This week is national tree week, it’s a whole week celebrating the tallest, the biggest living thing on this glorious planet of ours. We all walk by a tree everyday but how many of you take a second to stop and think about how much these beautiful plants give us each day? Yes they give us oxygen and help to store carbon but what else? Of course there’s wood for building houses, furniture, fences, tools, clothing, money and millions of other day to day objects. For thousands of years, well until coal was discovered, it was the only thing that we used to keep warm and cook with, no hang on, coal is indeed fossilised wood, so it wasn’t until we started using oil and gas, that the role of trees, was reduced to keep us warm. But even that is changing, the use of wood as a fuel to make power is coming back, with bio burners, run on chipped trees and plants are starting to make an impact within the electricity market. And of course where would we be without matches and paper to start a fire in the first place!
It’s not only to use that trees give so much, but the wildlife surrounding us, from the flora and fauna that use trees as a place to live and feed above ground, to the life they support underground both still alive and also when they die and the wood is slowly decomposed back into the ground, helping with the support of a wide range of insects, bacteria, plants and fungi, to give more life to the soil and helping the next generation of trees and plants to grow away.
And of course they provide us with food and medicine, indeed in some trees it’s the whole plant that helps us in the every day struggles to stay healthy and our bellies full. In the city environment they help to reduce our toxins that we produce in our day to day living, both by absorbing them into their foliage as in some gases but also trapping the large particles on the leaves, helping those people who suffer from breathing problems, better air to breathe. They also lift our spirits and help to reduce stress and depression just by providing something natural in an urban environment but also by attracting in wildlife again helping us to take a few minutes out and enjoy nature in our busy day to day live. Indeed in japan, they encourage you to spend at least 2.5hrs a week, walking though a forest and inhaling the air, this air they have found contains the essential oils released from the trees that also have a positive effect on the body, they call it forest bathing. They also provide (for some of the lucky ones amongst us) work! From growing trees, planting them, caring for them and of course making things from them. I have had a lifetime working around trees and plants and it has been a lifetime well spent
But trees also help to put us into our place! They remind us how short of a time we have on this planet, while we maybe lucky to live until we are over a hundred, trees can go on for much longer, indeed the oldest tree is thought to be a bristlecone pine tree that’s lived to over 5500years old. They also are a legacy for our children and great grandchildren children to enjoy as whenever we plant a tree, it is for them to enjoy and not for ourselves and that to me is one of the greatest joys of trees, planting something that will be there a long time after I have gone.
Indeed the trees have so many other uses in our lives and planet, far to many for me to list here, indeed more than likely more than I know and understand. So as you walk by them on your way to work, take a look at the trees with a little more respect and yes Sheffield council that does mean you as well!
The first tree I ever planted, still growing strong at Mottisfont Abbey Gardens
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The first tree I ever planted before I was in kindergarten was an incense cedar, Calocedrus decurrens, from my maternal grandparent’s summer house near Pioneer. It is still there, and because it is a rather narrow and unobtrusive tree, it might stay for a long time.