01 May 2013

( in gratitude of trees )

portraits of nature
( in gratitude of trees )
by “porcupine pat” mckinney

some are tall and stately, while others are short in size.  a few are narrow in nature, while some bulge in shape. like people, trees can be as same or as different, depending on what you want to look for in their beckoning trunks and limbs.

you will glimpse that there are several key factors to know about when identifying a tree. the most significant is by size, with tulip trees and white pines holding a regal standing in our local forests. the dogwood keeps guard at ground level. other common ways to aid in identification include: bark, leaf bud, leaf shape, smell (scratch and sniff !), type of fruit or nut, flower type, and needle amount/shape. there are trees who enjoy wetlands, while others find refuge in the dry, rocky soil commonly found on hilltops.

of course, pennsylvania means “penn’s woods” and is world-renowned for being a leader in the global economy for its hardwoods such as cherry, walnut, and oak. we acknowledge the importance of trees on a national level through celebrating arbor day. the last friday in april is arbor day in our commonwealth, with communities planting even more trees and school students learning about their importance in nature and the environment.

( “porcupine pat” mckinney holds a japanese tree lilac in front 
of his home, dedicated in memory to his mother, katie mckinney. 
also nearby is a partner tree for his dad, edward mckinney. )

we should show gratitude to all trees all the time, and here’s why. besides providing natural beauty, no matter where you are or what you are doing, you are always within two feet of a product made from a tree !             

more than 5,000 products come from trees. obvious products include lumber, paper, and furniture, but other lesser-known ones include chemicals and ingredients in plastic filler, varnishes, toothpaste, shoe polish, foam rubber, and the list goes on !

specific parts of a tree, such as bark, can produce mulches, soil conditioners, medicines, and cosmetics. it's no wonder people have used wood products for centuries. wood is durable, renewable, recyclable, biodegradable, energy-efficient, and environmentally friendly.

trees cool our cities by reducing heat generated from buildings and paved surfaces. trees in residential areas increase property values by 10 to 15 percent and help to soften harsh building lines and expanses of pavement, making urban environments more livable. habitat for birds and other wildlife through the gift of trees and their limbs also push forward a sense of balance with nature.

air is purified by trees, and water-borne pollutants are significantly reduced through the efforts of trees, too. people are affected by the proximity of trees in that trees speed healing and nurture more positive attitudes in hospital patients who can see them from their rooms. trees even reduce levels of domestic violence and foster safer, more sociable neighborhood environments.

do your part to help the environment by both caring for the trees on your property and also planting more. you can contact your department of conservation and natural resources and bureau of forestry to inquire about the forest stewardship program.

enjoy the spring-green of the newly opened leaves while walking  footfalls along the kind land of area state parks or the schuylkill river trail. you can visit communities, such as boyertown—which is listed as a tree city usa hometown !

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