All the way back to my days as a college student in the early 1970s, I pondered Americans’ love affair with the lawn – the greenest, purest, most dandelion-free turf that money (and lots of chemicals) could produce. Earning my tuition by mowing turf farms (a k a city parks) for the city of Pocatello, Idaho, just helped solidify my mental picture of it all.
In two-plus years of living in an on-base house on Robins Air Force Base, Ga., 1980-82) I finally formulated a more pleasing-to-the-eye scene: Urban trees as places liked by fellow creatures of Earth. In the case of that residential duplex, the Georgia wildlife the live oak tree attracted was enough to generate page after page of notes in an early field notebook that still has a prominent place in my home library.
Field naturalists are big note takers, recording a lot more than just the day’s high and low temperatures, but also signs of Wild Nature like the first day of swelling buds, the first early-spring appearance outside its winter burrow of the local woodchuck, and new signs of the spread of kudzu, the non-native vine that ate the South.
By planting trees native to our region of the continent (and the list of plants native to Pennsylvania alone is exhaustive), the homeowner can take pride in accomplishing many objectives.
Trees in the home yard do these things and a whole lot more:
- Trees release oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide to freshen the air.
- They trap dust and dirt, and remove pollution particles from the air.
- Trees increase property values. (Read a Wall Street Journal article about this at http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303722604579113230353966564)
- They provide shade in the summer, protection from wind in the winter.
- Trees give us leaves to make the best compost.
- Trees provide habitat for birds.
- Trees make your neighborhood a more beautiful place.
- Trees whose spring flowers show off for humans also offer food to native pollinators.
- Neighborhoods and homes that are barren are known to have a greater incidence of violence in and out of the home than their greener counterparts. Trees and landscaping help reduce the level of fear.The organization Tree People (treepeople.org) notes on its Web site: “Average temperatures in Los Angeles have risen 6 degrees F in the last 50 years as tree coverage has declined and the number of heat-absorbing roads and buildings has increased.
“Trees cool the city by up to 10 degrees, by shading our homes and streets, breaking up urban ‘heat islands’ and releasing water vapor into the air through their leaves.”
Most importantly in this age of Earth’s changing climate, trees do this: “Global warming is the result of excess greenhouse gases, created by burning fossil fuels and destroying tropical rainforests. Heat from the sun, reflected back from the earth, is trapped in this thickening layer of gases, causing global temperatures to rise.
“Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a major greenhouse gas. Trees absorb CO2, removing and storing the carbon while releasing the oxygen back into the air. In one year, an acre of mature trees absorbs the amount of CO2 produced when you drive your car 26,000 miles.”
You can read, and ponder, the top 22 benefits of trees at www.treepeople.org/top-22-benefits-trees
So this spring, let’s plant a tree, or, better yet, a whole bunch of trees. You can learn about Pennsylvania’s native trees from the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources at www.dcnr.state.pa.us/cs/groups/public/documents/document/dcnr_003489.pdf