The Advantages of Reusing Large Trees

By: Ross Latham

Whenever someone is doing a major improvement to a piece of property, such as constructing a new building on it, the question often arises of what to do with any large trees on the property.

In the past it has been common to just mow down any large trees that are “in the way,” build the new building, then plant new trees. But a new popular trend is emerging, to instead, transplant the existing mature or specimen trees to other spots on the property. Thus these mature trees are saved, and one can receive the benefits of mature trees right away. Some of those benefits include:

* You don’t have to wait decades for those new trees to grow to maturity.

* A single mature tree can absorb carbon dioxide at a rate of 48 lbs. per year and release enough oxygen back into the atmosphere to support two human beings.

* Trees reduce the greenhouse effect by shading our homes and office buildings. This reduces air conditioning needs up to 30%, thereby reducing the amount of fossil fuels used to produce electricity. This combination of CO2 removal from the atmosphere, carbon storage in wood, and the cooling effect makes trees a very efficient tool in fighting the greenhouse effect.

* Trees reduce topsoil erosion, prevent harmful land pollutants contained in the soil from getting into our waterways, slow down water run-off, and ensure that our groundwater supplies are continually being replenished. For every 5% of tree cover added to a community, stormwater runoff is reduced by approximately 2%.

* Homeowners that properly place trees in their landscape can realize savings up to 58% on daytime air conditioning and as high as 65% for mobile homes. If applied nationwide to buildings not now benefiting from trees, the shade could reduce our nation’s consumption of oil by 500,000 barrels of oil/day.

* Because trees lower air temperatures, shade buildings in the summer, and block winter winds, they can reduce building energy use and cooling costs.

* USFS estimates the annual effect of well-positioned trees on energy use in conventional houses at savings between 20-25% when compared to a house in a wide-open area.

* Property values increase 5-15% when compared to properties without trees (depends on species, maturity, quantity and location)

* Studies have shown that:
1. Trees enhance community economic stability by attracting businesses and tourists.
2. People linger and shop longer along tree-lined streets.
3. Apartments and offices in wooded areas rent more quickly and have higher occupancy rates.
4. Businesses leasing office spaces in developments with trees find their workers are more productive and absenteeism is reduced.

The above benefits are from this site:

As an example, my company, located in Snohomish, WA in the Seattle area, has done numerous transplanting projects recently:

* We were contracted by the University of Washington to transplant 10 large trees on the campus otherwise slated for being cut down during a University construction project. We moved the trees from their current locations near a building that will be demolished, to other planting locations on campus.

* We were pulled into the Viaduct replacement project in late October, 2011 with a mission of saving some of the large columnar maples planted close by, for use at a new Port of Seattle project. The large trees are approximately 30-35' tall and provided a touch of landscape green, including beautiful fall colors to an otherwise all concrete structure.

* In preparation for the construction of the new Green River Community College Student Success Center, we transplanted eight 20-30 foot cedar trees from the south side of the OEA building between the science/technology complex and the SMT building creating a visual screen.

Builders in the know realize moving even one tree can create a positive impact that lasts. The projects that have a conscience in the Puget Sound know the value of moving trees. Moving trees has become standard operations for builders that want a positive buzz. Saving trees from certain death on building projects adds lasting esteem to all involved. Once a tree is moved, all involved reap the benefits.

So there are many benefits to saving and moving existing mature trees to other locations, rather than cutting them down. And the best time to transplant trees is when they are dormant, between mid-November and mid-March.

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Ross Latham is owner of Big Trees Inc. ( in Snohomish, WA, one of the largest Seattle tree nurseries (see inventory at, specializing in tree transplanting. Visit us at

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