The Importance of Street Trees
I’ve always wanted to live on a street with a ceiling of leaves, where the thick branches offer curved supports for the canopy, arching over the black asphalt, framing a perfect view down the street. Unfortunately I have yet to live on street where the trees are mature enough to create this tunnel like approach as you drive down them. Although every street can’t have these ever present guards lining their streets, a few trees are needed to sustain a somewhat balance of the land. Many plant street trees for their aesthetic value but what they don’t realize is those dark green leaves and thick trunks do more for the environment then just being a decoration. Street trees have impacts on pollution, temperature, air quality, water quality, home energy use and even home property value.
Many only see the aesthetic value of street trees; some don’t even notice the trees till they need some shade in the summer! However these silent giants offer so much more to our communities. Let’s start small, street trees add value to a neighborhood, they fill in an otherwise barren landscape, creating balance and inclusion between home and nature. This value, as I will explain, translates into a variety of benefits including monetary value of your property. The other benefits include pollution reduction for air and water. This is done by two different parts of a tree. The leaves help with air pollution by attracting small particulates onto its leaves, cleaning the air. On the other end, the roots will suck up water during a storm, reducing storm water runoff, while also absorbing some toxins from the soil, which is plentiful near the road. If your home is fairly close to the road and you have a large street tree, the shade provided by this tree at a particular time of day, especially afternoon hours, could reduce your cooling cost in the summer months, adding more monetary value to street trees. I explain this in the article Grass is always greener: tips for a more sustainable backyard and life.
Moving on to the larger impacts of street trees, they are considered a mitigation method to the urban heat island effect. The urban heat island effect is a meteorological event that takes place at a local level, where the over abundance of concrete and built environment actually causes the temperature to be higher in places like cities then the surrounding rural areas. This creates an island of heat over the city hence the name urban heat island. Vegetation is known to mitigate the built up of heat through evapotranspiration, which is a process of cooling that takes place around the moisture in the leaves. This cooling translates to the air around the tree cooling it; add in the shade that prevents the surfaces of cities, like roads, from heating up and the urban heat island can be reduced. So as you can see from the above reasons street trees are very important to our communities and neighborhoods!
Type of Street Trees
As for the types of street trees that you can plant, it all depends on your climate and location. Some trees do better with barely any space and highly polluted areas like the London Plane tree, a sycamore that can be found in many cities, especially in the northeast. There are also a number of trees that are selected for their aesthetic value and ability to grow in small spaces like Cleveland pear trees. Maples are also very popular street trees. The best way to figure out what tree to plant along the road is to look around and see what has done well in your area! Be Careful though you do not want to introduce an invasive tree species to your neighborhood, it may look aesthetically pleasing but could wipe out local tree species!