Let's Green Up:  Plants & Trees Benefits in Urban Environment

Let's Green Up: Plants & Trees Benefits in Urban Environment

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In Indian cities, plants & trees are fast disappearing from public spaces. Trees and plants provide a variety of environmental values, including screening of unpleasant odours, absorption of noise and reduction of pollution and temperature. While we care for the environment and are aiming to preserve and protect biodiversity, we should not forget that trees are our lifelines. They give us oxygen. Search Results Trees are true friends of humanity. The trees are oxygen providers and are called the lungs of the planet. Why should we aim to plant trees in our societies/apartment compounds, or office/industrial complexes? How about creating a green groove or green walks in our cities or towns? Let’s read in detail why we need to create or restore the green cover in our cities.  Experts tell us several reasons why we should green up. #LoveNature

Air Quality: Trees are an efficient and cost-effective way for a community to improve its air quality and reduce pollution. A mature tree absorbs between 120-240 pounds per year of small particles and gases, like carbon dioxide, which are released into the air by automobiles and industries. In addition, a single tree produces nearly three-quarters of the oxygen required for a person; and a canopy of trees in an urban environment can slash smog levels up to 6%. More the green area full of trees lesser is the AQI (Air Quality Index). The AQI is an index for reporting daily air quality. It tells you how clean or polluted your air is, and what associated health effects might be there. Plants also have proven effects on air quality both indoors and outdoors. There are researches that point out indoors air is polluted too and many agencies, institutes, universities and organizations have produced mounting evidence to prove air filtering of toxic substances exist in few plants.

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Water Quality: Trees and plants help anchor soil and reduce stormwater runoff, saving the high costs of drainage ditches, storm sewers, and other “engineered solutions” to stormwater management. A Street lined with 32’ tall trees can reduce runoff by almost 327 gallons, allowing cities to install smaller and less expensive water management systems. Reducing runoff also decreases topsoil erosion and the amount of silt and other pollutants washed into streams, rivers and lakes.

Lower Heating and Cooling Costs: Plants and Trees have demonstrated the ability to reduce heating and cooling costs and counteract the “heat island” effect in urban environments. Urban areas with little vegetation can experience temperatures of up to seven degrees higher than those with tree cover. This translates into significantly higher energy costs to cool buildings. Properly planted trees can cut heating and cooling costs by as much as 12 % and reduce overall power demand.

Reduced Noise Pollution: Noise pollution is an often overlooked problem. Excessive or unwanted sound has negative physical and psychological effects. Noise can come from many sources, especially roads and highways. Plants and Trees can play an important role in deadening unwanted noise. Sound waves are absorbed by a tree’s leaves, branches, and twigs. Studies suggest that belts of trees 100’ wide and 45’ long can cut highway noise to half.

Ecological Value: Plants provide significant values to all sectors of natural environment in cities. The loss of vegetation cover adversely affects the soil, Air & Water balance. One of the major values of plants is improving urban soil conditions. Urban soils are often buried beneath the sidewalks, streets and buildings. However, a significant portion in many urban areas remain exposed to environmental conditions which helps in improving urban soil conditions by building the Soil with a roof system, by checking the loss of surface particles, by increasing the organic material contents in soil and retaining the water for a longer period, to increase the ground water table. Soil benefits from trees, as their far-reaching roots hold the soil in place, preventing erosion. Trees improve soil quality as their leaf litter makes perfect compost. Some trees, for example acacias, have bacteria living in their roots. The bacteria convert nitrogen from the air into nitrates, which the tree can use to grow and reproduce, whilst the soil is also enriched.

– Plants also help to control the extreme fluctuation in temperature and reduction of pollution level in urban atmosphere. Plants have a useful effect upon the climate e.g. a comparison of the temperature difference in summer, between a planted area of urban landscape and built-up central area is likely to be 2-3°C lower with a 5% increase in relative humidity.

 – During the process of photosynthesis all green plants take in carbon dioxide and give off oxygen. Primitive plants were responsible for converting the poisonous atmosphere of early Earth into an oxygen-rich atmosphere that supports animal life. Trees help to maintain low levels of carbon dioxide, thereby reducing the greenhouse effect which threatens to make the Earth uncomfortably warm. – Trees provide nest sites for birds. The leafy branches make good hiding places and are difficult for most predators to reach - even non-breeding birds roost in trees at night.

Health Value: There is mounting evidence that stress has an impact on our physical and psychological health. Trees and vegetation can affect our mood and help relieve stress. Plants and trees keep us happy by alleviating stress, anxiety & mood swings. They provide a visual appeal and create a soothing environment.  The fresh air and humidity relieves symptoms of plenty of urban diseases.

Economic Value: Trees are a major economic asset to a community, building a positive community image which is a key factor in attracting residents, businesses, and visitors alike. The attractively tree-lined public areas are more desirable than those areas without trees. The landscaped areas enjoy higher occupancy and rental/lease rates than identical properties that lack landscaping.

Shelter: The shade of trees is welcomed by all, providing essential shelter in the hottest climates. Trees are often used as windbreaks to shelter sensitive plants or crops. They are home to types of fauna.

Aesthetic Value: Plants & trees provide a variety of aesthetic values and accentuate the architectural design of buildings and also the interiors. For all their values to which a price tag can be attached, plants and trees have one more contribution to make: their beauty and variety of form. Some species are tall and thin, others flat-topped and spreading, leaves come in every shape and size, flowers and fruits are frequently decorative. These qualities make plants and trees ideal for beautifying gardens, cities, and even industrial estates. Planting is much more than a cosmetic treatment to be applied to in different or insensitive architecture and engineering etc. Plants are growing, ever changing, interacting organism and plant communities are in a constant state of flux. Plants, whether trees, shrubs, climbers, groundcovers have to be placed at suitable locations so that the desired purpose is served. The efficient and successful choice of plants should be made on the basis of their design characteristics:

  1. Functional & Structural Characteristics: Plants in combination and individually, create space beneath, between & sometimes within the bulk of their canopies. Plants create landscape structure, which both defines spaces and serves the required function. Trees in the city are living building material used to establish spatial boundaries. They create spatial rhythms to heighten the experience of moving through the outdoor spaces, its ability to shelter, screen or shade, density of roof growth which will determine its ability to bind the soil and protect against erosion. Plants also provide a fitting environment for human activities while avoiding damage to ecology of the landscape.
  2. Visual & Other Sensory : Plants offer an enormous wealth of aesthetic characteristics, the appearance of their leaves, twigs, bark, flower & fruit, the fragrance of flower and aromatic foliage, the physical texture of bark & leaves even the sound of laves when stirred by the wind or beaten by the rain.
  3. Plant Growth Habit & Cultural Requirement: There is enormous diversity of size, habit foliage & other characteristics among the range of species; that helps to determine the habitat & ecological niche. In the first place, planting design can help us make the best use of our environment. Secondly, it helps to restore the balance between people, nature and in some extent to the wild life and finally it offers many opportunities for enjoyment of aesthetic delights.
  4. Plants and Their Uses: Plants are positive design elements in any environment and they can enhance the environment, if used with proper understanding

Let’s now take a look at the choices we have:

Trees (basic planting): This relates to the contemporary requirement in landscape design for mass planting of large groups, woodlands, which with the topography or land form, produce the large scale spatial arrangement of the landscape. The species selected for this group should be hardy, vigorous in growth, indigenous for ecological reasons and exotics which have become established as part of the local scene. e.g.- Acacia auriculiformis, Lagerstroemia flos reginae (pride of india), Pterospermum acerifolium (kanak champa), Alstonia scholaris, Putranjiva roxburghii (jalpitri), Azardirachata indica (neem), Dalbergia sissoo (sheesham) etc.

Trees (special effects): Trees in this section should include those sufficiently individualistic, spectacular or strong in character to occupy the isolated positions, either because of these qualities or because they do not mix easily in visual sense with other trees. e.g.- Ficus bengalensis (banyan tree), Cassia fistula (amaltas), Bombax malabaricum (silk cotton tree), Cassia nodosa (pink javanica), Jacaranda mimosaefolia (neeli gulmohar). Chrosia speciosa, Mimusops elengi (mulsari) Callistemon lanceolatus (bottle brush) etc.

Trees (barriers): Barriers formed with plants are needed in landscape for screening the unpleasant views, for dividing up the landscape into spaces, for providing shelter from wind, for protection against pollution, for defining boundaries and for assisting in the creation of beautiful landscapes. e.g.- Casuarina equisetifolia, Grevllea robusta (silver oak), Ficus benjamina, Polyalthia longifolia (ashok), Putranjiva roxburghii, Schleichera trijuga (kusum), Golden bamboo etc.

Shrubs (basic planting): The use of shrubs in the mass as a basic constituent of the planting of Landscapes. It should have the qualities of hardiness, vigorous growth with a greater emphasis on evergreen plants. e.g. - varieties of Acalypha, Bougainvillea, Cassia biflora, Cassia alata, Duranta, Ficus panda, Euphorbia, Thevetia, Taberneamontana (chandni), Palms such as areca, china, phoenix, rhapis etc.

Shrubs (special effects) : Similar principles of selection apply to this as for trees (special effects), but at the same time it should be noted that a number of shrubs planted together can produce special effects specially at the time of flowering. e.g. – Caesalpinia pulcherrima (peacock flower), Calliandra haematocephala, Poinsettia, Mussaenda, Justicia, Ixora, Bamboo-buddha valley, Franciscea latifolia (yesterday, today and tomorrow), etc.

Shrubs (barriers): Impenetrability is essential unless the barrier is for visual purpose, thus the twigs or thorns are considered as an advantage. Other things to consider are the ability of the plant to accept pruning, either to control growth or to produce topiary effects. e.g. – Bouganvillea, Duranta plumieri, Duranta plumieri varigata, Duranta goldeana, Murraya etc.

Shrubs (edging) : To outline the flower beds or other kinds of plants and to create line effects. e.g. – Duranta goldeana etc

Indoor Plants:  For urban interiors Dracena, Areca Palm, Rubber Tree, snake plant varieties, Parlour Palm, Anthuriums, Peace Lily, Syngoniums, Aglaonema (Chinese Evergreen) Varieties, Ferns like BirdNest,Boston, Tree Fern; Money Plants of all types, Monstera etc.

Planting trees and having more greens is an immediate need! We need to green the areas around us more than ever. We need to work our way to sustain development and biodiversity. Planting more is the only solution to our environmental woes. The changes in the Earths behavior is visible especially in 2020. Let’s prepare ourselves and our Earth to mutual living. Let’s coexist with nature.

We at Rolling Nature through Initiative Earth are trying to involve people and organizations to do the needful, to attain goals of CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility). For any kinds of plants and trees in bulk for plantation purposes you can contact us at sales@rollingnature.com . The delivery can be done in Pune & Mumbai as of now. You can also connect with us for green décor and green gifting.  Let’s green up the Earth.

This article is a part of Initiative Earth #LoveNature Campaign 2020 by Rolling Nature. Check out our green trends blog section for more insightful articles. Reference: Central Public Works Department (CPWD) Handbook of Landscape. Sincere Thanks!

Author: Vandana Chaudhary, Co-Founder of Rolling Nature & Initiative Earth.

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About Initiative Earth: Rolling Nature has been working for the environment through several campaigns for the past 7 years. We launched an environmental arm “Initiative Earth” in May 2020, to work proactively for Earth with individuals, organizations & policy makers.
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1 comment

The best part of your blog is when you said that plants could enhance the environment and are positive design elements in any environment. My husband and I actually bought a lot that is more than 10 times bigger than our luxury house. We want the area to have the most relaxing environment, so we will consider finding a plant and tree supplier for the area. Thanks! https://www.peninsulaadvancedtrees.com.au

Shammy S

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