Ecology + Design

How Important are Trees to our Landscapes, Property Values and Human Health?

Imagine a world without our beautiful trees! One of the huge natural advantages of living in Westchester or Fairfield counties is the tree dominant landscape. Our communities are not only rich in green spaces with forest matrix and secondary remnant forests but an abundance and variety of street trees. Our landscaped properties have an even more diverse collection of flowering and fruiting trees as well as mature natives inhabiting our landscape environment.

Let’s take a moment to remind ourselves of the value of the beautiful trees in our landscapes. I’ll use my own property as an example. The gorgeous mature elm tree in front of my house dominates the front landscape and looms over the ranch style house. Almost 100 years old, the high canopy stretches from over the street to the front yard and over the house itself! Considered a historic tree by the city of Rye, (which it so happens is a ’Tree City’), it lies within the curbside easement and it is considered the property of the city of Rye. As such, the town is responsible for maintenance of the tree (i.e. pruning, cabling etc.).

This tree alone provides tremendous shade during half the year. This significantly helps with cooling and reducing energy cost. Same is true when the leaves are off the tree by allowing more sunlight to warm the house in winter. In fact I am surrounded by beautiful trees including a large Japanese maple, two weeping ginkgoes over the back patio, a grove of river birch at the edge of the wetland border, several stately pine, an array of native flowering shrubs.

The trees themselves not only define the aesthetic landscape design but serve even more important ecological functions including cooling and stabilizing the soil, cleaning the air, giving precious oxygen to our breathable atmosphere, protecting against severe weather, wind etc..

We are only beginning to understand the significant biological workings of the fungus network which support our plant and animal life.  Everyday science uncovers more and more valuable connections between soil biology, plants, human health & microbiomes.

Trees and forests are biologically fungal dominant. More and more we are coming to understand the value of the natural benefits that our landscape ecosystems derive from healthy woodland species including native trees and shrubs. We are just becoming aware of the abilities of trees to communicate through their root systems and fungal networks (see ‘The Hidden Life of Trees’).

There is so much mystery to our beautiful natural world !

This is why I think it is so important to take care of our trees and landscapes. There is so much good we can do for ourselves by nurturing nature!

Plants are not completely unlike ourselves. They need love too!  Even mature trees need to have an occasional drink. They need to eat! Their environment is no longer pristine. They may not get everything they need from our less green and more urban environment. They are part of a wonderfully intricate ecosystem including a tremendous diversity of life including insect and animal life. They will grow happily and sustainably where the resources and possibilities for life exist. We ask a lot from our landscapes…to clean the water, soil and air, provide their resources to nourish us, provide building material etc.

We can make the world a better place…a healthier, happier place by increasing the ecological functions of our landscapes, to imagine and create ‘Landscapes for Better Living’. We can start by eliminating toxic pesticides and increasing the natural immune systems of our plants to insure a resilient landscape with enduring longevity. If we don’t care enough to invest in the wholistic health of our environment, if we don’t set an example for our children who do we expect will?

Be a Voice for Nature. Act Today. Care for your Plants and Trees…for all of us !

Jay Archer

President, Landscape Ecologist



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