Exploring the history of Phoenix, Arizona, just for fun. Advertising-free, supported by my patrons on Patreon. Thank you!

Why cars love trees in Phoenix, Arizona


I took a walk to the little park in my neighborhood in Glendale, Arizona (a suburb of Phoenix) just now, with my dog, and noticed that there are a lot of new trees being planted by my neighbors. I like trees, as does my dog, and I also noticed how much cars love them.

In the old photos that I collect, Phoenix had a LOT of trees. Long before there was air conditioning, there were trees. And somewhere along the line, in the late 20th Century, the trees started going away, and I've been blaming the cars. You know, more lanes, more parking spots, that sort of thing. But I'm wrong, because cars love trees.

Go to any parking lot in Phoenix in summer and you'll see the cars huddled around the trees. They seem to understand something that most people don't - that trees bring shade, and cool down the intense heat of the desert.

I'm seeing the trees return to Phoenix. Like I say, I really have no idea why, but the wonderful trees of Phoenix had mostly disappeared by the time I got there, in 1977. I was young, recently moved from Minnesota, and just took it for granted that no trees had ever grown there, but I was very wrong.

Nowadays the cars are trying to tell us something - that trees are wonderful in such a hot, glaring place as Phoenix. They not only are cooler to be parked under, they make the air fresher. And not just shade trees, any kind of tree, even what many people scorn as "parking lot trees" - acacias, and mesquite. And even palm trees, which not only give shade, but give a real feeling of an oasis. Just seeing them waving in the breeze makes everything feel cooler.

My homeowners association sent out a letter a couple of months ago to address what had happened to my neighborhood over the last few years, when so many people misunderstood "desert landscaping" for "nothing but rocks". It seems strange to me that people would want to live with nothing but hot, glaring rocks to come home to, but maybe they don't know how wonderful trees are. They need to learn what the cars already know.

Image at the top of this post: The tree-lined boulevards of Phoenix, Arizona in 1924.

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