Trees at Work: Shade & More

You may have noticed on our social media platforms some information regarding the ways in which planting certain trees in specific places will not only transform a landscape, but also make significant impacts on buildings and the people who live in them. Properly understanding the many different functions of trees and implementing this knowledge into our architecture and urban spaces allows for the intelligent design of mother nature to solve multiple problems at once. This is one of the main tenets of treeification.

Recently we’ve been focusing on shade trees. We mentioned how, in the Western Cape, planting a deciduous tree on the north-west side of a building provides afternoon shade in summer, something that will significantly cool down the building, lowering costs and energy required to keep the building cool. Likewise in winter, the loss of leaves will allow that afternoon sun in, keeping the building warm and bright during those chilly winter months.

We also mentioned how the dappled shade of the Vachellia species (previously the Acacia species) allow just the right amount of soft light to enable the growth of any plants or vegetables that are planted beneath the tree. In addition to this, this species cleverly fixes atmospheric nitrogen into the soil, making nitrogen available to surrounding plants. How could you possibly improve on such ingenious design?!

You recently met the recipient of the Just Trees Scholarship, Mark Hattie. This passionate landscape architect student also had some things to share with us regarding the functions of trees… As Mark says:

“The use of trees stretch far beyond shade structures or screening; they each possess their very own ecosystem, often housing the symbiotic partners that aid them. In the landscape architecture and planning realm, trees play an essential role in green infrastructure and often species are chosen for the ecological value within the whole system. The variety and compatibility of species are vital to a good design.

Coastal trees like Brachyleana discolor do amazingly well all the way from Muizenberg to Natal, but they are known for having multiple stems and they are not the tallest trees. The individual structure of these trees is often not desired. However, once a few of them are grouped or planted in a row, they make excellent coastal windbreaks and brilliant hedges that respond well to pruning. What’s more, they are extremely water-wise.”

He also added that although the very popular shade and avenue tree, the Syzegium guineense or Water berry is indigenous and beautiful, but not always the ideal candidate for urban spaces. This evergreen produces fruit quickly and regularly, meaning if they are planted over pavement, a walkway or a car park, staining will become an issue and in fruiting season, a foul smell can develop. However, the same tree planted in a park or in a properly-sized tree ring with some ground covers and mulch, will not develop a bad smell and the falling fruit won’t be a problem.

Stay tuned for more tips on working with green design and join us on this journey of Treeification!

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