Eric is a science and technology teacher who is a bookworm and logophile. He often writes about scientific thought, theories and research.
Trees are amongst the tallest organisms on earth. They have a trunk and supporting branches made of wood. They can be ferns, cone-bearing, or flowering plants. These perennial plants can grow from the range of 6 meters to above 100 meters in height, depending on the species.
Did you know that the tallest tree ever measured in the world was not a sequoia (115.7 m) of California but the eucalyptus regnans (132.6 m) of Australia? Unfortunately, the Australian hardwood has been cut down, so the title (for current tallest) has been given back to the sequoia.
Did you know that Russia owns the most number of trees in the world with 642 billion reported trees. However, the country is very large and occupies a very large percentage of the land area of the planet. In contrast, Finland has the highest rate of trees per square area, with more than 72,500 trees per square kilometer.
If you want to learn more about trees, 10 more interesting facts about them are listed below.
1. The oak is the most frequently struck by lightning.
Oaks (Quercus sp.) are tall, woody plants belong to the beech family, Fagaceae. It is widely distributed in the forest areas of the Northern Hemisphere. They are often among the tallest trees in the region in which they occur, ranging from 15–100 feet (4.6–30.5 m) in height. Out of all the species of trees, they are the most vulnerable to being struck by lightning. So think twice before planting them in your backyard.
Tall objects, like the oak, are the most likely to be struck by lightning because they are close to the skies. This plant also holds more moisture than other trees naturally, has a deep central root that goes down into the water table, and has hollow, water-filled cells, making it a good conductor of electricity. Florida experiences more lightning strikes than anywhere else in the US, and scientists think that the oak is one of the reasons why it happens. Aside from oaks, elm, pine, cottonwood, ash, maple, sycamore, hemlock, and spruce trees are also more vulnerable.
2. Trees caused one of the earth's mass extinctions.
Five mass extinctions happened on our planet, and the first mass extinction was possibly caused by plant evolution. Between billions to about 700 million years ago, all organisms lived exclusively in the water. The land had no life, the air was warm, and the earth's atmosphere mainly consisted of carbon dioxide—plants released oxygen in the water.
When large groups of plants (species were as small as moss) moved onto land about 500 million years ago, the level of oxygen in the water decreased. Since the producers of the chemical element went out of the water, many marine animals were essentially suffocated.
When plants evolved into trees, they developed a deep root system that destroyed and weathered the rock where they attached. The disintegrated rocks contained toxic chemicals and were washed away by the rain into the ocean. This polluted the water forms and poisoned aquatic life.
Trees also absorbed the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which weakened the greenhouse effect and led to global cooling. The earth's temperature reached as low as -12°C. It froze the ocean, making the planet resemble a giant snowball. It killed 75–85% of all species during that time, including the trilobites.
When fungi became more dominant on the land, it released more CO2 and nitrogen in the atmosphere, which heated the planet again.
3. There is a large percentage of things that you see in the world that are actually made from trees.
Trees are among the most useful living things in the world. They provide oxygen, food, shelter, paper, clothing, wood, and medicine to us. Furthermore, there are some products in your home that you won't believe are made from this woody plant, such as: rubber, henna dye, sponges, and concrete.
Products that are made of rubber, such as: latex gloves, rubber bands, car tires, balloons, and erasers are made from the dried sap of the rubber tree (Ficus elastica). The sap is mixed with other ingredients like silica to make the fluid more solid, more elastic, and stronger.
The henna dye used for temporary tattoos, as well as dying hair and fabrics, is prepared from the powdered leaves of the henna tree (Lawsonia inermis).
Kitchen sponges and loofahs are made of wood pulp, vegetal cellulose, or natural fiber.
Concrete, which is used to make roads and residual and commercial buildings, contains cement. This helps to harden and to bind the other materials of the concrete. Usually, the cement is made of clay, limestone, and chalk—but a kind of this binder, the portland-fly ash, is made up of pulverized coal. Coals formed more than a million years ago from the remains of trees and other vegetation.
Other examples of objects that are made from leafy giants include: deodorants, soap, insecticides, shoe polish, photographic films, car wax, plastics, nylon, and crayons.
4. The Philippines holds the Guinness World Record for the most trees planted by a team in an hour.
On September 26, 2014, over 160,000 Filipino at 29 different locations in Southern Mindanao, Philippines participated in the world's largest tree planting as a part of the national reforestation program. Over 3.3 million seedlings were planted in just an hour. It beat the old record of India, which was 1.9 million seedlings.
Once fully mature, these trees can provide oxygen to around 10% of the country's population daily and help to fight climate change.
5. There is a eucalyptus in Southeast Asia with rainbow-colored bark.
Rainbow eucalyptus (Eucalyptus deglupta), also called mindanao gum or rainbow gum, is a multi-colored perennial species native to Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and the Philippines.
Some people considered it as the world's most beautiful tree. It has colorful bark of orange, blue, green, yellow, and red, resembling an abstract painting on a tree. The coloration is caused by the pigment tannins that are produced when the layer of cells on the surface of the barks age.
It can reach a height of more than 250 feet (76.2 m). It is used as a decorative tree in the USA. But in its native lands, it is used to make paper and a good source of honey.
6. Manchineel is regarded as “The Most Dangerous Tree in the World.”
Manchineel (Hippomane mancinella) is a species of flowering plants native to tropical areas of Latin America and the Caribbean. This plant has a Spanish name “manzanilla de la muerte,” which translates to “little apple of death.” It relates to the fact that this exotic plant is considered the most toxic and dangerous tree on the planet.
Every part of this plant (leaves, fruits, trunk, branches, etc.) has poisonous and acidic sap that, when contacted with the skin, causes painful blisters and burns. A single bite of its fruit can cause sores in your mouth, severe stomach and intestinal issues, and potential death. If this tree is being burned, the smoke can cause horrific breathing problems and blindness if it reaches someone's eyes.
7. Moringa is regarded as the “Tree of Life” and “Miracle Tree.”
Moringa (Moringa oleifera) is a medium-sized tree native to Pakistan and India but has been introduced to tropical and subtropical areas worldwide. This plant is been regarded as the “Tree of Life” and “Miracle Tree,” since it has lots of beneficial properties and is considered to be the most nutrient-rich plant on earth. It should be added to your superfood diet. A cup of leaves or a single fruit contain 7 times more vitamin C than oranges, 4 times more vitamin A than carrots, 4 times more calcium than milk, 3 times more potassium than bananas, 2 times more protein than yogurt, 25 times more iron than spinach, 3 times more vitamin E than almonds, and 4 times more fiber than oats.
Preliminary research has suggested that moringa may be able to help address more than 300 diseases, including diabetes, hypertension, rheumatism, arthritis, cancer, tumor, anemia, etc. It is also may be good for your cells, liver, kidneys, eyes, brain, skin, heart, bones, muscles, digestive system, immune system, and circulatory system. It may also help to lose weight and boost energy and metabolism. It may be used as an antioxidant and an anti-inflammatory and may enhance sexual function. It may also help foster feelings of wellness, help to improve sleep, and may be used to lessen effects of depression. It may also increase milk production for lactating women.
In some parts of the world, it is used to feed cows to produce 50% more milk. It is also known to be used to address many animal diseases. Other uses include perfume, hair care, aromatic oil, organic fertilizer, and to purify water due to the seeds' ability to remove harmful materials.
As an added bonus, this plant is easy to care for and grows quickly. It can grow 12 feet tall in just a year. Africans have given it the nickname “Never Dying,” because it is also drought resistant. If you want to add this plant to your garden, the seeds of the Moringa oliefera are cheap to purchase on Amazon.
8. Communities that are surrounded by trees have a lower crime rate.
Studies have shown that contact with nature helps us to relieve stress, and fresh air makes people feel happier, calmer, and more relaxed—so aggression is unlikely to happen.
These tall living things create shadows that draw people out of their homes and engage in outdoor activities. If people gather in green spaces, it creates more “eyes on the street,” which provides informal surveillance. They can also conceal your house from the eyes of criminals. Potential criminals may have difficulties entering your house, especially if the trees' branches are long and thorny.
9. Trees communicate with each other.
Trees communicate by emitting pheromones or sending messages through mycorrhizal fungi, especially if their lives are in danger.
Roots of different trees aren't connected, right? Not exactly, for did you know that their roots are connected by microscopic underground fungi? Trees and fungi have a symbiotic relationship called mycorrhiza. When the plants' location is lacking sunlight, water, or nutrients, it will send a distress call to the fungi. Upon detecting the signal, the fungi will send it to the nearby healthy trees. Once the nearby trees reach the help, it will pump water and nutrients back to the fungi, then the fungi will send it back to the weak tree, enabling it to drink and feed again.
They also communicate through the air. If there is danger, the trees send pheromones in the air to warn neighbors about pests or herbivores. If their enemies feed on their leaves, they will release a distress signal in the form of ethylene gas. When their neighbors detect the signal, they will produce toxic chemicals in their leaves that can cause sickness or death of the consumers. If the species cannot produce toxic substances, they will release pheromones that attract animals such as birds that feed the pests.
10. If you put all the branches of a tree together, they would be equal to the thickness of the tree's trunk.
Leonardo da Vinci was the first person who noticed this. According to his notebook, “all the branches of a tree at every stage of its height when put together are equal in thickness to the trunk.”
Look at the photo above. Assuming that the green portion of the photo is the trunk of a tree, the yellow is the secondary branches of the trunk, the blue is the tertiary branch that split from the secondary branches, and the orange is the quarterly branches. If you add the area of the cross-section of the yellow, its area will be equal to the cross-section of the green. If the yellow split into two and created the blue, the total cross-section of the blue will be equal to the total cross-section of the yellow and the cross-section of the green. If the blue was split into two and developed into the orange, the orange's thickness will be the same as the thickness of the blue, the yellow, and the green. And so on.
The same rule applies if the trunk splits into three or more branches. Modern scientists investigated it and found out that this is a fact. The reason why it occurs is unknown, but it probably reduces the force of the wind blowing across the organism.
For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.
- Which tree is regarded as the “Tree of Life?”
- What substance causes the coloration of rainbow eucalyptus?
- Ethylene gas
- Which tree is the most frequently struck by lightning?
- How many seedlings were planted for the largest tree planting in the world?
- 1.9 million
- 3.2 million
- Which tree does rubber come from?
- Ficus elastica
- Lawsonia inermis
- 3.2 million
- Ficus elastica
- BBC Earth: The Devonian extinction saw the oceans choke to death
- Green Cities: Crime and Public Safety
- International Timber: 10 Things You Didn't Know Were Made Out Of Timber
- Phys: Philippines 'breaks world tree-planting record'
- Science Direct: Research advances on the multiple uses of Moringa oleifera
- Smithsonian: Do Trees Talk to Each Other?
- Tim Brown: Oak trees get struck by lightning more than other Trees. Why?
- Tree Branching: Leonardo da Vinci's Rule versus Biomechanical Models
- Wikipedia: Manchineel
- Wikipedia: Eucalyptus Deglupta
- WWF: 7 Products You Didn’t Know Come from Trees
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 Eric Caunca
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on January 15, 2021:
Your article informed me of many facts that I did not know. Thanks for writing this informative piece about tree facts. We have two large oak trees in our yard and ones in surrounding yards. I never knew that they were more prone to being struck by lightening.
MG Singh emge from Singapore on January 15, 2021:
You have shared a lot of interesting things about trees. Engrossing stuff.
Jana Louise Smit from South Africa on January 15, 2021:
Loved this article, Eric. I never knew the oak was the tree struck by lightning the most! Thank you for sharing. I'm a huge fan of trees. :)