“Flowers are the sweetest things God ever made, and forgot to put a soul into.” ~Henry Beecher

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Trees of Life

Over the last several weeks, I’ve been driving by a Pinchot Sycamore tree that is evidently the largest tree in Connecticut and the largest of its species in New England. It’s certainly no California Redwood but there is no denying that it is massive. Its main limbs stretch out and up beginning near the base resulting in an expansive reach that is wider than it is high. In 1998, it was measured to have a circumference of 26 feet, a height of 95 feet, and a canopy of 140 feet. In fact, standing on the side of the road, it was difficult to get a picture of the entire tree and looking at the pictures I did take of it, they don’t do it justice.

You may be thinking, why are you so interested in this tree? It’s not so much this tree as it is trees in general. This time of the year, the trees are budding. Many of them simply bud their leaves, but there are several varieties such as dogwoods that produce brilliant flowers that are only around for a short time. Between the daffodils and tulips and the flowering trees, it’s a very colorful time of the year around here and one where I’m guessing many people take the time to actually admire the trees. After a short time, though, the flowers drop and the leaves emerge and then the trees are simply filled with green (or red) and they mostly go unnoticed. We don’t realize, though, how valuable these trees are to us all. In fact, when I thought of all the things that trees “do”, I began to appreciate them even more:

1. They produce oxygen – essential for life as we all know;

2. They consume carbon dioxide – critical for the atmosphere and interestingly I read that because of the rise in CO2, plants are actually growing faster. A benefit for them perhaps;

3. They remove toxins from the ground and air;

4. They provide food to all organisms – some produce fruit, some nuts, some seeds, some sweetener, and even the Moringa tree provides a valuable, nutrient-dense leaf that is being used to save lives in India and Africa;

5. They produce shade and have a cooling effect. How wonderful is it to sit under a tree on a hot summer day to rest or read a book?

6. They are home and protection to a vast number of species that include primates, birds, reptiles, bugs, mosses, fungi, and bacteria;

7. They are a source of play – tree houses, tree swings, and hammocks (mostly) would not be without the tree;

8. They stabilize the ground and nourish it.

I’m sure there are things missing from this list. The bottom line for me is that I’m convinced that without trees, we would not exist. In fact, I understand and have a great appreciation for so-called “tree huggers”- those people who are so passionate about trees that they will make a very strong statement by camping out in a tree for sometimes years at a time. So after the flowers fall and the leaves fill in the spaces, I will continue to be grateful for trees – we all should be…

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