The Gift of Trees
Muffled in leaf litter, I stepped carefully, reverently toward the towering column. Unafraid, I knelt softly and pressed my hands on the smooth bark. Solace, solitude, and sanctuary provided by the sturdy boughs. I sat listening to the scurry of creatures out of sight, feeling dappled sun warm my rosy cheeks. I was peaceful in the presence of my friend, the sycamore tree.
What is it about trees that gives us an immediate sense of peace? Why do we revere them and erect fences around them?
To start our conversation about trees, we should start with the seemingly simple question: What is a tree? Some people claim that a tree is any plant that grows above 15 ft. tall with a single trunk and produces secondary growth (wood). This definition works until you consider the aspen tree, which is one tree with many single trunks, or palms that produce no ‘wood’. Trees cannot be lumped into a simple discrete definition partly due to their vast diversity. A tree then, is based solely on our (human) descriptions of physical characteristics. We generally agree that trees are tall(ish) and usually have a discernable trunk and produce things that look like leaves (or needles) and sometimes have flowers (or cones).
Trees occupy our home landscapes, our streets, forests, coastlines, and mountain ridges. They come in a broad range of shapes, sizes, and colors. We build our houses near them, encourage our children to climb them and picnic beneath their branches. They all produce life-giving oxygen. They all absorb and store carbon dioxide. They all provide habitat for wildlife. They all promote nutrient cycling and water filtration. In urban areas, trees provide all the ecosystem services listed above as well as, promoting indicators of good health such as, lower blood pressure, decreased stress, fewer cases of depression, lower crime rates, increased air quality and temperature regulation.
This resource has more information specifically on the benefits of trees to Florida: https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/ep595
With all these services freely given, what do trees ask in return? Space to grow, care for them as they age and build with their longevity in mind.
We are highlighting trees again in 2023 with our annual TreeQuest community tree scavenger hunt.
To participate in TreeQuest:
Visit one or all of the parks listed below between January 20, 2023 (Florida Arbor Day) and January 31, 2023 and find the tagged trees. You will scan the tags to submit answers to our scavenger hunt survey and be entered into a drawing for prizes. (Prizes sponsored by Keep Manatee Beautiful)