Why Trees Are Great

Benefits of Trees

Woody plants also serve many purposes, and it often is helpful to consider these functions when selecting a tree or shrub for the landscape. The benefits of trees can be grouped into social, communal, environmental, and economic categories.

Social Benefits

The stature, strength, and endurance of trees give them a cathedral-like quality. Because of their potential for long life, trees frequently are planted as living memorials. We often become personally attached to trees that we or those we love have planted.

Communal Benefits

City trees often serve several architectural and engineering functions. They provide privacy, emphasize views, or screen out objectionable views. They reduce glare and reflection. They direct pedestrian traffic. They provide background to and soften, complement, or enhance architecture.

Environmental Benefits

Trees moderate climate, improving air quality, conserving water, and harboring wildlife. Climate control is obtained by moderating the effects of sun, wind, and rain. We are cooler when we stand in the shade of trees and are not exposed to direct sunlight. In winter, we value the sun’s radiant energy

Wind speed and direction can be affected by trees. The downward fall of rain, sleet, and hail is initially absorbed or deflected by trees. Trees intercept water, store some of it, and reduce storm runoff and the possibility of flooding.

Temperature in the vicinity of trees is cooler than that away from trees. By using trees in the cities, we are able to moderate the heat-island effect caused by pavement and buildings in commercial areas.

Air quality can be improved through the use of trees, shrubs, and turf. Leaves filter the air we breathe by removing dust and other particulates. Leaves also absorb air pollutants—such as ozone, carbon monoxide, and sulfur dioxide—and give off oxygen.

Economic Benefits

Direct economic benefits are usually associated with energy costs. Air-conditioning costs are lower in a tree-shaded home. Heating costs are reduced when a home has a windbreak. Trees increase in value from the time they are planted until they mature. Landscaped homes are more valuable. The savings in energy costs and the increase in property value directly benefit each home owner.

The indirect economic benefits of trees are even greater. Communities also can save money if fewer facilities must be built to control storm water in the region. To the individual, these savings are small, but to the community, reductions in these expenses are often in the thousands of dollars.

Trees Require an Investment

The biggest cost of trees and shrubs occurs when they are purchased and planted. Initial care almost always includes some watering. Leaf, branch, and whole tree removal and disposal can be expensive.

To function well in the landscape, trees require maintenance. Much can be done by the informed home owner. Corrective pruning and mulching gives trees a good start. Shade trees, however, quickly grow to a size that may require the services of a professional arborist. Your garden center owner, university extension agent, community forester, or consulting arborist can answer questions about tree maintenance, suggest treatments, or recommend qualified arborists.

The PHC Alternative

Maintaining mature landscapes is a complicated undertaking. You may wish to consider a professional plant health care (PHC) maintenance program that is now available from many landscape care companies. The program is designed to maintain plant vigor and initially should include inspections to detect and treat any existing problems that could be damaging or fatal. Thereafter, regular inspections and preventive maintenance help ensure plant health and beauty. Refer to our plant health care brochure for more information

Contact

Kristina Ferrare
Resource Educator, Forestry
kaf226@cornell.edu
315.424.9485 x231

Last updated March 27, 2015