By Leon Lindley

A Simple Thing?

This year, Earth Day was celebrated on April 22nd. As part of previous Earth Day celebrations, our local Trees Forever Board has given away tree saplings to 5th grade students at the La Porte City Elementary School. We ordered a variety of trees (bare root stock), wrapped them individually in damp peat moss, and tied a plastic bag around them. We also ordered three large potted trees to plant at the elementary school. The plan was to plant a tree with each of the three 5th grade classes. While planting a tree with the students, we hoped to explain how to properly plant and take care of a tree. We also wanted the students to explore why it was important to plant trees.

As part of the program, we invited several guests. We had  Trees Forever field representatives, an extension service representative, and a representative from Black Hills Energy, a Trees Forever sponsor. It was a really fun event and the kids were very excited. We had the students take turns shoveling in soil, and placing mulch around the trees. The field representative took the lead in explaining how to plant the trees. She also asked the students why they thought it was important to plant trees. The students knew the answers for most of the obvious reasons for tree planting, which included landscaping, providing shade, saving energy, and to help fight the effects of global warming (carbon sequestration).

As the students were busy  mulching the first tree, a Red Oak, my thoughts began to ponder about what this tree might mean to the surrounding environment. My first  thought was birds may nest in it, and as it grew, squirrels might use it. As this tree matured and developed cavities, owls, woodpeckers, raccoons, possums, mice, snakes, weasels, bats, chipmunks, mink, frogs, and insects might also use the tree.

A Red Oak tree also produces seeds, in this case acorns. The acorns are eaten by mice, deer, wood ducks, turkeys, blue jays, raccoons, insects, wood peckers, squirrels, and chipmunks. The mice that eat the acorns are eaten by snakes, hawks, owls, coyotes, fox, raccoons, weasels, mink, skunks, bobcats, opossum, and badgers. The snake that eats the mouse is eaten by hawks, owls, other snakes, raccoons, fox, coyotes, etc. Are you beginning to see the  possible impact of planting a tree?

I have only scratched the surface. Much more could be said. So if you hear someone ask, “How can I make a difference?” tell them to plant a tree. While it is such a simple thing to do, that simple thing may result in an extra-ordinary outcome.