Editorial: Arboreal notes for the ‘morrow

·3 min read

The communal planting of trees is referred to as “Arbor Day,” first initiated in 1805 by a local priest mobilizing his parish in the village of Villanueva de Sierra in Spain, according to agrea.ph.

In the Philippines, President Manuel Roxas signed Proclamation No. 30 in 1947, institutionalizing Arbor Day to be observed every second Saturday of September.

Republic Act 10176, also known as the Arbor Day Act of 2012 signed into law by President Benigno Simeon Aquino III, mandates local government units (LGUs) to spearhead green activities on June 25.

From the standpoint of climate, tree-planting is more appropriate in June than in September. Arborists advise that, among the factors to consider in planting a tree, climate is crucial.

As pointed out by the International Society on Arboriculture (ISA) on its website treearegood.org, trees can grow year-round in tropical and subtropical areas.

Periods of dormancy—in between the dropping of leaves during fall and the breaking of buds in early spring—are “ideal” for planting trees, according to the ISA.

Based on the country’s rainfall and temperature, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Administration (Pag-asa) classifies the country’s climate into two seasons: rainy (June-November) and dry (December-May).

The dry season can be further distinguished as the cool dry season (December-February) and the hot dry season (March-May).

Last May 9, when millions of Filipinos trooped to public schools to vote, the heat and humidity in crowded classrooms and narrow corridors were exacerbated by the glare and lack of shade in treeless environs.

Instead of being discouraged, Filipinos desiring to nurture and sustain the country’s resources for the generations to come should take these stark experiences of a dry and arid present as a challenge to prepare for a green and sustainable future.

Arboreal wisdom handed down generations underscores the necessity of preparations before the actual planting of trees.

In choosing a site, it is as essential to consider the receptiveness of people aside from variables affecting the soil’s moisture, slope, light availability, and other conditions.

To paraphrase a folk adage, it takes a community to go beyond planting and move on to nurturing trees and creating green spaces.

Not everyone is a tree hugger. Some don’t want to wait for the years it takes for a tree to reach maturity. Others view trees as potential hazards, disastrously toppling from a rotten core or interfering with power lines.

The security-conscious suspect trees as harboring snakes, poisonous spiders, and other pests. Homeowners dislike leaf-fall that adds to ground-cleaning chores and requires regular clearing and cleaning of gutters and roofs.

A tree can be different things according to different perceptions.

Thus, the principle of the “right tree in the right place” requires, in the arboreal and social dimensions, patience and perseverance to work on the ground: providing accurate information, checking misperceptions, engaging with opposition, and creating alliances.

Time and effort invested in preparing a site before the actual planting of a tree are not wasted, being crucial for lessening “transplant shock,” which involves “slowed growth and reduced vitality following transplanting,” according to the ISA.

When a tree is balled and burlapped for transfer from the nursery to the site, transplanting frequently involves the loss of a tree’s roots and possible damage to the root system.

Through careful handling and sustained follow-up, a tree can recover from the changes and disruptions of transplanting to remind every tree-grazer, paraphrasing the evergreen lines of the poet Joyce Kilmer, that the poem more beautiful than a tree has yet to be penned:

“A tree whose hungry mouth is prest/ Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;// A tree that looks at God all day,/ And lifts her leafy arms to pray...”.

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