Student Kimberly Reeves ’12, project coordinator of the Agnes Scott Arboretum, talks about the psychological benefits of trees.
Green ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica ‘Oconee’) is a dioecious (di-ee-shus) tree species. Some individuals are male, some female. When a tree has both male and female reproductive organs, we call it monoecious (muh-nee-shus). As it happens, this young tree is a male, selected as a variety or “cultivar” of the green ash species for its resistance to heat and its fast growth. As a seedless male, it does not fruit; its male flowers do produce pollen, however.
Especially for those of us who suffer from allergies, this green ash reminds us that trees do affect and influence us, often in ways of which we are not fully aware. Research has shown that trees increase property values and occupancy rates. Shoppers are willing to pay as much as 12% more in commercial areas with trees. Office workers without a view of nature report more ailments. Commuters who drive past trees instead of strip malls not only recover from the stress of driving more quickly, but also deal better with new stressors. In lecture halls with plants, students are less distracted. Finally, in a study of public housing in Chicago, girls who lived in apartments with greener, more natural views scored better on tests of focus and self-control.
So the next time you sniffle from allergies or spend the afternoon raking leaves, recall that trees have significant psychological benefits. The designer of the National September 11 Memorial Park in New York certainly understood that: the park will feature 400 oak trees surrounding two immense waterfalls.