The Miyawaki Method
Using ancient elements to solve contemporary problems
SIZE & SPEED
Ideally suited for small urban sites, matures in 20 years vs. 200 years for a primary forest
Remediates degraded urban soil and improves soil microbiome
Supports 16 times as many species as non-native landscape
Young plants allow formation of stronger taproots
Water and weed for 3 years, largely self-sustained after three years; no chemicals needed
Miyawaki forests mature in 20-30 years rather than the centuries it takes most conventional forests, and are self-sustaining after only 2-3 years.
The Miyawaki method of tree planting in urban areas can result in more trees planted equitably, sustainably and rapidly so that vulnerable, historically-disadvantaged communities may have a better chance of mitigating the health effects of climate change.
Over the past 50 years, there have been more than 1,400 Miyawaki native forests planted in Asia, and many more in Europe. The method has rarely been attempted in the United States.
We’re going to change that.
Using the Miyawaki Method of forest planting, we can make material change on structural determinants of health — access to trees — and mitigate the effects of climate change on communities most vulnerable to it.
“We basically made a mess of the world and a lot of people want to do something, but they don't know: ‘What can I do?’ The forests can be built in under a year. It's a very practical way to do something positive in light of climate change and loss of biodiversity.”
- Daan Bleichrodt, Institute for Nature Education
Akira Miyawaki, Courtesy of Reforest Action
Akira Miyawaki — award-winning botanist, former Director of the Japanese Center for International studies in Plant Ecology, and former professor emeritus at Yokohama National University — developed the Miyawaki Method of tree planting in the 1970s.
Dr. Miyawaki was a specialist in potential natural vegetation. In Japan, Shinto shrines do not need to be buildings, and are often part of the natural landscape and may include sacred trees or mountains. Dr. Miyawaki observed the sacred trees around these shrines and realized that they are remnants of the forests that existed before man. The shrines are an expression of the kinship which exists between man and earth and the celestial bodies and deities around us. When entering a shrine, one becomes enveloped in peace and relaxation as the shrine emphasizes our connection to the natural world.
In the 1950s, Dr. Miyawaki began studying the trees around these shrines to understand the potential natural vegetation (PNV) and phytosociology — the way plant species interact with each other. In observing these sacred, native forests, he identified four categories of native plants in the indigenous forests: main tree species, sub-species, shrubs, and ground-covering herbs. From these observations, he developed the Miyawaki Method of tree planting.
This method seeks to replicate indigenous forest ecosystems utilizing plants native to the location. Before planting, the soil is studied and amended so that it mimics the organic and textural quality of a native forest floor for that region. The seedlings, often grown from old growth native plants, are planted densely incorporating all four layers that Dr. Miywaki identified.
Natural forests grow through a series of succession stages with smaller flowering plants arriving first to grow and die and prepare the soil. Over time, taller shrubs and trees begin to populate the forest. Dr. Miyawaki’s method fast-tracks the idea of succession by planting all the layers at once in a dense, but random pattern.
Once planted, the forest is weeded and watered for two years. After those first two to three years, the forest should self-maintain, meaning plants will be tall enough to control their own weeds and the ecosystem will begin to hold in the moisture needed for survival. No chemical fertilizers or herbicides are used in the forest and no pruning occurs. What falls in the forest, stays in the forest. Leaves and branches, such as those in a native forest, are left to decay and provide the ongoing nutrients the forest needs to thrive.