You can hug a tree, you can climb a tree. You can chop a limb off a tree, hang a swing on a tree, pick some fruit from a tree, decorate a tree if it’s Christmas, paint a picture of a tree, tie a yellow ribbon round an old oak tree, not sit under the apple tree with anyone else but me or think you’ve never seen a poem lovely as a tree. So many trees; so many possibilities.
But speaking of many trees, do you know how many trees there are on our little planet? According the Scientific American Magazine, there are over 3 trillion trees right now. That’s 3,000,000,000,000 trees out there just waiting to be hugged. Or something. That’s 400 trees for every human on earth. And, according to the Department of Horticulture at NC State University, some of them woody, leafy buggers can get pretty big. Some US Coastal Redwoods are over 350 feet tall. Giant Sequoias can tip the scales at over 2000 tons and it can take 10 minutes to walk around the crown of the Giant Banyan tree in India.
And old! Trees are the oldest living organisms on The Good Mother. Live Oaks can live 500 years or more. Sequoias can make it to 2500 years. And some Bristlecone Pines (particularly the species known as pinus longaeva) (Yep! That’s the real name.) can live up to 5000 years.
Not only are they big, Lil’ Buckaroo, dem dere trees be mighty helpful in cleaning up the environment and keeping other living things living. An average tree can absorb as much as 48 pounds of carbon dioxide a year and up to a ton of that CO2 by the time it’s forty years old. And then there’s oxygen! One large tree can provide a day’s supply of oxygen for up to four people. Next time you take a deep breath, thank a tree.
Nor has the importance of trees gone unnoticed by we humanoids. Trees figure prominently into virtually every major world religion. And nearly all of them make general reference to The Tree of Life. From the pre-Islamic Persian Haoma Tree which bears all seeds and Egyptian mythology in which Isis and Osiris emerge from an Acacia Tree – to the Buddha receiving enlightenment under a Bo Tree – to Adam and Eve being invited to eat from the Tree of Life, but steer clear of The Knowledge of Good & Evil Tree – to the Taoist story of a tree which produces a peach every 3000 years and offers immortality to the one who eats it, it is clear that trees have not only been keeping us two-leggeds jumping, thumping, pumping and humping, but have ignited our imaginations and stimulated our spirituality.
Trees have been life-giving and holy to us and to our ancestors as far back as we know. But, tragically, because of sprawling agriculture and industry, we have been deforesting our planet lately at a frightening speed. According to the World Wildlife Fund, approximately 36 football fields worth of forest are taken down every minute. And reforestation has not kept up. That’s truly a big bummer for us all.
But thankfully, there are folks in every country who are aren’t just hugging, but are busting butt for these woody wonders – these gentle giants whose every breath has been giving us breath and succor and hope for this changing climate. And if we have even an acorn’s snippet of wisdom we will listen to these elders and maybe learn how to live long and well on this Tree-Blessed Earth.