Publications (Paul's Blog)

November 19, 2009

A TWENTY DOLLAR INVESTMENT

Filed under: Uncategorized — Paul Dowlearn @ 6:32 pm

In the fast paced world of marketing and finance it would be absurd to take such a small amount of money and expect any kind of return in any reasonable period of time, yet such a thing does exist. It might seem even more ridiculous if you were told that this investment would raise your property value, reduce your energy bills, remove air pollutants in exchange for oxygen, improve your soil, prevent erosion, protect your home, attract beneficial wildlife, and produce hundreds if not thousands of dollars worth of food and/or other useable products, plus, it likely will not have to be replaced in your lifetime. Indeed, what if I told you that this investment may well serve your grandchildren even better than it served you?
The only thing that can deliver all this is a tree. Of course, we have to recommend you invest in a good tree and not just any tree. The best trees for you are going to be the native trees that live in your area with a few exceptions. There are a few exotic imports and man made hybrids that can perform well. However, some perform too well and become exotic invaders while others are what I call “fad trees.“ The ones to stay clear of are fast growing, short lived trees. Disregard any tree advertised as “amazing,” grows anywhere,” “super fast,” or any other outlandish claims. What the ads won’t tell you is that these fad trees may produce weak wood, shallow roots, or have very short life spans. The trees that are most valuable in real estate are the ones that have slower growth, long life span, deep roots, and strong wood.
OK?……….Fine. Now I already know you all want fast growth. In my thirty odd years in landscaping I don’t recall a single client asking for a really slow growing tree. The fact is that all trees have the ability to grow fast in the seedling to sapling stage. If you are to be successful as a tree in Nature you must be able to rise above neighboring plants to get your share of sunlight. The other factors involved with growth rate are soil, exposure, and the weather. So any tree can be a fast grower if given healthy soil, plenty of sun, and a little extra irrigation during dry times. These other factors are very important, sometimes more so than the particular tree species you buy. In other words, even a fast growing tree will grow much slower in poor, compacted, dry soils.
Urban forestry professionals can evaluate trees and place a dollar value on them using a grading system. In general, I have been told that mature long lived species like elm, oak, and pecan that are in good health are worth roughly $1,000 per inch diameter of trunk. That venerable old live oak out back may actually be worth more than your house. Real estate sales people tell me mature trees are one of the main factors in selling older homes. No doubt that old house will need some repair work, but the mature pecan trees are sure to help balance that out.
Speaking of pecan, this is our state tree. Too many narrow minded urbanites exclaim, “Not in my yard!! Pecans are too messy,” but I see dollar signs. Bear in mind that most years we Texans harvest millions of pounds of nuts worth a buck a pound (give or take) with little or no input other than harvesting. Just be aware of the messy habit and don’t plant one by the driveway, patio, or swimming pool. I can easily forgive the mess each and every fall come harvest time.
Perhaps the most important thing that trees do is clean the air. Carbon sequestration (carbon storage) has become a buzz word among environmental scientists these days. Carbon combines readily with other elements and can be found everywhere on the planet. Carbon resides in air, water, soil, plants, animals, and even stone. Our current dilemma comes from having too much carbon in our atmosphere due to burning fossil fuels. Trees take in a daily dose of carbon dioxide and exhale oxygen. As the tree grows, more and more carbon is used to build new wood, branches, and leaves. A large mature tree may store a ton or more of carbon during it’s life span. Besides the wood which can continue to sequester carbon even after the tree expires, there is the continuing production of leaves which return carbon to the soil on a seasonal basis. It is quite likely that any one of us could plant a few trees to offset our personal contribution to the global problem. Perhaps the most environmentally friendly thing we can do in our lifespan. All for a twenty dollar investment.
As your investment matures, the shade and cooling action of transpiration will begin to modify the surrounding area. In general the ambient air temperature drops ten degrees or more under the shade. The reverse is true in winter, especially in the case of evergreen trees which can trap warmer air from the ground and break chilling winds. All of this will result in saving about 20% on your energy bills. Total up last year’s energy bills and see what that’s really worth.
In addition, the leaves and branches will protect us in high winds plus break up heavy rainfall. This offers longevity to our man made structures while at the same time increases the human comfort level in our outdoor environment. Have you ever noticed that human activities such as walking or simply sitting on the porch are more prevalent in older neighborhoods? Visit any new development where the trees are still young and you will see much less outdoor activity. Mature trees make this difference.
The extensive root system not only prevents erosion but also can reach deep into the soil to pull up minerals to be used by other plants as well as the tree itself. As this process increases over time the general health of the soil improves. Eventually you will realize a nice fertile piece of ground for nothing more than planting the tree and helping it become established.
Birds and wildlife in general also increase with tree cover. Any biologist will tell you that the most diverse animal populations exist where our forests combine with open prairie. While the grassy areas provide food for many species the forest provides shelter. Our neighborhoods are analogous to these broken wooded areas providing the best of both worlds for wildlife. If you are a nature lover you already understand the importance of trees.
Trees are the longest living and most resilient living creatures on our planet. They have provided mankind with food, fuel, and building materials without which civilization as we know it simply would not exist. As such they deserve our attention and respect. When making that twenty dollar investment we should consider all aspects of the young sapling we are going to buy. We should not be solely interested in fast growth when making our decision. There are large trees for large areas, small trees for smaller areas, flowering trees for aesthetic beauty, evergreens for winter, deciduous trees for summer, trees that produce fruits and nuts, trees for windbreaks, trees that are preferred by wildlife, trees that love wet areas, trees for dry locations, trees for lumber, trees for firewood, trees to control noise, dust, or erosion, crooked trees, straight trees, and the list goes on. Most any tree may fit into several of these categories, but no single tree will fit them all. The one size fits all perfect tree does not exist.
If you have made a good choice for your twenty dollar investment you will only have to nurture it through the first few years. After initial establishment, barring any major catastrophe, the young sapling will begin to pay you back with compounding interest each year for the rest of your life, your children’s life, and quite possibly for many generations. People will enjoy the blessings long after you are gone. Twenty dollars………….well spent!!

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