Trees Give and Take

Posted on: March 22, 2018

The Giving Tree is a favorite childhood book of many. Mr. Shel Silverstein’s simple story tells of the relationship between a boy and his beloved tree. While the anthropomorphic talking tree expresses great love for the boy as she watches him grow into an old man, one can’t help but feel bad as the tree freely gives herself as a play-space, offers the boy apples, branches and wood, and ultimately is reduced  to a mere stump. But the boy continues to come back to her – is it love for the tree or selfish greed?

Fruit, nuts, berries, wood, perfume, wax, cork, dyes, syrup, adhesives, medicines, shade, oxygen and beauty are just a few things trees provide for us. They shelter and feed countless numbers of animals, birds, and insects. Some scientists believe that trees communicate with one another – that they nourish and protect one another with the help of subterranean network of interconnected roots, fungi and microbes. Our knowledge of the complex relationship of trees and their surrounding ecosystems is quite limited. But we do know that having healthy, treed biological systems is beneficial to us on multiple levels.

Trees take from us too. We give them plenty of carbon dioxide needed for their respiration. In turn carbon is stored, which lessens the amount of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere.  Excess water from our impervious surfaces rolls their way and is soaked up by sponge-like roots, helping to offset potential flooding. Leaves and branches serve as an umbrella, taking the force of pelting rains that could lead to topsoil erosion. The leaves also block the beating rays of the sun to shade and cool our homes, buildings – taking away some of the costs associated with running air conditioners. Air pollutants such as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and ozone are absorbed by leaves as well.

Trees also take our stress, anger, sadness and anxiety. A walk among trees can put us in a better mood and help clear our heads. They can provide interest, beauty and inspiration. Planting trees make us feel good, while cutting them down often makes us feel remorse. Trees and people have a give and take relationship.

WHAT WE DO: The Park District is working to care for our community trees. You’ll be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t enjoy tree-filled parks and open spaces. Places where kids can play hide-and-seek around a large trunk, or swing from a study branch. Visit Lake Ellyn Park on a warm day and you’ll find hammocks strapped to trees, cradling lounging teenagers. Picnicking under the shade of a tree on a summer day is a treat. With the loss of elm and ash trees over the years, new trees are continually added to our urban forest.  We’ve been planting a diverse mix of species, so that if future pests, diseases or fungus invades a particular population, a catastrophic tree loss is avoided. We’ve also focused on properly mulching trees, to reduce the “volcanoes” that can damage the bark and surface roots.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: This month we celebrate Arbor Day on April 27th. In honor of trees, consider adding a tree to your property. Check on your existing trees and make sure they are properly mulched.  If you do not have space for more trees, go for an appreciation stroll. Take notice of a few stately neighbors you may have overlooked. Give them a wink, nod or even a hug. They may give you a warm feeling back.