The Value of Old Growth Trees

The Value of Old Growth Trees

We’ve lived in Southern California now for 9 years and several years ago moved to Redlands, CA. This city has a long history dating back to the 1880s where it became the winter home for many wealthy Mid-westerners, similar to Pasadena. One thing that attracted us the most were Redland’s numerous old trees, many dating back 100 plus years.

However, over the last nine months, I’ve witnessed one neighbor having a 5 foot diameter eucalyptus tree cut down, another a 4 foot diameter one. The 5 ft one was cut down w/power company monies (the contractor had knocked on my door several months before saying he had the ability to cut down any big trees I wanted removed).

Before you remove an old tree, please consider the following:

  • Many of these trees were establishing their hard-won roots when our great-grandparents were kids, a time when rainfall was more plentiful – then consider the water costs to establish trees today.
  • Consider the energy savings: According to the U.S. Forest Service, trees properly placed around buildings can reduce air conditioning needs by 30% and can save up to 50% in energy used for heating.  For more facts, visit
  • Healthy, mature trees also add an average of 10 percent to a property’s value.
  • Because palms have a compact root system extending only one foot from the trunk,  consider transplanting (two thirds survive), and they get to continue their lives in someone else’s backyard.
  • Think of habitat value: small mammals, great horned owls and various hawks use the height and cover of tall trees. The numerous insects support birdlife, and trees attract  a variety of birds – for ex, orioles depend on the palms for their nuts as well as nest sites.
  • Evidence is showing that plants ‘feel’ – The July-August 2011 magazine Audubon carried a short article (Plant Smarts –link to article below) that talked about how research is showing that plants give off electrical impulses in response to threats. I’ll write more on this research that is getting more awareness.

When I followed up with the power company they were interested in the following photos. The first four below show the tree as it was getting trimmed (the first is a view from our home) through the view after it was cut down.

Then, in July my neighbor in back cut down 19 – yes, 19 – baja palms. Those are the tall skinny ones, native to Baja California. They can be as tall as 100 feet; many of these were 60 to 70 feet tall.

We’ve lived in several U.S. cities in the last 15 years, and have seen more tree downing activity in our three years in Redlands, a very historic city in Southern California,  than the others combined.  If we can just get the word out more about the value of old trees here and everywhere.

Plant Smarts  (Audubon magazine– July-August 2011)

The Venus flytrap has long been known to catch its dinner, snapping shut when an insect touches the tiny hairs on its leaves. Now scientists are realizing that a wide variety of plants exhibit behaviors. “I was raised to believe that plants are plants: You eat them, you grow them, and they look pretty,” says University of Alberta ecologist J.C. Cahill. He’s among those starting to change that viewpoint.

Scientists have discovered, for instance, that some plants distinguish predator insects from pollinators, or strengthen and elongate their roots through dry soil. Plants also give off electrical impulses in response to threats. Polygraph expert and former CIA interrogation specialist Cleve Backster confirmed this when, on an impulse, he hooked up a tropical dracaena to a polygraph and threatened the plant with a flame. The dracaena displayed the same electrical signals that people do when they lie. From lettuce to bananas, the results were similar.

Biologists Ian Baldwin and Jack Schultz have published work suggesting that some plants can communicate through the air. When the researchers threatened poplars and maples they found that nearby trees with no physical contact released defensive chemicals that inhibit digestion, thus hindering predators’ ability to consume the trees’ leaves or bark.

Cahill’s research reveals that some plants grow their roots based on location, resources, and neighbors. His conclusion: “I think we’re at the cusp of a real paradigm shift and that people are going to be viewing plants very differently in the next 10 years, with a much more holistic view of what plants actually are.”—Nathan Ehrlich

About Linda Richards

My goal is to educate about the science of nature in layperson speak, through my writing, science and education background. I grew up in the Chicago area, loved living in Minneapolis before gravitating to the West, which is now home.

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