25 Of The Best Songs About Trees And Forests

Written by Dan Farrant
Last updated

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 25 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 wanted 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. “Birch Tree” By Foals

At its core, Foals‘ “Birch Tree” is all about the passage of time and change. Here, the singer contemplates his personal experiences and emotions as he looks back on his life.

In the song, the singer addresses an “old friend” whom he hadn’t seen in years after leaving his hometown. They lost touch, but now he urges him to reconnect with him and reminisce about the past times.

The chorus “Come meet me by the river, see how time it flows” is a reflection of how they have grown apart through the years. The line “now the river runs away, but I chase it” shows that time is like a river that we cannot bring back.

While the title is not mentioned anywhere in the lyrics, it seems to represent change, renewal, and longing for reconnection.

14. “Heart Of Oak” By Richard Hawley

The 2015 single “Heart of Oak” is Richard Hawley‘s way of appreciating the people who made a difference in his life.

Notably, these people are not just those who loved and supported him and his work. These are the ones who really take time to lend a helping hand or to offer friendship without wanting anything in return.

Hawley’s appreciation is something that they would surely love, for he uses the “heart of oak” as a metaphor for them. They are strong and reliable, just like an oak tree.

15. “Lemon Tree” By Fools Garden

In “Lemon Tree,” Fools Garden highlights boredom and loneliness. Lemons are sour, but they also symbolize the bitterness of life.

In the song, the singer waits around for his girlfriend to help break a boring rainy Sunday afternoon. He goes as far as driving because he’s lonely and waiting for her. But, as it turns out, he is stood up by his girlfriend.

Waiting and longing for her is symbolized by a lemon tree. Its fruit is sour, which we can say reflects his disappointments. At the same time, he expresses that “isolation is not good for me” and desires not “to sit on the lemon tree.”

16. “Little Willow” By Paul McCartney

The touching ballad “Little Willow” is Paul McCartney‘s tribute to his dear friend, Maureen Cox, Ringo Starr’s first wife.

McCartney was away when Cox died of cancer. It took a few days before he received the news, and then and there, he wrote the song. However, “Little Willow” was not just an ode to Cox but a way to comfort her children.

“Little Willow” may either refer to Cox or the children who have to deal with her death. Either way, willows are known to bend in the harshest conditions, which means resilience and the ability to thrive. The song reminds people who are dealing with loss to bend but not break when life’s winds blow.

17. “Thorn Tree In The Garden” By Derek And The Dominos

Coming up next is a song by Derek and the Dominos. “Thorn Tree in the Garden” was written by member Bobby Whitlock and is the closing track on the album Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs.

According to Whitlock, the song was inspired by a particular event involving his cat and dog. He was told to get rid of his pets as there were no more rooms in the house where he lived with a dozen other people. And while he was away to find a place for the cat, one of the guys did away with his dog.

Instead of punching the guy, Whitlock wrote the song for him. The guy is the thorn tree in the garden, the only thing that ruins the idea of a garden where Whitlock feels safe and secure with his pets.

18. “The Dreaming Tree” By Dave Matthews Band

Sometimes, life happens, and we miss the days of youth. In “The Dreaming Tree” by the Dave Matthews Band, the tree is a metaphor for comfort and a place of solace.

The tree further represents a simple time before life decides to make things a little more challenging. The singer can only say, “Long before these crowded streets, Here stood my dreaming tree,” which is a yearning for innocence and youth. Looking back on it serves as an escape from reality.

At the same time, the tree represents growth and change, as it also grows with the seasons. All in all, “The Dreaming Tree” conveys themes of growth, change, and a longing for simple times.

19. “A Thousand Trees” By Stereophonics

The Welsh rock band Stereophonics released “A Thousand Trees” in 1997. Here, the tree is a metaphor that shows how reputations can easily and quickly be destroyed.

A tree takes years to grow. In the same way, a person’s reputation takes a lot to build up. If you’ll notice from the song, the standout lines are “But it only takes one tree to make a thousand matches, Only takes one match to burn a thousand trees.”

This suggests that it takes a lot to create or build something (tree or reputation). But it takes just one false accusation or rumor (a match) to destroy (burn down) it.

20. “Diary” By Bread

Don’t you just love heartfelt songs that reveal hidden feelings? “Diary” by Bread is exactly that song.

To set the stage, a tree in the song is not a metaphor for anything. Rather, it is an important setting for the unfolding of the story between the characters. Specifically, the singer finds her diary under a tree. And surprise, surprise, the diary has revelations that he wouldn’t have known if he hadn’t read it.

We can say that the tree in “Diary” is a special place, particularly for the woman. She finds it a quiet and private place where she is free to let out her innermost thoughts, despite how heartbreaking the revelations are.

21. “Orange Trees” By Marina

Our next song, “Orange Trees” By Marina, is an ode to that one place that will always have a special spot in your heart. For Marina, it is Lefkada, Greece, where she once lived to discover that part of her father’s heritage.

Lyrically, Marina appreciates the beauty of the island city. She sings, “was busy chasing happiness When all I needed was a little peace.” And there, she finds the peace that her being craves.

The singer loves everything in its natural setting, from the flowers to the air and the titular orange trees. And even if she has seen the wonders of the world, nothing compares to this tiny space where her heart is at peace.

22. “Pine For Cedars” By Dan Mangan

If there is such a thing as a love letter for one’s hometown, that should be Dan Mangan‘s “Pine for Cedars.” The title is actually a play on words. “Pine” refers to a certain type of tree and a longing for something. “Cedar,” meanwhile, refers to a type of tree and a street where Mangan grew up.

Lyrically, the singer misses being back home. He says, “I will pine for the oak streets, And pine for the cedars and you.” He refers to a familiar place that’s always been a part of who he is. In this case, it’s a city known for its cedar trees.

Often, trees symbolize growth, strength, and resilience. However, they can also stand for being grounded or staying true to your roots.

23. “Feed The Tree” By Belly

The alternative rock band Belly‘s 1993 single “Feed the Tree” came from their debut album, Star. The tree is used as a metaphor to refer to commitment, respect, and death.

Lead singer Tanya Donelly shares that the titular tree represents a place on a large farm where the family will be buried. It also symbolizes the security of family and home. As it turns out, a tree like this is the only one on the farm and is a point of reference when getting around.

The lines “So take your hat off, When you’re talking to me, And be there when I feed the tree” means to say that one should show respect for under the tree lies the ancestors of the family.

24. “A Day In The Life Of A Tree” By The Beach Boys

If only we could hear what trees think, it would make a difference. The same idea must have crossed the mind of The Beach Boys‘ Brian Wilson because he penned “A Day in the Life of a Tree” from the perspective of a tree.

At its core, the song laments environmental pollution. The state of the Earth is piteous, with forests dying faster than humans can plant trees. The air is unclean, that’s why the tree in the song is complaining, “The air is killing me.”

Indeed, the environment is turning harmful to humans and all living things. And the tree, which represents the Earth, feels the impact of the pollution.

25. “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!

Photo of author

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.