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Saturday, January 15, 2011

Trees... and the Urban landscape

Since 2006 NorthWest Carrollton has worked with Hike for KaTREEna to plant and replant trees in our neighborhood. While some folks think this is great, there are still many others out there who seem almost afraid to have trees in their landscape.

The wrong tree in the wrong spot can cause problems BUT one of the benefits of working with Hike for KaTREEna is that the program helps ensure this doesn't happen.

Dan Gill had an article in this weekend's Inside Out that I'm sharing below in the hope that it will help some of our neighbors change their minds about trees in our neighborhood.

City dwellers might not consider trees to be that important. Who wants to rake up all of those leaves, anyway? But trees are especially important in urban areas for a variety of reasons.

Most of us would agree that Louisiana summers are too hot to begin with, but urban areas, in particular, are heat traps. The buildings, streets and parking lots absorb and hold heat from the sun, causing urban centers to be several degrees warmer than the surrounding countryside.

Trees moderate this by absorbing the sun's energy and using it to create their food. This is more than simple shade. Trees literally absorb the energy of the light, preventing it from creating heat. Trees provide comfortable oases by lowering air temperatures under their canopies by 6 to 10 degrees. Overall, this helps to moderate temperatures in urban areas.

Cooling system

On a more individual level, properly placed shade trees can cut your air-conditioning bill from 10 percent to 50 percent during the summer. Trees planted to the south or southwest of your home will provide the most benefit.

Choose deciduous shade trees -- those that drop their leaves during the winter. You will have the shade you need in the summer to reduce cooling costs, and, when the tree is leafless in winter, it will allow the sun to shine on the house, helping to reduce heating bills.

Air pollution in urban areas is a real concern, and trees help out with that, too. Leaf surfaces trap and filter out ash, dust, pollen and other particles in the air (although many trees also contribute to the pollen count when they bloom).

Trees help supply the oxygen we breathe, as well as absorbing and trapping carbon dioxide that car engines emit.

Among their many additional benefits, trees stabilize the soil and prevent erosion. A tree's extensive network of fine feeder roots occurs primarily in the upper foot of soil and spreads out well beyond its branches.

Leafy environment

Trees also cut down on noise pollution by acting as barriers to sound. Those who live in a city often comment on how quiet it is in the country. Noise seems to be a constant in urban areas.

When creating a quiet retreat, trees play a vital role. Small-growing evergreen trees, such as cherry laurel, Little Gem magnolia and spruce pine, can be effective in muffling or moderating noise.

When creating privacy in the landscape, small trees can be used to screen an outdoor living area from view. Evergreen types especially can be used effectively to hide unattractive views.

Urban wildlife benefits from the shelter trees provide. Squirrels, birds and other wildlife make their homes there. In addition, the seeds of many tree species are valuable sources of food for animals living in urban centers.

Not to be overlooked is the profound psychological effect trees have on us. Neighborhoods with large trees along the streets and in yards are attractive to almost everyone. And flowering trees, such as crape myrtles, dogwoods, sweet olive and vitex, add color and fragrance to the landscape.

Trees contribute greatly to beautification, increase property values and shade our outdoor living areas in the summer. Fruit and nut trees in the landscape even provide us with something good to eat.

So, take a moment to appreciate our trees. Our cities would be much less agreeable places without them. Don't forget to plant suitable trees wherever and whenever an appropriate situation exists.

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