So much has been said by so many on this topic that I fear there is little left to say. Once, while planting a tree, a young man that would have been considered developmentally disabled, he got as excited as I was and said how cool it was. His response when I asked him what he thought was “So cool” about it was, “Trees make the air that we breathe, Oxygen.” Irrefutably the best reason I know to plant a million of them!
Plants, such as oats, that mature in just one year may lay down thousands of miles of roots and rootlets. After the plant has perished, the roots decay and add to the lifegiving properties of the soil, increasing the depth of the topsoil portion of the soil profile. Trees, except in rare cases feed almost exclusively at the surface, or within a relatively shallow region. It can extend past the drip line and be extensive, but builds the depth of soil much less than aggressive pioneer species like grasses. Trees live nearly as exciting lives below ground as above, just in areas we rarely notice, underfoot.
There are authors who have explained the cycle of trees in a Celtic Tree Calendar,which I think makes perfect sense. Dividing the year into moons is something all sentient beings would realize in relatively short order. Moons being so regular, after all. The trees themselves do have personalities as much as we can hope to understand them. They are all most happy when near others and each species has a preferred type of habitat and climate. In true fact, they are somewhat like us, but rooted in one place. We can learn a lot from them. Most will find that the more willing they are to listen to trees, the more they will be able to hear. Listening more, these same people will be amazed at all the trees have to teach.
Pioneer species, ones that first colonize disturbed areas, typically grow quickly and have short life spans. middle species take over once the wind and moisture levels have stabilized, giving rise to a second growth which puts far more leaves , much further from the ground. Climax tree species almost always thrive under this protective canopy, tolerating pretty dense shade in their youth, but detesting large variations in diurnal temperature change and large variations in moisture. Now, before people get offended, these are general rules and there are a very small number, significant in their differentiation, of exceptions.
Families of trees like to associate with one another. Not only are trees happier amongst other trees, but specific others, ones in their “family”. Even amongst stands, in specific areas, one tree may affect another and many reciprocal relationships can be seen. sadly, I do not have the best words to describe some of the things tree have told me, by their relations, families, preferences and life stories. we need far more people to become conscious of these relationships and how to mimic them when we “develop” the face of the planet. My own love of trees has yielded a lifetime of knowledge and glimpses into ages past. Imagining the many trees I have planted, towering over the landscape, providing shade to the next generations of life on the planet gives me shivers. When I speak about it my voice trembles.
Once, I heard it said that planting a tree is the most profound act of hope that a human being can engage in. I believe this is true. By tenderly placing the roots in soil, tamping them down and watering them in, you make a promise to future generations that the world they inherit will be better than the one you were left with.