Tiny Forests, Big Benefits for Cities 


The first Tiny Forest was planted across from Palm View Community Center, and the second was planted at Cathey Middle School in McAllen, thanks to the Friends of Quinta Mazatlán. The third Tiny Forest on Ware Road was just planted and made possible by longtime supporters Margie and Bob McCreery.

Tiny Forests can deliver significant benefits. They absorb carbon dioxide, clean the air, and support wildlife. They also help lower temperatures in places where pavements, buildings, and roads absorb and re-emit the sun’s heat. These pockets of heat are referred to as “heat islands.” Tiny Forests can help reduce “heat islands” in our urban areas.

There is a host of opinions about the earth’s warming. Nearly half of the U.S. say climate change is due to human activity, and a similar number say there is no evidence of warming. Yet, we all experienced a scorching summer in 2023, so we collected historical data on Hidalgo County from The Climate Explorer. From the 1960s to the 1990s, Hidalgo averaged 11 days per year over 100 degrees. In 2023, Hidalgo experienced 89 days over 100 degrees. So, we know the world is warming, and we can help!

How does one grow a Tiny Forest? Quinta Mazatlán uses the Miyawaki Method to create urban forests. Tiny Forests are more than just a collection of trees; they are a complex ecosystem featuring over 30 different native species of trees and shrubs planted together. The native plant community works well together and perfectly adapts to our local weather conditions.

The habitat created will get more complex over time and attract much biodiversity. As the plants become denser, the structure of a mature natural forest develops. It is a multilevel forest mimicking a large mature forest. While it may take over 200 years to let a forest recover on its own, the Miyawaki Method allows us to see similar results in our lifetime.

Big Benefits of a Tiny Forest

  • Beautify the city
  • Reduce flooding
  • Improve air quality
  • Educate students
  • Cool temperatures
  • Decrease noise levels
  • Grow stewards of the land
  • Provide great habitat for wildlife

Tiny Forests, which can be as small as six parking spots, are powerful tools for ecosystem restoration in our cities. But perhaps as important is the role they play in engaging and educating our young people about the environment.

Quinta Mazatlán’s fourth Tiny Forest, involving students and staff, will be planted in the spring of 2024 at Sam Houston Elementary in McAllen. A Tiny Forest at your school or neighborhood can be a powerful tool. Please follow Quinta Mazatlán on social media for volunteer & giving opportunities, workshops, special events, and programs.

Quinta Mazatlán brings partners together to support education, ecotourism, and the environment. Tiny Forests have been “growing” in McAllen thanks to the generous support of the Friends of Quinta Mazatlán, Private Donors, the City of McAllen, McAllen Parks & Recreation, McAllen Public Works, McAllen Public Utility, and McAllen ISD.

Colleen Curran Hook