From the Climate Action Team

The Gifts of Trees

Looking up into the branches of an elm tree

When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks, and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
~Mary Oliver

When you are among the trees how do you feel? Trees are known to benefit the psychological health of humans as well as local and worldly climates. In The Hidden Life of Trees, Peter Wohlleben tells us how trees care for their neighbors: trees of the same species connect with each other through their root systems and “it appears that exchanging nutrients and helping neighbors in times of need is the rule.” (p 8) Why would trees share nutrients with one another and even with tree species not of their kind? “The reasons are the same as for human communities: there are advantages to working together. A tree is not a forest. On its own, a tree cannot establish a consistent local climate. . . but together, many trees create an ecosystem that moderates extremes of heat and cold. . .” (p 12) Trees also sequester carbon dioxide from the air and if allowed to grow old, and die in place they will take their stored carbons into the earth as hummus.

There are advantages to working together for the health of our communities. What if we all helped plant a tree or two to cool a hot summer city, clean its polluted air, provide a home for birds, and give a gift of gladness to walk among?

Quotes from Wohlleben, Peter. The Hidden Life of Trees: The Illustrated Version. Vancouver; Berkeley: Greystone Books Ltd., 2018.

More information at Arbor Day Foundation: