Tree and Tree Planting: Busting Myths

Trees are vital to our existence.

Now that we’ve stated the obvious– the biggest plants on the planet help in preventing soil erosion support wildlife, store carbon and give us oxygen. Trees are the longest surviving species on our planet. They have been around for almost 370 million years. According to an independent study, it has been estimated that there are approximately 3 trillion mature trees in the world today1.

For the planet to function in a balanced manner without drastic changes in weather and climate, to prevent natural disasters and for the wellness of all living beings on earth, we must look after our existing forests and plant more trees. It is also of critical importance that we preserve the woodlands, rainforests, and trees in our urban settings, for example, the parks and lakes that are the lung spaces in our congested urban jungles.

Some of the more popular myths when it comes to trees and tree planting are:

#1: Anyone can plant a tree

One of the most common myths is that anyone can plant a tree, even a child. Just planting a tree or rather a sapling as it is called when we plant one is easy but for that sapling to grow into a healthy tree that will provide you with optimal benefits requires thoughtful care and consideration. It is essential to select the right tree for the right place. Proper planting techniques should be used and provide the sapling all the nourishment it needs so that it grows into a healthy tree. For example, if a tree is pruned consistently for the first 3-5 years, it will result in a stronger, more robust tree with lower maintenance costs in the later years as the tree ages.

There’s a way about this, though– EcoMatcher allows you to be that ‘anyone’ actually capable of planting a tree. Through partnerships with vetted organisations, EcoMatcher enables individuals to plant a tree in their name in different parts of the world. Corporates looking to make a change can indulge in corporate tree planting as part of sustainable environmental practices in the workplace.

#2: Trees drink up a lot of water

That trees require a lot of water is another popular myth. Trees do require water but probably not as much as you think. The thumb rule generally is that no matter how drought-tolerant a species of tree is, younger trees (1-3 years) do need consistent watering throughout the summer months to survive. Generally, mature established trees require less care and don’t need much looking after. If drought conditions occur, then all trees need to be watered and looked after as per requirement.

Proper planting techniques of the tree saplings are also essential for healthy growth. It is a well-propagated myth that if you plant the trees deep, it encourages strong, deep roots. Trees should not be planted deeper than the top of its root ball. Improper planting is one of the greatest causes of tree and shrub fall.

#3: Trees need to be staked

Another popular myth about tree planting is that the trees should be staked after planting. There is only partial truth to this myth, as a young sapling might need protection against strong winds to survive, it is necessary to remove the stakes after the first year so that the growth of the tree is neither hindered nor restricted.

It is a widespread belief that providing lots of mulch is good for trees. Mulch is quite important as it suppresses weeds, retains moisture and protects the roots against extreme temperatures. However, around 2 to 3 inches of mulch is more than sufficient for a tree to thrive. Excess amounts of mulch can prevent soil aeration and moisture.

#4: Trees can heal themselves

The popular belief is that trees can heal itself or the wounds inflicted on them very fast. This is a fallacy. The trees cannot repair damaged tissues2. They use a mechanism called compartmentalization, where trees isolate the damaged areas from the healthy areas. These damaged tissues will remain so within the tree during their entire lifetime. So, it’s a false concept to think it’s okay to harm trees as they will heal themselves. This is why it’s crucial to exercise caution while using equipment like lawnmowers around trees so as not to harm them.

#5: All trees are the same

A tree growing in an urban environment is different from one that thrives in a forest. The myth is that since trees in the forest do not require any looking after, the tree growing in my front yard does not require any either. There are a lot of challenges facing the tree in the urban area as pollution, confined spaces, asphalt, concrete and limited area for rooting. Trees in urban areas need special care whereas forests are not in need of regular intervention and are interconnected in an ecosystem. 

#6: There’s no harm in tree topping

Tree topping is one of the most harmful practices to do to a tree. It’s the practice of removing entire treetops, branches or trunks from the top half of the tree, leaving lateral branches that aren’t mature enough to take on the role of a ‘terminal leader’. Topping is one of the major causes of tree decline and death and should strictly not be practiced. This practice often creates weak, stressed trees that are expensive to maintain in the long run.

#7: Trees crack sidewalks

Most often trees are held responsible for the cracking of sidewalks and paths in most urban areas. This is a popular misconception as, more often, the sidewalks and pathways are designed without keeping in mind the nature and kind of soil it’s built on. Construction design of sidewalks needs to vary according to the nature of the land corresponding to the area. It is often poor design and soil conditions that allow the roots to follow the gaps created and not the trees by themselves.

The final word

Arming oneself with information and knowledge about growing and looking after the trees that are already there and planting new ones will go a long way in spurring environmental change. It’s a core facet of safeguarding our environment and reducing the impacts of climate change, but also encouraging both flora and fauna to flourish, as they should, naturally. With EcoMatcher, proper tree planting and tracking is one click away.