Ode to Trees - Our Top 10 Reasons for Adoring Trees

"Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows
how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and
precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life."

-Hermann Hesse 1946

The 31st of July was dedicated National Tree Day by Planet Ark in 1996. 

We would like to use National Tree Day as excuse to profess our love for trees.   Here are our top ten reasons for our love affair with trees. 


1. They provide the clean air we breathe

Enough said. 


2. Good quality housing for our furry and feathered friends

Image: The critically endangered Swift Parrot needs mature eucalypts to breed. Source: FPA by Matt Webb

Trees are homes. Trees have cavities, bark pockets, branches, canopies, cracks, sap runs and hollows to provide shelter for a wide range of species. 

Tree hollows in particular are especially valuable for some of our endangered species who rely on this type of shelter - the catch is they take more than 150 years to form!  Bats, such as this eastern falsistrelle bat (Falsistrellus tasmaniensis), require multiple hollows to shelter and breed, and the critically endangered Swift Parrot breeds in tree hollows in mature eucalypts (must be within foraging range of Tasmanian blue gum and black gum).  Many animals cannot survive without hollows, yet good hollows are rare. In Tasmania, over 42 animal species rely on hollows, including five possums, about 29 birds and eight bat species, as well as insects and native bees.   


3. Fallen trees are nurseries

Image: A fallen tree supports new life in Franklin Forest. Source: Our members Friends of Franklin Forest

As a mature, fallen tree decays on the forest floor, it can provide shade, shelter, moisture, extra sunlight and protection against pathogens for vulnerable seedlings.  In 'death' they contain up to five times more living matter than when they were upright!   


4. Tasmania is home to Centurion - the tallest tree in the Southern Hemisphere 

Image: Centurion towers over 100m tall in the south of Tasmania. Source: The Tree Projects

Centurion is also the world's tallest eucalypt. It holds the world record for being the world's tallest flowering plant and tallest hardwood tree. It may also be considered the luckiest - as it narrowly escaped a bushfire in 2019 that wiped out much of the surrounding foliage, but left Centurion standing.  


5. Trees are good for our happiness 

Image: UTAS Landcare Society at a planting day in 2021. 

"Humans are biophilic creatures, meaning we have an innate tendency to seek connections with nature and other lifeforms. Because of this, being in the presence of nature reduces stress and anxiety in humans, in addition to other health benefits such as lowering blood pressure and reducing risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and stroke. Getting out and planting trees is a fun and easy thing to do and a great activity to connect with family, friends and your community." - Planet Ark


6. Trees inspire art

Image: Freestyle embroidery by Cindy Watkins, The Textile Artist, who supports Landcare Tasmania with sales of her art

"You giants, you dwarves; you leaners, you poles;
you gnarled fists, you saplings with two leaves;
you bare harbingers of cold, you budding
heralds of green . . . I sing your praise.
You earth holders, you soil
protectors; you bird sanctuaries, you
shelters for the deer; you child dandlers
(I’ve seen you bounce them up and down); you kite
snaggers, you window scratchers and nightmare
screechers making children cry . . . I sing
your praise."

-Douglas Woodsam, 2005 

From poetry, to painting, to jewellery, to leaf-dyed fabrics, trees are the artists ultimate muse.  


7. The oldest tree in the world is over 5,000 years old 

Can you imagine?


Image: The Great Basin Bristlecone Pine (Pinus longaeva) has been deemed the oldest tree in existence. Source: TreesAtlanta 

The Great Basin Bristlecone Pine (Pinus longaeva) has been deemed the oldest tree in existence, reaching an age of over 5,000 years old.  The cold, harsh living conditions means that this tree grows very slowly and becomes resistant to fungi, rot and erosion - and the area is rarely affected by fire.  This gnarled, old beauty must have seen some things in its time!  


8. River Relationships

Image: Landcare Tasmania's River Health Workshops July 2022

Trees are important for healthy rivers.

Intricate tree root systems hold soil in place, encouraging water to seep into soil rather than running off into nearby water sources. This process is important as runoff picks up and carries pollutants which can run into rivers, lakes, wetlands and oceans, where it can have a negative impact on aquatic ecosystems and wildlife. 

A healthy riparian zone will have at least 30m of native vegetation from the river edge, including a canopy of big trees and a healthy understorey of shrubs.   A healthy riparian zone filters sediments and nutrients, and supports a diversity of aquatic habitats, and shades the river which helps to maintain optimum temperatures protecting against algal growth.


9. Trees Talk 

Image: WildEcology 

Did you know trees talk? Thanks to the 'phone line' created by a network of mycorrhizal fungi which connects the root systems and allows trees to communicate.  Trees are are able to share resources by transporting nutrients through the fungal network.  For example an older tree may transport nutrients to a seedling who is struggling for light.  


10. Not-just trees 

Image: The Growling Swallet, TAS (c) Asher Bradbury 

Sure trees are cool, but our favourite thing about trees is that they do not stand alone.  They are just one part in a wide, glorious ecosystem of critters, fungi, shrubs, grasslands, rivers, wetlands, soil, microbiome, birds, bugs, mammals, oceans, air, and everything else that makes up this spectacular planet.     


Do Something 

There are plenty of ways to get involved this Tree Day.  You could used the day to plant trees native to your area (use The Understory Network's handy plant guides by municipality). Or, if you’re unable to plant on the day, you could go for a bushwalk, do some weeding, or make some plans to plant later in the year.  

If you'd like to join in with your local community, our member groups are hosting National Tree Day events - search for one near you here.