By: Marlene Affeld
Trees are not just a key to the natural ecosystem, they are an essential part of our life experience. From majestic individual trees that have historic significance or are simply beautiful, to a quiet grove of greenery we seek for solitude, trees enrich our life experience simply by just being there. Trees are the longest lived and largest plant form on Earth and throughout recorded history trees have been acknowledged as symbols of power, wisdom, fertility and life.
Trees are also symbols of immortality, being able to live to considerable age. Pando, a Trembling Aspen located in Utah, USA is considered the world’s oldest living tree. Pando is estimated to be over 800,000 years old. Pando is a clonal colony of a single male Quaking Aspen. This massive trees root system covers 107 acres and is estimated to weigh in excess of 6,000 tons which makes it the heaviest known living organism in the world.
Throughout the world many different species of trees live amazingly long lives. The verified oldest measured ages are:
Norway Spruce (Picea abies) 9,550 years
Baobab (Digitata Adansonia) 6,600 years
Great Basin Bristlecone Pine (Pinus longaeva) 4,844 years
Alerce (Fitzroya cupressoides) 3,622 years
Giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum) 3,266 years
Huon-Pine (Largarostrobos franklinii) 2,500 years
Rocky Mountain Bristlecone Pine (Pinus aristata) 2,435 years
Because of their potential for longevity, trees are frequently planted as living memorials. We become attached to trees that we or those we love have planted and tended.
Trees add beauty and grace to any locale. Blossoms in the spring, verdant summer foliage and breathing taking colors in the fall; trees mark the seasons as they enhance the beauty of world. They make life more pleasurable, peaceful and relaxing. The majesty, endurance and strength of trees imparts a cathedral like quality as they help us to experience a primal connection with the earth and our most deeply held cultural and spiritual values.
The tree has always been a cultural symbol. The tree is often used to represent nature or the environment itself. In South America a tribe of Indians hold the belief that the trees of the forest hold up the sky. According to ancient tribal legends, the downfall of the trees will precipitate the destruction of Mother Earth.
Since ancient times, cultures around the world have honored trees with reverence and respect. Cultures in Australia and Asia regard the trees as mythical ancestors. Trees were often worshipped as the living embodiment of their gods and were believed to have holy medicinal applications and miraculous healing qualities for the body, mind and spirit.
The Druids of Europe were particularly influenced by trees and believed that trees possessed great mysterious powers. The Ancient Greeks are also known to have had a highly developed respect for the nobility and power of trees. Painting and pottery from the period display images of gratification and reverence. The Greek culture held the Bay Tree in especially high esteem as the tree was dedicated to their God Apollo and his young son Aesculapius and was held in sacred honor. Aesculapius was the God of Medicine and thus the Bay Tree was believed to have healing power and was used in many medical potions.
Built in the mid-12th century as a tribute to the Mother of the King, Ta Prohm Temple in southern Cambodia is the undisputed capital of the Kingdom of the Trees. The mystical and enchanting jungle temples beauty is explored with delight and left with deep regret. It remains virtually untouched by archaeologists except for the clearing of a narrow pathway for visitors. Because of its natural and pristine state, one can experience the wonder and joy of the early explorers when they discovered these amazing ancient monuments in the middle of the nineteenth century.
Wreathed in silvery mist and shrouded by dense jungle, the temple of Ta Prohm is ethereal in every aspect and conjures up a romantic mysterious aura. Banyan, kapok and fig trees spread their gigantic sprawling roots over giant stones, probing walls and tearing terraces apart as their branches and leaves intertwine to form a lush sheltering canopy over the structures. Trunks of these noble trees twist amongst stone pillars and over cobbled walls. The strange, haunting charm of the temple trees entwines itself about you as you go, as inescapably as the roots have wound themselves about the walls and towers. When visiting the awe inspiring Kingdom of the Trees one quickly becomes aware of how powerfully present and fully alive trees are and one can not escape the all-encompassing connection trees provide in the intricate and fragile web of existence.
More than 8000 tree species, 10 percent of the world's total, are threatened with extinction. Destruction of forests and woodlands and unsustainable logging of valuable timbers stands are causing the devastation of many important species. Clearing and burning of our forests leads to increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide, a significant contributor to global warming.
It saddens the soul to realize that the majority of the citizens of the Earth are so accustomed to seeing trees that they take them for granted; forgetting that these noble entities are fundamental to our very existence. Trees act as the living lungs of the planet, sequestering carbon dioxide and returning to us precious, life giving oxygen.
Trees have numerous aesthetic and economic benefits beyond their important role in carbon sequestration and oxygen production. Trees offer shelter, filter water, cleanse the air of pollution, moderate the climate, help prevent soil erosion as well as providing wildlife habitat, scenic beauty and a plethora of items we use daily. We rely on trees for paper products, building materials, fuel, food, medicine and more.
Benefits of Tree Planting
We all desire abundant forests for our children and grand-children. Trees maintain sustain-able soils and control erosion. Retaining soil in place by their root mass, deflecting wind driven rain with their canopies and contributing nutrients with their leaves, trees are crucial to sustaining and improving the earth’s ecosystem.
Trees cleanse our air and water. From auto and factory emissions and ozone in industrialized areas to fertilizer and pesticide runoff from rural farms, trees absorb toxic pollutants as they recharge ground water and sustain streamflow. Trees also combat global warming. As trees grow they remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, the major contributor to global warming.
We depend on trees for their nutritional bounty. Fruit and nutmeats are a staple of diets around the world. A fruit tree can live for more than forty years and produce more than 10,000 pounds of fruit. A tree truly gives life. Apples are one of the most popular fruit tree choices and a mature apple tree can produce up to 500 apples in a season. Consider planting pear, plum, cherry, apricot, orange, lime, lemon or banana trees. Research what will grow well in your local area. Plant and enjoy an organic harvest grown in harmony with nature. Nothing tastes sweeter!
Trees are used world wide as landscape amenities to soften the harsh outline of buildings, to create green spaces in communities, provide privacy, to screen unsightly views and to dampen noise pollution as well as beautify the property. Shrubs and trees, properly planted and tended on a residential or commercial lot can significantly increase real estate value. Mature, healthy trees add an average of 20 per cent to a property’s value.
Planting trees saves energy. Trees planted strategically around our homes will decrease cooling costs in summer and provide a windbreak against the cold winds of winter thus saving on heating expenses. Depending on species and maturity, the cooling shade of trees can reduce home energy consumption by up to 20 percent. Air temperature in the vicinity of trees is cooler than that away from trees. The larger the tree, the greater the cooling effect. Tree planting in urban areas moderates the heat-island effect caused by concrete paving and heat absorbing buildings.
Planting trees feels good! It is immensely satisfying to plant a tree, happy in the knowledge that this gift to the earth will bring joy, shelter and sustenance to our children, grandchildren and countless future generations.
Problems caused by massive and increasing levels of deforestation worldwide has raised awareness of environmental issues and the crucial role forests play. Climate change is the largest environmental issue the world faces this century. People of all ages throughout the world agree that we must act. However sometimes the task seems overwhelming, the challenge too global for any one person to make a difference. Wrong! Every individual act has rewards and consequences.
Celebrate Life! Plant A Tree!
Consider green gifting. Are you looking for the perfect gift for a birthday, wedding, anniversary celebrations or any milestone occasion? Are you looking for a meaningful way to mark the birth of your child or grandchild? Would you like a special way to memorialize a loved one who has passed away, a unique way to honor a veteran? Giving the gift of a celebration or memorial tree is a unique gift that will last a lifetime.
There is strength in numbers. Together we can make a difference. Take action by living a green lifestyle to reduce your carbon output, educate children about protecting the planet we all share and be part of the solution simply by planting more trees.