What Is a Tree Worth?

Trees brighten city streets and delight nature-starved urbanites. Now scientists are learning that they also play a crucial role in the green infrastructure of America’s cities.

For centuries, tree lovers mighty and humble have planted and nurtured trees—elms, oaks, ginkgoes, magnolias, apples, and spruces (to name but a handful of America’s 600-some species). "I never before knew the full value of trees," wrote Thomas Jefferson in 1793. "Under them I breakfast, dine, write, read, and receive my company. What would I not give that the trees planted nearest the house at Monticello were full grown." But trees were often taken for granted in a new nation that seemed to have a limitless supply.

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