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Tree Symphony

Updated: Nov 1, 2022

Sea Club Article 2022 - Event Report Issue 3

Tree Symphony

How Trees Help Orchestrate the Music of Our Planet

Cowritten by Brian Le and Cathy Zhai

Trees are kind of like music for the planet.

Music heals the soul, conveys emotions, tells stories, and connects lives across the entire globe. Music is a universal language that brings us all together. Trees, albeit unexpectedly, are the same.

Across the planet, trees absorb carbon dioxide and produce tons of fresh oxygen on a daily basis, replenishing the Earth’s atmosphere with the clean air that every organism on this planet depends on for life.

Meanwhile, the roots of trees hold terrain and vegetation in place,preventing erosion from sweeping away important nutrients—while simultaneously running a network of habitats in the ground.

Furthermore, the branches, leaves, and trunks of each individual tree display a story that may span a history of over a hundred years. Just like how each particular lyric of a song shares a scene and how each distinctive note emits an emotion, a tree’s leaves are its notes and its bark, its lyrics.

And just like how music can be found anywhere in the world, so can trees.

And ultimately, similar to how music is always growing in number and expanding across the world, I hope trees can too.

However, on February 19, 2022, the SEA Club, many other volunteers, and I were able to bring that dream one step closer to reality.

Volunteers beginning the tree-planting process.

At the beginning of Saturday’s event, multiple high schools and community organizations across Houston—including Memorial High School’s SEA and Teens for Greens—gathered at a large, grass-covered, empty refuge island located in the middle of S Wilcrest Dr.

We listened to our event coordinators as they explained what we would be doing.They demonstrated a complete tutorial on how to plant trees efficiently, safely, and correctly. Once we had debriefed with the coordinators, our wave of volunteers flooded across the site to begin planting.

We were all eager to get started and immediately put on gloves, grabbed shovels, and got to work with the shared goal of enhancing our environment.

To succeed in our goal, we first needed to plant and ground the trees.

An adult volunteer (left), Cathy Zhai (middle), and Chris Salha (right) digging a hole for a tree.

The planting procedure was simple. First, we dug out an empty hole, large enough to fit the base of the tree, as well as its pre-potted dirt. This way, we wouldn’t damage the tree's roots which would inhibit its main source of nutrient absorption and growth. After we placed the tree in our hole, we sprinkled nutritional powder that would provide the trees with its necessary nutrients so the plant is able to adjust to its new environment and sink into its roots, while still getting its proper intake of vitamins and minerals. Next, we used the dirt we previously dug out to fill the remaining space and top off the plant, packing it in tight to secure the treeling in its new home.

Thien-Nhi Do covers a newly-planted tree with soil.

Then came the procedures that were required for the initial nurturing of the trees which would ensure that they grow and live a long and healthy life.

First, we placed a water hydration mat at the base of the tree to provide it with water and conserve the moisture in the dirt. The hydration mats are made from recycled plastics, which have been repurposed to perform an environmentally beneficial role, while also demonstrating a sustainable practice. The mats were mutually beneficial: they allowed a slow release of water that would be refilled with precipitation, which would lessen the necessary maintenance of watering and irrigation. Not only did this provide the trees with consistent hydration, but it also conserved water waste by the reuse of rainwater. The hydration mats also provide weed control, prevent soil erosion, and protect the plants’ roots during extreme weather.

Rows of newly-planted trees are given water rings.

After placing down the hydration mats, we hauled mulch to each tree, providing enough to cover the base of the tree. The fresh bed of mulch would provide a stable ground for it, as well as help retain moisture and replenish nutrients and minerals. After we finished planting and mulching all the trees, we began watering them using a water tank, making sure to provide plenty of water to each one. Newly planted trees need the right amount of water to establish their roots and begin a long healthy life. As spring rolls around, it’s the prime time and main growing season for many of these trees and plants. This is why it is important to provide the trees with ample water to ensure that they have the proper supplements to allow them to grow and thrive.

Student volunteers covering a tree’s base with mulch.

Later on, the SEA Club was also able to hold conversations with other students at the event and hear their stories and viewpoints on environmental service and sustainability. Through our discussions we realized the power of teamwork and community effort in creating positive change.

All the people gathered at this event came from different schools and communities across the Houston area. Ultimately, we were able to unite with a common goal to work collaboratively in bettering our environment and improving our ecosystem.

Many student volunteers had shown up to help with the tree-planting event.

Even though the trees are young, all of the newly planted saplings are guaranteed to provide a plethora of advantages to their surrounding ecosystem which would impact their part of Houston in ways that improved both human life and wildlife.

For example, over their average lifetimes, trees undergo tremendous scales of photosynthesis. In fact, a singular tree can consume up to twice the amount of an average car’s annual carbon dioxide emissions. Thus, after we planted numerous trees together in one defined area, the neighborhoods nearby would receive more oxygen which serves as much-needed, critical fresh air for the cellular respiration and life of both humans and creatures.

Additionally, the trees that we had planted will also soon enhance the quality of organic life in the area. This means that various wildlife, including birds and squirrels, will be able to build new homes in the trees’ trunks and branches. Shelters constructed inside or on top of trees, like nests, provide safe places for many animals to reproduce and raise their offspring. Furthermore, once the trees have matured enough, they’ll begin to produce various food resources for animals as well.

One day, I hope to return to that newly planted tree-grove and witness its music: the sounds of chirping birds, scurrying squirrels, rustling of leaves, the bustle of life—all unforgettable components of a song sung for a better and brighter future for our world.

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