Archive for November 5, 2013

Urban Trees – More Than Just Beautiful

Trees along Constitution Ave.

Street and garden trees along Constitution Avenue at the National Museum of Natural History create a cool, green tunnel for pedestrians.

When people walk through the landscapes of Smithsonian Gardens, they often take pleasure in the beauty and majesty of the trees that are found throughout.  The large spreading canopies, colorful spring and summer blooms, and brilliant autumn colors make for a feast for the eyes.  Although we take great pride in the appearance of the trees here at Smithsonian Gardens, we also manage them for the numerous benefits that they provide, many of which are often not recognized.

Urban trees provide myriad contributions to the areas where they grow.  Some of those benefits include:

  • Storm water runoff and flooding reduction.  It has been found that trees absorb the first 30% of most precipitation events through their leaf systems, and up to another 30% can be absorbed and held by their root systems.
  • Traffic calming.  Research shows that tree lined streets have fewer and less severe traffic accidents than those with no trees.
  • Reduction of air pollution.  Tree crowns capture and trap air pollutants, including automobile exhaust gasses and particulate matter.  The severity of asthma and other negative health impacts are reduced in the presence of trees.
  • Carbon sequestration.  Trees absorb and retain carbon, thereby contributing to the reduction of greenhouse gasses.  A US Forest Service study found that the average annual carbon sequestration of urban areas in the U.S. is approximately 26 million tons totaling a $2 billion value.
  • Lowering of air temperatures.  Urban areas can become extremely hot, as all of the concrete, asphalt and other hardscapes absorb heat throughout the day.  In areas with trees, air temperatures can be reduced by 3-10°F, and properly shaded neighborhoods can realize energy cost savings of up to 35%.
  • Improve your health.  The findings of one study show that areas that have many trees can lower blood pressure, have a calming effect on teens and adults with ADHD, and contribute to overall emotional and psychological health.
  • Add to property values.  Realtor based estimates of street tree versus non-street tree comparable streets show a $15,000-$20,000 increase in home or business value.
Trees around the Smithsonian Castle

Trees in front of the Smithsonian Castle soften the hard lines of its architecture while helping to cool the building during the hot summer months.

So, the next time you’re enjoying the trees here at Smithsonian Gardens, remember all of the wonderful and helpful things they’re doing for us!

-Greg Huse, Smithsonian Gardens Arborist and Tree Collection Manager

November 5, 2013 at 9:05 am 1 comment


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