Branch Out into the Hidden World of Trees

Oak Grove at Fort Des Moines Park

Q. What do pears, car wax, and anticancer treatments have in common?  
A. Trees - they all come from trees!

Thousands of products and goods we use every day begin as trees growing right outside our door. Totaling 25% of all living plants, trees are estimated to include 100,000 species! These 100,000 species also provide habitat and food sources for wildlife, comfort and aesthetically pleasing additions to our landscape. But the inherent value of a tree is not in the products we derive from them nor the beauty they provide. The value is in the behind-the-scenes things unfolding the moment roots take hold and a seedling bursts forth from the soil.

Ecosystem services are those services/processes either directly or indirectly provided to humans by the natural environment at no cost. Categories of ecosystem services are generally broken down into 5 categories:

1) Production of Goods
Trees: fuels, food, medicines, waxes, timber

2) Regeneration Services
Trees: air purification

3) Stabilizing Services
Trees: reduce water runoff

4) Life Fullfillment
Trees: beauty, recreation, spiritual inspiration

5) Preservation of Options
Trees: future supply of goods, services and discoveries for the future

We are all directly provided for in the Production department. We can look throughout our home, school or workplace to see how vital trees are in our day-to-day lives. But what about the other categories that we may not automatically take into consideration?

Let's take a closer look outside our front window at what is going on within a tree. The air around us is purified by trees through absorption of certain gases and pollutants. The cool thing about trees and other green plants is the process of photosynthesis -  trees take up carbon dioxide as a necessary part of making their own sugars for food/energy and, in the process, release oxygen as a byproduct for us to breathe. Bonus - carbon dioxide is one of the 6 culprits responsible for accelerated climate change. One tree can absorb nearly 48 pounds of carbon dioxide each year; and a 40 year old tree has sequestered, or put into long term storage, nearly 1 ton of the stuff...for free!

Trees also can help stabilize the microclimate of your property. Shade provided by trees helps lower the temperature, especially in urban areas. These front lawn inhabitants help to slow down water evaporation from the ground which also helps in temperature regulation. Even the climate inside our homes can benefit from trees. Costs associated with air-conditioning and heating are reduced by up to 40% when shade trees are planted within 30 feet of homes or other buildings! Conifer windbreaks along the north and west sides of your property also help to reduce overall energy costs.

In Iowa, we hear quite a bit about water quality and soil vitality. What do trees have to do with this?! Trees filter water pollutants, slow runoff and help control stormwater in towns and cities. The hardy root system of trees also help to anchor in soil, preventing erosion while maintaining the integrity of and replenishing Iowa's precious topsoil layer - a vital resource we are losing at a conservative rate of 5 tons per acre per year on crop fields.

Plant some shade today!

So let's do our part from home by preserving the ground on which we live! Residential customers of MidAmerican Energy Company can reduce future energy use, landscape their homes and green up their communities this fall through the Plant Some Shade® program. Plant Some Shade enables MidAmerican Energy’s residential customers to purchase up to two landscaping trees for $30 each. Trees are sold on a preordered, first-come, first-served basis. Pick up will be available on October 10th from 8:30 - 11:00 a.m. in the south parking lot of the Hoover State Office Building.  For ordering information, click here

Available trees. Click on tree names to find out more about a species.
(Dimensions below indicate size at maturity)


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