The Lungs of the City

I have memories from my childhood of my grandfather telling me stories about giants of the swamp. At that time I saw some of the largest alligators I have ever seen, but he was referring to the Bald Cypress trees. To this day I see Cypress trees as giants, silently protecting Florida’s environment.

Although Cypress trees were the Ents of my childhood, trees commonly appear throughout folklore as symbols of fertility, immortality, or resurrection. The personifications and symbolism built around trees have endured throughout time. In retrospect, as we consider the environmental benefits and ecosystem services provided by trees, our stories do not stray far from our reality.

A Historic Precedent

Fredrick Law Olmsted, the pioneer of American landscape architecture and designer of Central Park, referred to public green spaces as “Lungs of the City.” Olmsted recognized the beneficial impacts of maintaining green spaces and trees within our urban areas. A tree’s ability to purify air, reduce pollutants, conserve water, and reduce erosion was a contributing factor in improving public health in urbanizing areas around the world.

Besides public health benefits, trees provide economic benefits to our communities. Areas with canopy cover attract tourists and visitors by creating comfortable spaces to visit. Landscape trees can increase property values by nearly 15%.

Reintroducing trees within an urban environment improves biodiversity. Maintaining a diverse, preferably native tree selection attracts a diverse population of birds and pollinators. Similarly, the diverse plant selection keeps pathogens from destroying an entire tree population.

Properly Maintaining Urban Forests

Properly maintaining trees are equally as important to maintain our urban forests. Pruning and maintaining a tree helps prolong the tree’s life and provides safer urban environments. Similarly, it increases sun penetration to the ground, improves aesthetics, and encourages fruit/flower production.

As we work in our landscapes, think of the important roles trees have within our homes, community, and environment. Select trees that work well in your landscape’s existing environment by following the Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Program’s first principle: right plant, right place. With time and care, your newly planted trees will become part of the lungs of your city.

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