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 taxonomic group but include a 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 have been in existence for 370 million years. It is estimated that there are some three trillion mature trees in the world.

A tree typically has many secondary branches supported clear of the ground by the trunk. This trunk typically contains woody tissue for strength, and vascular tissue to carry materials from one part of the tree to another. For most trees it 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 parts 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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Ficus rubiginosa, the rusty fig or Port Jackson fig (damun in the Dharug language), is a species of flowering plant native to eastern Australia in the genus Ficus. Beginning as a seedling that grows on other plants (hemiepiphyte) or rocks (lithophyte), F. rubiginosa matures into a tree 30 m (100 ft) high and nearly as wide with a yellow-brown buttressed trunk. The leaves are oval and glossy green and measure from 4 to 19.3 cm (1+127+12 in) long and 1.25 to 13.2 cm (125+14 in) wide.

The fruits are small, round, and yellow, and can ripen and turn red at any time of year, peaking in spring and summer. Like all figs, the fruit is in the form of a syconium, an inverted inflorescence with the flowers lining an internal cavity. F. rubiginosa is exclusively pollinated by the fig wasp species Pleistodontes imperialis, which may comprise four cryptospecies. The syconia are also home to another fourteen species of wasp, some of which induce galls while others parasitise the pollinator wasps and at least two species of nematode. Many species of bird, including pigeons, parrots, and various passerines, eat the fruit. Ranging along the Australian east coast from Queensland to Bega in southern New South Wales (including the Port Jackson area, leading to its alternative name), F. rubiginosa grows in rainforest margins and rocky outcrops. It is used as a shade tree in parks and public spaces, and when potted is well-suited for use as an indoor plant or in bonsai. (Full article...)

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

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Sequoiadendron giganteum (giant sequoia; also known as giant redwood, Sierra redwood, Sierran redwood, Wellingtonia or simply big tree—a nickname also used by John Muir) is the sole living species in the genus Sequoiadendron, and one of three species of coniferous trees known as redwoods, classified in the family Cupressaceae in the subfamily Sequoioideae, together with Sequoia sempervirens (coast redwood) and Metasequoia glyptostroboides (dawn redwood). Giant sequoia specimens are the most massive trees on Earth. The common use of the name sequoia usually refers to Sequoiadendron giganteum, which occurs naturally only in groves on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountain range of California.

The giant sequoia is listed as an endangered species by the IUCN, with fewer than 80,000 trees remaining. Since its last assessment as an endangered species in 2011, it was estimated that another 13–19% of the population (or 9,761–13,637 mature trees) was destroyed during the Castle Fire of 2020 and the KNP Complex & Windy Fire in 2021, events attributed to fire suppression, drought and global warming. Despite their large size and adaptations to fire, giant sequoias have become severely threatened by a combination of fuel load from fire suppression, which fuels extremely destructive fires that are also exacerbated by drought and climate change. These conditions have led to the death of many populations in large fires in recent decades. Prescribed burns to reduce available fuel load may be crucial for saving the species. (Full article...)

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