Everyone knows that trees offer shade to our homes and lawns. Their spring flowers and fall colors add beauty to the landscape. Birds and other wildlife take shelter in the branches. These are a few of the obvious benefits of planting trees. Let’s consider some other equally important benefits as well.
Having trees around us makes life more pleasant. We feel serene, peaceful, restful, and tranquil in a grove of trees. We are “at home” there. Families plant trees to mark the passage of time- to commemorate the birth of a baby or the passing of a grandparent. Planting and caring for a tree can offer countless teaching moments for children as they watch it grow. Hospital patients have been shown to recover from surgery more quickly when their hospital room offered a view of trees. The strong ties between people and trees are most evident in the resistance of community residents to removing trees to widen streets. People and organizations often make heroic efforts to save particularly large or historic trees in a community.
These benefits extend to the whole community as well. Even though trees may be private property, their large size makes them a part of the community as well. Neighborhoods with mature trees and well-kept landscapes have lower crime rates than areas paved with concrete and steel. With a canopy of trees overhead, people spend more time outdoors walking, jogging, and visiting with neighbors.
Trees can also provide privacy, emphasize views, or screen out objectionable views. They reduce glare and reflection. They direct pedestrian traffic. They provide background and soften, complement, or enhance architecture.
Trees have a profound effect on the environment. The temperature in the vicinity of trees is cooler than it is away from trees. The larger the tree, the greater the cooling. By using trees in cities, we are able to reduce the heat-island effect caused by pavement and buildings in commercial areas. The sun’s energy is absorbed by leaves in the summer, but is only filtered by the branches in winter. Trees can affect wind speed as well. Evergreens planted on the north side of a property can reduce cold winter wind and any tree planted on the south side of a property will reduce drying summer winds.
Air quality can be improved through the use of trees and shrubs. Leaves filter the air we breathe by removing dust and other particulates. Leaves absorb carbon dioxide from the air to form carbohydrates that are used in the plant’s structure and function. In this process, leaves also absorb other air pollutants—such as ozone, carbon monoxide, and sulfur dioxide—and release oxygen into the air.
Individual trees and shrubs have economic value, but determining the exact dollar amount is difficult. Direct economic benefits are usually associated with energy costs. Air-conditioning costs are lower in a tree-shaded home. Heating costs are reduced when a home has a windbreak. Trees increase in value from the time they are planted until they mature. Trees are a wise investment of funds because landscaped homes have a higher resale value than non-landscaped homes.
The indirect economic benefits of trees are even greater. These benefits are available to the community or region. Customers pay lower electricity bills when utility companies need to build fewer new facilities to meet peak demands and use reduced amounts of fossil fuel to generate the electricity. To each individual, these savings are small, but to the community and the environment, these savings are often in the thousands of dollars.
With all these benefits, it should be obvious why we plant trees. So go out into your yard and find a spot to add a new tree. Then stop by Finke Gardens to discuss your planting project with the helpful staff. You will soon be on your way to a happier, healthier lifestyle!