Why do we like large mature trees?

There have been many studies about why we like trees so much. Interestingly, when a picture is shown of a mature tree lined suburban street with the trees in place or airbrushed out the preferred choice is invariably the one with the green canopy cover. It is estimated that houses with good tree cover nearby are worth 18% more, ask any estate agent! With leaves in the summer or without leaves in winter, they count just the same.

We all know from our school days how trees release oxygen and lock up carbon and a recent study on the BBC programme ‘Trust me I’m a Doctor’ showed that planting a line of Betula utilis Jacquemontii outside a row of houses on a busy city road made a massive difference to the amount of pollution particulates coming into the houses. They used a simple test of wiping TV screens in houses with no trees, against houses with trees planted between them and the road and the difference in dust build up was amazingly striking. This is of course great news for asthmatics with respiratory problems caused by traffic emissions.

Trees slow down the flow of rainfall hitting the ground to help against soil erosion and their roots similarly lock up the ground to make it stable. They provide important shade to filter out harmful rays that can damage our skin and they both cool our environment on a hot day and insulate our houses on cold ones. Trees slow down the rate of wind, just stand behind a Pinus nigra Austriaca on a breezy day on the coast to find this out, and they create a wealth of food and habitat for wildlife.

But we know all this! The remarkable thing is that in academic studies asking people which of the above are the most important, it comes up with a resounding answer every time: We want large mature trees around us because we like them. Simple as that! Forget the carbon sequestration, the oxygen giving and the respiratory health benefits; it’s their aesthetic beauty that draws us to trees and why we want to be surrounded by them. In a study last year it recognized the weight of new born babies was increased in areas where the mother lived in a green area versus a concrete jungle. It’s this inner contentment and well-being that large mature trees give us that counts the most.

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