Even if you’ve lived in the Wilmington area for a while, you may not realize how important trees are here. They become such a normal part of our landscape that eventually you might not notice them anymore, even the majestic official tree of the City of Wilmington: the southern live oak.
But trees are more than background for our lives, they have many benefits and there are endless reasons why we should be caring for (and planting) trees in our area.
Trees reduce stress
Let’s face it – life is stressful. No matter what the day-to-day logistics of your life might look like, stress is often a continual factor. Did you know that it is a proven fact that spending time among trees actually reduces stress? In Japan (and growing worldwide), there is a practice called “forest bathing.” This has nothing to do with cleanliness but is all about immersing yourself in nature and surrounding yourself with trees. According to studies on the subject, you don’t need to hike or walk or even do yoga – just being in nature reduces stress and, in some cases, increases health.
To experience the stress-busting effects of trees, you could plan a visit to Airlie Gardens, Halyburton Park or the New Hanover County Arboretum. Or just take a walk around your neighborhood! Can’t get outside very often? Looking at pictures of trees can have a similarly soothing effect.
Trees can impact flood zones
Did you know that Wilmington is one of only two North Carolina cities chosen to participate in a study about trees? The North Carolina Forest Service chose this area to look at how urban trees can slow the flow of rainwater during and after storms, how trees absorb rainwater, and how they prevent untreated runoff from flowing through the stormwater system and into local waterways. Trees are vital in helping to filter out chemicals from asphalt and concrete, and the root systems of trees stabilize the ground, reducing erosion.
Trees save you money
Trees shade your property from sun and wind, reducing energy costs. They increase the value of your property, as homebuyers are much more likely to buy a home with trees (especially healthy, mature trees that are well-maintained). According to the National Tree Benefit Calculator on the Arbor Day Foundation website, a 20 inch live oak in our area provides overall benefits of $175 each year – and that increases to $219 a year when the tree is fully grown and healthy. That sounds like a pretty great return on investment to us!
Trees are an important part of history
In a historic city like Wilmington, with our museums and historical sites, we also recognize that trees play a part in history. In fact, there are trees called Heritage Trees, which are “those, which because of their size, age, rarity, overall beauty or historical significance, represent an important aspect of the City’s history or natural landscape.” (Wilmington Tree Commission brochure). For instance, did you know that the Airlie Oak in Airlie Gardens dates to 1545?
Trees help us breathe better
What’s better than breathing in some fresh, clean air? As we all (hopefully) learned in school, trees take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen, allowing us to literally breathe better.
Studies have shown that those who suffer from asthma have fewer asthma attacks if they live in a tree-lined urban neighborhood. This could be because trees also remove air pollutants, which often trigger asthma issues. Indeed, all of us breathe better when the leaves and bark of trees absorb pollutants such as ozone, carbon monoxide, and sulfur dioxide.
Trees impact our moods and habits
Graffiti and minor crimes such as vandalism and littering are less frequent in green areas. People shop and visit businesses more on tree-lined streets. Whether conscious or not, we seem to be more comfortable and motivated in areas with trees.
Many items that you use daily come from trees
Along with the obvious items such as fruit and nuts, many of our common everyday products originate from trees. Any paper product such as books, coffee filters, etc. are from trees. Do you drink coffee? Coffee berries are from – you guessed it, trees! Chocolate? Trees. Olive oil and wine corks come from olive trees and cork trees. When you sit on a wooden chair, write with a pencil, or walk across a hardwood floor, those products used to be trees as well. If you stop to think about it, a great number of objects in our lives come from trees.
Trees protect your privacy
Trees and shrubs are often used to delineate property borders, but they also work well to provide privacy from peering eyes. Trees can block up to 40% of noise, reducing noise pollution from your neighbors or a busy road, especially if they are close by.
Trees provide a home for wildlife
From birds building nests to animals sheltering from the elements, trees are vital to many animal species. Trees also provide food for wildlife, especially nuts and berries.
So the next time you’re wandering through your neighborhood or exploring Wilmington’s historic downtown, take a moment to appreciate the trees around you and all of the good that they provide for our area.