Trees…. Nature’s Sustainable solar pump!
We have often heard or even used the phrase, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” I enjoy good art, and certainly appreciate the work of an artist and the dedication that goes into their craft. As a practicing consulting arborist, I find myself explaining to my clients how much a tree is worth. We can consider a tree’s “worth” from several angles: real-estate value, ecosystem benefit, timber value, habitat value, aesthetic value, production value, even recreational values; like holding a tree house or supporting a swing. Depending on who you speak with, and what their goals and expectations are, the value or “worth” takes many forms. For the purpose of this blog, lets consider the “work” that trees are capable of accomplishing. First let’s lay some ground rules:
- Trees are awesome!!
- Right tree, right place always works
- Healthy trees accomplish optimal and efficient work
- Not all trees are created equally
- Arborist are tree whisperers, they are educated on tree care.
- Trees are awesome- Ok, soooo to a tree nerd like me, this statement would be followed by a mic drop!! Boom…I’m out!! However, I’m hoping that my audience consists of more than just my fellow tree nerds. My hope is that I have all kinds of professionals reading this blog, including engineers and landscape architects. Crazy fact…. A mature tree can store enough carbon and produce enough oxygen to offset 2 humans. Did you know, trees can adsorb airborne pollution, grow in polluted soils and drink polluted ground water, and still produce oxygen, shade, and habitat for wildlife? If I have a bad meal, I am angry, likely sick and I am good for nothing for days. The only thing I am producing is complaints!!
- Right tree, right place- Often as an arborist or expert in phytoremediation, I see the wrong tree utilized in a space, and site goals and expectations are not met. Understanding that all trees have a niche that they work best in is critical to the success of the site. Often what is overlooked is the concept of pioneer vs. climax conditions, or shade tolerant vs. shade intolerance or shape, form and habit at maturity. Pioneer plant species grow in harsh conditions, with full sun, harsh elements, poor soils, etc. often the first plant to inhabit a space- Trees like American Sycamore (Plantanus occidentalis), Eastern Cottonwood (Populus deltoidies), Black Willow (Salix nigra); on the contrary, Climax plant species grow in opposite conditions, fertile soils, older growth well establish conditions, abundant moisture and filtered or no sunlight- Trees like American Beech (Fagus americana), Southern Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora), etc.
- Healthy trees accomplish optimal and efficient work- Trees are like us in many ways, sounds crazy and maybe here is where you unplug from this blog, but hold on, it gets good!! So, just like humans, when we are young, we bend and flex and have lots of energy to overcome any obstacle thrown at us. Trees are the same way. Young trees grow vigorously, they flex in storms, they defend against insects, disease and invaders. As humans grow, their metabolism slows down, they get brittle and are more susceptible to sickness and physical ailments. Trees…the same!! Old trees tend to develop more health issues, they tend to fall apart, shed limbs and attract insects. We cannot slow father time, but we can help our trees to be healthy and have good vitality. As the tree grows, like us, our health care needs change and often get more complex. What worked as a young man/tree may not work on an older man/tree!! The struggle is real, believe me!!
- Not all trees are created equally- Yes, each tree has its happy place, and has limitations. Often, as an Arborist I see folks insist that a particular species be placed in their yard, or at their site, with reckless abandon. When I arrive, I think, its no wonder the tree is struggling, failing and not accomplishing goals!! Vigor is a term we utilize often when we talk about trees and plants. Vigor is the plant’s genetic coded ability to grow in a certain space, or how the tree grows. These characteristics, needs, etc. cannot be changed or altered. It is up to the professional to match the right tree with the specific site conditions. Consider this, in South Louisiana we had an exceptionally cold winter in 2017-2018. Many days of frost, and even sneaux (Cajun for snow). It was awesome for kids and beautiful, but not awesome for trees and many of our tropical plants. Many of the plants and trees have suffered death or damages to vascular tissue because they are not equipped to deal with this shift in temperature.
- Arborist are tree whisperers, they are educated on tree care- Several years ago I had a long-time client refer to me as her “Tree Whisperer.” I had to laugh, and my family got a great kick out of that, and still do. But in all seriousness, my client was on to something. My grandfather always told me “son, pick one thing in life to be good at, and be really good at it.” Thanks Pawpaw!! Arborist are tree care people. Why do we ask other professionals to handle the work of an arborist? In my opinion, and Pawpaw’s, my specialty is tree care. I mean, when I have a pothole in my street, I don’t call an eye doctor, I seek the help of a road engineer. If I have a broken leg, I do not seek the advice of a roofer, I call an orthopedic. So why are we relying on anyone except an arborist to care for trees, or advise which trees get planted at a site? Certainly, there are projects that need a multi-disciplined team of professionals to develop a strategic plan to move the project forward and towards success. If the project call for trees, an arborist should be on the team.
So, trees are awesome. Trees are an efficient and effective solar pump for your site, and can perfom great work, if the right tree is planted in the right spot. To perform at an optimal level, maintain the plant’s vitality through a great well executed plant health care program.
Contact our very own Tree Wisperer....
Scott Courtright, Director of Natural Resources and Consulting Arborist