Sometimes we get so used to seeing the same things around us that we forget to appreciate them.

When was the last time you really looked at the benefits of having trees, shrubs and grasses around your home and city? Are we taking nature for granted?

I just returned home from a trip to another country that did not have trees, shrubs or grasses in their villages or around their homes. There may have been only a handful scattered around, but not enough to consider them even present, much less typical. While on this trip, I realized how important these plants are to our environment in Central Texas. Even I have not appreciated them to the fullest extent that they deserve.

It was difficult for me to imagine what it would be like to not have them, what differences there would be in the appearance of the land without them, the changes we would have to make, and the overall quality of our air, until I went to a place without them.

I’d like to remind us all of some of the benefits to having trees, shrubs and grasses all around us. And may we not forget each day to be thankful for them and appreciate their function and beauty.

Trees provide shade to reduce temperatures in and around our homes; produce enough oxygen for a small family for a year; remove significant amounts of carbon dioxide from the air; have been found to reduce stress and increase healing time for hospital patients who can see trees from their windows; attract people to areas such as parks, schools, shopping areas; hold soil, which reduces dust and erosion; slows wind; provide habitats for many species; create jobs, natural resources, food and medicine; reduce ozone and other pollutants; buffer sound and lessen noise pollution; provide outdoor play for children, among other benefits.

Grasses provide a protective surface for outdoor activities; cool soil and ground temperatures; reduce noise; reduce dust and hold soil; filter groundwater and run-off; absorb pollutants; reduce soil compaction; reduce stress and anxiety of people; reduce fire hazards around homes; are aesthetically pleasing; increase property values, just to name a few.

I hope this motivates you to notice and acknowledge how fortunate we are to live in an area where trees, shrubs and grasses can grow readily, improve our quality of life and increase our enjoyment of the outdoors.

Darla Horner Menking is an outdoor enthusiast and Herald correspondent. Contact her at darla.menking@gmail.com.

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