Did You Know About Trees?
all around us, and are essential to our survival. Here
we reveal a few facts and figures about these wonders
of the natural world.
A tree is a woody plant that has a stem
at the base, above which branches develop. They are
divided into deciduous
The leaves of deciduous trees change colour in autumn
because, as nights get longer and frosts arrive, the
production of chlorophyll – which makes leaves
green – gradually stops, and two other pigments
(carotenoids – brown, orange, yellow, and anthocyanins
– red, purple) come to the fore.
When a tree is cut down or burnt, all the carbon dioxide
it has stored during its life is released into the atmosphere.
Trees are thirsty organisms, each taking up to 2,000
litres of water from the ground in just one year. Most
of this water is then released into the air as vapour
from the leaves.
The tallest tree in the UK is a Douglas
fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) in Scotland, which measures
a staggering 64.6 metres in height.
oxygen released by one mature beech
tree (Fagus sylvatica) is enough to keep three people
The fruits of the female maidenhair tree (Gingko biloba)
give off a powerful, noxious smell in warm temperatures
- best to avoid planting it in your garden...
The oldest living trees are the bristlecone pines (Pinus
longaeva) growing in the White Mountains of California.
The oldest ever found was discovered to be 5,100 years
old after a student had cut it down. Its younger
relative – aged 4,600 – is known as the
Methuselah tree; its location is a closely guarded secret.
The widest known tree on the Continent is a sweet
chestnut (Castanea sativa), which was found growing
on Mount Etna in Sicily. Locals christened it the Castagno
di Cento Cavilli (chestnut of 100 horses) because it
measured 190 feet in circumference. Although still alive,
it split into three several centuries ago.
lime, or linden (Tilia cordata), was once the principal
tree in England’s forests. It has been used in
many different ways; for example, rope has been woven
from its bark, tea brewed with its dried flowers, and
sugar made from its sap.
(Fraxinus excelsior) has proved an invaluable timber
for Britain’s sportsmen and women: from it come
hockey sticks, billiard cues, oars, cricket stumps and
In days gone by the rowan
tree (Sorbus aucuparia) was thought to be a guard
against witchcraft. Nowadays, its berries are used to
(Sambucus nigra) produces flowers and fruit, which can
be used to make wine, tea, syrup and jams. Fenians once
believed that if you took a deep sniff of its flower
you would pass into a coma, then die. It was also a
common folk belief that Judas Iscariot hanged himself
from an elder tree.
oak (Quercus petraea) is native to the UK. A study
of a mature example found the tree to be home to 284
insect species. By comparison, a non-native sycamore
had only 15.
A single birch
tree (Betula) can produce up to a million seeds
in just one year. Birch twigs are used to make garden
brooms. Traditionally, these were used to sweep out
the spirits of the old year. They are often depicted
as the chosen form of transport for witches and their
In the old Gaelic alphabet each letter was symbolized
by a tree, the name of which began with that letter.
The Greek name for the aspen
is aspis, which means shield, and the Celts put the
wood to just this use. Its Latin name (Populus tremula)
alludes to the leaves’ characteristically constant
movement, which produces a distinctive sound.
reprinted with premission from Greenfingers.com