Abstract Planting rectilinear regularly spaced and low-diversity rows of trees along sidewalks is the dominant streetscaping practice in Western cities. Street trees provide shade, pleasant pedestrian environments, and ecological benefits. I interrogate the origin of this surprisingly stable practice by exploring the last 600 years of street tree planting in Paris. Paris’ iconic tree-lined boulevards have influenced streetscapes worldwide. This model of royal and imperial origins stems from, and reproduces, a complex mode of human–nature relations involving biophilia, the use of orderly nature as a symbolic commodity and, more recently, ecological stewardship.