The Trees Portal

Common ash (Fraxinus excelsior), a deciduous broad-leaved (angiosperm) tree

In botany, a tree is a perennial plant with an elongated stem, or trunk, usually supporting branches and leaves. In some usages, the definition of a tree may be narrower, including only woody plants with secondary growth, plants that are usable as lumber or plants above a specified height. In wider definitions, the taller palms, tree ferns, bananas, and bamboos are also trees.

Trees are not a monophyletic taxonomic group but consist of a wide variety of plant species that have independently evolved a trunk and branches as a way to tower above other plants to compete for sunlight. The majority of tree species are angiosperms or hardwoods; of the rest, many are gymnosperms or softwoods. Trees tend to be long-lived, some reaching several thousand years old. Trees evolved around 370 million years ago, and it is estimated that there are around three trillion mature trees in the world currently.

A tree typically has many secondary branches supported clear of the ground by the trunk, which typically contains woody tissue for strength, and vascular tissue to carry materials from one part of the tree to another. For most trees the trunk is surrounded by a layer of bark which serves as a protective barrier. Below the ground, the roots branch and spread out widely; they serve to anchor the tree and extract moisture and nutrients from the soil. Above ground, the branches divide into smaller branches and shoots. The shoots typically bear leaves, which capture light energy and convert it into sugars by photosynthesis, providing the food for the tree's growth and development.

Trees usually reproduce using seeds. Flowers and fruit may be present, but some trees, such as conifers, instead have pollen cones and seed cones. Palms, bananas, and bamboos also produce seeds, but tree ferns produce spores instead.

Trees play a significant role in reducing erosion and moderating the climate. They remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store large quantities of carbon in their tissues. Trees and forests provide a habitat for many species of animals and plants. Tropical rainforests are among the most biodiverse habitats in the world. Trees provide shade and shelter, timber for construction, fuel for cooking and heating, and fruit for food as well as having many other uses. In much of the world, forests are shrinking as trees are cleared to increase the amount of land available for agriculture. Because of their longevity and usefulness, trees have always been revered, with sacred groves in various cultures, and they play a role in many of the world's mythologies. (Full article...)

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Brachychiton rupestris (commonly known as the narrow-leaved bottle tree or Queensland bottle tree) is a tree in the family Malvaceae, endemic to Queensland, Australia. Described by Sir Thomas Mitchell and John Lindley in 1848, it earned its name from its bulbous trunk, which can be up to 3.5 metres (11 ft) in diameter at breast height (DBH). Reaching around 10–25 m (33–82 ft) high, the Queensland bottle tree is deciduous, losing its leaves seasonally, between September and December. The leaves are simple or divided, with one or more narrow leaf blades up to 11 centimetres (4 in) long and 2 cm (0.8 in) wide. Cream-coloured flowers appear from September to November, and are followed by woody, boat-shaped follicles that ripen from November to May. No subspecies are recognised.

As a drought deciduous succulent tree, much like the baobab (Adansonia) of Madagascar, B. rupestris adapts readily to cultivation, and is quite tolerant of a range of soils and temperatures. It is a key component and emergent tree in the endangered central semi-evergreen vine thickets (also known as bottletree scrub) of the Queensland Brigalow Belt. Remnant trees are often left by farmers on cleared land for their value as shade and fodder trees, and as homes for various birds and animals. (Full article...)

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Saalfeld Easter egg tree with 9200 eggs, taken March 24, 2009

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Coconut (Cocos nucifera) in Martinique

The Arecaceae (/ærəˈksi/) is a family of perennial, flowering plants in the monocot order Arecales. Their growth form can be climbers, shrubs, tree-like and stemless plants, all commonly known as palms. Those having a tree-like form are called palm trees. Currently, 181 genera with around 2,600 species are known, most of which are restricted to tropical and subtropical climates. Most palms are distinguished by their large, compound, evergreen leaves, known as fronds, arranged at the top of an unbranched stem, except for the Hyphaene genus, who has branched palms. However, palms exhibit an enormous diversity in physical characteristics and inhabit nearly every type of habitat within their range, from rainforests to deserts.

Palms are among the best known and most extensively cultivated plant families. They have been important to humans throughout much of history, especially in regions like the Middle East and North Africa. A wide range of common products and foods are derived from palms. In contemporary times, palms are also widely used in landscaping. In many historical cultures, because of their importance as food, palms were symbols for such ideas as victory, peace, and fertility. (Full article...)

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