Washington is known as the “Evergreen State” thanks to our vast conifer forests. However, large conifers often get overlooked when selecting trees for urban areas. Conifers such as pine, spruce or fir provide many year round benefits to the urban home or garden.
The evergreen canopy offers cover for birds and other wildlife. When planted strategically, conifers can reduce energy costs by shading homes in the summer and blocking wind in the winter. The expansive root systems of conifers can help to stabilize slopes and reduce erosion. The canopy of evergreen needles can filter air pollutants and reduce stormwater runoff. Also, because of their unique form, large conifers will store more carbon and create more oxygen over a smaller area than trees with broad canopies. Because conifers maximize these benefits all year, these large trees can be an excellent and sustainable choice if your site has the appropriate space. In addition to these ecosystem services, conifers often become beloved neighborhood icons as they mature.
If you have room in your yard for planting a large conifer and live in Seattle, there are free trees available through Seattle reLeaf’s Trees for Neighborhoods Program. Learn more and apply for your tree here: http://www.seattle.gov/trees/treesforneighborhoods.htm.
Photo credit for all pictures to Oregon State University Landscape Plants Database.