Archive for March 3rd, 2023

It’s not always bad news…

Wichita, Kansas

Reason #26- Trees

Trees have been a wonderful gift to humans and the planet.  Fossil records indicate that the first trees lived approximately 385 million years ago and they continued to flourish until they covered the earth as recently as 2 million years ago.  They grow larger than shrubs and have a single main stem, but there is no defining attribute between a tree and a shrub, made more confusing by the existence of dwarf or small trees, and sometimes a tree’s growth can be stunted by its environment.

By all estimations, there are over 3 trillion trees growing today, important for their value to the world:  absorbing carbon dioxide, removing and storing the carbon while releasing oxygen back into the air, supplying wood for burning (for heat, cooking, creating power, etc.), giving timber for construction, providing shade for cooling, slowing water evaporation, providing food for humans and wildlife, and furnishing a canopy and habitat for wildlife, in addition to adding beauty with the seasonal changing of colors, brilliant flowers and leaves.  It’s pretty difficult to put up a kid’s swing without a hefty tree branch to hang it from.  Even forest fires can be beneficial — killing disease and numerous insects that will prey on the growth of the forest, providing nutrients for new generations of growth and refreshing the various habitat zones the forest encompasses.

The largest, tallest and oldest trees in the world all happen to be located in California and Nevada, with the General Sherman Tree, a giant sequoia in Sequoia National Park, the largest by volume (52,500 cubic feet), Hyperion, a coastal redwood in Redwood National Park, the tallest (380 feet), and Promethius, a Great Basin bristlecone pine growing on Nevada’s Wheeler Peak, the oldest (currently estimated to be 5,069 years old).  An honorary mention goes to Methuselah, a bristlecone pine in California’s Inyo National Forest, has a verified age of 4,852 years old.

While all of this is interesting, as well as important to humans’ well-being, I compare a forest to the vivid draperies in an otherwise bleak apartment.  Trees provide the backdrop to our views of the world and landscapes without them are often cold, somber or grim.  Fall colors differ around the lower 48, with the yellows and light greens of the Rocky Mountains, the oranges and reds of New England and the full spectrum in the country’s midsection.  All are beautiful, sometimes spectacularly so, and we always look forward to drives through the colorful foliage in autumn, no matter where we happen to be.

Aspects and parts of a tree are often compared to human attributes, such as the roots, trunk, branches, growth, leaves and seeds.  Having deep roots, a sturdy trunk, virtuous family branches, solid growth, spreading leaves of goodwill and the seeds of liberty are all positive expressions of humanity.  Perhaps that is why the Japanese art of “bonsai” attempts to produce small trees that mimic the shape of real-life trees.


The ever-famous naturalist and environmentalist John Muir, whose black-and-white photography of nature, true masterpieces, can profoundly move anyone who sees them, said, “A few minutes ago every tree was excited, bowing to the roaring storm, waving, swirling, tossing their branches in glorious enthusiasm like worship. But though to the outer ear these trees are now silent, their songs never cease.

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