13 Of The Best Songs About Trees And Forests

Trees are fascinating. Whether it’s the way they silently stand strong or just how lively they can be with birds, squirrels, and other animals, they give us more than just oxygen for breathing.

While trees symbolize life, growth, death, and rebirth, each carries its own identity. How is the Douglas fir different from the magnolia? How are they different from a weeping willow, maple, or banyan?

There’s something about trees that makes poets and songwriters introspective and reflect on life in general. Keep reading as we take a look at 13 of the best songs about trees.

1. “Fake Plastic Trees” By Radiohead

One of the most famous songs with trees in the title is Radiohead’s “Fake Plastic Trees.” The single came from their 1995 album, The Bends.

This song is about the artificial things in life that are separate from nature and created for never-ending, never-wilting beauty. But those things, be they imitations of trees or augmented physical appearances, aren’t natural. Hence, their beauty is skin deep.

The lyrics take a turn into describing a kind of love that feels real but isn’t really true. He calls her his “fake plastic love.”

2. “Black Horse And The Cherry Tree” By KT Tunstall

Another song featuring a tree was the 2006 single “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree.” KT Tunstall‘s live performance of this song two years prior gained her attention.

This upbeat hit describes a dreamy landscape where the singer comes across a black horse and a cherry tree. It is a striking image, and while it attracts and entices the singer, she knows she doesn’t belong there. It’s a song about finding yourself abandoned and figuring your life out alone.

Tunstall’s inspiration for the song came from a black horse she happened upon in an olive grove in Greece, mixed with the idea of good vs. evil.

3. “Cactus Tree” By Joni Mitchell

Up next, we have a song that mentions “tree” as a metaphor. Singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell released “Cactus Tree” on her 1968 debut album Song to a Seagull.

While the cactus is not technically a tree, it is this song’s final but central image. The singer mentions several men in the song who have loved her in their own ways. But she is a free spirit, always “busy being free.”

The song perfectly captures young love, where the singer is torn between loving a man and being free. The latter always wins. But in the process, she ends up hurting the people who love her, just like a cactus.

4. “The Dreaming Tree” By The Dave Matthews Band

Our next song, “The Dreaming Tree,” is a metaphor for dreams and things that give us comfort. This single by The Dave Matthews Band came from their 1998 album, Before These Crowded Streets.

“The Dreaming Tree” is a song about losing innocence and dreams. It is about loneliness and lost hope. The lyrics revolve around two stories. The first is about an older man who has watched the world change before his eyes in a way he can’t recognize or find himself in anymore.

The other story is about a woman who has lost everything that once made her happy and successful. She reminisces about her childhood, especially about a time when her father told her, “you’ll always be my baby.”

5. “The Trees” By Rush

Be entertained by the argument that’s taking place in “The Trees.” The song is from Rush’s 1978 album Hemispheres, featuring quarreling anthropomorphic trees.

The trees in question are maples and oaks in the forest. The maples are unhappy and think it’s unfair that the oaks get more sunlight. They complain that they have to live in the shade while the oaks are warm and grow tall.

Lyricist and drummer Neil Peart said that there is no meaning or message to this song. But when you pay close attention to the words, you can see that it’s making a clear statement about equality, social justice, and the legal system.

6. “Boys In The Trees” By Carly Simon

In our next song, Carly Simon sings about “Boys in the Trees.” The single is from her 1978 album of the same name.

The story behind the song is told from the perspective of a young woman who goes back to his childhood home. She visits her old room and notices the window overlooking the garden “where the boys grew in the trees.” The phrase here means that the boys played in the trees, oblivious to her.

From the rest of the lyrics, we discover that it was during adolescence that she began to feel attracted to boys. She was scared by the emotions and the changes that adolescence brought her.

And while she went through all these, the boys remained oblivious, perhaps because they haven’t reached adolescence yet.

7. “Weeping Willow” By The Verve

Though “Weeping Willow” is a sad song, the tree being referenced stands as a strong support for the singer. The single came from The Verve’s 1997 standout album, Urban Hymns.

The leaves of a Weeping Willow look like they are dripping from the branches. As such, it is likened to a woman crying. It is often associated with grief and mourning. This song uses it as a symbol of company in misery. It talks about the importance of having someone who understands what you’re going through.

Songwriter Richard Ashcroft was inspired by his real-life battle with addiction and depression. The lyrics express those feelings blended with the love and understanding he saw from his wife.

8. “Speaking With Trees” By Tori Amos

The next song with “trees” in the lyrics is “Speaking With Trees,” off Tori Amos’ 16th studio album, Ocean to Ocean.

The sad words in this song speak about grief from losing a beloved person. The singer buries that person’s ashes under a tree and believes the tree will keep them safe. As the song shows, communing with nature helps in the healing process.

Amos wrote this during lockdown after she realized she wasn’t feeling the songs she wrote pre-pandemic. She plunged herself into nature to deal with debilitating emotions and get herself back on the path to creativity.

9. “A Forest” By The Cure

The English rock band, The Cure’s contribution to songs about trees comes from the 1980 album, Seventeen Seconds. “A Forest” describes a man running through a forest looking for a girl.

Whether she is someone he knows or someone he is trying to help is unclear. He can hear her but cannot see her through the trees because of the darkness. But he runs after her into the trees, but he ends up “running towards nothing.”

This song could be a metaphor for many things. But it was inspired by songwriter Robert Smith’s memory of getting lost in the woods as a kid. It has a dark, eerie, nightmare quality, which he planned on capturing in the song.

10. “Mango Tree” By Zac Brown Band

From the 2015 album Jekyll + Hyde, the Zac Brown Band heads into the trees with this jazzy swing number. “Mango Tree” describes a couple falling in love on an island underneath a mango tree.

As the lyrics describe, every single thing is perfect. The singer wants to stay under the mango tree forever with his lover. He’s professing his love and telling her there is no other person he’d rather be there with.

This song is a celebration of love and of being present in it. But the mango tree and the romantic location are also a bubble, and you have to wonder if their love will exist outside of it.

11. “Skeleton Tree” By Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

Another sad song that features a tree is Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ “Skeleton Tree.” The single came from their 2016 album of the same name and explores grief.

Cave wrote this song and album after the tragic death of his 15 year-old-son. He is exploring, expressing, and experiencing his grief here. He’s paying the price for the love he had for his son through feelings of loss and pain.

The skeleton tree in the song is a symbol of death. Once, the tree was alive, green, and beautiful. Now it is dead, looking like a skeleton with all the leaves “thrown across the sky.”

12. “Tie A Yellow Ribbon ‘Round The Ole Oak Tree” By Tony Orlando And Dawn

There’s something uplifting in the message of the next song on our list. Tony Orlando & Dawn’s “Tie a Yellow Ribbon ‘Round the Ole Oak Tree” is about second chances and unchanging love.

From the lyrics, we find out that the singer has been in prison for three years. Upon his freedom, only one thing is of utmost importance to him. He wants to know whether he has a love to go back to.

Just before being released, he had sent a letter to her. He told her to tie a yellow ribbon around the oak tree if she still wants him back. If he doesn’t see any yellow ribbon, then he doesn’t have to get off the bus and forget about her. But lo and behold, he sees “a hundred yellow ribbons” tied on the tree.

13. “Old Pine” By Ben Howard

Finally, we wrap up this list with Ben Howard’s “Old Pine” from his debut album, Every Kingdom. Songs that come from experience are one of the best, as this 2011 single will show you.

The lyrics describe a summer camping trip when the singer was a teenager. The song is about enjoying life, nature, and time spent with friends. If life means anything, it comes from nature and connecting with loved ones. The memories from experiences like this are priceless.

Howard drew inspiration for this song from a surf trip he took when he was sixteen. A falling pine tree almost took his life.

Summing Up Our List Of Tree Songs

When you think of a tree, you associate positive words with it. Strong, beautiful, resilient. And it becomes all the more significant when we associate experiences that have to do with a particular tree.

Words are not enough to say how important trees are. More than the oxygen and food they give us, they symbolize far more important things, such as dreams and love.

So we hope you have more appreciation for trees from the songs on this list. May they remind you of that tree you used to climb when you were a kid. Or that tree you sat under with a crush. Happy reminiscing!

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Written by Dan Farrant
Dan Farrant, the founder of Hello Music Theory, has been teaching music for over 15 years, helping hundreds of thousands of students unlock the joy of music. He graduated from The Royal Academy of Music in 2012 and then launched Hello Music Theory in 2014. He plays the guitar, piano, bass guitar and double bass and loves teaching music theory.