Tree hugger? We all should be.
Trees are social. Yep, you read that right! Scientific evidence has shown that trees of the same species living in forests are communal and form alliances with each other. They connect to each other underground, through their root system, that some have dubbed the “wood-wide web.” Through these networks the trees are able to share water and nutrients as well as send warnings about disease or insect attacks. It has been observed that trees respond to these signals in the “web.”
Researchers and scientists from different locations in the world have studied forests of trees and have observed this nurturing behavior between trees and how they help each other. Why do the trees do this? Isn’t there competition for survival of the fittest, you might ask? Well, for trees, a healthy, stable forest is where they will survive the longest, so it makes sense that each individual tree is attempting to help the forest as a whole remain a healthy place.
If you are interested in more about this topic, there is a book titled “The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate” by Peter Wohlleben. He is a German forester and has devoted his life to the care and study of trees. If you read this book, you will never walk through a forest the same way again! In fact, you will appreciate them so much I bet you'll want to hug one or 100!
While you most likely will not plant a forest in your yard, if you feel inspired to plant some more cool, social beings after reading this, please ensure you plant tree species that are native to our area. Native trees are important because they are significant contributors to preserving our biodiversity and supporting our ecosystem.
Landscape that is human-dominated (such as grass lawns) is not able to support functioning ecosystems. As a result, biodiversity (the variety of life in a habitat or ecosystem) has greatly suffered. All life depends on biodiversity, including humans and birds.
Local birds would not survive without the insects that have evolved along with native plants. For example, native oak trees have been shown to host over 500 species of caterpillars; ginkgo trees host only five. This is a significant difference when it takes over 6,000 caterpillars to raise one brood of chickadees. Song birds have been in decline since the 1960s, with 40% of them gone so far. Even modest increases in native trees and plants in suburbs significantly increases the number and species of breeding birds.
How do you know if a plant or tree is native? The Audubon Society has a handy native plant database on their website, audubon.org/native-plants. All you have to do is enter in your zip code and the plants and trees native to our area pop up.
Trees also combat climate change, and it has been in the news recently that the tree canopy in our area has been declining. Between 2011 and 2017, Cuyahoga County lost 6,600 acres (equivalent to 5,000 football fields) of trees. Each of us can help turn around this trend simply by planting trees in our own yards! Doing so will help restore our tree canopy which is essential to not only the health of the earth and birds, but to human health as well! There is also a financial incentive as well to plant more trees, as trees have a positive impact on property values.
There are no negatives to planting trees in your yard. Imagine if each of us planted only one tree how many new trees we’d have! Let’s do it! There’s a popular Chinese proverb that says “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”