By Parkash Sehgal
Trees are very generous. They are constantly giving – from shade, to apples and pears, to maple syrup, to cleaner air and water, or simply beauty – they endlessly provide us with so many gifts. Here, we’ve gathered a few lesser-known fun facts in celebration of trees:
- In early 1971, the Apollo 14 space expedition was sent to the Moon with several tree seeds. After completing an orbit and returning to Earth, the Forest Service germinated the seeds and planted them. Twenty years later, there is no evident difference between the ‘Moon trees’ and trees grown on Earth. Whether they are well-travelled or not, trees have been part of the ecosystem since its inception and are a vital part of the planet’s healthy status quo.
- Trees often have mycorrhizal fungi living on or in their roots. Their relationship with these fungi is quite special because it often connects one fungi-covered tree to another one which might be a mile away. It’s a vast network of fine filaments used for communication and resource sharing.
- There is a white oak tree in Athens, Georgia which legally owns itself. In the early 1800s, its original owner deeded tree ownership to the tree itself and all land within eight feet of its base.
- Giant sequoias can grow to be more than 250 feet tall. The biggest of all is General Sherman, a sequoia that stands 275 feet tall has a 102-foot circumference. These trees can live more than 3,000 years, with the oldest on record living more than 3,500 years.
- Redwood bark can be up to 24 inches thick. Talk about thick skin!
- The Manchineel tree has been named the world’s most dangerous tree. The sap travels through xylem and phloem inside the bark, and when exposed, can cause human skin to blister and trigger blindness. Consumption of fruit from the tree is lethal and burning the wood can cause blindness from contact with the smoke. In historic times the sap was used to coat arrows.
- Trees are also useful for urban areas because they reduce noise pollution and serve as a sound buffer. When sound passes through leaves, it can be diminished by up to 10 decibels. Growing a wall of diverse foliage with multiple species of trees and shrubs will produce the maximum buffering effect.
- The oldest living tree on earth is named Methuselah and is a 4,850-year-old Great Basin bristlecone pine living in the White Mountains of eastern California. Methuselah was discovered in a small grove of trees all over 4,000 years old and named after the grandfather of the Biblical figure, Noah.
- The African Baobab is a massive tree with a long, thick base, and few to no branches anywhere save the top. It can be most widely recognized from scenes in “The Lion King,” as Rafiki’s Tree, or “The Tree of Life.” There are only 99 of these trees known to exist in the wild, despite conservation efforts.