Giving thanks — for trees

By Lynette Walther | Nov 28, 2019
Photo by: Lee Fisher "Back in the day" the reluctant hunter, me, posed for a photo on my annual Thanksgiving Day hunt with my father.

Most families have Thanksgiving traditions. When I was growing up, Thanksgiving meant getting up before dawn, donning my warmest outfit, including multiple stiff woolen layers, and rubber boots, then heading out to the Indiana cornfields with my father to go rabbit hunting. I believe it was in truth the one and only day each year that he went hunting. If memory serves me correct, the morning’s hunt rarely ended up bagging any bunnies.

That was just fine with me. Even though I ceremonially strapped on my Dale Evans’ six-shooter, my only ammo was a string of stinky caps. To be perfectly honest, I had no intention of actually shooting anything. I also recall it was bitter cold, freezing to the bone, on those often cloudy mornings, and the frozen corn stubble made for rough going. I’d trip and fall over the hoarfrosted cornstalks that remained in the fields as I struggled to keep up with my long-legged father. Wet, cold feet also came with the territory. Outdoor clothing and boots have come a long way since then, baby! In retrospect, it was quite miserable. But hey, father and daughter were bonding. Besides, we both knew there would be a warm welcome and relatives gathered for a hearty Thanksgiving dinner once we got home.

Those corn fields stretched for what looked like miles of flat and treeless landscape. No wonder, we rarely sighted any rabbits for the landscape offered little-to-no habitat for any wildlife, save for what must have been a scattering of corn kernels. Grateful now that I live where trees define our landscapes (not that there’s anything wrong with Indiana) this season of thankfulness seems a good time express my love and admiration for trees.

Whatever you find yourself thankful for this Thanksgiving, here are a few reasons from Davey Tree why you should be thankful for trees.

Trees reduce stress and improve well-being. As much as everyone loves the holidays, they can be stressful at times. Luckily, trees are there for support. Being surrounded by trees reduces anger, fear and stress while increasing pleasant feelings. Plus, trees reduce blood pressure, heart rate and muscle tension, according to Japan's National Land Afforestation Program Organization.

Trees lower your energy bills and boost property value. When planted in the right place, trees reduce air conditioning needs by 30 percent and save you 20 to 50 percent on heating costs, found the USDA Forest Service. While reducing energy bills, trees increase your home value. Management Information Services/ICM tells us that landscaping that includes mature trees can increase curb appeal by 20 percent. Trees along neighborhood streets even increase house sale prices by an average of $8,870, according to the Pacific Northwest Research Station.

Trees keep you healthy. By removing pollution from the air, trees save 850 human lives and prevent 670,000 cases of acute respiratory symptoms each year, according to the US Forest Service. When sick, trees help hospital patients recover faster while requiring less pain medication, found a 1984 study. Because of these health benefits, trees annually save $6.8 billion in US health costs, according to the same US Forest Service study.

Trees bring you, your family and your community together. Researchers at the University of Illinois found that families who live in areas surrounded by trees have fewer feelings of aggression toward family members and tend to feel more satisfied. Trees not only help brighten your home. They benefit the entire community.

A 10 percent increase in neighborhood trees can reduce crime by 12 percent, found a Landscape and Urban Planning study. Landscape Architecture reports that people also tend to be more familiar and socialize more with neighbors in tree-filled neighborhoods.

As we move forward into the busy holiday season, let’s take a minute to step back and focus on all we’re thankful for. We’re sure your friends, family and cozy home will make the list. But, don’t forget to thank your trees, those gentle, green and giving giants. Trees are not only the “lungs” of the planet, they help us de-stress, provide us with year-round beauty and transform houses into homes. Happy Thanksgiving.

Lynette L. Walther is the 2019 GardenComm Gold Award winner for writing, and is a four-time recipient of the GardenComm Silver Award of Achievement and the National Garden Bureau’s Exemplary Journalism Award. Her gardens are on the banks of the St. Johns River.

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