If you drive past the entrance of High School Park on Montgomery Avenue, you can’t miss the stump of a large ash tree that graced the spot for all of our memories. Cheltenham Township recently removed the tree because it was diseased, invaded by the Emerald Ash Borer. Falling dead branches had become a hazard. A count of the tree rings showed it to be around 110 years old!
You may also notice a nearby swamp white oak tree (Quercus bicolor) planted about 6 years ago, in memory of CJ Smith. CJ loved High School Park, and was active for many years with the Park Restoration and Management committee and Arts in the Park. Her family dedicated this tree to her after her death in 2009.
The oak tree has been reaching for the sun these 6 years through the shade of the ash tree, but the competition is now gone. We can only imagine that the tree is stretching out her leaves a bit further to pick up a few more photons every day.
Those photons activate the green chloroplasts in the leaf layers, which then use the carbon dioxide they have sucked in through holes (stomata) in the bottom of the leaf, and the water they have pulled up from their roots along the xylem, and produce glucose, the basic food for almost all life on earth, and release oxygen back into the atmosphere!This process of turning the sun’s energy into food energy for all the rest of life on earth is more efficient than any process people have ever invented.
Photosynthesis sucks up the carbon dioxide that we release when we breathe, and burn wood or oil or gas or coal, all of which used to be plants! That’s why planting trees is an important part of combating global warming.
Feel free to thank the swamp white oak tree at High School Park, as well as the ash tree for its past service, and any tree or plant you pass by. You wouldn’t be here without them!