After my last article on the live oak, a friend asked me, “John, how did a New York City boy like you become a tree hugger? What’s up with you and trees?”

Well, perhaps it is because I am a city boy – who grew up in Bronx, N.Y., where trees are few and far between – that I don’t take these wonders of nature for granted.

“But do really you want all those trees on your property? You can’t grow grass in the shade,” my friend continued.

Well, you can, but these lawns need to be seeded with the right kinds of grasses. With proper care and lawn preparation, you can succeed in growing grass in shady places.

Yes, trees can be messy and you have to rake or blow your yard and roof often. On the other hand, leaves make great mulch, so you might not have to rake or blow as much as you think.

The benefits of trees far outweigh the negatives. In addition to being the “Lungs of the Earth” by providing oxygen, trees help regulate climate in a number of ways. Accoding to the nonprofit group Tree People, as well as other environmental groups, not only is the above statement true, but trees also increase property values. They are an investment.

Generally, property is worth more with trees than without. Home values can increase from 5% to 15% if landscaped with trees, and can sell more quickly than homes that are bare of trees.

Trees save money on air conditioning, which in the Lowcountry can add up to substantial savings, as much as 20% to 50%. Ironically, they can also reduce heating bills by as much as 10% to 15% since trees can act as windbreaks.

I am always amazed when I hear someone say they have to take down a perfectly healthy tree because it creates too much shade. Here in the South especially, shade is a good thing.

Shade trees are good for our health as well. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. Trees reduce UV-B exposure by about 50%, thus providing protection to children and adults when engaging in outdoor activities.

Think about it. When taking a leisurely walk in summer, we tend to take the shady side of the street.

The next time you are tempted to cut down a tree on your property, think about what that tree can do for you.

Learn more about trees and their many benefits at, and

John Riolo lives in Moss Creek and is past president of the Nature Club of Moss Creek.