The Homeowners Column

The Homeowners Column

Never Underestimate the Power of a Tree

Photo of Sandra Mason

Sandra Mason
Extension Educator, Horticulture
slmason@illinois.edu

As I was trudging through the woods the other day I was amazed at how beautiful the trees looked with each branch outlined in snow. I enjoy winter when each tree bares its bones. Trees are an integral part of our lives and our communities.

Individual trees may have sentimental or historical value. Like that scrawny tree Jennifer brought home from school when she was in the third grade. It's now a lovely shade tree even though Jennifer is now planting her own kid's trees. Or maybe it's the white pine from the Christmas of 1992 that is now providing a home for the birds and protecting our home from the wind.

Trees make our communities more livable. The shade and windbreaks they provide can reduce home energy consumption by 30 percent. Shade is particularly important in urban areas where asphalt and concrete create heat islands. Anyone spending a moment in the country knows the importance of wind breaks.

Trees screen unsightly views, soften the hard outlines of buildings and absorb noise. Trees reduce water loss caused by surface runoff, reduce soil erosion and increase ground water recharge. Trees trap and hold pollutants. One acre of trees absorbs enough carbon dioxide during a year's time to equal the amount produced by a car driven 26,000 miles. One acre of trees produces enough oxygen for 18 people every day.

Convinced yet? How about how mature trees increase property values by as much as 20 percent or on average five to seven percent?

The psychological effects of trees are also being appreciated now. Just views of trees and plants have been shown to encourage quicker recovery from illnesses or surgery and increase worker productivity.

With the importance of trees throughout the United States, it's time we had a national tree. Now, for the first time, the American public has the opportunity to vote for a national symbol. The National Arbor Day Foundation, a nonprofit education organization, is hosting a process that makes it possible for people to vote for America's National Tree, either by visiting the Foundation's website, arborday.org, or through the mail.

The United States has a national emblem, the bald eagle, a national anthem, the "Star Spangled Banner," a national motto, "In God We Trust," a national flower, the rose, and even a national march, "Stars and Stripes Forever." But a national tree has not yet been designated.

People can vote directly on the Arbor Day Foundation's web site, arborday.org. Or people can mail their vote to America's National Tree, The National Arbor Day Foundation, Nebraska City, NE 68410, by April 1, 2001. Include your name and address on a 3 x 5" card (no punch cards please) and the tree of your choice. The Foundation will add these votes to those made online.

The Arbor Day Foundation website also contains educational material on the list of tree candidates.

Online voting will take place through midnight before National Arbor Day, the last Friday in April, April 27, 2001. I'm campaigning for oaks. "Folks love oaks." Arborday.org web site also helps people select the right tree for planting, how to correctly plant and prune trees, and other important aspects of tree care. For more information on tree selection and care, you can also check with your local University of Illinois Extension office or city forester.

This year resolve to be kinder to trees. Don't drive cars over their roots, nail garage sale signs to them, or hit them with the lawn mower. And would it hurt you to hug them once and awhile? Ok, maybe just a nice pat is sufficient. Protect your trees. It takes decades to replace a mature tree.

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