Nine reasons why you should give trees a second thought this Earth Day
April 22nd is Earth Day, and this year marks a celebration of the infinite importance of trees.
Trees have been a vital and constant source of nourishment, shelter, energy, inspiration, comfort and beauty since the beginning of time, yet we often take their value for granted. Here are nine incredible facts that will renew your appreciation for these wonderful beings.
1. They sustain life, literally
There is no truer reality than the fact that without air to breathe, life as we know it would not exist. In that sense, and in many others, we owe our lives to trees. Incredibly, a single tree can produce enough oxygen to support a family of four for an entire year.
2. They provide shelter for hundreds of species
Did you know that an English Oak supports around 600 species of insects, who in turn act as a food source for birds and other small mammals? Not to mention the squirrels, foxes, and other forest-dwelling creatures that forage on their plentiful crop of acorns. All thanks to one single tree.
3. Trees are nature’s own compass
It’s certainly good to know that if you’re ever stuck in the wilderness, you can just ask a tree for directions! In some places, moss grows on the shaded north side of a tree trunk, and if you examine the rings of a cut-down tree trunk, you will notice they will be wider on the north side, and more compact on the south. A nifty navigational tool to remember!
4. Their medicinal properties
We bet you didn’t know that aspirin was developed from the bark of the willow tree due to its high concentration of salicin. Or that some chemotherapy treatments are derived from the needles and bark of certain types of yew trees . Or that: Alder is an ancient astringent; apple tree bark treats fevers; Ash trees reduce rheumatism; Maple leaves provide relief for breastfeeding mothers...the list really is endless.
5. ‘Ancient’ doesn’t quite cover it
If trees could talk, they could certainly tell a few stories. One particular colony of Pando trees in Utah, USA is thought to be over 80,000 years old, meaning they’ve been around longer than almost any other living thing on the planet. There’s something very comforting about such endurance.
6. They have their own language
Not one that you can buy a phrase book for, unfortunately, but it’s true that certain species of trees have been found to secrete a chemical into the wind when under attack by insects to warn other trees nearby. The trees receiving this ‘SOS’ message then produce a substance to ward off the insects. Simply amazing.
7. Trees improve with age
Whilst human productivity tends to decline with age, the opposite is true for trees, who just keep getting cleverer. A mature tree has the ability to remove as much as 70 times more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than a newly planted one. Now if only we could harness that somehow...
8. What you see is just the ‘tip of the iceberg’
Most people know that a tree’s network of roots is vital - but how about this for a mind-blowing thought: a tree’s ‘tap root’ (the main ‘artery’ running throughout the centre of the root system) can extend as deep as three times the height of the tree!
9. They make us happy
Not just because they are a thing of beauty, and looking at beautiful things makes us happy, but more profoundly it is a proven phenomenon that sick people heal faster, and experience less pain when they are able to view trees.