Daniel Gill, Merrill, Thomas A. | 12/23/2005 2:13:51 AM
By Dan Gill
LSU AgCenter Horticulturist
Arbor Day is celebrated in Louisiana year on the third Friday in January. This date is set aside to encourage people to plant trees.
It is, I think, also appropriate to appreciate the trees we already have and all they provide for us. You might not consider trees that important. Who needs to rake up all of those leaves anyway? But there are many benefits that trees provide and many reasons to have them around.
Most of us would agree that Louisiana summers are entirely too hot. Buildings, streets and parking lots all absorb and hold heat from the sun, and cities can be several degrees warmer than the surrounding countryside. Trees moderate this by absorbing the sunlight’s energy and using it to create their food. Trees provide comfortable oases by lowering air temperatures under their canopies by 6 to 10 degrees. Overall, this helps to moderate temperatures where trees are planted in abundance.
On a more personal level, properly placed trees, which shade your house, can cut your air-conditioning bill anywhere from 10 percent to 50 percent during the summer. Trees planted to the south or southwest of your home will provide the most benefit. Choose deciduous shade trees – those that drop their leaves during the winter. You will have the shade you need in the summer to reduce cooling costs, and, when the tree is leafless in winter, it will allow the sun to shine on the house and help to reduce heating bills.
Air pollution is a real concern, and trees help out with that, too. The leaf surfaces of trees trap and filter out ash, dust, pollen and other particles in the air (although many trees also contribute to the pollen count when they bloom). Trees help supply the oxygen we need to breathe as well as using up the carbon dioxide that car engines emit.
Among their many additional benefits, trees stabilize the soil and prevent erosion. Trees produce an extensive network of fine feeder roots that occur in the upper foot of soil and spread out well beyond the branches. These roots do an excellent job of holding the soil in place.
Trees also cut down on noise pollution by acting as barriers to sound. Almost anyone who lives in a new subdivision will comment on how quiet it is in older subdivisions where the trees are large and mature. Noise seems to be constantly in the background in areas with few trees. When creating a quiet retreat, trees play a vital role. Small-growing evergreen trees, such as cherry laurel, ‘Little Gem’ magnolia and spruce pine, can be very effective in muffling or moderating noise.
When creating privacy in the landscape, trees can be used to screen an outdoor living area from view. Trees, especially evergreen types, also can be used to hide unattractive views.
The shelters that trees provide also benefit wildlife. Squirrels, birds and other wildlife make their homes in trees. In addition, the seeds of many tree species are valuable sources of food for wild animals.
Not to be overlooked is the profound psychological effect trees have on us. Neighborhoods with large trees along the street and in yards are attractive to almost everyone. And flowering trees, such as crape myrtles, dogwoods, sweet olive and vitex, provide color and fragrance to the landscape.
Trees contribute greatly to beautification, they increase property values and they shade our outdoor living areas in the summer. Fruit and nut trees in the landscape even provide us with something good to eat. So take a moment to appreciate our trees.
Our towns, cities and neighborhoods would be different and much less agreeable places without trees. So don’t forget to celebrate Arbor Day and plant suitable trees wherever and whenever an appropriate situation exists.
Arbor Day History
The idea for Arbor Day originally came from Nebraska, once largely a treeless plain. On Jan. 4, 1872, J. Sterling Morton first proposed a tree planting holiday to be called "Arbor Day" at a meeting of the Nebraska State Board of Agriculture. The date was set for April 10, 1872. The concept of Arbor Day gained favor around the nation, and most states now have passed laws or resolutions providing for the observance of Arbor Day.
Louisiana has also legally designated Arbor Day to observe and celebrate the wonderful benefits and pleasures that trees provide to humanity. In 1968, the Louisiana Legislature passed Senate Bill No. 249, which said, "Be it enacted by the Legislature of Louisiana: The third Friday in January is hereby designated as Arbor Day throughout the state of Louisiana."
The date Arbor Day is observed varies from state to state because climates are different around the country. Since winters here are relatively mild, the ideal tree planting season in Louisiana is from November through February. So the third Friday in January is very appropriate for us.
Get It Growing is a weekly feature on home lawn and garden topics prepared by experts in the LSU AgCenter. For more information on such topics, contact your parish LSU AgCenter Extension office or visit our Web site at www.lsuagcenter.com. A wide range of publications and a variety of other resources are available.