Frank J. Devlyn (RIP 2000-01), and William Boyd (RIP 2006-07) in Kaivopuisto on 8th Oct. 2005, planting a birch tree in honour of the Rotary centenary.
Paul Harris and members of the Tallinn Rotary Club planting a tree of friendship in Tallinn, 1932.