The Value of Trees

Part of the following is taken from Tree Guide ~Bird Park and Vicinity~ by Kenton E. McElhattan, published by and available from The Mt. Lebanon Nature Conservancy, 1991.

“We all view trees differently. We see them as providers of shade on hot summer days and home to birds on early spring mornings. We see them also, at times, as creators of back-breaking labor when their leaves fall or as obstacles to avoid with the lawn mower. We notice and appreciate their first buds as a sign that winter is over and marvel at their beauty in the fall. We like them, but in all probability we really don’t spend a lot of time thinking about trees.

Trees are one of the most remarkable forms of life. They are able to absorb all kinds of environmental punishment and still produce oxygen required to sustain human life, plus large quantities of wood, leaves, and seeds. Like people, trees suffer from disease, bacteria, toxins, and respiratory problems that accompany advancing age. Unlike humans, trees breath in carbon dioxide and exhale oxygen, a factor that contributes significantly to human survival. Through transpiration, one average-sized tree has the cooling effect of several room air conditioners. The foods, products and medicines derived from trees seem like a never-ending list.

According to the American Forest Council, in the process of growing, trees:

  • breath in carbon dioxide and breath out oxygen
  • protect soil from wind and water erosion
  • provide an environment for hundreds of species of plants and animals
  • add beauty to the landscape
  • and produce renewable raw materials for the wood and paper products we all use.
  • However, it is their intrinsic value as a source of tranquility, peace, and enjoyment that we recognize…”

    We have many different kinds of trees here in Mt. Lebanon. In fact, in a study done in Bird Park in 1987, forty-seven different kinds of trees were identified in the park alone. Add to this the many different ornamental trees that are planted in gardens and yards, the total would well exceed 100. Contributing to the wide variety of trees in the area is the temperate climate. We have four wonderful seasons, with a variety of precipitation, ranging from rain to sleet to snow. Summers vary from being cool and wet to hot and humid; winters from bitter cold to mild.

    I spent nearly 8 years in the deep south where winter temperatures seldom got below 40 degrees and summer days averaged near 100 degrees. The dominant trees, and sometimes the only trees around, were Loblolly pines and scrub oaks. After moving back to Pittsburgh, I have a renewed appreciation for the seasons. I also have learned to appreciate the wide variety of trees and always look for different species in my travels in western Pennsylvania.

    Along with all the other benefits listed by Mr. McElhattan, trees provide us with variety (size, shape, color) and an ever-changing panorama with the changing seasons. How boring Mt. Lebanon would be with only a couple different types of trees. Maybe we should spend more time thinking about our trees…

    This article was written by Dr. Mark Evans.

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