So a lot of people think that tree loving is reserved for the would-be hippy amongst us and just part of the theory of global warming; however, trees are a lot more useful than you might think. Consider this: a world without trees. Practically speaking, it would be bleak; air quality would be dismal and flora and fauna would be sparse. We use trees for more than just purifying air. Think about rubber – a material which is used in a vast array of products from computers to car tires. Rubber is extracted from trees through harvesting via scoring the tree and collecting sap which will drip out for several hours. Today we can also manufacture artificial rubber; however, without natural rubber, we would not have been able to mimic the chemical composition of it. A more immediate recreational factor of trees is the family picnic and park walk. Where would our summer weekends be without our parks? Everyone needs a little green space for some peace of mind and fresh air. Trees have played an essential role in man’s development, used for medicinal, structural and spiritual purposes – even as essential witch craft protection, so give ’em a little respect!
And now a little something for your general knowledge…
If you’re not already impressed with our leafy friends, then I’m sure you will be after reading these facts:
- They are estimated to obtain 90% of their nutrition from the atmosphere and merely 10% from the soil
- They are the longest living organisms on earth – some reaching 4-5,000 years old! (These include the giant sequoias I mentioned in my San Francisco post and the ones in the photo above.)
- They can induce rainfall (control the weather!) by cooling the land and transpiring water into the atmosphere. To put that into perspective, an acre of maple trees can put as much as 20,000 gallons of water into the air daily!
- Some can communicate via chemical signalling. For example, when willows are attacked by webworms and caterpillars, they emit chemicals to warn other willows which respond by producing more of a chemical known as tannin into their leaves to protect them from being eaten
10 trees native to the UK include:
- The Common Ash (Fraxinus excelsior) – can reach maximum heights of up to 135ft. Found in the wild in moist areas of Britain and near riverbanks. Produces pale timber. (Folklore: once believed that if burnt it would remove evil spirits)
- The Crab Apple (Malus sylvestris) – no relation to Miss Crabapple of the Simpsons, the name derives from the Norse word ‘skrab’ – describing its ‘scrubby’ nature. Found in Oak woodlands and other countryside. Reaches heights of approximately 35ft. Produces much of the apples we eat today and is a valued habitat for birds.
- Holly (Ilex aquifolium) – evergreen and found in most environments (however, not as successful in wet soils). Produces red berries in autumn – good food source for birds.
- Field Maple (Acer campestre) – can reach up to 60ft or more. 150 recognised species of Maple. Tolerates pollution and grime well, good for cities.
- English Oak (Quercus robur) – good wildlife habitat and extensive life span. Found in south of the country, some trees survive for 1000 years (Mind = boggled). Sacred to druids in Celtic Britain.
- Elder (Sambucus nigra) – found in woodlands and hedgerows throughout Britain. Forms large deciduous shrub or a small tree. Considered a weed due to its rapid colonisation rates. Used for medicines, drinks (for example, elderflower cordial – yum!) and cosmetics. Its sap has also been used as charms against witches and witchcraft.
- Hazel (Corylus avellana) – deciduous and native to all parts of the UK (minus Shetland Isles). Grows most commonly on chalk, limestone, neutral and mildly acidic soils. Often coppiced and grown for timber and nut harvest. Been used since prehistoric times for a number of products – baskets, wattle and daub, fencing and hurdles.
- Juniper (Juniperus communis) – small, evergreen, native conifer tree or shrub. Can reach heights of up to 20 ft. Produces dark, purple berries – ripen to provide flavouring for gin or for culinary purposes. Oil from leaves used in Ancient Egypt for preserving mummies. Sacred to medieval Europeans – burning branches yet again thought to ward off evil.
- Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris) – only pine native to Britain. Important as last outposts for the red squirrel (sadly endangered). Distinctive bright orange bark in upper crown and pale greenish-brown needles. Can grow rapidly to 115 ft and can live up to 250 years. In exposed areas, however, growth can be stunted so lifespan is extended.
- Strawberry Tree (Arbutus unedo) – native evergreen. Originally found in thickets, woods and dry rocky places. Now only found in the wild in Ireland. Now found planted in arboretums and occasionally planted in parks. Reaches heights of up to 40ft.
So let’s make an effort to respect and protect our trees – watch your paper usage and fight off any would-be developers!