Wouldn’t it be lovely if we had more streets like this in Lagos?

Most of the world’s cultures place some importance on respecting the elderly but this doesn’t seem to be a luxury afforded our trees. In our region people tend to suffer from a rather unfortunate condition known as plant blindness. That’s when we don’t appreciate the plants around us. For some, the trees that line our streets are merely very large weeds, and this is a shame. Old trees are living history lessons, they remind us of yesterday, and lead us to reflect on tomorrow. Some trees like the Seven Sisters Oak tree in Louisiana are even national treasures.

The Seven Sisters Oak Tree

When people buy houses there’s often a sense that we must throw away the old and progress with the new. While the principle is understandable, sometimes it’s completely unnecessary. In our efforts to begin afresh we may throw away national treasures. We must treat our old trees as such because once they’re gone, there’s no replacing their age, splendour or majesty.

These days everyone’s talking about planting new trees. Lagos State, Nigeria’s economic engine has plans to plant 10 million new trees by 2020. This is amazing but we shouldn’t forget about the trees that are already there. We can’t afford to neglect our forests, both urban and rural.

Large old trees are some of the biggest and longest living life forms that exist. In olden times some of them would have worshipped as gods. They occupy an indispensable position in human society. We reference them in our art, our books and our films. Their influence extends to nature too. Many of them have established roles they play in their ecosystems. So every time you think about getting rid of an old tree to make room for something shiny and new, think about it carefully. They aren’t weeds, they’re national treasures.