A large Eucalyptus street tree once stood directly in front of my house until it fell onto the road many years ago. We were lucky, the house was not damaged, nor was anyone hurt thanks to the time of the day and the direction the tree fell. Interestingly, I only appreciated the tree most when it was gone.
In its absence we recognized the tree shaded our house from the afternoon sun. I have not calculated the increased amount of energy we have used to cool ourselves inside our home since the loss of the tree, but I am sure it is significant. I also discovered that the tree abated the sounds of our busy street, yet another of many benefits of living with trees. In the absence of the Eucalyptus, we now have to keep the front windows closed at the busiest times of day.
The plants in my front garden were enjoying the additional sunlight until we reduced our watering in response to our state’s drought crisis. If that tree still existed, I would be watering my plants much less frequently. A 4″ layer of mulch and watering in the early morning (deeply and infrequently) helps. I definitely pay more attention to my garden these days.
I miss that tree. In its remembrance I’m also reminded how much nature contributes to our physical comfort and emotional health. I have been learning much about tree stress and how all species of trees have become more susceptible to insects and disease during this drought. I’ve also learned about the higher number of dead trees throughout the state. According to one study, our state’s National Forests have lost at least 12.5 million trees. Local organizations such as TreePeople, Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden and Theodore Payne Foundation provide tips on the care of young or mature trees (note: their care advice differs).
But trees provide us with another benefit, one related to history and literature. We find examples of trees honored or connected with symbolic importance by various cultures and people across the globe: the redwood trees in Native American rituals, the trees which appear in the scholarly writings of the Middle Age, the majestic towering baobab trees preserved as village centers amongst Madagascar tribes, or even the roasted chestnuts eaten and cherished during U.S. and European holiday celebrations. By acknowledging the cultural value of trees in our own lives it increases our connection to nature beyond physical needs and can help compel us to all work to protect these precious resources.
Isn’t it time we pay back Mother Nature by caring for and about our trees?