Interesting Tree Facts

Garden Clippings for December 4, 2021

Each to her own.  Or his own.  Some get excited about carburetors and horsepower.  Others get excited about chasing a black piece of plastic on ice.  For others its antique furniture, cooking with lentils, poverty, or fine wine.

A lot of things excite me, but trees are close to top of mind.  The more I work with trees, learn about trees and read about trees, the more fascinated they become.  The following are some random little-known tree facts.

  1. In Sarnia Lambton tree roots on the west side of a tree are more developed, stronger and more extensive than on the east side of a tree. Why?  Our prevailing wind comes from the west and trees have responded by growing more roots on the west side in order to stay upright.
  2. I don’t remember much of my education, but Dr. Ronald Spangler at MSU told us that 90% of the world’s tree roots sit in the top 10 inches of soil. I suppose that’s true because when I see a mature tree fallen over, its roots look more like a pancake than a carrot.  In addition to water, trees need oxygen, and there is no oxygen deep in the earth.
  3. Parts of a tree grow at different times of the year. Most of trees’ leaves grow in May and June.  The trunk puts on most growth in mid-summer.  Roots are most active in fall and winter.
  4. If you hammered a spike (please don’t) into a tree 6 feet above the soil, and you came back a decade or two later to measure the height of the spike, it would still be 6 ft above ground level. Trees are not like hair.  Cells at the terminal ends of tree shoots are called meristems where a tree grows taller and wider.
  5. If you planted a tree in a pot with 10 kilograms of soil, and you came back a decade or two later to weigh the soil, you would still have 10 kilograms of soil. Trees don’t eat soil, but soil is needed to keep the tree upright, and to act as a storage warehouse for all kind of minerals, nutrients and water which continually replenish themselves.
  6. Staking a tree does more harm than good. When we transplant trees, we will often put a wood or steel stake alongside to help keep it upright.  But it is important to remove the stake a year later so the tree gains strength by swaying back and forth in the wind.
  7. Trees communicate amongst themselves. This burgeoning science is only beginning to unfold.  Studies have shown that certain trees emit odors when attacked by insects in order to warn other trees of pending danger.
  8. If you are lost in the forest, there is no need for a compass. Look for the green growth on the bark of trees and you will have found north.
  9. If trees are under stress because of draught, poor soil, insect or disease attack, you can expect them to produce more seeds. Why?  Trees that see trouble coming produce more seeds to ensure their own longevity.
  10. Trees are the longest living organisms on earth and don’t die of old age. Humans, insects, whales and even dinosaurs suffer the same fate:  they are born, they live, and then die.  Trees can last forever.  North America’s west coast is home to the world’s oldest trees with a few in California clocking in at nearly 5,000 years old.