Monday, September 30, 2013

Speak for the Trees

Speak for the Trees

My neighborhood is about 45 years old. The garden plantings that were once mere twigs are now full-grown, often overgrown, bushes. The trees, especially, have grown in height and stature. A variety of species were planted on the strips of grass near the curbs to provide shade along the sidewalks, a welcome benefit during the hot summer days.

As the years pass, however, the trees are having trouble. Their roots are struggling for space to expand. Many sidewalks are now a mixture of gray and white concrete patches applied to the sidewalks to repair cracked cement where the tree roots have forced their way outward. Sometimes the trees expand over the cement squares, demonstrating a will to grow regardless of the circumstances surrounding them. Others send roots underneath the sidewalk squares, raising the cement blocks as they reach toward the expanse of the lawn.

We labeled this tree’s break for freedom The Step. It used to be a little glitch in the sidewalk; now it is several inches up, demanding care when we walk. I wonder how much more the cement will be raised. Will the homeowner take action and cut the roots so the concrete block can be lowered? Will that harm the tree?

Planting trees with limited growing space seemed like a good idea in the beginning but it stunted the plants’ growth. Many houses now have no shaded frontage because the trees have died, way earlier than their designated lifespan would indicate. Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax  speaks for the trees; we could have used him when the houses were being constructed. Trees are an important and valuable asset to our communities but their needs should be considered, too.

Sometimes we forget that our actions have long-term effects. It is hard to fully anticipate what might happen decades down the road, whether in regard to nature or politics or health, but if we take the time to look beyond what seems like an immediate benefit to the possible later results, perhaps we could spare ourselves some angst – and the trees a shortened life.

Want to know how long trees can live?

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