Cooperative Extension Service 
Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
Hendry County Extension P. O. Box 68 LaBelle, Florida 33975-0068 Phone (863) 674-4092

Hendry County Horticulture News

Trees - A Valuable Local Heritage

One cannot live in Florida and particularly LaBelle and not be impressed by the wealth of trees that surround us.  The ancient spreading oaks with their lush colonies of bromeliads, resurrection ferns, and hanging Spanish moss, the unique and wild cypress, the magnificent stately pines all come to mind.  Trees are a glorious part of our abundant local heritage, they enrich our lives and beautify our environment.

While most of us value trees, all too often they are taken for granted.  They are some sort of natural phenomenon that just happens and will always be here, Unfortunately, we have all seen distressing examples of the erosion of this exquisite resource.  Many times folks purchase a lot for the beautiful trees in the area and then clear the lot with no thought of preservation.  This type of development repeated many times over has seriously denuded our native forest.

An awareness of trees and the valuable benefits they provide is a first step in halting the degradation of our natural environment.  Indeed it is this environment and the richness of trees that has endeared Hendry County to so many citizens. It is the natural setting that distinguishes our county from so many of our more urban neighbors.

Trees enhance the beauty of the landscape and make towns, parks, streets, businesses and homes more inviting.  They add a natural character to our neighborhoods that gives a feeling of well-being.  In addition, trees provide a multitude of other benefits that may not be so readily apparent.

Trees are natural filters of air and groundwater.  They can remove carbon dioxide and pollutants from the environment.  A single tree can absorb 26 pounds of carbon dioxide per year.  Carbon dioxide is one of the so-called greenhouse gases implicated in climactic change.  Research has shown that neighborhoods that are planted in trees are less dusty than similar neighborhoods without trees.  Trees may be likened to living dust mops: a well-developed canopy can intercept up to 50 pounds of particulates per year.  While absorbing carbon dioxide, trees release oxygen into the air.  In one year, a single tree can produce about 13 pounds of oxygen.  This is enough to sustain a family of four.

Trees can help reduce cooling and heating bills.  Properly placed trees help conserve energy by shading and cooling buildings in the summer and by blocking cold winds in the winter.  The average sized tree transpires about 80 gallons of water per day.  The evaporation of this amount of water from a tree produces a cooling effect equal to that of about five room-size air-conditioning units.  The cooling effect attributed to trees results in an annual savings of $2 billion or approximately 5 percent of US energy consumption.  Trees can also increase or decrease the amount of wind reaching a building if planted in the right location.

Tree roots hold soil in place and prevent erosion.  Trees assist in storm water control.  Leaves and branches slow falling rain allowing it to soak slowly into the ground.  This reduces the amount of rainfall that runs off the land.

Some trees provide food for us.  People plant trees, like orange and grapefruit, around their homes for the visual appeal as well as for the fruit they provide.  Trees also provide valuable shelter and food for many birds and animals.

In addition to their practical value, trees have aesthetic value.  They add a variety of colors, shapes, textures and patterns to the landscape.  Properly placed trees have a welcoming effect, provide privacy and act as ceilings for outdoor areas.  Research with clinical patients has shown that an environment well planted with trees have a healing and soothing effect compared to scenes without plants.  Other studies have demonstrated that trees and other plants in neighborhoods increase social activity, promote good community relationships and reduced vandalism.  Higher worker productivity and lower absenteeism have been reported where plants have been put in offices and planted around the workplace.

Important to homeowners is the fact that the property value of landscaped homes is five to 20 percent higher than that of non-landscaped homes.  In addition, while living there you will receive all the other benefits that trees have to offer.  What are you waiting for?  Get out there and plant a tree today.

Gene McAvoy is the horticulture agent with the Hendry County Extension Service.  Direct your horticulture questions to PO Box 68, LaBelle, FL 33975,  e-mail - or phone 863-674-4092 or  863-983-1598.  You are also welcome to visit the Hendry County Extension Office at 225 Pratt Blvd., LaBelle.   Office hours are from 8:00 - 5:00.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is an Equal Employment Opportunity - Affirmative Action Employer authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function without regard to race, color, sex, age, handicap or national origin.

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