Updated: May 18, 2020
May 16th is Love a Tree Day!
“Tree hugger” is sometimes used as a joke, but you don’t have to actually hug the tree outside your window to love and appreciate them. Trees help remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and provide fresh oxygen for us to breathe. Like most plants, they use photosynthesis to grow, meaning that sunlight and carbon dioxide are the “food” and energy that they use to grow, produce oxygen, and provide us with the thousands of varieties of fruits and nuts that we love to snack on. Trees growing in cities are not only pretty to look at, they clean the air, provide shade, and even give people a more relaxed, less stressed mindset. Tropical rainforests are particularly important. Found in Southeast Asia, Central Africa, and South America, rainforests might have as much as 50% of the world’s plant and animal species! Unfortunately, we lose vast amounts of rainforest ecosystem every year. It’s not just building and using trees that destroys forests. The Rainforest Partnership estimates that we lose nearly 4,500 acres of rainforests every hour from illegal logging, mining, agriculture, forest fires, and oil drilling. In fact, much of the fires and development in the rainforest are meant to clear fields for cattle to graze so that cheap beef can be sent around the world.
Love a tree, love all trees, and appreciate the air you breathe!
Here are a few of my favorite types of trees:
Baobab – Baobabs (Adansonia digitate) are known as the “tree of life” in Africa. They are huge, and provide much-needed water in dry areas. People have long used baobabs for shelter, food, medicine, rope, mats, baskets, paper, glue, and cloth. Studies suggest that they can live for more than 3,000 years, and large baobab trees can hold 30,000 gallons of water inside. Elephants have been known to chew the bark in the dry season as a source of water.
Acacia – In Africa, acacia trees (Vachellia drepanolobium) protect themselves with thorns and provide a home and food for ants in exchange for further protection. Unfortunately giraffes love to eat them, and not even thorns and an army of ants can keep them from their favorite food.
Redwoods – the tallest trees in the world. A coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) in California is called Hyperion, and is the tallest tree in the world at 379 feet tall!
Ginkgo – Ginkgo biloba trees are some of the most unique and resilient trees in the world. Gingko trees in Hiroshima, Japan survived the 1945 bombing, and are still growing. The branches were stripped of leaves, but when spring came in 1946, their green buds were a symbol of hope amidst the devastation.
Bristlecone Pine (Pinus longaeva) – the oldest known tree is a bristlecone pine in California called Methuselah. It is more than 4,500 years old!
Jacaranda – Originally from South America, jacarandas (Jacaranda mimosifolia) have been planted all over the world. Their beautiful purple blossoms are a sure sign of spring, whether you are in their native South America, or thousands of miles away in Australia, California, or South Africa!