As kids, many of us made lots of great memories thanks to the towering trees around us. We remember the tire swing in the backyard of our childhood home, the trees we’d climb while camping at the lake, or the family picnics in the shade of a giant oak. As we grow older, trees start to become the quiet backdrops of our lives. We may stop on occasion to take in their spring blossoms or fall foliage, but for the most part, those giant trees start to become invisible. What we often forget is the crucial roles large trees play in our landscapes, our communities, and our environment. Here are five reasons you should plant a big tree in your landscape this year!
They Provide Food and Shelter for Wildlife
Large trees, particularly native species, are the ultimate landscape multi-taskers. A single shade tree hosts an entire ecosystem! Hollows in the bark make hiding places for small animals and beneficial insects, while the leaves, flowers, and fruit provide food for birds and pollinators. Higher up in the tree canopy, squirrels and chipmunks frolic while birds build their nests between the branches. Down below, fallen berries, nuts, and acorns offer food sources for a wide variety of birds and mammals. This healthy ecosystem might seem self-contained, but each one of these creatures play a role in the broader environment we depend on. Even in urban areas, healthy trees are the foundation of the natural world.
They Release More Oxygen into the Air
Did you know that a single mature tree can absorb 1 ton of carbon dioxide every year? All that CO2 gets converted into oxygen, which means large trees are the single most important source of oxygen in the world. Chicago isn’t exactly known for excellent air quality, and while there are plenty of people working to find high-tech solutions, trees are still the most effective air purifiers we know of. Planting a tree is one way we can all make a difference and improve the air for current and future generations.
They Add Privacy to Your Yard
Beyond their benefits for the environment, trees improve the ambiance of your outdoor space. Backyard trees, in particular, are an excellent source of privacy. Not only do they block the view of prying eyes, but the leaves are excellent at muffling the sounds of your conversations. A few strategically placed trees can help you relax outside without worrying that uninvited guests might be listening (or looking!) in.
They Save on Energy Bills
Yes, big trees can mean big savings! In the summertime, tree canopies cast shade on your home and relieve the intensity of the sun. This has a natural cooling effect on your home’s interior, which means cooling systems don’t need to work as hard to keep the temperature under control. In the fall, deciduous trees shed their leaves, allowing sunlight to filter through the canopy. Without all that shade being cast on your property, that deciduous tree allows the sun to shine on your home and gently keep it warm. That means your furnace also gets a break during our long, frigid winters. These natural changes throughout the year can actually save you a lot of money in heating and air conditioning costs over time. Now that’s cool!
They Add Value to Your Property
When you think of an ideal neighborhood, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? For most people, it’s the graceful presence of mature trees. Trees add natural beauty and character to our communities. They shade the sidewalk so that it’s comfortable for people to stroll and kids to play, and they invite the songbirds and butterflies that make a neighborhood feel vibrant and alive. Trees are so desirable, having a large tree on your property has actually been shown to increase your property value from 5 to 20 percent! We pass by hundreds of large trees every day, so it’s easy to take them for granted. However, each tree has a story and a vital role in creating healthy, beautiful, and thriving communities. Plant a large tree in your landscape this spring—they really are a gift that keeps on giving for years to come.
Platt Hill Nursery is Chicago’s premier garden center and nursery.