Everyone loves the beauty of a tree. Joyce Kilmer even articulated his love of trees in a famous poem, entitled simply Trees. Beauty is the main reason we plant trees, but nature’s giants reward us multi-fold for this gesture.
We learn in school that trees provide us with the oxygen we need to breathe and remove the carbon dioxide that we exhale. Carbon dioxide is needed, along with sunlight and water, for the photosynthetic reaction that results in the food that plants need to survive. Water and oxygen are given off, or transpired, through the leaves. That’s the oxygen we breathe.
As part of this process, trees sequester, or store, carbon. Since there is so much carbon in the atmosphere from vehicles and industry, as well as people and animals, removing and storing it helps the environment. Trees remove other pollutants from the air as well.
Trees’ root systems form an underground web that helps prevent soil erosion. This web also filters water runoff, further protecting our waterways from pollution. You can help reduce the water runoff even more by mulching the root zone of your trees. The mulch will hold rain water, releasing it slowly so the tree roots can use it, rather than losing it to runoff.
Strategically placed trees can reduce your energy bill. Deciduous trees, planted to the south and east of your house, can shield the house from the sun in the summer and let more sunlight shine on your house in winter. This can keep your house cooler in summer and warmer in winter. Conversely, conifers planted to the north and west of your house can block some of the winds that typically come from those directions. This same principal works for large, paved areas, which absorb a lot of heat. Trees, planted in parking lot medians help to reduce the pavement temperature.
Trees provide us with a major building material – wood. While still standing in forests, they may become wildlife habitats. That may also be true for trees planted in our yards. However, they increase property values as well as providing habitat for wildlife.
Trees also play a role in shaping our attitudes and making us feel better. Research has shown that trees have a healing and calming effect on us. They also mark the seasons for us. We know spring is here when trees flower and leaf out and that fall has arrived when the leaves turn color and drop. Bare branches can also contribute to our winter doldrums. That may also be one of the reasons we began bringing evergreens into our homes for the winter holidays.
Physically, trees can help shade us from harmful ultra violet (UV) rays from the sun. And, of course, fruit and nut trees provide us with food. Organisms that give us so much certainly deserve lots of love and care in return. We domesticated trees for our own enjoyment and the benefits they can provide. In return, we have the same responsibilities as we have to the animals we domesticated as pets.
If you have a spot in your yard that would make a nice home for a tree, or trees, remember that Fall is for Planting.