Thursday, April 22, 2010

Plant a tree for Earth Day

Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis)

I was just a kid when the first Earth Day was celebrated 40 years ago, but I remember the nascent ecology movement well. In fact, it made an indelible impression on me and has had a profound influence on nearly every aspect of my life.

I choose to live on land completely surrounded by trees. I leave many dead and dying trees standing to provide homes for bats, Northern Flickers, Downy Woodpeckers and other wildlife. It pains me to see majestic and mature trees cut down for "home improvement" projects, and I regard it as a selfish act that deprives future generations of something we have had the great privilege to enjoy. Trees, like most things, live as long as they’re permitted to live. More often than not in the suburb where I live their deaths are unnecessarily premature.

Trees may be the ultimate Earth Day mascot. Besides acting as the lungs of our planet and providing habitat for wildlife, trees reduce noise, provide shade (as global warming progresses their role as shade givers will become essential), beauty and privacy. Plant a tree today and you plant the future ─ doing so is an act of faith.

According to the National Arbor Day Foundation the Eastern Redbud, first cultivated in 1811, is native to North America and Canada with cousins in Europe and Asia. The Spaniards noted Redbuds and made distinctions between the New World species and their cousins in the Mediterranean region in 1571. George Washington reported in his diary on many occasions about the beauty of the tree and spent many hours in his garden transplanting seedlings obtained from the nearby forest.

According to the Peterson Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants, the flowerbuds can be pickled and the flowers added to salads. The buds, flowers and tender young pods can be sauteed in butter for 10 minutes.

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