Clean the Air ? Plant a Tree!

By Susan Littlefield

Trees benefit our landscapes in many ways. We are all familiar with the beauty, color, and welcome shade trees add to our gardens. They also provide food and shelter to birds and other wildlife; when placed properly, help us reduce our energy needs by moderating winter winds and summer heat; and some even give us a harvest of tasty fruits. But did you know that trees also help purify the air we breathe? Tree foliage filters out pollutants such as nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, and ozone, which contribute to both smog and greenhouse gases, as well as dust and other harmful particulates. Trees also help the environment by taking up and storing carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas that is such a big driver in climate change. It's been estimated that the urban trees alone growing in the U.S. (excluding Alaska and Hawaii) sequester nearly 23 million tons of carbon each year!

So plan now to plant a tree this spring! For the most benefits, plant a tree that is adapted to your climate and the specific growing conditions -- soil, moisture, light, and space -- your garden offers. Healthy, long-lived trees are the biggest assets, both aesthetically and environmentally. Choose suitable native species where possible; they are likely to be well-adapted and the most useful to wildlife as habitat and as a food source. Be sure to avoid any non-native species that are considered invasive in your area. Your local Extension Service or state environmental conservation department can give you advice on which species to avoid in your part of the country.

Get your new tree off to the best start. Follow our guidelines for successful tree planting.

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