Q My builder tells me I that I’m required to plant shade trees at my newly build home before the final certificate of occupancy will be issued. Why do I have to plant trees that I do not want?

A Well, trees really are the answer. Trees are the answer to so many of our current climate and environmental issues. Quite honestly, local governments recognize that if it weren’t required, lots of folks — including yourself — would not plant canopy trees at all.

You didn’t share your reasons for not wanting shade trees, but I’ve heard them all. Let me enlighten you on the importance of canopy trees in our neck of the woods.

Planting trees is especially vital in the suburban landscape, to replace those displaced by rampant and sometimes thoughtless development. Do you realize how important it is to maintain a tree canopy? These amazing miracles of nature remove pollutants from air, soil and water. The roots of trees filter rainwater and slow runoff, which benefits our aquifers and surface waters. Since roots also take up nutrients, the amount of those nutrients draining into our waterways is naturally reduced.

But the biggest reason trees are our friend is found in that wonderful thing called a canopy. There is nothing more glorious than sitting under a shade tree on the hottest of days to escape that relentless sun. But consider not only that. As you relax peacefully, that tree is sequestering carbon dioxide and emitting oxygen in the process. CO2 is a major component in the greenhouse gases responsible for global warming. And there can be no argument that we all like oxygen. It’s really a win-win.

The shade from canopy trees can reduce your home air conditioning cost by as much as 50 percent. Do I have your attention now? They are our natural air conditioners. Evaporation from leaves creates a natural cooling system — one of the reasons it’s cooler in the country than in the city.

And if that were not enough, trees absorb and block sound, helping to reduce noise pollution. They provide food and shelter for wildlife of all sorts, many of which depend on trees for their very existence — including the birds you so enjoy watching with your morning coffee.

Are you convinced yet? Having trees in your little part of the world gets you all these services and more, and you don’t even have to pay for them. Pretty sure God thought this one through and gave us just what we needed. How could it get any better than that?

Now, knowing full well that you’re not completely satisfied yet, here are a few other thoughts. That whole “raking leaves in the fall” chore is in the past. It’s up north where it belongs. “Leaf” it behind. We have so few truly and completely deciduous trees in Southwest Florida that raking leaves is not an issue anyway. And maintenance is a breeze when you select trees that are naturally suited to our sometimes-harsh environment.

Today, suburban homes are being built with footprints that cover so much of the lot that there isn’t much room for green space. Tree planting becomes even more necessary to help balance our carbon footprint. Having said that, it can be challenging to fit trees into your available space — but be assured there is an adaptable tree for every situation. A good landscape designer can steer you in the right direction and introduce you to varieties that will be a good fit. Also, check out available options at local nurseries.

I haven’t yet gotten into the aesthetics of having trees in your neighborhood. Homes in neighborhoods with lots of mature trees are valued higher and sell faster than those in areas that are bleak and sterile in the absence of them. Now that really had to get your attention!

Want palm trees instead? I love palms, I think every Florida yard should have several. They fit nicely in the overall goal of creating a pleasing and natural environment and they have their own attributes, but they do not offer the same benefits as shade trees. It’s not a matter of either-or, so by all means plant both. The more trees, the better. It’s really a matter of doing the right thing for your neighborhood and for our planet. It’s also a matter of law.

So, here’s the gig: Without the presence of an abundance of shade trees here in sunny Florida, we would fry from May to November. Plants would shrivel and animals would succumb to heat. It’s not just being under the tree in the shade that cools us down, it’s the collective actions of a multitude of trees doing what they do that makes all living things able to adapt and tolerate the heat that we call summer here. And it works in reverse too. Trees help to insulate the earth during winter — yes, we do actually have a few days of winter every year.

So don’t dismiss the idea of a few shade trees in that new green space you’ll soon call home. Appreciate those trees for all the things they’ll give back to you and to all of us, both now and in the future.

Becky Copenhaver is a Charlotte County Master Gardener, Certified Horticulture Professional and Certified Landscape Designer. She owns and operates the newly opened Becky’s Garden Shoppe (6450 Elliot St., Punta Gorda). Contact her at 941-621-8551 or BeckysGardenShoppe@comcast.net.


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