From ferns, to evergreens, and towering redwoods. Trees are one of the most unique and beautiful parts of our little planet. They quite literally operate as the lungs of our world. Without them, Earth would be unlivable.
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Research shows that one single tree can produce 260 pounds of oxygen per year. One acre of trees can provide the oxygen needed to sustain roughly 18 people. So, it’s no secret that trees are important to our ecosystem and way of life. But what makes a tree? What are trees made of? Let’s break it down.
The basic anatomy of a tree can be summed up in four parts: The Leaves, the Branches, the Trunk, and the Roots.
The Leaves of a Tree
Broad, vibrant green fans, to pointed needles. All trees have leaves, and they come in many shapes and sizes and textures. Leaves serve many functions when it comes to the life of a tree. But the most important is what is called photosynthesis. In layman terms this is when the tree uses leaves to convert sun light into energy.
This process happens when leaves absorb carbon dioxide from the air and water from the soil and convert it into sugar and oxygen. This is essentially how the tree develops carbohydrates. The sun the leaves absorb is the ‘switch’ for this process. The trigger that activates the energy converting process. In addition, leaves also offer shade, wind resistance, and protection from heavy rain for the tree, effectively protecting the rest of the body of the tree.
The Branches of a Tree
Branches are the main body of what is called the crown of the tree. Most trees are made up in total of roughly 15% branches. Branches serve an important function of offering support structure to the leaves, and fruits that the tree may bear. Branches also offer a sort of back-up energy reserve. Storing energy for the tree during less active times of the year, such as autumn and winter.
The Tree Trunk
The tree trunk, or stem, is the main body of a tree. Trunks can, like leaves, be quite diverse. Some are long and slider, some are squat and stout. But the basic anatomy of a tree trunk is the same across species. Which are multiple layers consisting of bark, cambium, sapwood, and heartwood.
Bark is essentially the ‘armor’ of the tree. protecting the tree itself from diseases, and various threats in nature. It can also be quite unique across species, ranging from extremely course, to very smooth. Cambium is the ‘growing’ part of the tree. The rings you see when you cut a tree in half. These cambium layers are formed when the tree uses the nutrients it receives from the leaves to help the tree become stronger, and bigger.
Sapwood is the main part of the tree that controls the flow of water throughout the tree. Acting as a sort of vein network that distributes the nutrients throughout the tree body. As sapwood layers grow older, they die, giving way to new layers of sapwood. Dead layers of sapwood become what is known as heartwood.
Heartwood is the strongest part of the tree. Although it is technically dead sapwood layers, it acts as sort of bones for the tree. Providing strong support for the trunk of the tree.
The Tree Roots
The roots are the part of the tree that seems to serve a thankless job. Buried deep underground, we never seem to notice them and how hard they work. Roots provide essential stability to the tree. Spreading out as wide as 30 miles in some cases! The roots help ‘anchor’ the tree to the ground and protect it against strong winds or other forces of nature.
The roots also provide additional nutrient intake from the soil. Taking water, and oxygen from the earth to feed the trunk and the rest of the tree.
So, there you have it! Trees, in reality, aren’t so different from us. They need to eat, they convert their food source into energy, and that energy helps them grow bigger and stronger. Understanding trees can go a long way to help us preserve them. In turn, preserving and protecting trees, makes the future of our planet better for us all!