July 16 – One, Two, Tree

Today’s factismal: The best place to plant evergreen trees is on the north and east sides of a house; the best place to plant deciduous trees is on the south and west sides.

It may seem strange that the kind of tree you should plant would depend on the side of the house you want to plant it on, but it makes sense once you stop and think about it. You see, trees are more than landscape decorations (though that is pretty important; some realtors say that trees increase property values by as much as 20%). Trees also provide shade and protection from the wind, and that’s why you need to match the tree to the side of the house.

In the northern hemisphere, the sun shines in from the south and west. By planting a deciduous tree on that side, the leaves will block the sun in the summer and keep the house cooler. But come winter, the leaves will fall off and allow the sun to come in and warm the house. Similarly, putting an evergreen tree on the north or east side will block the wind year round. This means that your house won’t suffer from wind chill (houses are like people; a speedy wind can make it harder to keep a home warm in the winter). And that means that you won’t spend as much money to keep the house warm. Indeed, some folks estimate that one oak tree can provide $200 in benefits each year. If that’s true, just imagine how much the trees in your neighborhood are worth!

One thing that’s worth almost as much as an oak tree’s shade on a summer day is data about where the trees are located. And that’s something that you can help with. Using the OpenTree app on your smartphone or tablet, you can map out the location and type of trees in your neighborhood. That data will be used by scientists to help understand the urban heat island effect and by urban planners to reduce problems caused by flooding and storms. To participate in one of the on-going OpenTree mapping projects (or to start one in your neighborhood), head to:

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