Trees are one of the most important organisms on earth in so many ways
2022 marks 70 years of Queen Elizabeth II being on the throne and to mark this Platinum Jubilee she has instigated the Queen’s Green Canopy which aims to greatly increase the amount of trees grown in the UK. It’s not just aimed at creating new woodlands but also encourages us all to plant a tree in whatever space we have available, even if it’s just a small standard Salix ‘Flamingo’ in a container outside your back door. Trees are essential to sustain life on earth as they take in harmful carbon dioxide which is massively responsible for driving climate change and give out oxygen which we all need to be able to breath easily. Trees in urban areas absorb noise and toxins and help keep down temperatures, especially important if the predictions for future temperature increases are accurate.
Their wildlife value is massive, they provide food, a home and shelter from predators for thousands of species from the smallest bug to large mammals and birds. They contribute to wildlife corridors which enable species to move safely from one habitat to another and so enabling the population to stay healthy by preventing in-breeding and to seek out other food sources when they have over-populated their patch of ground, thus avoiding the ‘boom and bust’ population fluctuations.
Trees also provide a lot of our food in the form of fruit and nuts and offer a sustainable form of heating and building materials.
- Did you know that an oak tree provides a home, food or shelter for around 300 species of insects, birds and mammals?
- The largest tree in the world is 275ft tall and contains 52,000cubic feet of wood. It is a Giant Sequoia in the US called General Sherman.
- Tree leaves contain many different colours but chlorophyll, which makes the leaves green, dominates until autumn when it decreases and the other colours come to the fore.
- On a hot day a large tree can shed as much as 100 gallons of water through its leaves.
- Possibly the oldest tree in the world is 4,852 years old and is a Bristlecone Pine called Methuselah in California.
- Tree shade can be 11 – 25C cooler than the direct sunlight.
- Most trees never die of old age, they usually succumb to storms, fire, deforestation, drought and rot.
- Trees have the capacity to reduce the potency of flooding by storing rainfall and slowing the velocity of water.
- In retail urban areas which have green spaces and trees consumers are more willing to pay extra for goods.
- A tree can be aged exactly by counting its rings; known a dendrochronology. Past climatic conditions, such as volcanic eruptions and droughts, can also be ascertained through these tree rings.
- Trees have a defence system to stop insect attack. They flood their leaves with phenolics which are toxic to insects. Willows can even signal to other willows which then produce more tannin which the webworm finds had to digest.
- Trees reduce sound waves so act as a sound barrier.
- Stress levels lower when we are surrounded by trees, it is well documented that being in nature is good for our mental well-being. Forest bathing (Shinrin-yoku) is becoming increasingly popular.
- Trees are one of our greatest assets in the fight against climate change. A large mature tree can absorb 48 pounds of carbon dioxide per year, retaining the carbon and releasing the oxygen.
- Moss grows on the norther side of trees in the northern hemisphere where there is more shade so if you get lost in the woods stand with your back to the mossy side and you will be facing north.
- Over 50% of all tree species are endemic to a specific country, over 30,000, with Indonesia, Brazil and Colombia topping the list for the greatest number of endemics. Of these over 300 are critically endangered.
- Different parts of the tree grow at different times of the year; leaves in spring, the trunk in summer and the roots in autumn.
- Trees grow from the top so if you place a birdhouse in a tree it will remain in the same place.
- Florida has the most poisonous tree in the world, the manchineel, its fruit can kill a person.
- The expression ‘knock on wood’ came from ancient pagan cultures believing that knocking on tree trunks woke the spirits within who then gave protection.
- One of the most sacred trees on earth is a fig tree, Ficus religosa, in India. It is believed to have been propagated from the Buddha’s original tree.
- Tree cover on Earth has fallen by almost half since the start of human civilisation, with deforestation, human encroachment and change in land use being responsible for the loss of approximately 15 billion trees each year.
- There are about 422 trees per person on earth; approximately 3.04 trillion, covering 31% of the total land area.
- Gingko biloba has the immune system of a 20 year old tree, even when 1,000 years old.
- Trees can communicate through their interconnection via the intricate underground fungal network.
- Maintaining a healthy forest is essential in the development of new drugs; over 60% of anticancer drugs originate from rainforest plants.
- Over 50% of the earth’s animal species exist in rainforests which only cover less than 3% of earth’s area.
- The CO2 emissions of a single car is absorbed by 460 trees.
- Each person on earth requires 7 – 8 mature trees to provide their oxygen for a year.
- If farmers added a single tree to each monoculture field the bird species for that field could increase from 0 to 80.
- Forests and trees provide a livelihood for 1.6 billion people.