What is arboriculture, and how does it relate to the trees you see every day?
The field of arboriculture encompasses the study, cultivation, and long-term care of individual trees. You’ve got arboriculture to thank for all the knowledge available to tree care experts if you have healthy, flourishing trees on your property.
Curious about this field of study? Want to learn more about the history of arboriculture and how it has evolved over the years? These eight fun facts you didn’t know about arboriculture provide a base of knowledge that encourages you to appreciate every tree you see.
Tree Study Has Been Around for Millennia
Ever since human beings started experimenting with the plants in their environment, they haven’t forgotten about the trees. Early civilizations pioneered the cultivation of olive trees around 6000 BCE in Asia Minor. The practice grew in popularity, and knowledge spread to what is now Italy—a country renowned for its olive oil!
The ancient Roman poet Virgil, famous for his Aeneid, wrote another extensive poem called the Georgics in which he discussed tree cultivation in detail. He noted that some trees flourish naturally, while others grow with the help of human intervention.
Trees Can “Talk” to Each Other
Groups of trees whose root systems overlap underground have been known to send distress signals to one another! That root network that helps trees draw nutrients from the soil also gives them a way to communicate among themselves.
For example, trees use their underground network to warn one another of oncoming danger if a swarm of insects are on their way to wreak havoc on their leaves. Those trees then deploy protective mechanisms like shedding leaves or curling them inward.
Trees and Shrubs Protect Your Property
Keeping trees and shrubbery on your property can keep it in good condition in a variety of ways, including but not limited to:
- Preventing soil erosion by storing up water and percolating it through the soil.
- Breaking high winds that blow across your property.
- Improving overall air quality through the absorption of carbon dioxide.
Not only do trees provide protection, but they also offer comfort! Relaxing in the shade of a sprawling tree is a classic respite on a hot and sunny day.
Arboriculture Is a North American Tradition
While arboriculture as a practice has been around for thousands of years, it took off in the United States just over a century ago. J. Sterling Morton was a newspaper editor and avid tree enthusiast who opposed cutting down healthy trees. He planted a diverse array of trees on his estate, and many credit him with the inception of Arbor Day.
His son, Joy Morton, founded the Morton Arboretum in 1922—the first official arboriculture organization in the country. Today, his estate is home to over 4,000 species of trees and other woody plants.
Good To Know:
The United States observes Arbor Day on the last Friday in April. Take time this year to appreciate the trees in your community! Let the holiday remind you to contact an arborist for expert assistance if your trees require extra care or maintenance.
Healthy Trees Fight Climate Change
It’s no secret that the planet’s overall climate is changing—and that trees can help reduce some of the negative effects. Trees are known for their ability to pull carbon dioxide out of the air and release oxygen in its place. They also act as a natural habitat and tiny ecosystems for various wildlife, contributing to improving the planet’s health.
Because trees are such a valuable natural resource, the United States values its urban and suburban trees at $7 billion per year. Trees’ positive influence on air quality and capacity to store stormwater contribute to their high value.
Arborists Were Once Called “Tree Surgeons”
In the 1870s, an Englishman named John Davey immigrated to the U.S. and settled in Kent, Ohio. As the son of a farm superintendent, he had a strong working knowledge of tree anatomy and care, and he brought his passion to the States. In 1880, he founded the Davey Tree Expert Company, which is still in business today.
Davey’s 1901 book, The Tree Doctor, compares a tree expert to a physician nurturing and healing their patients. He innovated several practices that are still in use today, like cabling and bracing methods designed to support trees with weak or drooping structures.
These days, the term “tree surgeon” is falling out of favor among professional arborists, but it’s an important part of arboriculture’s history. Remembering that trees are living beings and treating them with the dignity they deserve recalls the animism of Virgil’s ancient poetry.
The ISA Connects Thousands of Tree Experts
Just as trees’ root systems connect them to each other, the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) connects tens of thousands of arborists worldwide. The ISA, founded in 1924, was designed to spread awareness of arboriculture and promote professional practices among tree experts.
In the 1990s, the ISA developed a certification program to encourage more education among arborists. You can rest assured the person you hire will have the expertise necessary to ensure your trees’ integrity and longevity when you hire an ISA-certified arborist.
Arborists Help Keep You Safe
You’ve probably seen a few toppled trees in the wreckage if you’ve ever witnessed the aftermath of a severe storm with high winds. Tree trunks and branches can cause damage in a variety of ways, but an arborist’s services and expertise can help you minimize your risk.
Arborists can brace and cable trees with structural problems, and they know when to prune branches that are at risk of falling. An arborist can thin out your tree to keep it strong and upright if it is top-heavy and has several high branches and very few low ones. Arborists certified by the ISA can help you prevent a tree disaster before it occurs!
You can feel confident to move forward with your tree care now that you know these fun facts about arboriculture! The study of trees and other woody plants has benefited humanity for thousands of years. Modern-day arborists follow a tradition passed through generations of tree enthusiasts, and they use that knowledge to keep your trees healthy and your property intact.