Want to stay cooler in the summer? Try shade trees

trees along road

New York— People take many different steps to stay cool when the temperatures rise. A common method of remaining comfortable is turning up the air conditioning and staying indoors. But what about the people who want to be cool and enjoy fresh air as well? Shade trees could be the best answer against the sweltering temperatures.

Most people will agree that it feels much cooler under a shade tree than it does when standing in direct sunlight. The nonprofit organization Trees Forever says the difference in temperature can be extreme.

Trees can make a big difference

In 2010, roughly 20 volunteers worked with the organization to compare the actual temperature of shaded and unshaded surfaces around a county fairground in Iowa. The volunteers used laser thermometers and took readings from surfaces such as sidewalks, parking lots and grassy lawn areas. The volunteers found differences in temperature ranging from 14 to 55 F depending on the surface measured.

Trees are a practical way to stay cool. Planting trees around a property can reduce reliance on air-conditioning systems. Other live vegetation, including grass and yard plants, can also promote an overall cooling effect, compared to hardscape surfaces that radiate heat.

Numerous varieties of trees can serve as shade trees. These are typically deciduous trees that will have leaves during the warm-weather months and then shed them when the cooler seasons arise. However, some evergreens and tropical trees also work well as shade producers in and around a landscape.

Shade trees

  • American Arborvitae: This slow-growing evergreen is typically used to create tall hedges and privacy screens. It also offers year-round moderate to deep shade when the trees reach maximum height of 25 to 40 feet.
  • American Beech: This tree offers shade and also edible nuts. It can grow up to 100 feet in fertile, well-draining soils.
  • Autumn Blaze Maples: These trees are known for their outstanding fall foliage. However, they also are fast-growing shade trees that can cool down any landscape.
  • Bald Cyprus: The fern-like leaves of this tree provide moderate shade. This cyprus is low-maintenance and has few problems with insects or disease.
  • Chinese Elm: This rapid-growing tree is excellent for screening or providing a windbreak. Small, dense foliage will fill in about five years, when it will be good for shade.
  • Crepe Myrtle Tree: Myrtles are fast-growing shade trees in southern climates. In northern climates, they may grow more like a perennial shrub.
  • Little-leaf Linden: This is a fragrant tree that blooms with yellow flowers in early summer. The dense foliage will remain on the tree into late fall.
  • Moraine Locust: This tree is cold-hardy and can withstand urban conditions. It is fast-growing and provides light to medium shade.
  • Silver Maple: This is the most rapid growing of all maples and will be a large spreading tree.
  • Tulip Trees: These very large trees are coveted for their flowers that resemble the shape of tulips. This tree should be given plenty of space in which to grow.
  • Virginia Pine: Because its branches aren’t as close to the ground as other pine trees, the Virginia pine can be an effective shade tree.
  • White Birch: This tree, also known as the European birch, grows 30 to 60 feet tall and has drooping branches. The smaller leaves offer dappled shade. The peeling white bark can stand out in a landscape.
  • White Oak: Oak trees make excellent shade trees, but the White Oak can grow to 100 feet tall with a spread of 80 feet in its canopy. It has thick horizontal branches that contribute to its shade-producing benefits.

Trees in one’s yard can not only keep temperatures cool, but also provide habitats for birds and small animals and act as a food source for plenty of creatures.


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