Texas Cooperative Extension,
Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas

March 2004

The Virtuous Tree

by Michael Morrison, Horticulturist,
Texas Cooperative Extension, Harris County, TX

Trees at work
Trees at work

Since the dawn of history, all civilizations and religions have believed trees to be of great significance. Pillars of the temples of Egypt were stylized trees, holding at the base of their spines the vital Life Force, which provided for strength and durability. Many legends exist about the various creatures that live in and off the tree. The eagle that nests on top is said to lend his eyes to those who would see the mind of God. In Christianity, the Tree of Life is said to stand in the center of the Garden of Eden uniting heaven and earth, and opening a path to God. As early as 600 BC, the Celts planted trees in the names of their children to insure a connection between the divine and earthbound aspects of the soul. It is said that the planting allowed the child's imagination to live in the earth and the wind. If you have a newborn coming soon, you might want to share the ancient tradition of planting a tree when the child is born to ensure long life, prosperity, and an eternal bond with nature. According to one ancient wisdom, birds and animals moving through the branches of a tree planted for a child could bring that child special insight into the accumulated wisdom of human life.

According to Dr. Roger S. Ulrich of Texas A&M University, laboratory research shows that "visual exposure to settings with trees has produced significant recovery from stress within five minutes, as indicated by changes in blood pressure and muscle tension." I need to go to the forest myself! Did you know that planting trees means improved water quality, less runoff, less pollution and allows the recharging of the ground water system? Did you know that the USDA says that healthy, mature trees add an average of ten percent to a property's value? Did you know that shade just from trees can save you up to $175.00 per year (per structure) in air conditioning costs according to Dr. Lowell Ponte? The net cooling effect of a young, healthy tree is equivalent to ten room-size air conditioners operating twenty hours a day!

The US Department of Agriculture states that one acre of forest absorbs six tons of carbon dioxide and puts out four tons of oxygen. This is enough to meet the annual needs of eighteen people. OK, breathe...trees do a lot of work for us and for the environment. We also know that landscaping, especially with trees, can increase the value of your home and save on heating costs as well. Forty percent of prescription drugs dispensed in the US have active ingredients derived from plants, animals or microorganisms, many of them from forests. Trees filter dust and toxic pollutants from the atmosphere and capture a wide range of smog-producing compounds such as ozone and carbon monoxide. They are good noise barriers, making a city and neighborhood quieter. Trees are the longest living and largest living organisms on Earth and you have a chance to plant one! By planting thirty trees per person, it would remove that person's carbon dioxide debt for the year. OK, here is one for you....why do they call a live oak a live oak? Not all hardwood trees are deciduous. During the winter while most other hardwoods are dead looking, the live oaks look, well, alive. Are you convinced now to go out and plant a tree?

Trees are so wonderful and graceful and do so much for us. Plant a tree, smile, laugh and laugh some more!