In The Presence of Trees, Part 1


Walk through most any neighborhood and one feature will be consistently prominent – its trees. In town, in suburbs, or the in farthest outlying regions of a city, trees most likely will be the primary feature. In old, established areas of a city the trees often are very large and deeply loved. The gifts they give are innumerable; shade in summer, habitat for wildlife, beauty, a sense of place and identity, clean air, colorful seasons, and free mulch! There are a few people who would rather not have trees around for a variety of reasons, but those attitudes are for another article far off in the future.

On most of my walking routes, conifers dominate. And I appreciate this because conifers bring enormous variety to a landscape. The blue of a healthy Colorado spruce is rarely matched in beauty. This gorgeous blue spruce (Picea pungens) has served as the 3/4 mark of my daily 3-mile walk for over 30 years. Its health and beauty are a testament to the care the owner of this landscape has given this tree over the years. The blue color is a result of an epicuticular waxy coating on the needles – an adaptation to the trees’ origins in harsh climatic conditions (limited moisture, winds, and nutrient-poor soil).

Picea pungens

A rich, verdant green is one of the most notable features of giant (true) cedars. This deodar cedar (Cedrus deodara) has graced a neighborhood street corner for more years than I’ve lived here. Over the years that I have know this tree, it has offered itself as a perch for swings, home to many bird feeders, a challenge to young tree climbers, and as a shady place for children to play. Deodar cedars are long-lived and durable trees. Large, thick and sturdy limbs sport drooping branchlets that I find to be graceful and almost delicate. I love to stand under this tree on my way home from a long walk. Its cool, dark shade in summer is especially appreciated.

Cedrus deodara

The smooth, light bark of this Eucalyptus is exceptional. I have walked past this gorgeous tree for years and have found myself stopping every season just to look for the subtle changes its trunk offers. Although I’m not sure that eucalyptus are the best trees to plant in a warming, drying climate that experiences summer fires, they are nonetheless truly beautiful trees, and this one is a pleasure to behold.

Eucalyptus, species unknow (to me)

This ancient yew tree is in a churchyard in Downe, Kent, England, on the road to Charles Darwin’s home. My spouse and I stood under it after spending a full day visiting Darwin’s home and gardens. The church it shades was built in 1290. Many of the graves it protects preceed the church, so we were told. Nothing needs to be said about this old tree; its history is there for all to appreciate.

Taxus baccata. Downe, Kent, England

The next time you venture outside, take a moment to stop and observe the trees around you. Appreciate them for all they give. It is often said that trees don’t need us, but we can’t live without them. And even more than that, it is our responsibility to care for them.

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