Interesting Facts About Pine Trees
Pine trees are evergreen conifers that belong to the genus Pinus in the family Pinaceae. They have a long lifespan that ranges from a hundred years to thousand years when conditions are favorable.
The evolution of Pine trees in the Northern Hemisphere has been recorded during the early Jurassic Period of the Mesozoic Era about 130 – 200 million years ago. These trees are evergreen and retain their leaves for at least two growing seasons before they are shed off.
A majority of these trees are found growing in the Northern Hemisphere except the Sumatran Pine that grows in the Southern Hemisphere. They are valued for their timber and wood pulp.
Pine trees are an important part of Christmas celebrations around the world.
Characteristics of Pine Trees
Pine trees flourish in temperate and subtropical climates. They can be found growing in altitudes of up to 13,000 feet. They grow well in sandy or well-drained soil and can live for over 400 years in favorable growth conditions. The height of pine trees ranges from 10 feet to 245 feet and above and are anchored to the ground with a well-developed tap root system.
The pine trees have thick barks that are scaly. The branches of the pine trees are arranged in whorls around the bark.
The bark of pine trees can be dark and furrowed like the white pine or divide into rectangular plates like the red pine.
Pine trees are resinous in nature. The resin in the tree protects the tree by forming a protective cap over wounds and help in the healing process. The resin also protects the pine trees from fungal infections and insects that invade the trees.
Characteristics of Pine Leaves
The leaves of the pine trees are needle-shaped and are found in clusters of two to five in number along with the branches. Each cluster is bound together at the base.
A sheath is present at the base of each leaf. The leaves remain on the tree for at least two growing seasons. The pine trees can be identified by the number of needles (leaves) in each cluster.
- White Pine has five needles per cluster and is short and shiny
- Red Pine has two needles per cluster, and the needles are long and matte in texture
- The remaining species have two or three needles per bundle
Adaptations of the pine tree leaf to survive winter
1. The leaves of the pine trees are needle-shaped. The needle shape helps the snow to slide off from the leaves and prevents the branches from breaking off due to the heavy weight of snow that accumulates during a snowfall.
The needle shape cuts down the surface area of the leaf and reduces the number of pores on the leaf. When the number of pores is less, the amount of water that escapes the leaf in the form of water vapor is reduced.
2. The surface of the leaf is coated with cutin. Cutin is a wax-like substance that coats the leaves to prevent water from evaporating. The waxy coating also keeps the cells of the leaf from freezing during the cold winter.
Reproduction in Pine Trees
The pine trees reproduce through cones that lodge the male or the female sex organs. Pine trees are monoecious.
The term monoecious means that a single tree will have both the male and the female sex organs. A single cone has only the male (anthers) or only the female (ovary) sex organ.
Cones are equivalent to flowers in angiosperms (flowering plants). The cone does not have sepals or petals. It is a branch that is modified to house the male or the female sex organs.
The seeds are winged and dispersed by wind and animals who consume these seeds.
Uses of Pine Trees
1. The wood of pine trees is used in the manufacture of paneling, window frames, floors, roofing, furniture. Pine plantations are grown specially to harvest timber. Pine plantations can be harvested after thirty years for timber. The value of the harvested wood increases as the age of the pine trees increase.
2. Some species of Pine have large pine seeds (pine nuts). Pinus sibirica, Pinus koraiensis, Pinus pinea, Pinus gerardiana, Pinus monophylla, Pinus edulis are some of the pine trees from which pine nuts are harvested. These pine nuts are used for cooking and baking purposes.
3. Pine trees are rich in a resin called High-Terpene resin. The High-Terpene resin is distilled to get turpentine.
Turpentine is used in the manufacture of varnish and as a solvent. Today Turpentine oil is mainly used as processed synthetic pine oil that is used to make fragrances and to lend fragrance to cleaning agents. Aleppo Pine (Pinus halepensis), Loblolly Pine (Pinus taeda), Ponderosa Pine (Pinus ponderosa), Scotch Pine (Pinus sylvestris) are some of the pine trees that yield turpentine.
4. The Scotch pine, Austrian pine, and Monterey pine trees are used as windbreaks, for reforestation, and as ornamental trees.
5. Pine trees are planted in gardens and parks as ornamental plants. They are grown and harvested in large numbers as Christmas trees.
6. Pine cones are hard and durable. These cones are used for craft purposes.
7. Pine trees are homes to squirrels, birds, raccoons and many other animals of the forest.
Impact of Pine Trees on Climate Change
The gases that escape the pine tree leaves in the form of vapor carry the strong scent of pine oil that is a volatile organic compound.
According to the research published in the Nature Journal, the vapor that escapes the leaves of the pine trees have a direct affect on the changing climate.
The tiny particles of vapor that escape the pine tree leaves are converted into aerosols when they react with oxygen present in the air.
The aerosols join together forming clouds that block the sunlight and reflect the rays back into space, thereby helping to reduce the rise in the atmospheric temperature and simultaneously slowing down global warming.
" The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. 2016. Encyclopedia.com. 22 Apr. 2016<http://www.encyclopedia.com>.
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