Trees Are Having a Moment in the Media

Wattle park crop
  • Article by Amy Bradney-George
  • July 24, 2015 at 2:17 PM

Once upon a time people would write fan letters on paper made for trees. Lately, people have started writing fan letters to trees – specifically trees in Melbourne, as news outlets all around the world have been eagerly reporting.

The story is that the City of Melbourne assigned numbers and email addresses to over 70,000 trees as a way to track their health and other factors. They then set up the Melbourne Urban Forest Visual website to share their knowledge of these trees with the wider community.

The whole idea was to share with the City of Melbourne was doing for trees, particularly after so many of them were affected by drought, but when people found out about the email addresses, they started writing letters addressed to the actual trees.

“My dearest Ulmus,” one message begins, “As I was leaving St. Mary’s College today I was struck, not by a branch, but by your radiant beauty. You must get these messages all the time. You’re such an attractive tree.”

Another reads:

“I used to think you were the Magic Faraway Tree when I was a child. Now that I’m an adult, I still look forward to seeing you as I come around the bend after a tedious crawl down Hoddle Street. A loyal friend always there waiting to say hello.”

In a recent interview with the BBC, Councillor Arron Wood says the emails are a testament to how important trees are to Melbourne’s identity.

“People literally are talking to these trees as if they are people, telling them how much they love them, thanking them for protecting them against the sun, apologising when their dog pees on them in the morning.”

In another interview, he says he “loves the idea of it not being the City of Melbourne’s urban forest but it actually being Melburnians’ urban forest,” noting that some of the trees have been around for hundreds of years

It’s not just the trees in Melbourne that are basking in this glow of human appreciation. July marks the 20th anniversary of National Tree Day (Sunday, 26th July 2015) and founding organisation Planet Ark says there has been a huge response from people all around the country.

“Each year over 250,000 people take part in National Tree Day events at 3,000 sites organised by councils, schools, businesses, communities and Toyota Dealers across the country,” the website says.

“Since Planet Ark launched National Tree Day in 1996, more than three million participants have planted 21 million native trees, shrubs and grasses.”

While there’s no word on whether it will be busier this year after all the attention Melbourne’s trees have received, it does seem as though more people are openly showing gratitude for trees through these events and services.

In fact, earlier this year the Dalai Lama showed his support for National Tree Day by blessing a tree while he was staying in the Blue Mountains, and overseas, researchers have recently reported that adding just 10 trees to a neighbourhood is linked to a 1% increase in feelings of wellbeing.

All of these things suggest that trees are having a moment in the sun when it comes to publicity. Then again, even when they are in the background of our lives, trees go on doing exactly what they’re meant to do – and that is a thing that’s always worthy of wonder and appreciation.

Images: Wattle Park trees in Melbourne, source: Wikimedia Commons; a screenshot of the Melbourne Urban Forest Visual website.

Melbourne Urban Forest Visual

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