Rotarians have planted trees in the name of fellowship, friendship, and community service since the early 20th century. These trees, which can be found worldwide, have grown into enduring monuments of Rotary’s ideals. 

As president emeritus, Harris traveled extensively during the 1920s and 1930s, often accompanied by his wife Jean. During these trips, the nature-loving Harris planted trees to symbolize goodwill and friendship. 

In the fall of 1932, Harris embarked on a five-week tour of European Rotary clubs and planted trees along the way. 

“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.” 

Harris also planted trees in Tallinn, Estonia, and Göteborg, Sweden, during this trip.


(Paul Harris and members of the Rotary Club of Tallinn, Estonia, plant a friendship tree in 1932.)


Planting trees soon became a hallmark of his travels, including in Australia, Brazil, Estonia, Japan, Mexico, and New Zealand. In My Road to Rotary Harris recalled: 

“With the cooperation of Rotarians and local governments, I have planted friendship trees in the parks and playgrounds on five continents of the world and even on some of the major islands of the seas. Our trees stood as symbols of international understanding and good-will.” 

Other RI presidents also observed the tradition. In 1931-32, then-RI president Sydney W. Pascall planted trees at the sites of Rotary clubs he visited, reportedly at Paul Harris’s suggestion. 

Not all of the trees were planted outside the United States. The Harrises often entertained visiting Rotarians and dignitaries in their home, Comely Bank, and planted trees with their guests to mark the occasion. They called the garden their Friendship Garden. 

Today, Rotarians continue to plant trees to symbolize enduring friendships and fellowship, to beautify parks and communities, and to contribute to a greener world.

Rotary News



And to give a little more historical background..........

The fact is that 
Sydney Pascall, RI president in 1931, was the first Rotary President to plant a tree during a presidential visit.

In 'The Rotarian' in July 1932, Sydney Pascall wrote: "Before I left London for my round the world club visitations, Paul Harris, revered founder of Rotary, suggested that a most appropriate 
way of symbolizing the Rotary idea would be the planting of trees.  
I started this observance in the National Botanical Gardens at Cape Town, and since then I have planted more than 30 trees, while 22 others have been set out by Mrs Pascall, our daughter, and mayors and Rotary leaders.Let us hope that our active pursuit of friendship among the nations may be symbolized by these trees. We recall the saying; 'and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.'May it be so."

But, it was Paul and Jean Harris who created a friendship garden at their home,Comely Bank, in Chicago. In the 1930's they were invited by the board of directors to visit many Rotary conventions and gatherings around the world. In nearly 50 places that the project has been able to find, the Harris' planted trees. Some even survived wars, some did not, but were replanted. The purpose of this section of our history project is to show the growth of Rotary from the fellowship and love of one Rotarian to another.

To learn more about the Rotary Friendship Trees click here to visit the Rotary Global History Project.  

And as Paul Harvey would say.......That is the Rest of the Story.