The value of a tree

by Jan Spann

We appreciate their shade in summer and their dramatic fall colors, but do you know how valuable trees really are? As the season turns to autumn — the best time to plant new trees — let me take you on a tree appreciation journey. Unlike other investments that may depreciate, a tree’s value increases with each passing year. Trees increase a home’s property values 7 to 21 percent, depending on the type and number of trees.

Urban trees are 15 times more efficient in removing carbon dioxide, removing an average of 13 to 48 pounds of carbon dioxide from our atmosphere annually. Trees don’t just remove gunk from the air we breathe, they also produce about 260 pounds of oxygen each year. Say thanks to the two trees that can supply your annual oxygen needs, and consider that you should plant a few more to take care of the rest of your family.

The cooler temperatures of fall provide the best time for planting trees. Learning what trees work best in a location will also give you a higher success rate. Trees like dogwoods are understory, which means they need the canopy from a larger tree, like an oak or maple.

Arkansas can boast more than 100 different tree species, so branch out and look at a few types that you may not normally see but that will do well in our Central Arkansas climate. Included here are species that do well in drought conditions as well. In the evergreen category, Arborvitae is a large, fast-growing tree with dense green foliage, making it a good option for use as a screen or barrier. Another favorite in the evergreen category is pine, and short leaf pine is Arkansas’ state tree.

Vitex, or chaste tree, originally hailed from India, but it has naturalized locally and can be grown as a large shrub or flowering tree in full sun. You will enjoy its fragrance along with the butterflies and bees it attracts. The maple family offers many options for canopy trees with brilliant fall color, so find which one best suits your site.

You’ll often find Ginkgo in urban settings because it endures bad soils and city pollutants. Hey, dinosaurs munched on Ginkgos, so they can take anything! The crategus family includes the parsley haw and the Washington hawthorn, both native and replete with stunning flowers and berries that attract wildlife. The Washington has so far been immune to Cedar-apple rust disease.

The native Smoketree is a multi-stemmed small tree that turns a smoky pink color from June through August. Leaves are also showy, turning from medium blue-green to yellow-red-purple in the fall. This native demands dry conditions, and it will reward you with a prolific show throughout the year if you don’t overwater.

Oaks are a traditional Southern tree, and you’ll find many varieties from which to choose. Shumard has a broad leaf, and Southern Red Oak is a native. All have lovely fall color. And while elm and ash trees have long been considered a staple of our American landscape, these two species face a dire future because of Dutch Elm disease and the Emerald Ash Borer.

Other natives to consider include the yellowwood, the American hazelnut, viburnum, Indian currant, American basswood, buckeye and ironwood. That doesn’t begin to name all the species of trees that call Arkansas home, but it should give you something to consider.

In addition to adding trees to your landscape, here are a few reminders on how to maintain trees already in place. Water is the most important consideration for a tree’s survival. Newly planted trees need at least ten gallons of water per week, best accomplished with a slow trickle or with watering bags. For existing trees, water should extend out as far as the tree’s width, much farther than many gardeners expect.

Mulch moderates soil temperatures, reduces weeds and helps the soil retain moisture, but the wrong method means certain death to a tree. Do not push mulch against the tree trunk but keep a three-inch mulch out to the full length of the root system.

According to Jeremy Newton, owner of Newton Tree Service in Conway, the best product to help with a tree in stress is Superthrive, a multi-vitamin for trees facing problems from drought, insects or site problems like compacted soil from construction or a tree placed too close to a structure.

“I had a client who built her home around a certain tree, and when she called me four years ago, I thought it was a goner,” Newton said. “She faithfully applied this product as directed, and she actually saved the tree.”

Newton also recommended that homeowners take this time in early autumn to assess trees for dead limbs that need to be removed.

“Dead limbs hold more water, which accelerates the rotting process,” said Newton. “They are at risk of breaking and damaging property in winter storms, and it’s hard to determine which limbs are dead after the leaves have dropped.”

For more information, go to and The cities of Conway and Maumelle also have Tree Boards through Tree City USA. For certified nurseries, check you local directory or visit, which carries native plants, shrubs and trees.

Healthy trees make healthier communities, so take time this month to plant a tree and do spot maintenance on those already in your landscape. Each urban tree with a 50-year lifespan provides an estimated $273 annually in reduced costs for air conditioning, erosion control, stormwater abatement, air pollution and wildlife shelter. You can enjoy the shade and breathe easier thanks to that beautiful tree.


A Conway resident, Jan Spann has been gardening for 20-plus years and has been involved with the Faulkner County Master Gardeners for 11 years. She and her husband, Randy, have five children and eight grandchildren.