Thank A Tree – Especially Native Trees

Oak trees Forest Park

by Linda Wiggen Kraft, Healthy Planet Green & Growing Editor

In this season of gratitude and thankfulness, give your blessings and care to trees. Trees are so essential to the ecosystem we live in. Trees are not the entire ecosystem with all the biodiversity every ecosystem has. But trees are a critical part of the fragile habitats that support all life, including our own.

There are trees that have been around for thousands of years in the specific habitats we live in. They are native trees. Not only have they been around for thousands of years, the insects, birds, wild life, soil life and all the other life forms that are native to that habitat have live together and evolved together for all those years. That evolution created networks of life that can only survive with specific plants providing for specific insects and wildlife. For example, Monarch butterflies lay eggs only on milkweed plants which the caterpillars will eat to survive. The Monarch caterpillars have evolved to only survive on milkweed plants. Trees, insects and other wildlife have all evolved in this way. Native trees are essential parts of the ecosystems we live in to survive. 

We can be thankful for the trees we live with. Of course, they give us beauty, shade and in some cases food and wood, but they are more important for the web of life of soil, insects, birds, wildlife. Two favorite trees are native Dogwood and native Oaks. Flowering Dogwood trees (Cornus Florida) are found in woodlands, parks and in many home landscapes. Native oaks (Quercus) are found in many city neighborhoods, home landscapes, parks and woodlands. There are twenty one native oak trees found in Missouri including white oak, post oak, chinkapin, northern red oak, black oak, pin oak and more. 

Both families of these trees provide food and shelter to many insects, birds and wildlife. Their fallen leaves bring nutrients to the soil. Flowering Dogwood with its beautiful flowers, white or pink, brighten springtime before the leaves emerge. Not only does this tree give us beauty, it provides food and shelter for many insects and birds The flowers provide nectar to bees and pollinating insects. It is a host plant to the spring azure butterfly and silk moths who lays eggs in the tree so the caterpillars will have food from the leaves. Other insects find food from the tree including ground-nesting bees, leafhoppers, assassin bugs and sawflies. Over thirty species of birds are nourished by the bright red berries in the fall. Robins, sparrows and other birds build nests in these trees. 

Oak trees provide not just beauty with their majestic size and strength, they are the royalty of food providers and shelter for the most insects and wildlife that depend on these trees for survival. According to Doug Tallamy, Professor of Entomology, who wrote the book The Nature of Oaks: The Rich Ecology of Our Most Essential Native Trees, found that Oak trees support 534 species of lepidoptera (butterfly and moth) caterpillars. Caterpillars are the main source of food for birds when they are migrating and breeding. Baby birds need the nutrients from caterpillars to survive. Oaks also grow acorns that feed many birds including woodpeckers, blue jays and crows. Squirrels, mice, voles and larger animals like deer also feed on acorns. 

There are many ways of giving thanks to trees. A silent blessing for all trees is one way. Choosing specific trees to thank and open hearts to is another. To touch a tree with open heart and hands is another. Walking through your own landscape, a neighborhood with trees, city park or wilderness area are times to stop and pause looking at a tree or trees and give thanks. If in a place where you can touch or even sit against a tree allows a deep connection between that tree and your soul. Sing, talk or pray aloud or silently letting the tree know and feel your thanks and love. This gladdens the heart, yours and the tree’s. 

Linda Wiggen Kraft is a landscape designer who creates holistic and organic gardens. She is also an artist and creativity workshop leader. Find her ceramic jewelry on her Etsy shop(CreativityForTheSoul). For more inf and to subscribe to her blog and Instagram go to www.CreativityForTheSoul.com, Call her at 314 504-4266