Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Seven Reasons to Plant a Tree

From Sunset Magazine's Jim McCausland.

While you are in your yard, consider planting a tree! (Don't forget to Call Before You Dig!)

Here are seven good reasons to plant a tree:

1. Attract wildlife
Leafy canopies supply birds, butterflies, insects, and squirrels with food and shelter. Tiny aphids that eat new leaves are food for chickadees, kinglets, and ladybugs, while squirrels and woodpeckers love seeds, nuts, and apples. Bees and butterflies flit among flowering trees to sip nectar.

2. Add privacy to gardens
As lot sizes shrink, backyards and patios that serve as personal sanctuaries become more important to our sense of well-being. Trees provide for that — a row of conifers along a property line gives you a sense of wooded enclosure without making your property feel too hemmed in.

3. Freshen the air
Trees remove nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, ozone, carbon monoxide, and small particulates from the air. Their shade cools the air enough to reduce smog levels by up to 6 percent.

4. Help manage runoff
When rain falls on a tree, part of the water is absorbed by leaves; the rest evaporates or drips to the ground over a period of minutes or hours. This delay gives the soil more time to absorb the rainfall and recharge the groundwater, so there's less runoff and erosion to choke and pollute streams. Where trees border creeks and rivers, overarching branches shade and cool the water.

5. Reduce carbon
Carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas, is considered a prime contributor to global warming. Trees breathe it in, use the carbon to build mass (half of a tree's dry weight is carbon), then exhale oxygen. On balance, they retain more carbon than they lose. So every tree you plant helps reduce your carbon footprint on the planet. (The average American produces about 7½ tons of carbon dioxide in annual fuel and electricity use.)

6. Save energy
Deciduous trees, positioned to shade the house on hot summer days when their leaves block the sun, also warm the house in winter by letting the sun pass through their leafless branches. Such natural cooling and heating helps conserve electricity and can save you money. How much depends on your climate and the way your house is built, but energy savings generally range from 8 percent to 12 percent for a single 25-foot-tall tree to more than 25 percent for multiple well-placed trees.

7. Increase home value
According to some studies, on average trees can increase the value of your home by about 7 percent (10 percent for large trees in high-income neighborhoods).

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