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The Benefits of Trees: So Much More Than Shade

Updated: Jan 7, 2023

Flowers, Fruit and Fall Colors - Sugar Maple in the fall, Serviceberry, Flowering Dogwood

Contributed by Christopher Hart

Trees are likely not the first thing that come to mind when you think of Pullman. However, there is an association there to be explored. When you look at the surrounding area, what do you see? Trees! Upper and Lower Scott Lakes are lined with properties that still contain some very old oaks. Then, you look north and there is the Allegan State Game Area. This is a well known game area because of the size and scale of forested land. When you head east down 109th, take a notice to both sides of the road. You will see nothing but forests dotted with homes for miles! Certainly, Pullman and Lee Township were built with wood sourced from local trees. Imagine some of that lumber making it's way onto trains and out of the area to help build communities elsewhere over a century ago.

The local trees are impressive for diversity. Two evergreen species are mingled together, commonly, all around Pullman. We have the Eastern Red Cedar with it's varying width from columnar to widely pyramidal and small purple cones, and of course, towering White Pines. Both are loved by Cardinals, Mourning Doves, Chickadees, and Robins. Having these two kinds of trees provide permanent shelter for wildflife and a wonderful green backdrop to all seasons. April and May are the glory of spring flowering trees. Locally, you can see plenty of Redbud, Flowering Dogwood, and Serviceberry. These early flowering trees all have other benefits. The flowers are important pollen and nectar sources for bees, butterflies, and other pollinators. As summer heightens, the heart shaped leaves of Redbud look great drooping from branches, and Serviceberry will be ripening edible fruits that resemble blueberries. They are sweet and good for pies and jams! Birds nest on branches, as well as, in cavities of maples, oaks, and sycamores. The old growth trees around the lakes are so important for that needed shelter. Lastly, in autumn, you can expect dogwoods to turn deep burgundy with bright red berries. Redbud changes to a soft greenish-yellow, and Serviceberry becomes flame orange. So the benefits are to wildlife, but also to humans through the aesthetic beauty!

The diversity doesn't end there. With so many different elevations around Lee Township, you can appreciate that there are species for all conditions. In the low, wet areas, we find plentiful Black Gum, Spicebush, Speckled Alder, Pussy Willow, and the shrub Winterberry holly. Again, these all have flowers, fruit, and fall color of their own. It is January 2023, the Winterberry are currently showing off their red fruit. Now you know what that is out there in the ditches. There is drier, upland areas too. Here we find the oaks, aspens, maples, dogwoods, cherry, Beech, and Tuliptrees. You may begin to notice the difference in species as you explore the river walk, state game area, or any of the other numerous natural settings near you in Pullman. The drive down to the Country Living whole food store is beautiful in every season.

To summarize, the aesthetic appeal of local trees is as important as the food and shelter they provide to wildlife. When we think about trees, we should remember the flowers, fruit, fall color, and natural architecture that is loved by wildlife, should also be appreciated and loved by us as well. Keep this in mind as you notice spring awakening. Look at those amazing trees, and appreciate that they are so much more than just shade.

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