Date of the last update: 14.02.2023
Trees inspire our respect, admiration, and fascination, as they play a vital role for all the ecosystems in which they love. Throughout the history of Earth, trees have often been attributed magical powers. What is the meaning of trees? Find out what role they play on Earth, what we can learn from them, and why we must take care of them.
Table of contents:
- Symbolism and the historical meaning of trees
- The importance of trees for humans
- The importance of trees for animals
- The importance of trees for child development
- What can trees teach us?
You can read this article in 4 minutes.
For centuries, societies across the world have believed that trees take care of humans. For example, in ancient Egypt, fig trees were almost sacred; it was believed that the souls of the dead would sit under the crowns of majestic fig trees. In Slavic traditions, trees were seen as oracles, and people visited trees to regain their health and find the answers to questions that they couldn’t solve alone. In the Christian religion, trees symbolise man’s relationship with God.
Trees have always played an important role, being an integral part of human life. Today, with the progress of civilization, their importance has been largely relegated to an industrial role, or more precisely, to a raw material from which paper is obtained. Importantly, for many people, trees are still a key part of the ecosystem, and the relationship between people and trees can in many cases be described as metaphysical.
Our quality of life and health largely depends on the quantity and quality of trees and green spaces across the world. Polish writer Andrzej Majewski once said that “a tree without roots falls, and so does a man”. How can we relate to these words? People’s detachment from nature and shift towards urban environments has a number of negative impacts on people’s day-to-day happiness, health, and harmony.
The many contributions of trees include:
- Purifying the air (trees covering 1 hectare of land produce about 700kg of oxygen!),
- Easier access to clean water (1 hectare of deciduous trees yields 50 m3 of water to the environment),
- Flood barriers (trees’ extensive root systems help keep water in the riverbed),
- Lower air temperature (especially important in cities),
- Reduce noise pollution,
- Increase the lifespan of tarmac roads (shade slows the release of asphalt compounds),
- Calm and relaxation (close contact with nature improves people’s mood and helps them ‘recharge batteries’).
Trees provide shelter for animals and birds, and many nesting birds and animals of many species and sizes live primarily in trees. Large forests give wild animals the right conditions for living and breeding. The survival of many animal species largely depends on trees and green areas, which is one of the many reasons that deforestation – including for the prevention of forest fires and road extensions – should be a top concern.
Scientists and psychologists have conducted various studies on the impact of trees on human functioning. In 2001, a group of American researchers researched how trees affect children in the playground. They discovered that children whose playgrounds were surrounded by trees were much more creative in their activities than those in playgrounds detached from nature. Being around the trees, the children invented games that have a positive effect on their brain development. Children who spend time in nature tend to have fewer problems with hyperactivity and lack of concentration.
Explore more: How to encourage children to engage with nature?
As well as their clear environmental importance, trees provide people with role models and inspiration. They remind us of the power of nature and the transience of human life, even though there are trees on Earth much older than the Egyptian pyramids! Close contact with nature also improves our mental state, allowing us to reduce stress and ‘recharge our batteries’.
According to P. Wohlleben, author of ‘Trees and the Forest – the Best Teacher’, trees help us unlearn selfish habits, and acquire patience. Trees teach us to respect and care for the natural world. ‘Silvotherapy’ – the therapeutic practice of hugging trees – has also been proven to boost creativity. People who need inspiration to study, work, or create art should bear in mind that it was sitting under a linden tree that Jan Kochanowski created his works!
The importance of trees on planetary, human, and animal health cannot be overestimated. We owe a lot to the trees on planet Earth, and we can learn plenty from them if only we open ourselves up and strengthen our relationship to the nature around us.
Check out also: Benefits of forest bathing