Children help to plant a white birch tree at Riverside Park in Fort Kent in this 2004 file photo. Credit: Rachel Rice / BDN

One of the most soothing past times is observing the natural world in our immediate surroundings: birds perching on telephone wires, butterflies fluttering over bushes and bees buzzing around flowers.

If you want to help support your local natural ecosystem, experts say that one of the best, easiest and most cost effective ways to do so is by planting a tree.

“Trees serve so many purposes,” said Jennifer Cummings, owner of Full Circle Landscaping in Yarmouth. “They’re one of the earliest flowering things in the spring, so pollinators get to use those first. They shade our houses, so it makes them need less air conditioning. If they’re deciduous trees, they lose their leaves in the winter so the sun can warm your house.”

Trees also create habitat for wildlife and beneficial pollinators that often go ignored in efforts to make a more environmentally friendly landscape — namely, birds.

“We [most often] think about insects, but birds are also really important in that category,” said Kristen Brown, crew supervisor at Full Circle Landscaping. “You are creating habitats for them with trees, also shrubs.”

Brown also said that trees are one of the “best investments you can make” when it comes to increasing the value of your property over time. Plus, it is an investment for the ecosystem around your property.

“[Trees] aren’t just our human families, but think about all the other families within nature that are going to benefit in the long term,” Brown said.

Choosing a tree for your yard

When choosing a tree, you will have to consider the soil type of your yard, the amount of space you have and the orientation of your yard.

“I can’t emphasize enough to do your homework in understanding your space, [or] getting someone to understand the soil test site analysis,” Brown said.

Still, Cummings said that there is a “tree for every kind of yard.”

“If you have a small urban yard, you’re not going to plant a tree that’s going to be 65 feet tall like a sugar maple or a white pine tree, but there are lots of trees that are smaller and still flower or are excellent habitats,” Cummings said. “It really is the right plant for the right place.”

Thomas Berger, owner and operator of Green Art in Kittery, recommended native dogwoods as a good catchall tree.

“There are some that are tree-like and others more shrublike,” Berger said. “Those nourish caterpillars and bees and bees that are totally specialized.”

Plus, Brown added, the Cornus kousa dogwood tree flowers are edible, and taste like “banana custard.”

If you are interested in choosing a fruit tree in your yard, some varieties will do better than others in Maine. Opt for trees that are winter hardy with short growing seasons.

Turn to the experts

Local nurseries and landscape design specialists will be able to help you determine what tree is best for your property.

“When you walk in that door going somewhere to look for those plants knowing what you’re working with, they’re going to be able to point you in the right direction,” Brown said.

Brown said that smaller trees will be easier to manage at the start, even though they may take time to fill in.

“You don’t have the instantaneous big lush [tree, but] they grow into their own,” Brown said. “Whenever [we] talk about trees, we don’t talk about planting them for ourselves — we talk about planting them for many generations to come.”