When you walk in the forest, ready to be inspired, what is the first thing you see? You see a tree, because it is the tallest, biggest, and most majestic plant in nature. It is so big and important because it has lots to give to this world and to the humans who live here. Trees are a multipurpose natural resource that humans depend on, and sometimes, they are not even aware of this dependence.
Please don’t take trees for granted because they have superpowers and can give us things we need:
- Trees clean the air by absorbing and storing carbon dioxide while releasing oxygen into the air. According to the Arbor Day Foundation, in one year, a mature tree will absorb more than 48 pounds of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and release oxygen in exchange. So, we can say that trees are more than just a beautiful habitat for birds, they help us breathe. When you take a big breath, be sure to thank all the trees around you!
- Trees give humans food. Apples, pears, nuts, avocados, oranges, Chocolate, coffee, coconuts, and lemons are just a few of the delicious foods we get from trees. Animals and insects are fed by trees as well.
- Trees provide protection for the Earth. They protect the soil from erosion. Tree roots will slow run off and hold soil in place. They also provide a wind break, and they can redirect heavy rains. Glare will be reduced, and dust will be absorbed by trees.
- Trees provide shelter and shade. Trees give lumber to build shelters, and people love to sit under a tree on a hot day to just cool off. We can use trees to shade our homes. With just three trees placed strategically around your home your air conditioning will be cut by about 50%. This is energy conservation and saving money all at the same time.
- Trees are a natural playground. A tree is a great place for children and adults to climb and explore. Children develop gross motor skills and learn to take risks when climbing trees. Adults can climb for fitness and strength building, and just to have fun!
- Trees can raise property values by as much as 15%. Trees add aesthetic value to any back or front yard. A tree increases privacy and shade and generally improves a home’s curb appeal.
- Spending time in the forest is known to improve mental health. Humans who don’t spend time in the forest are subject to a condition known as nature deficit. This Is characterized by higher blood pressure and higher stress. Most people report better physical and mental health when they do spend time in the forest. Research also suggests that nature experiences help us to feel kinder toward others. According to the New York State, Department of Environmental Conservation, this is partly because trees have chemicals called phytoncides which have antibacterial and antifungal qualities which help plants fight disease. When people breathe in these chemicals, their bodies respond by increasing the number and activity of a type of white blood cell called natural killer cells or NK. These cells kill virus-infected cells in our bodies.
Did you know, trees are good for our mental health?
In Japan, the practice of going into the forest is called “forest bathing”. This practice is proven to reduce stress hormone production, improve feelings of happiness and free up creativity as well as lower heart rate and blood pressure, boost the immune system and accelerate recovery from illness. In 1982, the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries even coined a term for being in the forest: Shinrin-yoko.
The Ministry encourages people to visit forests to relieve stress and improve health.
Congratulations, you have just learned about some of the superpowers trees have for us. We are constantly discovering new ways that trees can benefit us. Research is uncovering complex and beneficial ways in which trees improve our planet and our lives. Without trees, we have no future.
Want some trees in your own yard or garden?
Here are a few tips on how to properly plant and establish trees from the San Antonio Parks and Recreation, Urban Forestry Division:
- Select the right tree for the right location. Keep large species trees at least 15 Ft. away from structures and 25 feet from overhead utility lines.
- Call 1-800-DIG-TESS or 811 for Utility locates. Also, know where buried utilities are on your property.
- Dig a hole 2-3 times as wide as the root ball but not deeper than root flare. Prefer top of root ball to be l inch above existing soil grade.
- Remove tree from the container and/or all twine, wire, burlap, and any other material from the root ball.
- Cut or remove any circling/girdling roots and put tree in hole you have dug.
- Backfill halfway with original soil, and water in thoroughly. Backfill the rest of the original soil and water in thoroughly again.
- Mulch with wood chips: 2-3 foot radius, 1-2 inches deep, but keep 2-3 inches away from trunk. Proper mulching helps retain water, moderates soil temperatures, adds organic matter to the soil over time and can reduce the need for weed control.
- Water 3X a week for the first month. 2X a week for the next 2 months, and 1X a week for the rest of growing season. Of course, this watering schedule depends on rainfall levels, and drought conditions with high temperatures.
GET INSPIRED – GO PLANT A TREE!
About the Author
Thank you to our special guest author, Deb Dedrick, Develop Assistant for the Alamo Area Council. While working on her goals to complete her Woodbadge course, she gleefully decided to share her love of conservation all while achieving her personal Scouting goals.